Search This Blog


White Press Office Feed

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Weekly Address: The Affordable Care Act is Here to Stay

NASA | Turning Black Holes into Dark Matter Labs


Thursday, June 25, 2015
Departments of Justice, Labor and Homeland Security Announce Phase II of Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative

Phase II Will Build on Momentum of Highly Effective Phase I to Further Enhance Interagency Anti-Trafficking Efforts

The Departments of Justice, Labor (DOL) and Homeland Security (DHS) today announced the launch of Phase II of the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam) Initiative aimed at streamlining federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking offenses.

Phase II ACTeams will be convened in up to six selected districts around the country, following a competitive, nationwide, interagency selection process.  The ACTeams, comprised of federal prosecutors and investigators representing multiple federal enforcement agencies, will implement a joint strategic action plan to develop high-impact federal investigations and prosecutions, vindicate the rights of human trafficking victims, bring traffickers to justice and dismantle human trafficking networks.

“Human traffickers prey on some of the most vulnerable members of our society to exploit them for labor, for sex and for servitude of all kinds,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.  “Their crimes, appropriately described as modern-day slavery, have no place in a nation that has overcome the scourge of slavery.  That’s why the Department of Justice is committed—and I am personally determined—to hold human traffickers accountable, provide support to trafficking survivors, and stand up for the rights and the dignity that they deserve.”

“Labor trafficking affects workers who are vulnerable to exploitation for a number of reasons, who may not know their workplace rights, and may be afraid to raise their voices,” said Secretary Thomas E. Perez of DOL.  “The challenges we face as a nation and a government demand unprecedented levels of interagency collaboration.  Through these ACTeams, we’re bringing our respective departments’ collective resources and expertise to bear, building a whole even greater than the sum of our individual parts.  DOL will remain a vigorous and unfaltering partner during phase II.  Together we can ensure workers receive the wages they’ve earned, restore victims’ basic human rights and bring traffickers to justice.”

“The ACTeam Initiative has been an important tool in our collective ability to combat sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude here in the United States,” said Secretary Jeh Johnson of DHS.  “This is not a problem that we can afford to ignore which is why, under a banner of shared responsibility and collaboration, the Departments of Justice, Labor and Homeland Security are recommitting ourselves to the fight against human trafficking by expanding the ACTeam Initiative.  Through the unified voice of the Blue Campaign, the Department of Homeland Security will continue to combat human trafficking through the guiding philosophy that we are at our best when we work together.”

These departments collaborated to develop the ACTeam Initiative to streamline rapidly expanding human trafficking enforcement efforts, focusing on forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking of adults by force, fraud and coercion.  Project Safe Childhood and the Innocence Lost National Initiative continue to focus on sex trafficking of minors and sexual exploitation of minors.

Drawing together federal prosecutors and federal agents from multiple investigative agencies, ACTeams streamline coordination on the front lines of federal human trafficking investigations and prosecutions, while also enhancing collaboration between front-line enforcement efforts and national human trafficking subject matter experts in the Justice Department’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys and FBI Civil Rights Unit, DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations, DOL’s Wage and Hour Division and the Office of the Inspector General.  In 2011, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of DHS and DOL announced Phase I of the ACTeam Initiative and the designation of six Phase I Pilot ACTeam sites in Atlanta; El Paso, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tennessee; and Miami, following a rigorous interagency selection process.

During the ACTeam Phase I period, Fiscal Years 2012-2013, federal human trafficking prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking of adults rose by 35 percent nationwide, reflecting strong partnerships among U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, and non-governmental victim assistance organizations and task forces led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices.

The ACTeams played a significant role in leading these nationwide advances.  In ACTeam Districts, prosecutions of forced labor, international sex trafficking and adult sex trafficking rose even more markedly than they did nationally, due to the force-multiplier effect of interagency commitment to implementing coordinated, joint anti-trafficking strategies and due to advanced training, expertise and operational support provided to the Phase I ACTeams.  Comparing federal forced labor, international sex trafficking and adult sex trafficking prosecutions during the ACTeam Phase I period of Fiscal Years 2012-2013, to the pre-Phase I period of Fiscal Years 2010-2011:

Cases filed increased by:

119 percent in ACTeam Districts,
18 percent in non-ACTeam Districts; and
35 percent nationwide.
Defendants charged increased by:

114 percent in ACTeam Districts,
12 percent in non-ACTeam Districts; and
28 percent nationwide.
Defendants convicted increased by:

86 percent in ACTeam Districts,
14 percent in non-ACTeam Districts; and
26 percent nationwide.

The President Hosts a Reception in Honor of LGBT Pride Month

Friday, June 26, 2015


Readout of the President’s Call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia

President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation called President Obama today.  They discussed the necessity of countering ISIL and developments in the Middle East, as well as the situation in Ukraine.  President Obama reiterated the need for Russia to fulfill its commitments under the Minsk agreements, including the removal of all Russian troops and equipment from Ukrainian territory.  The leaders discussed the increasingly dangerous situation in Syria, and underscored the importance of continued P5+1 unity in ongoing negotiations to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.


Statement by the Vice President on the Supreme Court Decision in Obergefell v. Hodges

All marriages, at their root, are about love.

Today, the Supreme Court affirmed that simple proposition—supported by a majority of Americans and a majority of our states—by recognizing that men marrying men and women marrying women are guaranteed the same civil rights and equal protection under our Constitution afforded to Jill and me, and to anyone else.

We couldn’t be prouder. Over the years—in their homes, on our staff, on the frontlines of war, and in houses of worship—Jill and I have befriended countless gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans who share a love for their partners constrained only by social stigma and discriminatory laws. But today, their love is set free with the right to marry and the recognition of that marriage throughout the country.

This day is for them, their children, and their families. And it is for generations of advocates—gay, lesbian, transgender, straight—who for decades fought a lonely and dangerous battle. People of absolute courage who risked their lives, jobs, and reputations to come forward in pursuit of the basic right recognized today, but at a time when neither the country nor the courts would protect or defend them.

And this day is for history to remember as one where, as a nation, our laws finally recognize that all people should be treated with respect and dignity—and that all marriages, at their root, are defined by unconditional love.

6/25/15: White House Press Briefing


"Hannibal" by Jean-Michel Basquiat.  Photo Credit:  DOJ. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Return to Brazil of Two Masterpieces Linked to Bank Fraud

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Deputy Special Agent in Charge Michael Shea of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ("ICE") Homeland Security Investigations New England, announced today that a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat called "Hannibal" (the "Basquiat"), as well as a Roman Togatus statue, were returned to Brazil at a repatriation ceremony at the United States Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, New York. The painting and the statue were smuggled into the United States in violation of customs law and were forfeited to the government as a result of civil forfeiture action brought by the United States.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: "Art and antiquities have special value and meaning that cannot readily be quantified. As a result, they have long been the subject of theft and deception, as well as a means to launder illicit proceeds. Art should serve to inspire the mind and nourish the soul, and not be allowed to become a conduit for crime."

HSI Deputy Special Agent in Charge Michael Shea stated: "It is always a pleasure to return cultural artifacts to the people of another nation. I would like to thank our special agents and partners at INTERPOL for their diligence in this investigation. ICE will do everything in its power to help preserve and safeguard a nation's history by identifying, locating, and recovering stolen antiquities."

In related repatriation ceremonies held on September 21, 2010, and May 9, 2014, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York returned to Brazil three paintings – "Modern Painting with Yellow Interweave" by Roy Lichtenstein (the "Lichtenstein"), "Figures dans une structure" by Joaquin Torres-Garcia (the "Torres-Garcia"), and "Composition abstraite" by Serge Poliakoff (the "Poliakoff") – that were smuggled into the United States.

The Basquiat and the Togatus once belonged to Brazilian banker Edemar Cid Ferreira. Ferreira, the founder and former president of Banco Santos, S.A. ("Banco Santos"), was convicted in Brazil of crimes against the national financial system and money laundering. In December 2006, Ferreira was sentenced in Brazil to 21 years in prison.

