Search This Blog

Following are links to various U.S. government press releases.

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO

Loading...

Counterterrorism

White-Collar Crime

Popular Posts

Sunday, August 28, 2011

ELECTIONS IN MISSISSIPPI TO BE MONITORED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

Monday, August 22, 2011
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it will monitor primary runoff elections on Aug. 23, 2011, in Bolivar, Noxubee, Tunica and Wilkinson Counties in Mississippi to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group.
Under the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department is authorized to ask the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to send federal observers to jurisdictions that are certified by the attorney general or by a federal court order. Federal observers will be assigned to monitor polling place activities in Bolivar, Noxubee and Wilkinson Counties based on the attorney general’s certification. The observers will watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations, and Civil Rights Division attorneys will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.
In addition, Justice Department personnel will monitor polling place activities in Tunica County. A Civil Rights Division attorney will coordinate federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

OVER $40 MILLION IN ASSISTANCE APPROVED FOR KENTUCKIANS

The following is an excerpt from the FEMA website:

"FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Since being designated for federal disaster assistance in May, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Commonwealth of Kentucky have approved $40,986,872 in assistance to Kentuckians affected by the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding from April 12 to May 20.

FEMA has approved more than $7.7 million in Individual Assistance (IA) and $932,677 in Other Needs

Assistance (ONA) as part of the ongoing recovery efforts for residents of 22 Commonwealth counties. The IA funds help residents repair their damaged homes and find temporary housing following the disaster. ONA funds assist with a variety of expenses such as medical bills, funeral costs, and moving and storage fees.

The SBA has approved loans totaling more than $5.1million for individuals and businesses.

The counties included in the May declaration for Individual Assistance are: Ballard, Boyd, Carlisle, Carroll, Crittenden, Daviess, Floyd, Fulton, Graves, Hardin, Henderson, Hickman, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Livingston, Marshall, McCracken, McLean, Pike, Union and Webster.

In addition, 76 counties throughout the Commonwealth were designated for Public Assistance, FEMA's program that helps fund the repair, restoration, reconstruction or replacement of public and certain private nonprofit facilities damaged or destroyed during the storms. To date, more than $14 million has been approved for Commonwealth and local governments in those counties.

More than $13 million also has been approved for hazard mitigation projects to be undertaken by the Commonwealth and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from future natural disasters. All counties in Kentucky are eligible to apply for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which is administered by the Commonwealth.

As of Aug. 17:

2,040 Kentuckians in designated counties registered for FEMA Individual Assistance by the July 18 application deadline.
1,131 applicants have been approved for Individual Assistance.
$7,748,306 has been approved for housing assistance.
$913,148 has been approved for Other Needs Assistance.
$14,071,962 has been approved for Public Assistance.
1,689 inspections of damaged properties have been conducted.
$13,016,553 has been approved for mitigation projects.
$5,165,500 in U.S. Small Business Administration loans has been approved: $4,767,900 for disaster home loans and $397,600 for disaster business loans.
64 Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) claims have been filed with the Kentucky Education and Workforce Cabinet, Office of Employment and Training.
63 DUA claims have been approved for $51,894.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

NEW ORLEANS SIX YEARS AND COUNTING SINCE KATRINA

The followng excerpt is from the FEMA websit:

"NEW ORLEANS – In support of the state of Louisiana’s recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided approximately $17.5 billion in individual, public and hazard mitigation assistance over the past six years.

“As we pause to reflect upon the anniversaries of Katrina and Rita’s landfalls, six years of recovery has led us to recognizable accomplishments across six noteworthy sectors—individuals and families, education and learning, health care, public safety, infrastructure and partnerships,” said FEMA’s Louisiana Recovery Office Acting Executive Director Joseph Threat.

Regarding individuals and families, after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents needed help rebuilding their lives from the ground up. Consequently, FEMA has provided approximately $5.8 billion in Individuals and Households Program grants to 915,884 individuals and families statewide. These dollars helped to afford housing assistance for rent, repairs and replacement housing, as well as other needs assistance for such things as furniture, clothing and replacement vehicles.

FEMA also housed more than 92,000 households in travel trailers, park models and mobile homes across Louisiana to combat the largest housing shortage ever seen in the agency’s history. Units were located on private properties, at industrial sites, in commercial mobile home parks and across 111 FEMA built and maintained group sites throughout the state.

“With only 54 temporary housing units remaining in use as of mid-August this year, nearly all 92,000 households have moved on to more permanent housing,” said FEMA Region VI Administrator Tony Russell. “This is a huge accomplishment for our dedicated staff and local and state partners who have worked relentlessly in support of this monumental housing mission.”