As part of the case, a Sao Paulo Court judge also ordered the search, seizure, and confiscation of assets that Ferreira, his associates, and members of his family had acquired with unlawfully obtained funds from Banco Santos. Those assets included the Basquiat, the Togatus, the Lichtenstein, the Torres-Garcia, the Poliakoff, and other artwork valued at $20 million to $30 million. The artwork was kept in several locations, including Ferreira’s home in the Morumbi neighborhood of Sao Paulo, the main offices of Banco Santos, and at a holding facility. When Brazilian authorities searched these locations, they found that several of the most valuable works of art were missing, including the Basquiat and the Togatus.

The Sao Paulo Court sought INTERPOL’s assistance after searching museums and institutions in Brazil for the missing artwork. In October and November 2007, INTERPOL and the Government of Brazil sought the assistance of the United States to locate and seize the missing works on behalf of the Brazilian government. The ensuing Southern District of New York and HSI investigation revealed that the Basquiat and the Togatus were shipped from the Netherlands to a secure storage facility in New York on August 21, 2007, and September 11, 2007, respectively. The invoices, however, failed to comply with U.S. customs laws in a number of respects. For example, the shipping invoices did not identify the pieces and falsely claimed that their value was $100 each. In fact, the Basquiat alone was recently appraised at $8 million.

HSI special agents based in New Haven, Connecticut, located and seized the Basquiat in November 2007, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a civil forfeiture Complaint alleging that the Basquiat had been brought into the United States illegally. Since the filing of the original Complaint in February 2008, the United States seized additional works of art and filed two amended Complaints seeking the forfeiture of the Lichtenstein, the Torres-Garcia, the Poliakoff, and the Togatus.

After extensive litigation, United States District Court Judge Richard J. Sullivan granted the government’s motion for summary judgment and entered an order forfeiting the Basquiat and the Togatus on May 10, 2013. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Sullivan’s order on September 9, 2014.

* * *

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of HSI in helping to locate and seize the painting. He was grateful for the assistance of the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs. Mr. Bharara thanked Brazilian authorities for their assistance in the case. He also acknowledged the assistance of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Brazil for its assistance in the investigation.

The case is being handled by the Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Wilson is in charge of the litigation.


Statement by the President

I applaud the Democrats and Republicans in Congress who came together to give the United States the chance to negotiate strong, high-standard agreements for free and fair trade that protect American workers and give our businesses the opportunity to compete. With bipartisan majorities, Congress also voted to expand vital support for thousands of American workers each year, and to bolster economic relations between sub-Saharan Africa and the United States. Of course, we still have more work to do on behalf of our workers, which is why I'll continue to encourage Congress to pass robust trade enforcement legislation that will help us crack down on countries that break the rules. But this week's votes represent a much-needed win for hardworking American families.

As President, I've spent the last six and half years fighting to grow our economy and strengthen our middle class, and that remains my top priority today. I believe we should make sure that the United States, and not countries like China, write the rules of our global economy. We should support more good jobs that pay good wages. We should level the playing field so that our workers have the chance to compete and win. That's what this new legislation will help us do, and I look forward to signing these bipartisan bills into law as soon as they reach my desk.


MMWR News Synopsis for June 25, 2015

Prevalence of Diagnosed and Undiagnosed HIV Infection — United States, 2008–2012

HIV diagnosis is the essential first step in ensuring those living with HIV can access ongoing care and treatment, as well as other information and tools to help prevent transmission to others. More than one million people are living with HIV in the U.S. Although most of these individuals are aware of their infection, those who are not cannot benefit from life-extending treatment. They account for a significant proportion (30 percent) of new HIV transmissions. Reaching these individuals with HIV testing is critical. For this analysis, CDC researchers analyzed data from the National HIV Surveillance System to estimate the prevalence of diagnosed and undiagnosed HIV for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In 2012, the number of people living with HIV ranged from 110 (Iowa) to 3,936 (Washington, DC) per 100,000 persons in 42 jurisdictions with stable estimates. The percentage living with diagnosed HIV ranged from 77.4 percent in Louisiana to 90 percent or greater in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, and New York. These five jurisdictions have already met the National HIV/AIDS Strategy goal of increasing the percentage of people living with HIV who know their serostatus to 90 percent by 2015. These data underscore the continued need for ongoing efforts to increase testing to further reduce undiagnosed HIV infection. The authors also note that because the percentage of persons who are diagnosed varies by geographic area, efforts tailored to each area’s unique needs and situations may be needed.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015
DaVita to Pay $450 Million to Resolve Allegations That it Sought Reimbursement for Unnecessary Drug Wastage

DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc., the largest provider of dialysis services in the United States, has agreed to pay $450 million to resolve claims that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly creating unnecessary waste in administering the drugs Zemplar and Venofer to dialysis patients, and then billing the federal government for such avoidable waste.  Davita is headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and has dialysis clinics in 46 states and the District of Columbia.

“This settlement is an example of what can be accomplished as a result of the successful cooperation between the government and whistleblowers in protecting our vital federal health care programs,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

This civil settlement resolves allegations brought in a whistleblower action that DaVita devised and employed dosing grids and/or protocols specifically designed to create unnecessary waste of the drugs Venofer and Zemplar.  These drugs are packaged in single-use vials, which are intended for one-time use. Sometimes, the amount of the drug in the vials does not match the dosage specified by the physician, resulting in the remainder of the drug in the vial being discarded.

At the time of the alleged scheme, Medicare would reimburse a dialysis provider for certain waste if the dialysis provider – acting in good faith – discarded the remainder of the drug contained in a single-use vial after administering the requisite dose and/or quantity of the drug to a Medicare patient.

The whistleblowers’ complaint alleged that, to create unnecessary Zemplar waste, DaVita required its employees to provide Zemplar to dialysis patients pursuant to mandatory and wasteful “dosing grids.”  Zemplar, a Vitamin D supplement usually administered at every dialysis session, is packaged in single-use vial sizes of 2 mcg, 5 mcg, and 10 mcg. Davita allegedly created unnecessary waste by requiring its employees to provide Zemplar to dialysis patients pursuant to mandatory “dosing grids,” which were designed to maximize the amount of Zemplar administered to patients.  DaVita then allegedly billed the government not only for the amount of Zemplar administered to patients, but also for the amount “wasted.”

With regard to Venofer, an iron supplement packaged only in a single-use vial size of 100 mg during the relevant time period, DaVita allegedly enacted protocols that required nurses to administer this drug in small amounts, and at frequent intervals, to maximize wastage. For instance, in certain instances, DaVita’s protocol called for a patient to receive 25 mg of Venofer per week, which resulted in 300 mg of waste per month that was billed to the Government.  In contrast, if the order had been filled by giving the patient the entirety of a single 100 mg vial, once per month, no waste would have resulted.

In 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services changed the manner by which it reimbursed dialysis providers for such drugs.  As a consequence, wastage derived from single-use vials was no longer profitable, and, as a result, DaVita allegedly changed its practices and reduced its drug wastage dramatically.

“Through personal sacrifice and courage, two whistleblowers exposed knowingly wasteful dosing practices designed simply to increase profits and improperly drain the government’s resources,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn of the Northern District of Georgia.  “This settlement returns hundreds of millions of dollars to the treasury that had been improperly obtained by DaVita through these wasteful practices.”

The allegations resolved today arose from a lawsuit filed and ultimately litigated to this succesful resolution by two whistleblowers, Dr. Alon Vanier and nurse Daniel Barbir, under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.  Under the Act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the government for false claims and share in any recovery.  The United States may intervene in the action or, as in this case, the whistleblower may pursue the matter.  

This case was monitored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia and the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


June 25, 2015

Statement by HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell on the Affordable Care Act
Today’s Supreme Court decision confirms that the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits are available to all eligible Americans no matter where they live. Americans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia can continue to rely on the security and peace of mind that come with affordable, quality health care coverage.

Over six million Americans and their families will sleep easier knowing they will still be able to afford health coverage. Millions more won’t have to worry about an upward spiral in their premiums because of today’s decision, even if they didn’t buy their insurance through the Marketplace. And the law’s financial assistance will be available in the next open enrollment so that others can benefit as well.

The Affordable Care Act is working to improve access, affordability and quality.
That is the story I hear as I travel across this country. People’s lives have been changed and even saved because they have health insurance—many for the first time. They have coverage that can keep them healthy and provide quality care when they are sick.

The Affordable Care Act also strengthens protections for almost every American with health insurance. People with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage or charged higher premiums. Critical preventive services, like immunizations and certain cancer screenings, are available at no additional cost. Since parents can keep their children on their health insurance policies up to age 26, young Americans can stay in school or find their first job without worrying about their coverage. And your health premiums can no longer be higher just because you are a woman.

I hope that this positive decision will do what the American people want us to do -- focus on the substance and turn to building on the progress we have made. They want us to move forward to provide more Americans with affordable access to quality coverage and create a health care system that improves the quality of care and spends our dollars more wisely.

6/24/15: White House Press Briefing


Readout of the President’s Meeting with China’s Special Representatives to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue and Consultation on People-to-People Exchange

The President met today with China’s Special Representatives to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue and Consultation on People-to-People Exchange, Vice Premier Liu Yandong, Vice Premier Wang Yang, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and the Chinese delegation.  The President acknowledged the importance of these annual ministerial-level mechanisms for expanding practical cooperation on regional and global challenges, while at the same time narrowing differences.  The President and the Chinese Special Representatives agreed to further expand U.S.-China cooperation on climate and clean energy, and affirmed their unity of purpose in our approach to the Paris climate negotiations in December.  Recognizing the importance of economic ties to the overall bilateral relationship, the President expressed support for China’s efforts to reform and rebalance its economy, and for our ongoing bilateral investment treaty negotiations, while urging China to address major economic challenges in the areas of its currency, technology and investment policies.  The President raised ongoing U.S. concerns about China’s cyber and maritime behavior, and he urged China to take concrete steps to lower tensions.  



Right:  Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work delivers remarks at the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation's annual symposium in Washington, D.C., June 23, 2015. The event is the nation's largest gathering of intelligence professionals. DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen.  

Work Calls for Collaboration to Maintain Tech Dominance
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2015 – Space capabilities are at the heart of American military capabilities, and the Pentagon and private industry must innovate to maintain those capabilities, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said at the GeoInt Symposium here today.

The event is sponsored by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation and held at the D.C. Convention Center.

Work told attendees that the next 25 years are going to be far more challenging to the United States military than the past quarter century.

End of 'Unipolar World'

“Our space capabilities are going to be contested in a way they haven’t been before and we need to be prepared for that eventuality,” the deputy secretary said.

Geospatial intelligence is going to remain crucial to U.S. space capability and the national security apparatus, Work said.

“Because of the things coming along, we are going to have to embrace innovation and change,” he said.

Work said the unipolar world of the past 25 years –- where the United States was the world’s only superpower –- is ending. Other nations are emerging as great powers, which he defines as “one that possesses enough military assets to put up a serious fight in an all-out conventional war against the most powerful state in the world. And possesses a nuclear deterrent that can survive a nuclear strike.”

Both Russia and China meet this definition or soon will, Work said.

Russia, China

Russia’s actions in its illegal annexation of Crimea and its continued actions in eastern Ukraine are worrying, the deputy secretary said. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling also concerns global leaders, he added.

“Russia represents a clear and present danger,” Work said. “It comes after 25 years of the United States and Europe working very hard to include Russia in the European community and partner with it on a variety of issues.”

The United States still wants Russia to come in from the cold, renounce its current course and work with the West, Work said.

But Russia is trying to undermine NATO, dominate the Arctic and challenge many of America’s broader global links, the deputy secretary said.

China is a rising power that will present “a significant and varied challenge over the next 25 years,” Work said.

“This doesn’t mean to suggest in any way, shape, or form that China and the United States are destined to become adversaries,” he added.

There will be areas where the two sides will agree and cooperate and other areas where they disagree and won’t, Work said. The two nations’ militaries, he added, will continue to work together and expand military-to-military relationships.

Still, the department must take into account capabilities and behave accordingly, he said.


The best response to any challenge from wherever they may come, is strong conventional and nuclear deterrent capabilities, Work said.

Conventional deterrence posture requires three things, he said.

“First, we have to overmatch the technical capabilities of any potential adversary,” he said. “Second, we have to maintain the ability to project power across transoceanic distances and defeat any adversary's attempt to project power across inter- or intra-theater distances. Third, we have to routinely demonstrate both capabilities.”

Key to these is technological superiority to provide overmatch on any battlefield, Work said. Key to the overmatch, he said, was “our unparalleled space capabilities.”

America’s space architecture built during the Cold War “provided us with an instant ability to set up theater-wide guided munition battle capability, enabled by space-based targeting navigation capabilities,” he said.

The capabilities allowed the United States “to project more power, more precisely, more slickly, with less cost and less force structure and with fewer casualties,” Work said.

A Shrinking Lead

The security environment is changing and the U.S. military technological lead is shrinking, he explained.

“Many countries -– including Russia and China –- are pursuing levels of weapons development that we haven’t seen since the mid-1980s,” Work said. “Second, over the last 14 years our focus was where it should be -– with the men and women fighting our nation’s battles.”

Both combined to shrink the amount of money available to maintain U.S. military technological superiority, the deputy secretary said.

The U.S. military once considered space as an uncontested area of operations, he said.

However, adversaries recently have focused on space systems as a potential chink in American armor, Work said.

“Space must now be considered a contested operational domain, in a way we haven’t in the past,” he said.

Doubling Down on Geo Intel

DoD officials recognize the importance of protecting U.S. spacesystems and making them more resilient, Work said. The department has increased its funding in space more than $5 billion in the next budget. And, DoD, the intelligence community and private industry are working together to build in resilience to satellite constellations.

“Together we must and will develop command centers which will help us fight through attacks, and together we must counter an adversary’s capabilities -- especially their [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] assets,” the deputy secretary said.

And the U.S. military wants more capabilities developed from its investments in space, Work said.

“We are going to double down on geoint in the future,” he said. “We want to establish patterns of life from space. We want to know what the unusual looks like. If all of a sudden a lot of cars show up in the parking lot of an adversary's missile plant, we want to know about it -- and quickly.

“If small boats are in the [Persian] Gulf or pirates are congregating off Aden -- we want to know,” Work continued. “If soldiers are snapping pictures of themselves in war zones and posting them to social media sites, we want to know exactly where those pictures were taken.”



Right:  Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work gives the keynote address during the inaugural China Aerospace Studies Institute conference in Arlington, Va., June 22, 2015. The Air Force and the Rand Corp. co-sponsored the event, which focused on assessing Chinese aerospace training and operational competence. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen.  

Work: Institute to Help U.S. Meet China Aerospace Challenge
By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2015 – Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work delivered the keynote speech yesterday in Arlington, Virginia, at an inaugural conference of the China Aerospace Studies Institute, or CASI, newly established by the Air Force and RAND Corp.

The institute’s focus is on China, which Work called a rising power that’s experiencing a growing economy and increased military technical capabilities.

“I hope that CASI, along with many organizations like it, are going to help us maintain an unfair competitive aerospace advantage far into the future,” Work said, “because that is the surest means to underwrite conventional deterrence, contribute to crisis stability and safeguard our nation's interests.”

The conference focused on a move by China to do more realistic training across the board under what they call actual combat or wartime conditions, the deputy secretary said, and improve their readiness.

Serious Challenge

“CASI needs to help us think on how we respond to this challenge. It's a serious one and one that we have to take seriously,” he said.

Work said the institute supports President Barack Obama's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and the Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Initiative, both of which are top priorities for Defense Secretary Ash Carter and himself.

“More generally,” Work noted, “it's an exemplar of what we need to do to prepare for the future.”