Additionally, to assist in rebuilding disaster-damaged public infrastructure, FEMA’s Public Assistance Program has provided approximately $10.8 billion for the restoration of roughly 23,177 Katrina and Rita recovery projects throughout Louisiana. Such FEMA aid lends itself to significant impacts across various public sectors, including approximately:

• $4 billion for education and learning facilities
• $842.4 million for public safety facilities
• $1.2 billion for general infrastructure (e.g., roads, transportation, parks and sewerage and water facilities)
• $900 million for health care facilities

Lastly, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program also services individuals and public entities impacted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita by providing grants to communities and state agencies for projects that are designed to save lives and protect properties. Specifically, in response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA has made $1.47 billion in HMGP funding available to the state of Louisiana, of which 420 projects have been approved so far for a total of $873.2 million in obligated HMGP funding.

“As recovery momentum continues to grow throughout New Orleans and other local communities, FEMA will stay steadfast in our resolve to best aid the great state and people of Louisiana,” added Threat.

For more information about Louisiana’s ongoing recovery efforts, visit FEMA’s website dedicated to the sixth anniversary of hurricanes Katrina and Rita: www.fema.gov/la6year

All data is as of June 17, 2011, unless otherwise noted.

When FEMA approves projects through its supplemental Public Assistance grant, the funds are made available to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, who disburses them to the applicant for eligible work completed.

The Public Assistance program works with state and local officials to fund recovery measures and the rebuilding of government and certain private nonprofit organizations’ buildings, as well as roads, bridges and water and sewer plants. In order for the process to be successful, federal, state and local partners coordinate to draw up project plans, fund these projects and oversee their completion."

Friday, August 26, 2011

LIGHTS OUT AS STAR IS SEEN BEING DEVOURED BY A BLACK HOLE

The following press release excerpt is from the NASA website:

"NASA'S Swift Satellite Spots Black Hole Devouring A Star WASHINGTON -- Two studies appearing in the Aug. 25 issue of the journal Nature provide new insights into a cosmic accident that has been streaming X-rays toward Earth since late March. NASA's Swift satellite first alerted astronomers to intense and unusual high-energy flares from the new source in the constellation Draco.

"Incredibly, this source is still producing X-rays and may remain bright enough for Swift to observe into next year," said David Burrows, professor of astronomy at Penn State University and lead scientist for the mission's X-Ray Telescope instrument. "It behaves unlike anything we've seen before."

Astronomers soon realized the source, known as Swift J1644+57, was the result of a truly extraordinary event -- the awakening of a distant galaxy's dormant black hole as it shredded and consumed a star. The galaxy is so far away, it took the light from the event approximately 3.9 billion years to reach Earth.

Burrows' study included NASA scientists. It highlights the X- and gamma-ray observations from Swift and other detectors, including the Japan-led Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI) instrument aboard the International Space Station.

The second study was led by Ashley Zauderer, a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. It examines the unprecedented outburst through observations from numerous ground-based radio observatories, including the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA) near Socorro, N.M.

Most galaxies, including our own, possess a central supersized black hole weighing millions of times the sun's mass. According to the new studies, the black hole in the galaxy hosting Swift J1644+57 may be twice the mass of the four-million-solar-mass black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy. As a star falls toward a black hole, it is ripped apart by intense tides. The gas is corralled into a disk that swirls around the black hole and becomes rapidly heated to temperatures of millions of degrees.

The innermost gas in the disk spirals toward the black hole, where rapid motion and magnetism create dual, oppositely directed "funnels" through which some particles may escape. Jets driving matter at velocities greater than 90 percent the speed of light form along the black hole's spin axis. In the case of Swift J1644+57, one of these jets happened to point straight at Earth.

"The radio emission occurs when the outgoing jet slams into the interstellar environment," Zauderer explained. "By contrast, the X-rays arise much closer to the black hole, likely near the base of the jet."

Theoretical studies of tidally disrupted stars suggested they would appear as flares at optical and ultraviolet energies. The brightness and energy of a black hole's jet is greatly enhanced when viewed head-on. The phenomenon, called relativistic beaming, explains why Swift J1644+57 was seen at X-ray energies and appeared so strikingly luminous.

When first detected March 28, the flares were initially assumed to signal a gamma-ray burst, one of the nearly daily short blasts of high-energy radiation often associated with the death of a massive star and the birth of a black hole in the distant universe. But as the emission continued to brighten and flare, astronomers realized that the most plausible explanation was the tidal disruption of a sun-like star seen as beamed emission.

By March 30, EVLA observations by Zauderer's team showed a brightening radio source centered on a faint galaxy near Swift's position for the X-ray flares. These data provided the first conclusive evidence that the galaxy, the radio source and the Swift event were linked.

"Our observations show that the radio-emitting region is still expanding at more than half the speed of light," said Edo Berger, an associate professor of astrophysics at Harvard and a coauthor of the radio paper. "By tracking this expansion backward in time, we can confirm that the outflow formed at the same time as the Swift X-ray source."

Swift, launched in November 2004, is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. It is operated in collaboration with Penn State, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in N.M. and Orbital Sciences Corp., in Dulles, Va., with international collaborators in the U.K., Italy, Germany and Japan. MAXI is operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency as an external experiment attached to the Kibo module of the space station."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

DOJ PUBLISHES ON WEBSITE "HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW" POST

The following is from the Department of Justice website:

Documenting How a Bill Becomes a Law
August 19th, 2011 Posted by Tracy Russo
Have you ever wondered about the legislative process that led to the creation of the Department of Justice in 1870? Or how Congress changed the law concerning telemarketers in 1998?

A number of digitized legislative histories compiled by the Department of Justice library staff throughout the years on laws of interest to department have now been made available to the public on our website, justice.gov. These legislative histories are an important roadmap into the development and passage of a law of the United States.

A “legislative history” of a law consists of documents created as a result of the legislative process during a law’s consideration, passage by Congress, and signature by the President.

A compiled legislative history assists in organizing the various documents that resulted in the passage of a law. Attorneys and researchers are then able to efficiently search and review the compiled legislative documents to find legal clarifications specific statutory language within the law.

Most legislative histories may include some, or all, of the following: the U.S. Public Law; House and Senate Documents; House, Senate, and Conference Reports; House and Senate Committee Hearings; Congressional Debates (Congressional Record); related Bills; and Presidential Statements.

Our digitized legislative histories are unique and may be more comprehensive than other legislative histories on the same laws available through other libraries or research databases.

The documents within the legislative histories added to justice.gov were originally researched, comprehensively collected from Congressional publications, and bound into paper volumes by our librarians. Until now, these multi-volume histories were made available only to department employees through the Justice Department’s main library collection."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

ORGANIC COMPOUNDS ASSOCIATED WITH LIFE FOUND BY NASA IN METEORITES

The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

“NASA Detects Metabolic Precursors in Meteorite Dust

Dr. Cooper analyzes meteoritic material by injecting samples into gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer. This instrument separates very complicated molecular mixtures into individual compounds that are more easily identified
Image credit: NASA
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. – NASA scientists have found organic compounds associated with cellular respiration in carbonaceous meteorites, and simulated space-like conditions in the laboratory to determine how the compounds could have formed in deep space billions of years ago.

The compounds belong to newly discovered classes of compounds in meteorites, specifically keto acids, hydroxy tricarboxylic acids and tricarboxylic acids, some of which are members of the citric acid cycle. This cycle is part of a process in which living cells break down organic fuel molecules in the presence of oxygen to harvest the energy they need to grow and divide. This metabolic process occurs in most plants, animals, fungi, and many bacteria. The discovery adds to a growing body of evidence that a variety of organic compounds delivered to Earth by carbonaceous meteorites may have played a role in the origin and/or evolution of biochemical pathways. Previously, most members of the citric acid cycle had not been identified in extraterrestrial sources.

"Some apparently ancient and critical metabolic pathways require a suite of compounds, of which a few are very fragile. For such compounds to have survived this long in meteorites, they would have required either a continuous energetic production, or simply very low temperatures to preserve them," said George Cooper, research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

The findings were published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Although many water-soluble organic compounds have been detected in carbonaceous meteorites, they never included keto acids and compounds similar to citric acid – some of which are critically important to biological processes, such as glycolysis and the citric acid cycle. These processes are considered among the earliest in the evolution of life.

"Once we identified such fragile members, like the keto acids, we started to create scenarios for how they could have formed billions of years ago, and we then tested our assumptions in the laboratory," said Cooper.

As part of the research, scientists used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to analyze extracts of multiple carbonaceous meteorites, including Murchison, Murray and Allan Hills.

"We won’t know how significant our findings really are in terms of understanding pre-biological processes on early Earth, until we see more evidence from other disciplines, like astronomy, and geology. This might take a while," said Cooper.”


NASA TURNS TO SCIENCE FICTION TO INCREASE INTEREST IN SPACE TRAVEL

The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

NASA And Tor-Forge Books Partner In Themed Science Fiction Works
GREENBELT, Md. -- In an effort to introduce, inform and inspire readers about NASA, the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. has partnered with Tor-Forge Books to develop and publish a series of science-fiction-themed books.



Referred to as "NASA Inspired Works of Fiction," these books will be based on concepts pertinent to current and future agency missions and operations.

"Ultimately this agreement will benefit the public, as we look for innovative ways to communicate our past and current achievements, while focusing on the needs of the future," said Nona Cheeks, who directs Goddard's Innovative Partnerships initiatives.