The United States will maintain enormous absolute power as far into the future as anyone can see, Work said, but its relative power will decline in an increasingly technological world and one in which U.S. leadership will be increasingly challenged.

Great Powers

The most significant challenge to U.S. global leadership and the one in Work’s view that promises to be the most difficult to manage is the possible reemergence of great-power competitions.

A great power, as defined by international relations theorist John Mearsheimer, “is a state having sufficient military assets to put up a serious fight in a conventional war against the most powerful state in the world, and that possesses a nuclear deterrent that can survive a nuclear strike against it,” Work paraphrased.

If China is not a great power now it has the potential to be, he said, “and under any circumstances they are going to provide us with an enduring and very difficult military challenge, which will stress us.”

China will present a more significant and perhaps enduring strategic challenge to the United States over the next 25 years if not beyond, the deputy secretary said, one that DoD must be particularly focused on.

Competitive Relationship

“This does not mean to suggest I think that we are doomed to have an overtly hostile relationship,” Work said.

The future U.S.-China relationship will have elements of cooperation and competition and not open hostility, he said, and DoD continues to pursue military-to-military cooperation and confidence-building measures with China.

But DoD can’t overlook the competitive aspects of the relationship with China, Work said.

“Since the end of World War II we have relied upon our technological superiority. Why? To provide a conventional overmatch to overcome an adversary's advantages in time, space and size of forces, because generally we are moving across oceans to meet them,” he said.

Margin of Superiority

Today the U.S. margin of technological military superiority is steadily eroding and China and Russia are pursuing levels of advanced weapons development that haven’t been seen, Work said, since the mid-1980s, near the peak of the Soviet Union’s surge in Cold War defense spending.

For the United States, he said, part of the solution is a long-range research and development planning program, or LRRDPP, under the direction of Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

The program aims to identify promising technologies that can be moved into development within the next five years, and long-range science and technology investments that can be made now for big payoffs in 10 to 20 years, the deputy secretary said.

“The initial results of these efforts … are going to be reported to [Carter] next month and they will be used to provide me and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff strategic guidance on how to approach the strategic portfolio in fiscal year 2017 budget preparation and submission,” Work explained.

Strategic Capabilities

Another shorter-term part of the solution is the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, established by Carter to look at weapons and systems and platforms in production, in the field or programmed now, and use them in a different way than intended to offer an unexpected operational or tactical advantage, the deputy secretary said.

Work said the department is exploring new combinations of technologies, operational concepts and organizational constructs that will help maintain its ability to project combat power into a theater in a place and during a time of its own choosing, especially aerospace power.

“Aerospace power has always been and will always be fundamental to our ability to project power across transoceanic distances, to conduct theater entry operations, and to mount joint combined-arms operations,” Work said.

“And because of its rapid global mobility, air power will likely be the first on the scene in any unexpected crisis in the future,” he added.

Air-Land Battle 2.0

China is mounting a serious aerospace challenge against the United States and is intent on closing the gap between its aerospace forces and those of the United States, Work said.

China also is developing stealth aircraft, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and battle-management platforms, advanced air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and top-of-the-line electronic warfare equipment, he said.

“In other words,” Work said, “we have to think about the nature and character of air-land battle 2.0 -- another area where CASI, I believe, will be central to our thinking.”


Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Department of Justice Filed Charges on more than 2,700 Human Smugglers in Fiscal Year 2014
Between 2009 and 2014, More Than 18,000 Individuals Charged With Human Smuggling by Federal Prosecutors

The Justice Department is committed to using its resources to bring to justice those that are breaking the law by smuggling migrants into the United States.  In Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14, Oct. 1, 2013, up to Sept. 30, 2014), the Justice Department filed criminal charges against 2,762 individuals for human smuggling or harboring immigrants.  Nearly 90 percent of the criminal charges filed in FY14 for smuggling took place in Texas (1,515), California (511), Arizona (394), Florida (75) and New York (31).  The announcement of these actions is just one part of ongoing, collaborative efforts to tackle unlawful migration.  These efforts also helped to address last year’s influx of Central American migrants, including unaccompanied children and families crossing into the Rio Grande Valley, and demonstrate a continued commitment to dismantling human smuggling operations that put so many lives at risk.

Individuals that facilitate smuggling acts need to be aware that they face criminal prosecution and fines.  They also need to be aware of the dangers faced by the individuals that are being smuggled and also that the Department of Justice will seek forfeiture of funds transferred to others in connection with a smuggling crime.  In addition, individuals trying to bring a family member to the United States by transferring funds to a coyote should be aware that those acts are against the law and their funds can be seized by the federal government.

The penalty for human smuggling if done for commercial benefit is up to 10 years in prison and an accompanying fine.  For example, in January, Ruth Fernandez Morales-Lopez pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle of the Southern District of Texas to bringing in and harboring aliens and money laundering.  Morales-Lopez admitted that she was the person who decided, based on whether they paid their smuggling fees, which individuals could stay at the “stash house,” located in San Benito, Texas.  She further admitted that more than $1 million in her bank account was comprised of smuggling fees and that she structured her withdrawals from that account to circumvent the Bank Secrecy Act.  Morales-Lopez faces up to 10 years in federal prison for the smuggling charge and up to 20 years for money laundering.  The remaining five defendants in the case, all of whom pleaded guilty, each face up to 10 years of federal imprisonment.

Many of the stories revealed in court cases outline the severe examples of exploitation and violence against migrants.  For example, in April 2014, a federal jury in Del Rio, Texas, convicted Eduardo Rocha Sr., 44, for his role in a human smuggling ring operation in Carrizo Springs, Texas, known for torturing its victims and exploiting their families.  The evidence presented during the trial showed that Rocha Sr. extorted additional money from family members of migrants that already lived in the United States.  In some instances, he ordered his accomplices to subject migrants to brutal violence and mutilation while their family members were forced to listen over the phone.

The Justice Department has a long history of working with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal partners to investigate and prosecute human smugglers.  These collaborative efforts lead to prosecutions of those responsible for the illegal entry of individuals, including unaccompanied minors.  The string of human smuggling convictions on the southwest border emphasizes the federal law enforcement resources being brought to bear to dismantle and disrupt these dangerous, criminal operations.  Human smuggling acts can also lead to extremely dangerous circumstances that pose a public safety threat and significant humanitarian concerns.  Many of the cases prosecuted by U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country involve migrants who have been kidnapped, taken hostage, beaten, sexually assaulted, threatened or who have actually died as a result of living under some of the most perilous conditions.

Tragic stories have become all too familiar along the southwest border.  In October 2014, for example, Carlos Hernandez-Palma and Fernando Armenta-Romero were apprehended and sentenced for their role in the death of an undocumented immigrant woman that they abandoned in the wilderness of Otay Mountain near the San Diego border.  Court records revealed that the woman’s husband pleaded with the smugglers, to no avail, to call for assistance for his pregnant wife after she became gravely ill during the venture.  It would be several days before the U.S. Border Patrol found his wife’s body.  Her cause of death was attributed to hyperglycemia from being diabetic and hypothermia from environmental exposure.

In addition, the Justice Department is working with countries like Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico to identify and prosecute smugglers who are aiding unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border.  The coordinated efforts also target facilitators operating in foreign countries.

These ongoing enforcement efforts started before last year’s surge of unaccompanied minors and the Justice Department will continue to be vigilant in bringing smugglers to justice.  In the years 2009 to 2014, the Justice Department charged more than 18,000 defendants with smuggling or harboring immigrants.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

6/24/15: White House Press Briefing



A cluster of mysterious bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres can be seen in this image, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft from an altitude of 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers). The image, with a resolution of 1,400 feet (410 meters) per pixel, was taken on June 9, 2015.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.


Tiny brains, but shared smarts
Unlike humans and other vertebrates, the brains of wasps shrink when they're socialized--but they might 'share' brainpower

A solitary wasp--the kind that lives and forages for food alone--has a fairly small brain. Type out a lowercase letter in 10-point text and you'll get an idea of its size.