Many people who work in science and technology often credit science fiction as a significant inspiration for their career choices. The enormous popularity of science fiction is a key element in this collaboration to make the books a gateway to the general public and generate awareness of the significant role NASA plays in our everyday live.

NASA will pair scientists and engineers with Tor-Forge writers to help raise awareness and enhance public interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). NASA's goal is to attract and retain students focused on STEM studies, strengthening the agency and the nation's future workforce."




ANCIENT WHALE SKULLS

The following is an excerpt from the NASA website:

"August 22, 2011

Skewed skulls may have helped early whales find the direction of sounds in water and are not solely, as previously thought, a later adaptation related to echolocation.

Scientists affiliated with the University of Michigan and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) report the finding in a paper published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Asymmetric skulls are a well-known characteristic of the modern whale group known as "odontocetes" or toothed whales.

These whales also have highly modified nasal structures with which they produce high-frequency sounds for echolocation--a sort of biological sonar used to navigate and find food.

The other modern whale group, "mysticetes" or baleen whales, has symmetrical skulls and does not echolocate.

These observations led scientists to believe that archaeocetes--the extinct, ancient whales that gave rise to all modern whales--had symmetrical skulls, and that asymmetry later developed in toothed whales in concert with echolocation, according to H. Richard Lane, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research.

But a new analysis of archaeocete skulls by University of Michigan paleontologist Julia Fahlke and coauthors shows that asymmetry evolved much earlier, as part of a suite of traits linked to directional hearing in water.

"This means that the initial asymmetry in whales is not related to echolocation," said Fahlke, who is working with scientist Philip Gingerich at the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology.

Fahlke intended to study a completely different aspect of whale evolution: tooth form and function.

"Modern whales don't chew their food," Fahlke said. "Toothed whales just bite it and swallow it, and baleen whales filter-feed. But archaeocetes have characteristic wear patterns on their teeth that show that they've been chewing their food."

By studying those wear patterns, she hoped to piece together how and what early whales ate and how their eating habits changed over time.

She started by studying the skull of Basilosaurus isis, a serpent-like, predatory whale that lived 37 million years ago, using a three-dimensional digital model generated from CT scans of the fossil that were acquired at the University of Michigan Medical School Department of Radiology.

The actual skull on which the model was based was asymmetrical, but Fahlke and colleagues at first dismissed the irregularity.

"We thought, like everyone else before us, that this might have happened during burial and fossilization," Fahlke said.

"Under pressure from sediments, fossils often deform."

To correct for the deformation, coauthor Aaron Wood of the University of Florida straightened out the skull in the digital model.

But when Fahlke began working with the "corrected" model, the jaws just didn't fit together right. "Finally it dawned on me: maybe archaeocete skulls really were asymmetrical," she said.

Fahlke began examining archaeocete skulls, and to her astonishment, "they all showed the same kind of asymmetry--a leftward bend when you look at them from the top down," she said.

To study the asymmetry in a more rigorous way, Fahlke and colleagues selected six well-preserved skulls that showed no signs of artificial deformation and measured their deviation from a straight line drawn from snout to back of skull.

For comparison, they made similar measurements of the symmetrical skulls of artiodactyls, the group of terrestrial mammals from which whales evolved.

"Taken together, the six skulls deviate significantly from symmetry," Fahlke said. "Taken individually, four of them deviate significantly."

The other two appear asymmetrical, but their measurements fall within the range of the symmetrical comparative sample.

"This shows that asymmetry existed much earlier than previously thought--before the baleen whales and toothed whales split," Fahlke said.

"This means that the earliest baleen whales must have had asymmetrical skulls, which later became symmetrical."

The authors also show in their paper that archaeocete asymmetry is a three-dimensional torsion, or twist that affects the whole skull, rather than only a two-dimensional bend.

Interestingly, archaeocetes have structures similar to those that are known in toothed whales to function in directional hearing in water: fat bodies in their lower jaws that guide sound waves to the ears, and an area of bone on the outside of each lower jaw thin enough to vibrate and transmit sound waves into the fat body.

This adaptation, along with the acoustic isolation of the ear region from the rest of the skull, appears to have evolved in concert with asymmetry.

The link between asymmetry and directional hearing is not unique to whales, Fahlke said.

"Owls have asymmetrical ear openings, which help them discriminate the rustling of leaves from the rustling of a mouse," Fahlke said.

"Such ability would also be helpful when you're trying to detect prey in the water, so we interpret that the same kind of mechanism was operating for archaeocetes."

In addition to Fahlke, Gingerich and Wood, the paper's authors include Robert Welsh of the University of Michigan Medical School."

DEFENSE SECRETARY LEON PANETTA SPEAKS

The following is an excerpt from the American Forces Press Service:

Panetta Discusses Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2011 - Even as deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan draw down, American service members will continue to deploy in the future, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today.
In a roundtable meeting at the Pentagon with military media representatives, the secretary also discussed the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.
Though the United States is withdrawing forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, it is a fair bet that the U.S. military will be called upon to meet new challenges, the secretary said.
"Service members will continue to confront threats in the world," he said. "The likelihood is that we're going to face some other crises. If the Arab Spring has told us anything, it's that we're dealing with an awful lot of turmoil in a complicated part of the world."
Some 46,000 American service members are serving in Iraq, and the United States has not received a formal request for American trainers to remain there after the Dec. 31 deadline set by a 2008 agreement between the two countries for all U.S. forces to be out of Iraq. Panetta said he sees some progress in that regard, as the Iraqis have agreed to discuss within their government a continued U.S. presence. They agreed to name a defense minister and interior minister, the secretary noted, and they agreed to a tougher line with Iran, which has been shipping in weapons and providing training to Iraqi insurgents.
Meanwhile, U.S. forces in Iraq are drawing down, and they are on pace for all to out by the year's end, Panetta said. "The issue then will become what is the kind of training assistance and presence Iraq feels it needs in order to defend itself and secure itself," he said.
The Iraq and Afghanistan missions are similar, the secretary said, in that the mission in both countries is to ensure governance so they can secure and defend themselves and cannot become havens for al-Qaida or other terror groups that might threaten United States.
Iraq has made a lot of progress, he noted, with 650,000 members now serving in its security forces. The level of violence is down, he added, and government officials are trying to work together to sort through very difficult issues.
In Afghanistan, the coalition surge has made a difference and al-Qaida and the Taliban have been weakened, Panetta said. "One of the real questions was [whether we were] going to be able to develop an effective Afghan army and police force," he told the media representatives.
The Afghan army and police have grown in numbers and capability, he said, and seven areas of the country have transitioned to Afghan security control. "The real challenge will be whether or not the central government ... is going to be able to maintain a level of governance that can provide stability for that country," he said.
Pakistan remains a key player in the region, the secretary said. "Pakistan has got to get the clear message that they can't pick and choose among terrorists," the secretary said. "Terrorism represents as much a threat for their country as it does for ours. They've got to take on this responsibility as well."
The Pakistanis are getting better about cooperation since the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Panetta said. "They have done better about going after some targets we've given them since the bin Laden raid," he said. "At the same time, we have some bumps in the road in terms of relationship."
But the bottom line is that the United States must continue to work with Pakistan, Panetta said. "We have got to continue to put pressure on them, because the bottom line is that we can't ... win in Afghanistan without winning in Pakistan," the secretary said.

OFICIALS SAY ADDITIONAL FUNDING MAY BE AVAILABLE FOR PROJECTS RELATED TO SPRING FLOODING

The following is an excerpt from the FEMA website:

"BURLINGTON, Vt. -- With many municipalities and nonprofit organizations busy repairing and rebuilding after this spring's flooding, federal and state officials want to remind them that there may be additional funding for projects that reduce or prevent future damage.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) is available statewide, but mitigation funding is also offered for those in federally-declared counties who are receiving assistance for repairs and rebuilding of government and nonprofit facilities, including buildings, roads, bridges and water and sewer treatment plants, under the agency's Public Assistance (PA) program. These declared counties for the spring flooding are: Addison, Caledonia, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans and Washington.

Examples of mitigation projects include upsizing culverts to prevent clogging, or using geosynthetic materials when repairing road sections, which also prevents washouts while increasing durability and decreasing annual maintenance costs.

FEMA may reimburse the cost of the project up to 75 percent with the state and local entities sharing the remainder.

"FEMA mitigation specialists work with state and local officials to identify and develop cost-effective mitigation projects that provide the security, strength and sustainability to prepare for a better and safer tomorrow," said Federal Coordinating Officer Craig A. Gilbert.

"Mitigation programs have to be looked at as an investment with a significant return. By allowing local officials the opportunity to reduce the risk of damage to their infrastructure, we save dollars in the long term," said Vermont Emergency Management Mike O'Neil.

An independent study shows that for every dollar spent on mitigation, the applicant will save four dollars in future repair costs. More information on ways to mitigate can be found at www.fema.gov/mitigation. Here you can click on FEMA's Best Practices Portfolio which is a collection of ideas for activities and projects that can help reduce or prevent the impacts of future disasters.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

FEMA's temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation expenses, medical and dental expenses, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA loan officers to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.

SBA disaster loan information and application forms may be obtained by calling the SBA's Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for people with speech or hearing disabilities) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET or by sending an e-mail to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Applications can also be downloaded from www.sba.gov or completed on-line at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards."