But tiny as that brain is, its social cousins, living together in honeycombed nests, have even smaller ones. And that size difference might provide some key information about the difference between insect societies and vertebrate societies.

Biologists have studied the societies of vertebrates--from flocks of birds, to schools of fish, to communities of humans--enough to come up with something called the "social brain hypothesis." Generally, it goes something like this: Social interaction presents challenges that require a lot of brain power, as that interaction requires organisms to navigate complicated territory, including avoiding conflict and building alliances.

Therefore, vertebrates that live in societies have bigger brains. The more complex the organism's society, the bigger its brain regions for processing complex information will be. Scientists believe the complexity of human societies may be one of the reasons we have such large, developed brains.

Sean O'Donnell, a biology professor at Drexel, has spent almost the entirety of his more than 20-year career studying wasps. He says these picnic terrors--actually critical members of the insect world that prey on pest species--represent ideal candidates for seeing whether that hypothesis applies to insects, because they have so much variation.

Some wasps are solitary. Some live in small, primitive groups. Others live in larger, more complex societies. "There are lots of intermediate stages," O'Donnell said.

When O'Donnell, with support from the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Biological Sciences, looked at the brains in 29 related species of wasps spanning the social spectrum, he found that living in a society did indeed affect the size of their brains. It just made them smaller, instead of bigger.

His findings are described in the latest issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"If our data is verified, it suggests that there's something really different about how insect societies formed," he said.

O'Donnell's work focused on the "mushroom bodies" of the wasps' brains, structures that are superficially similar to the regions of vertebrate brains that deal with higher cognitive functions.

His research uncovered another interesting difference from vertebrates: the complexity of the wasps' societies seemed to have no significant effect on the size of their brains. The big dropoff in size occurred between solitary and social wasps. In contrast, the brains of wasps in simple societies showed no significant size differences between those in complex societies.

"That suggests to me that going from solitary to a small society is the significant transition," O'Donnell said.

'Sharing' brainpower

Part of what makes vertebrate societies so brain-intensive is that they usually involve groups of organisms with different agendas that aren't related to one another--most of the people you know aren't members of your family.

Insect societies, however, are made up of groups of cooperating close relatives with shared objectives. Wasps might not need the type of brainpower required for social interaction because there's much less of it in their nests and colonies. The insects cooperate and rely on each other without the type of negotiation that can be required in vertebrate societies.

But what advantage could a smaller, less complex brain offer a species? As O'Donnell puts it, "Brains are expensive."

Neural tissues require more energy to develop and maintain than almost any other kind, and biologists have found that natural selection will find the optimal balance between the metabolic costs of developing particular areas of the brain and the benefits yielded.

In some ways, the social wasps may "share" brainpower. Individually, their brains might not stack up to their solitary relatives, but the colony as a whole is "smart."

O'Donnell says the next steps for his work will replicate the wasp research with termites and bees, which also offer a variety of social complexity.

"We would expect to see similar patterns," he said.

Learn more in this Drexel University video on Sean O'Donnell's work.

-- Rob Margetta
Sean O'Donnell
Related Institutions/Organizations
Drexel University


Monday, June 22, 2015
California Man Pleads Guilty in Prescription Drug Diversion Scheme

A Corona, California, man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for his participation in a large-scale, nationwide prescription drug diversion scheme.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart of the Southern District of Ohio, Special Agent In Charge Antoinette V. Henry of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI) Metro Washington Field Office and Assistant Inspector in Charge Christopher White of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Cincinnati Field Office announced the guilty plea, entered today by U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black.

According to court documents, from May 2010 through December 2012, Vin Nguyen, 45, and others conspired to distribute illegally-diverted prescription drugs while concealing the true, illicit sources of the drugs.  Nguyen purchased prescription drugs, including HIV medications, anti-psychotic medications and other brand name drugs, from various unlicensed and illegal sources in California and Florida.  Working with co-conspirators, Nguyen then sold the drugs to other drug diverters without the statutorily required pedigree documents stating the origin of the drugs.  Nguyen and his co-conspirators sold more than $6.5 million worth of diverted drugs.

“Illegal prescription drug diversion threatens the security of America’s drug supply chain,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mizer.  “The Department of Justice will continue to protect American consumers by prosecuting those who engage in prescription drug diversion.”

From December 2011 through December 2012, Nguyen and others sold diverted prescription drugs to David Miller and his company, Minnesota Independent Cooperative (MIC).  On May 6, David Miller and MIC were indicted in the Southern District of Ohio and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, 10 counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to make false statements and to distribute prescription drugs without a wholesale license.  Those charges remain pending.

Nguyen and his co-conspirators used the company name “Modern Medical” when selling drugs to Miller and MIC.  Modern Medical is a real California company that had no involvement in the drug sales.  Nguyen and his co-conspirators simply hijacked the name to conceal their involvement and the true, illicit drug sources.

Miller and MIC, in turn, sold the prescription drugs obtained from Nguyen – and multiple other illegal sources – to wholesale and retail customers throughout the United States, including in the Southern District of Ohio.  Miller and MIC are alleged to have created fraudulent pedigree documents falsely stating that they had purchased the drugs from B&Y Wholesale, a company in Puerto Rico.  These false pedigrees covered up the illegitimate sources of the drugs – various illicit, unlicensed suppliers, including Nguyen – and falsely stated that B&Y Wholesale was an authorized distributor of the prescription drugs.


Federal enforcement effort finds more than 3,000 Gulf Coast workers
owed nearly $3.5 million in back wages by staffing agencies

US Labor Department determines agencies illegally paid wages as per diem reimbursement

NEW ORLEANS — Six Gulf Coast staffing agencies have agreed to pay thousands of workers nearly $3.5 million in back wages after U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigators found part of their wages were mislabeled as "per diem" payments as reimbursement for expenses they never incurred.

Federal investigators found the agencies owed back wages to more than 3,000 workers – welders, electricians, pipe fitters, and other craftspeople – on maritime vessels and other oil and gas industry projects.

The investigations are part of an ongoing, multi-year initiative aimed at ending an illegal and alarming trend of employers labeling part of employee wages as per diem payments, often to avoid overtime, payroll taxes and other costs.

Investigators are actively monitoring staffing agencies and other employers in the 1,600-mile Gulf Coast region for signs of this practice.

"Workers don't often complain about receiving per diem pay in place of regular wages because they believe they make more money being paid this way," said Wage and Hour Division Administrator David Weil. "The truth is these workers are losing out. They are not getting all of the short- and long-term benefits their employer owes them."

Companies break the law when they label part of a worker's regular wages as per diem expense reimbursement instead of wages to lower labor costs, avoid paying overtime, and avoid making payments toward federal and state taxes, workers' compensation, unemployment insurance and Social Security payments. By attempting to reduce these obligations illegally with this scheme, these employers also gain an unfair advantage over their competitors.

Per diem pay is intended as a way for employers to reimburse workers for lodging, meals and other travel expenses incurred on behalf of their employer. Regular wages mislabeled as per diem cheat workers out of correct overtime wages. The payments may prevent workers from receiving full benefits in the event of a lay-off or workplace injury, and do not make full contributions toward a worker's Social Security benefits.

"Illegal per diem pay also hurts law-abiding employers, defrauds local, state and federal governments and cheats all of us who pay increased taxes as a result," Weil added. "Our division has dedicated the people and resources we need to stop this illegal pay practice on the Gulf Coast and throughout the nation."

The initiative has also found troubling trends in the region's staffing industry in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Employers that use temporary staffing agencies may be liable if investigations find workers employed jointly by the staffing agency, and the business that contracted them, received illegal per diem payments.

The FLSA requires that workers receive at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers must maintain accurate time and payroll records. Under the FLSA, employers who violate the law are liable for employees' back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. Affected employees receive liquidated damages directly.