Monday, August 22, 2011

SCIENTISTS CLAIM TO HAVE FOUND NEW OCEAN CURRENT

The following is an excerpt from the National Science Foundation website:

August 21, 2011
If you'd like to cool off fast in hot summer weather, take a dip in a newly discovered ocean current called the North Icelandic Jet (NIJ).
You'd need to be far, far below the sea's surface near Iceland, however, to reach it.
Scientists have confirmed the presence of the NIJ, a deep-ocean circulation system off Iceland. It could significantly influence the ocean's response to climate change.
The NIJ contributes to a key component of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), critically important for regulating Earth's climate.
As part of the planet's reciprocal relationship between ocean circulation and climate, the AMOC transports warm surface water to high latitudes where the water warms the air, then cools, sinks and returns toward the equator as a deep flow.
Crucial to this warm-to-cold oceanographic choreography is the Denmark Strait Overflow Water (DSOW), the largest of the deep, overflow plumes that feed the lower limb of the AMOC and return the dense water south through gaps in the Greenland-Scotland Ridge.
For years it has been thought that the primary source of the Denmark Overflow was a current adjacent to Greenland known as the East Greenland Current.
However, this view was recently called into question by two oceanographers from Iceland who discovered a deep current flowing southward along the continental slope of Iceland.
They named the current the North Icelandic Jet and hypothesized that it formed a significant part of the overflow water.
Now, in a paper published in the August 21st online issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, the team of researchers--including the two Icelanders who discovered the current--has confirmed that the Icelandic Jet is not only a major contributor to the DSOW but "is the primary source of the densest overflow water."
"We present the first comprehensive measurements of the NIJ," said Robert Pickart of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Instititution in Massachusetts, one of the co-authors of the paper.
"Our data demonstrate that the NIJ indeed carries overflow water into Denmark Strait and is distinct from the East Greenland Current. The NIJ constitutes approximately half of the total overflow transport and nearly all of the densest component."
The researchers used a numerical model to hypothesize where and how the NIJ is formed.
"These results implicate water mass transformation and exchange near Iceland as central contributors to the deep limb of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, and raise new questions about how global ocean circulation will respond to future climate change," said Eric Itsweire, program director in the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.
"We've identified a new paradigm," Pickart said, likely a new, overturning loop of warm to cold water.
The results, Pickart says, have "important ramifications" for ocean circulation's impact on climate.
Scientists have been concerned that this overturning loop--some call it a conveyor belt--is slowing down due to a rise in global temperatures.
They suggest that increasing amounts of fresh water from melting ice and other warming-related phenomena are making their way into the northern North Atlantic, where it could freeze and decrease the need for the loop to deliver as much warm water as it does now.
Eventually, this could lead to a colder climate in the northern hemisphere.
While this scenario is far from certain, researchers need to understand the overturning process, Pickart said, to make accurate predictions about the future of climate and circulation interaction.
"If a large fraction of the overflow water comes from the NIJ, then we need to re-think how quickly the warm-to-cold conversion of the AMOC occurs, as well as how this process might be altered under a warming climate," said Pickart.
Pickart and a team of scientists from the U.S., Iceland, Norway, and the Netherlands are scheduled to embark on August 22nd on a cruise aboard the research vessel Knorr. They will collect new information on the overturning in the Iceland Sea.
"During our upcoming cruise we will deploy an array of year-long moorings across the entire Denmark Strait to quantify the NIJ and distinguish it from the East Greenland Current," Pickart said.
"Then we'll collect shipboard measurements in the Iceland Sea to the north of the mooring line to determine more precisely where and how the NIJ originates."
The cruise will be chronicled at the North Icelandic Jet Cruise website.
In addition to Pickart, authors of the Nature Geoscience paper include Michael Spall and Daniel Torres of WHOI; lead author Kjetil Våge, and co-authors Svein Østerhus and Tor Eldevik, all of the University of Bergen, Norway; and Héðinn Valdimarsson and Steingrímur Jónsson--the co-discoverers of the NIJ--of the Marine Research Institute in Reykjavik, Iceland.’

PRIVATE SECTOR HELPS IN ALABAMA STORM RECOVERY EFFORT

Release Date: August 18, 2011
Release Number: 1971-154

the following is an excerpt from the FEMA website:


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After the April storms and tornadoes destroyed thousands of homes and businesses across two-thirds of Alabama, a large-scale response and recovery effort was needed. A significant part of that effort was Alabama’s private sector, which continues to play a key role in the state’s recovery.

Recovery from such devastation involves local, state and federal agencies, voluntary agencies, faith-based organizations and the state’s private sector, including the business community, utilities, banking industry, insurance industry and other organizations.

In Alabama, the private sector assisted in getting survivors to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, provided advertising about disaster assistance, worked with the state and FEMA to help survivors with banking and insurance issues and generally supported the effort to help communities and survivors.

“The private sector is essential to a strong recovery effort,” said Jeff Byard, state coordinating officer for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. “These organizations have done a wonderful job helping people get back on their feet.”

At the outset of the disaster response, specialists with the private sector component of FEMA’s external affairs operation deployed to Alabama and began working with 65 chambers of commerce in 43 counties, industry groups, colleges and other organizations.

They met with employers to spread the word about how survivors could apply for disaster assistance. They produced an electronic newsletter that provided outreach to more than 400,000 people. They worked with utility companies to include FEMA registration information on billing statements, reaching nearly 2 million customers. They supplied information to banks to assist in the cashing of FEMA assistance checks.

Outdoor advertising was donated on billboards that reached over 1 million people every day. The University of Alabama Athletic Department and the NFL Players Association helped arrange public service appearances and announcements by athletes.

The private sector played a key role in assisting the state with other big initiatives, including the Safer Alabama Summit, a series of Housing and Recovery Expos and the Alabama Municipal League Expo.

Large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Marvin’s Home Improvement Stores, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware and Home Depot made stores available for FEMA staff to provide information about building safer homes.

“The whole community is engaged in the recovery,” said Michael F. Byrne, federal coordinating officer for FEMA. “The private sector has helped us get the word out about registration, assistance and building a stronger, safer, more resilient Alabama.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

FORMER MISSOURI SHERIFF PLEADS GUILTY TO CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
“WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced today that Neal Wayne “Bear” Groom, former sheriff of the Worth County, Mo., Sheriff’s Office, pleaded guilty to depriving eight Missouri women of their civil rights by coercing the women to expose parts of their bodies to him, which was in violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures .
As part of the plea, Groom admitted that while he was sheriff of Worth County, he coerced the women into exposing unclothed parts of their bodies to him and that he photographed some of the women, which in some cases included their exposed breasts. Groom used the guise of checking the women for injuries or evidence of drug injections to coerce the women into revealing different parts of their bodies to him. By pleading guilty, Groom admitted that he invaded the personal privacy of the victims by coercing them to expose their breasts to him for no legitimate law enforcement purpose.
Groom faces a maximum punishment of 12 months in prison and a potential fine of up to $100,000 for each of the eight counts.
“Such egregious misconduct by those entrusted to uphold our laws will not be tolerated,” stated Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez. “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute these cases.”
“Law enforcement officials are not above the law,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Beth Phillips. “When they abuse their authority by violating the civil rights of the citizens they are sworn to protect, they will be held accountable.”

COMMERCIAL CARGO CARRIER ARRIVING AT NASA AUGUST 24

The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

“WASHINGTON -- NASA's partnership with industry to develop transportation to the International Space Station reaches another milestone on Wednesday, Aug. 24. The cargo module for Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus spacecraft, which will carry supplies to the station, is scheduled to arrive at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

During the next several months, Orbital's engineering team will integrate the PCM with the Cygnus service module that includes the spacecraft's avionics, propulsion and power systems.

The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled for a demonstration flight early next year on an Orbital Taurus II launch vehicle under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services agreement with the company.”

EXCERPT FROM "THIS WEEK @ NASA"

The following is an excerpt from the NASA website. It is from a blog called "This Week @ NASA"

NEWS IN STEREO – GSFC

Craig DeForest: "For the first time, we’ve been able to image a Coronal Mass Ejection with lots of detail and a photometric quality all the way through its entire life cycle."

New processing techniques used on data gathered by NASA’s STEREO spacecraft will allow scientists to better track solar storms before they impact Earth. The storms -- called Coronal Mass Ejections, or CMEs -- are observed from NASA's twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory spacecraft launched in 2006. The data now reveals a clear and detailed look at a storm’s front from the sun all the way to Earth, thus reducing uncertainty of its arrival time.

Madhulika Guhathakurta: "With Stereo’s five telescopes today, we are actually witnessing the solar wind; we can see them, solar wind and solar storm, blowing all the way from sun to earth."

STEREO is part of NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes Program that seeks to understand the fundamental physical processes of the space environment from sun to Earth, and other planets.

MSL PREPARATIONS Technicians from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were inside the Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility to assist in preparing the Curiosity rover for its upcoming Mars Science Laboratory, or MSL mission. They worked on stowing the rover’s robotic arm; it’ll hold and maneuver instruments that scientists will use to analyze Martian rocks and soil. MSL is targeted for launch on Nov. 25 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

NASA IN NEW YORK - LARC

New York City was the latest stop in a postflight appearance tour by the last space shuttle crew.

Over three days, STS-135 astronauts Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus made numerous appearances around Manhattan, including interviews on CNN’s American Morning, and Comedy Central’s, The Colbert Report.

Stephen Colbert: "My guests tonight are the crew of the last space shuttle mission. If you see anything that burst from their chest run."