Employers must also distinguish employees from bona fide independent contractors. An employee, as distinguished from a person who is engaged in a business of his own, is one who, as a matter of economic reality, follows the usual path of an employee and is dependent on the business that he serves


Remarks at the Global Reporting Initiative Roundtable
Lisa J. Kubiske
Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Finance and Development, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Washington, DC
June 22, 2015

As Prepared

Welcome to what I consider to be an incredibly important collaboration – and thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedules to be here this afternoon. Many of our private sector participants have come long distances to participate in these roundtables, and we greatly appreciate their willingness to do so. Although this is an event jointly organized by GRI and The State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, GRI has done more than its fair share of the preparations. Teresa, Robyn, and the rest of the GRI team have done an incredible job.

2015 will be a critical year for development and for the multilateral system. Three major UN conferences this year together have the potential to form a global consensus on development that could last 15 years or more and have impacts that affect generations to come.

All the reflection and analysis that takes place before these conferences reinforces what we already know: the private sector is the key player in advancing development. This is why it is so important that GRI brought together such innovative and dynamic U.S. companies here today so that we in the U.S. government can learn from and capitalize on your experiences and best practices.

For 17 years, the Secretary of State has, through the “ACE” awards or Awards for Corporate Excellence, formally recognized U.S. businesses that undertake responsible activities to improve lives and advance the needs of local communities around the world.

Beyond private philanthropy and corporate social responsibility, the private sector is a key partner in development through establishing new enterprises, creating jobs, providing goods and services, generating income and profits, and contributing to public revenues. Domestic private sector growth is the lifeblood to developing countries’ economies, whereby businesses deliver investment, trade, jobs, and innovation. Domestic private finance has greatly surpassed public finance in recent years, making it the single largest source of finance for all developing countries.

According to World Bank, in 2014, private infrastructure investment for energy, transport and water projects was $107.5 billion among the 139 emerging economies. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is by far the biggest source of international capital flows to developing countries – around 60% on average.

But there is also growing recognition that some of the most important, effective development initiatives involve the public and private sectors working together. Today, Official Development Assistance represents only about 28% of all official and private flows from OECD members. Through innovative financing mechanisms and public-private partnerships, ODA can spur key investments and prompt important reforms in developing countries that enable the private sector to have even more impact.

The UN conferences this year provide a real opportunity to reaffirm and build upon the global development consensus that we developed in Monterrey and confirmed in Doha. And the private sector should be at the heart of that consensus.

The U.S. Government is taking initiative to make the world a more hospitable place for U.S. businesses to set up shop. We are negotiating trade and investment agreements. Some are in the headlines, like TPP and T-TIP. Some, less so, like the China BIT negotiations. We are also working hard to put together the National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct that President Obama announced last September. We believe the plan will help to consolidate the excellent brand and reputation U.S. businesses have established around the world by being responsible partners in development for nations and communities alike.

I look forward to today’s discussion and the ideas that come from it. And I am excited about finding new ways we can further collaborate and drive private sector investment and public private partnerships.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Presidents Hosts an Iftar Dinner

6/22/15: White House Press Briefing



150617-M-OM669-022 USTKA, Poland (June 17, 2015) Amphibious assault vehicles landat Ustka, Poland for the BALTOPS 2015 amphibious landing. U.S. Marines and service members from Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army who comprise the BALTOPS Combined Landing Force and Combined Amphibious Task Force conducted the amphibious landing. BALTOPS, an annually recurring multinational exercise designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, as well as demonstrate resolve of allied and partner forces to defend the Baltic region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Sarah E. Burns/Released).

150617-N-QI595-185 PACIFIC OCEAN, (June 17, 2015) The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) breaks away from a replenishment-at-sea while the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force training vessel JDS Shimayuki (TV-3513) receives fuel from the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202). The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JDS Yamagiri (DD-152) and the training vessel JDS Kashima (TV-3508) transit behind. John C. Stennis is undergoing fleet replacement squadron carrier qualifications off the coast of Southern California. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marco A. Villasana Jr./Released)


Export-Import Bank Approves Financing for Export of 144 American-Made Bridges to Sub-Saharan Africa

Transaction will support jobs in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and several other states

Washington, D.C. – The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) Chairman and President Fred Hochberg announced today in New Castle, Delaware that the Bank will finance the sale of Acrow Corporation of America’s modular steel bridge components to the Road Development Agency in the Republic of Zambia (ROZ). EXIM will guarantee a $73 million commercial loan to facilitate the export of 144 steel bridges. This action is expected to support approximately 200 jobs at Acrow’s manufacturing facility in Milton, Pennsylvania along with thousands more in Delaware, New Jersey and several other states.

In pursuit of its congressional mandate to support the export of U.S.-made goods and services to the Sub-Saharan region, EXIM authorized more than $2 billion in financing to support such exports in 2014, the largest total in the Bank’s 81-year history.

"With this transaction, we’ve not only leveled the playing field for an American manufacturer in a highly competitive global market, but we’ve also empowered Acrow to hire more American workers,” said EXIM Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. "This deal is a great example of how EXIM financing equips American exporters to beat the competition overseas while supporting jobs at home."

Acrow’s competitive proposal was chosen over those developed by its European and Chinese counterparts in a market that has historically been the focus of substantial Chinese investment, thanks to the financing it applied for and received from the Bank. As a result, the company’s bridges will be used in ROZ’s repair and modernization plan to improve Zambia’s rural road infrastructure, connecting people to schools, hospitals and enhanced economic opportunities.

“These EXIM Bank-supported projects transform Acrow Bridge's international presence by offering clients financing alternatives that assist emerging markets in accessing immediate and profound upgrades to their bridging infrastructure, particularly in rural areas where agricultural development depends so heavily on quality road and bridge networks,” said Acrow President and CEO Bill Killeen.

“The Zambia project will build on Acrow Bridge’s decades-long commitment to providing high-quality bridge infrastructure solutions in Africa, with a special focus on local skills capacity building,” added Paul Sullivan, Acrow’s Vice President of International Business Development.


Monday, June 22, 2015
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces Arrest More Than 1,000 Child Predators in Operation Broken Heart

Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces arrested 1,140 child predators from 41 states during a two-month, nationwide operation, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) announced today.

The 61 ICAC Task Forces, funded through an OJJDP grant program, conducted Operation Broken Heart, a coordinated investigative operation to intensify efforts to identify and arrest child sexual predators during the months of April and May 2015.

“Predators use technology in sinister and inventive ways to reach their child victims across state and national boundaries,” said Administrator Robert L. Listenbee of the OJJDP.  “Through collaborative efforts such as Operation Broken Heart, ICAC Task Forces and their law enforcement partners are countering these attacks by pooling resources and investigative expertise, increasing their ability to identify and arrest sexual predators and protect children.”

More than 3,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the operation, which targeted offenders who: possess, manufacture and distribute child pornography; engage in online enticement of children for sexual purposes; engage in the commercial sexual exploitation or prostitution of children; and engage in child sex tourism – traveling abroad for the purpose of sexually abusing children in other countries.  ICAC Task Forces first conducted Operation Broken Heart in 2014.  The task forces also delivered more than 2,200 presentations on Internet safety to more than 186,000 youth and adults during these two months.

“By arresting and prosecuting child predators across the country, our task forces are sending a clear message that we are working together better than ever before to bring these perpetrators to justice,” said Lt. Andrea Grossman of the Los Angeles Police Department, Commander of the Los Angeles Regional ICAC Task Force and chair of the ICAC Public Awareness and Outreach Committee.  “The ICAC Task Forces’ dedicated efforts and professionalism help fulfill the ultimate goal of keeping children safe.”

In 1998, OJJDP launched the ICAC Task Force Program to help federal, state and local law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative responses to offenders who use the Internet, online communication systems or computer technology to exploit children.  To date, the ICAC Task Forces have reviewed more than 516,000 complaints of child exploitation, which resulted in the arrest of more than 54,000 individuals.  In addition, since the ICAC program's inception, more than 465,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and other professionals have been trained on techniques to investigate and prosecute ICAC related cases.


On the road to ubiquity
NSF support of laser research
When the National Science Foundation (NSF) was founded in 1950, the laser didn't exist. Some 65 years later, the technology is ubiquitous.

As a tool, the laser has stretched the imaginations of countless scientists and engineers, making possible everything from stunning images of celestial bodies to high-speed communications. Once described as a "solution looking for a problem," the laser powered and pulsed its way into nearly every aspect of modern life.

For its part, NSF funding enabled research that has translated into meaningful applications in manufacturing, communications, life sciences, defense and medicine. NSF also has played a critical role in training the scientists and engineers who perform this research.

"We enable them [young researchers] at the beginning of their academic careers to get funding and take the next big step," said Lawrence Goldberg, senior engineering adviser in NSF's Directorate for Engineering.

Getting started

During the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, major industrial laboratories run by companies such as Hughes Aircraft Company, AT&T and General Electric supported laser research as did the Department of Defense. These efforts developed all kinds of lasers--gas, solid-state (based on solid materials), semiconductor (based on electronics), dye and excimer (based on reactive gases).

Like the first computers, early lasers were often room-size, requiring massive tables that held multiple mirrors, tubes and electronic components. Inefficient and power-hungry, these monoliths challenged even the most dedicated researchers. Undaunted, they refined components and techniques required for smooth operation.

As the 1960s ended, funding for industrial labs began to shrink as companies scaled back or eliminated their fundamental research and laser development programs. To fill the void, the federal government and emerging laser industry looked to universities and NSF.

Despite budget cuts in the 1970s, NSF funded a range of projects that helped improve all aspects of laser performance, from beam shaping and pulse rate to energy consumption. Support also contributed to developing new materials essential for continued progress toward new kinds of lasers. As efficiency improved, researchers began considering how to apply the technology.

Charge of the lightwave

One area in particular, data transmission, gained momentum as the 1980s progressed. NSF's Lightwave Technology Program in its engineering directorate was critical not only because the research it funded fueled the Internet, mobile devices and other high-bandwidth communications applications, but also because many of the laser advances in this field drove progress in other disciplines.

An important example of this crossover is optical coherence tomography (OCT). Used in the late 1980s in telecommunications to find faults in miniature optical waveguides and optical fibers, this imaging technique was adapted by biomedical researchers in the early 1990s to noninvasively image microscopic structures in the eye. The imaging modality is now commonly used in ophthalmology to image the retina. NSF continues to fund OCT research.

As laser technology matured through the 1990s, applications became more abundant. Lasers made their way to the factory floor (to cut, weld and drill) and the ocean floor (to boost signals in transatlantic communications). The continued miniaturization of lasers and the advent of optical fibers radically altered medical diagnostics as well as surgery.

Focus on multidisciplinary research

In 1996, NSF released its first solicitation solely targeting multidisciplinary optical science and engineering. The initiative awarded $13.5 million via 18 three-year awards. Grantees were selected from 76 proposals and 627 pre-proposals. Over a dozen NSF program areas participated.

The press release announcing the awards described optical science and engineering as "an 'enabling' technology" and went on to explain that "for such a sweeping field, the broad approach...emphasizing collaboration between disciplines, is particularly effective. By coordinating program efforts, the NSF has encouraged cross-disciplinary linkages that could lead to major findings, sometimes in seemingly unrelated areas that could have solid scientific as well as economic benefits."

"There is an advantage in supporting groups that can bring together the right people," said Denise Caldwell, director of NSF's Division of Physics. In one such case, she says NSF's support of the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS) at the University of Michigan led to advances in multiple areas including manufacturing, telecommunications and precision surgery.

During the 1990s, CUOS scientists were developing ultrafast lasers. As they explored femtosecond lasers--ones with pulses one quadrillionth of a second--they discovered that femtosecond lasers drilled cleaner holes than picosecond lasers—ones with pulses one trillionth of a second.

Although they transferred the technology to the Ford Motor Company, a young physician at the university heard about the capability and contacted the center. The collaboration between the clinician and CUOS researchers led to IntraLASIK technology used by ophthalmologists for cornea surgery as well as a spin-off company, Intralase (funded with an NSF Small Business Innovative Research grant).

More recently, NSF support of the Engineering Research Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Science and Technology at Colorado State University has given rise to the development of compact ultrafast laser sources in the extreme UV and X-ray spectral regions.

This work is significant because these lasers will now be more widely available to researchers, diminishing the need for access to a large source like a synchrotron. Compact ultrafast sources are opening up entirely new fields of study such as attosecond dynamics, which enables scientists to follow the motion of electrons within molecules and materials.

Identifying new research directions

NSF's ability to foster collaborations within the scientific community has also enabled it to identify new avenues for research. As laser technology matured in the late 1980s, some researchers began to consider the interaction of laser light with biological material. Sensing this movement, NSF began funding research in this area.

"Optics has been a primary force in fostering this interface," Caldwell said.

One researcher who saw NSF taking the lead in pushing the frontiers of light-matter interactions was University of Michigan researcher Duncan Steel.

At the time, Steel continued pursuing quantum electronics research while using lasers to enable imaging and spectroscopy of single molecules in their natural environment. Steel and his colleagues were among the first to optically study how molecular self-assembly of proteins affects the neurotoxicity of Alzheimer's disease.

"New classes of light sources and dramatic changes in detectors and smart imaging opened up new options in biomedical research," Steel said. "NSF took the initiative to establish a highly interdisciplinary direction that then enabled many people to pursue emergent ideas that were rapidly evolving. That's one of NSF's biggest legacies--to create new opportunities that enable scientists and engineers to create and follow new directions for a field."

Roadmaps for the future

In the mid-1990s, the optical science and engineering research community expressed considerable interest in developing a report to describe the impact the field was having on national needs as well as recommend new areas that might benefit from focused effort from the community.

As a result, in 1998, the National Research Council (NRC) published Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century. Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the 331-page report was the first comprehensive look at the laser juggernaut.

That report was significant because, for the first time, the community focused a lens on its R&D in language that was accessible to the public and to policymakers. It also laid the groundwork for subsequent reports. Fifteen years after Harnessing Light, NSF was the lead funding agency for another NRC report, Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation.

Widely disseminated through the community's professional societies, the Optics and Photonics report led to a 2014 report by the National Science and Technology Council's Fast Track Action Committee on Optics and Photonics, Building a Brighter Future with Optics and Photonics.

The committee, comprised of 14 federal agencies and co-chaired by NSF and NIST, would identify cross-cutting areas of optics and photonics research that, through interagency collaboration, could benefit the nation. It also was also set to prioritize these research areas for possible federal investment and set long-term goals for federal optics and photonics research.

Developing a long-term, integrated approach

One of the recommendations from the NRC Optics and Photonics report was creation of a national photonics initiative to identify critical technical priorities for long-term federal R&D funding. To develop these priorities, the initiative would draw on researchers from industry, universities and the government as well as policymakers. Their charge: Provide a more integrated approach to industrial and federal optics and photonics R&D spending.

In just a year, the National Photonics Initiative was formed through the cooperative efforts of the Optical Society of America, SPIE--the international society for optics and photonics, the IEEE Photonics Society, the Laser Institute of America and the American Physical Society Division of Laser Science. One of the first fruits of this forward-looking initiative is a technology roadmap for President Obama's BRAIN Initiative.

To assess NSF's own programs and consider future directions, the agency formed an optics and photonics working group in 2013 to develop a roadmap to "lay the groundwork for major advances in scientific understanding and creation of high-impact technologies for the next decade and beyond."

The working group, led by Goldberg and Charles Ying, from NSF's Division of Materials Research, inventoried NSF's annual investment in optics and photonics. Their assessment showed that NSF invests about $300 million each year in the field.

They also identified opportunities for future growth and investment in photonic/electronic integration, biophotonics, the quantum domain, extreme UV and X-ray, manufacturing and crosscutting education and international activities.

As a next step, NSF also formed an optics and photonics advisory subcommittee for its Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate Advisory Committee. In its final report released in July 2014, the subcommittee identified seven research areas that could benefit from additional funding, including nanophotonics, new imaging modalities and optics and photonics for astronomy and astrophysics.

That same month, NSF released a "Dear Colleague Letter" to demonstrate the foundation's growing interest in optics and photonics and to stimulate a pool of proposals, cross-disciplinary in nature, that could help define new research directions.

And so the laser, once itself the main focus of research, takes its place as a device that extends our ability to see.

"To see is a fundamental human drive," Caldwell said. "If I want to understand a thing, I want to see it. The laser is a very special source of light with incredible capabilities."

-- Susan Reiss, National Science Foundation
-- Ivy F. Kupec, (703) 292-8796
John Nees
Jorge Rocca
Duncan Steel
Tibor Juhasz
Carmen Menoni
David Attwood
Henry Kapteyn
Herbert Winful
Steven Yalisove
Margaret Murnane


FDA Issues Final Rule to Add Selenium to List of Required Nutrients for Infant Formula
June 22, 2015

The U. S. Food and Drug Administration today announced a final rule to add selenium to the list of required nutrients for infant formula, and to establish both minimum and maximum levels of selenium in infant formula.

U.S. manufacturers began adding selenium to infant formula after the Institute of Medicine recognized selenium to be an essential nutrient for infants in 1989, and currently, all infant formulas on the U.S. market contain selenium. By amending regulations to add selenium to the list of required nutrients for infant formula and establish a safe range for this use, the FDA is able to require manufacturers currently marketing infant formula in the U.S. to add selenium within this safe range, and to require any manufacturer newly entering the U.S. market to adopt this practice as well.

Specifically, the rule requires 2.0 micrograms (μg) selenium/100 kilocalories as the minimum level and 7.0 μg/100 kilocalories as the maximum level of selenium in infant formula. It also amends the labeling requirements for infant formula to require the listing of selenium in micrograms per 100 kilocalories on infant formula labels.

Selenium, found in breast milk, is an essential nutrient for infants. Among its benefits, it helps the body defend against oxidative stress and aids in the regulation of thyroid hormones. Because infant formula often serves as a sole source of nutrition for infants, selenium in infant formula is needed to ensure that formula-fed infants are getting this essential nutrient at appropriate levels. Selenium is the 30th nutrient required by law to be in infant formula.

Monday, June 22, 2015



Right:  U.S. Defense Attaché to Germany Army Col. Greg Broecker, left, greets U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter as he arrives in Berlin while German Army Lt. Col. Frank Gaebel, center, a representative from the German Defense Ministry looks on, June 21, 2015. Carter plans to meet with European defense ministers and participate in his first NATO ministerial as defense secretary during the trip to Germany, Estonia and Belgium. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz.  
Carter Arrives in Europe to Discuss Russia, Southern Threats
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2015 – The challenges to NATO from Russia and on the alliance’s southern flank will be the focus of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s trip to the continent this week.

Carter arrived in Berlin yesterday for talks with the German defense minister. From Germany, he will travel to Estonia and then end his trip at the NATO defense ministerial in Brussels.

Yesterday, the secretary spoke to reporters traveling with him.

NATO is Changing

The secretary said NATO must, and is, changing to confront the new threats. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive behavior in Georgia and Ukraine must be countered, and further aggression must be deterred, he said.

The secretary said he’ll explain America’s “strong but balanced approach” to dealing with Russia.

“It's strong, in the sense that we are cognizant of the needs to deter and be prepared to respond to Russian aggression, if it occurs, around the world, but also especially in NATO and with NATO,” Carter told reporters.

NATO is countering Russian behavior with the Spearhead Force designed to move quickly and powerfully to the scene of an incident, the secretary said.

“Another part of that is helping the states, both NATO members and non-NATO members, at the periphery of Russia … to harden themselves to malign influence or destabilization of the kind that Russia has fomented in eastern Ukraine,” he said.

Adapting to Challenges

The balance comes from needing to work with Russia on other issues, Carter said. Russia is a part of the P5-plus-1 talks with Iran. Russia also has a role in countering terrorism.

In short, Russia’s interests do in some areas align with those of the rest of the world, the secretary said.

“The United States, at least, continues to hold out the prospect that Russia -- maybe not under Vladimir Putin, but maybe some time in the future -- will return to a forward-moving course rather than a backward-looking course,” Carter said.

Southern Europe is threatened by extremism, the secretary said, noting that NATO defense ministers will discuss this threat. The dangers of extremism in the Middle East, he said, is manifested by increasing streams of refugees seeking to escape ungoverned or poorly governed areas of North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

“In both of those areas NATO needs to, and is, adapting,” Carter said. “These are challenges that are different in kind from the old Fulda Gap, Cold War challenge. They are different in their own ways from Afghanistan and the kinds of things that we've been doing there. So it's new, but NATO … is adapting for both of them.”


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

SOUTHWEST ASIA, June 22, 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

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

-- Near Hasakah, one airstrike destroyed an ISIL vehicle bomb.

-- Near Aleppo, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL excavator, an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL mortar system and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Tal Abyad, five airstrikes struck one large and four small ISIL tactical units, destroying three ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL vehicle.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 22 airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:

-- Near Baghdadi, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL excavator and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Habbaniyah, one airstrike struck an ISIL rocket firing position.

-- Near Haditha, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying two ISIL vehicles.

-- Near Hit, one airstrike destroyed an ISIL structure.

-- Near Makhmur, three airstrikes struck an ISIL vehicle bomb factory.

-- Near Mosul, five airstrikes struck one large and two small ISIL tactical units, an ISIL rocket firing position and an ISIL mortar firing position, destroying three ISIL heavy machine guns, an ISIL building, an ISIL motorcycle and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Ramadi, one airstrike destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Sinjar, five airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and two ISIL staging areas, destroying three ISIL tunnel systems, two ISIL bunkers, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL cache and an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Tal Afar, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and an ISIL tunnel system, destroying an ISIL building and an ISIL mortar firing 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.

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.

NASA Video: Igniting the Booster


06/17/2015 09:35 AM EDT

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced fraud charges against a Massachusetts-based investment advisory firm and its owner for funneling more than $17 million in client assets into four financially troubled Canadian penny stock companies in which the owner has undisclosed business and financial interests.

The SEC alleges that clients at Interinvest Corporation may have lost as much as $12 million of their $17 million investment based on the recent trading history of shares in the penny stock companies, some of which are purportedly in the business of exploring for gold or other minerals.  Interinvest’s owner and president Hans Peter Black has served on the board of directors of these companies, which have collectively paid an entity he controls approximately $1.7 million.  Black’s involvement with these companies and his receipt of payments from them created a conflict of interest that he and Interinvest failed to disclose to their advisory clients.

The alleged violations were first identified in an SEC examination of the firm.  The SEC’s complaint filed late yesterday in federal court in Boston alleges that Interinvest and Black have stonewalled the SEC’s investigation.  The SEC is seeking a court order to freeze Interinvest’s assets and prohibit the firm and Black from continuing to exercise investment authority over client assets under management.  As of April 2015, Interinvest purported to manage almost $95 million.

“Investment advisers have a duty to put their clients’ interests first and fully disclose all conflicts of interest,” said Paul G. Levenson, Director of the SEC’s Boston Regional Office.  “We allege that Interinvest and Black violated that duty by investing client money in companies where he has a stake without fully disclosing that conflict to clients.”

The SEC’s complaint filed alleges that Interinvest and Black violated the antifraud and related provisions of the federal securities laws.  In addition to emergency relief, the SEC’s complaint seeks to permanently enjoin Interinvest and Black from violating the securities laws and require them to repay allegedly ill-gotten gains with interest and penalties.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Michael Vito, Peter Moores, John McCann, Chip Harper, and Celia Moore of the Boston office.  The SEC’s examination of Interinvest was conducted by Raymond G. Titus, Paul Prata, Daniel B. Wong, and Melissa Clough of the Boston office.