They visited the American Museum of Natural History showing video highlights from their 12-day mission aboard space shuttle Atlantis, and taking questions from space enthusiasts of all ages.

They met with officials and VIPs, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with whom they exchanged a space-flown memento and a city proclamation.

Garver: “We have with us here the crew that landed with the space shuttle just three weeks ago.”

Garver also made the introductions at another event.

SUMMIT IN SAN FRANCISCO - ARC
NASA's second annual IT Summit covered topics ranging from security to the role of IT in space science and exploration. Drawing nearly 2,000 attendees, the three-day event hosted by the Ames Research Center featured technology leaders from government, the private sector and academia. The Summit was hosted by NASA’s Chief Information Officer, Linda Cureton.

Linda Cureton: "There’s a tremendous need to think about IT as a discipline; how do you manage at the scale of an organization the size of NASA; how do you architect a future with heterogeneous needs, and how do you move forward in a cost effective way."

Attendees participated in activities showcasing best practices in science and engineering support, infrastructure & operations, and innovative technological waves of the future.

SHUTTLE LEGACY CELEBRATED – KSC
Thousands of current and former Space Shuttle Program employees gathered at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to celebrate 30 years of success and accomplishment.

Highlights of the "We Made History!" event included a presentation by the crew of the final shuttle flight for Atlantis' STS-135 mission, and a nighttime air show.

And now, Centerpieces…

ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENT - WFF (CP)
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, the Marine Science Consortium and the US Fish and Wildlife Service signed a collaborative agreement that will specify and make possible more comprehensive environmental studies in the area.

Amber Parker, Executive Director Marine Science Consortium:
“We’ve actually created an agreement that allows NASA the US Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the Marine Science Consortium to do projects, to create opportunities for research and hands-on applications that are going on in the field, in this region, particularly what we call the coastal zone research area.”

The focus is in the long term with climate change and sea level rise being the issues that will slowly, over time, impact the environment around us.

Lou Hinds, Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge Manager : "So we’re gonna need better predictive tools, better predictive technologies and working together with the universities to collect the data today that will answer some of those questions into the future is so important."

APOLLO 13 ASTRONAUT HONORED – DFRC (CP)
Retired NASA astronaut and research pilot Fred Haise was honored recently, by the Lancaster, California, Jethawks baseball team during their Aerospace Appreciation Night.

Haise is best known as one of the three Apollo 13 astronauts, who survived a potential space tragedy when an oxygen tank on their Apollo service module exploded on their 1970 lunar mission. Haise was recognized during pre-game ceremonies by the Jethawks, and then threw out the first pitch before the team's California League game against the San Jose Giants. Haise was joined on the field by retired NASA astronaut Gordon Fullerton, with whom he flew three of the five approach and landing tests of the prototype space shuttle orbiter Enterprise in 1977, and the two NASA research pilots, Fitzhugh Fulton and Tom McMurtry, who flew the modified Boeing 747 shuttle carrier aircraft that carried the Enterprise aloft for the flights. The occasion was also marked by a giveaway of bobble-head dolls in Haise' likeness to baseball fans attending the game, and an aerial salute by a F/A-18 from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, where Haise had served as a test pilot in the mid-1960s, before becoming an astronaut.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER – DFRC (CP)
It had never happened before – and most likely will never happen again, but for a few minutes, recently, NASA's two modified Boeing 747 space shuttle carrier aircraft flew in formation over the Edwards Air Force Base test range in Southern California.

Since both converted jetliners were scheduled to be in the air at about the same time, pilot Jeff Moultrie of Johnson Space Center's Aircraft Operations Directorate, arranged to have both aircraft fly in formation for about 20 minutes.

NASA Dryden photographer Carla Thomas eagerly took the opportunity to capture still and video imagery from a NASA FA-18.

The two modified 747s were primarily used to ferry the space shuttles, after landings at Edwards, to the Kennedy Space Center and to and from various other locations during the shuttles more than three decade history. They'll also carry the now-retired Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis to their final destinations for eventual public display."

NEW MILITARY ROBOT TRUCK MAY OPERATE IN HIGH RISK MISSIONS

The following is from the American Forces Press Corp website:

Marines Train on Robotic Truck for Future Convoys
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2011 - Next week, in a test area just east of Pittsburgh, six Marines will learn to control a robotic truck that may represent the future for logistics convoys, route-clearing missions and other high-risk battlefield operations.

Oshkosh Defense presented its TerraMax Unmanned Ground Vehicle technology at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems conference in Washington, D.C., Aug. 18, 2011. Oshkosh courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Oshkosh Defense of Wisconsin developed the TerraMax unmanned ground vehicle technology that's integrated into the company's 6x6 medium tactical vehicle replacement.

Oshkosh displayed the robotics-enabled vehicle here this week at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems Unmanned Systems North America 2011 conference.

On the AUVSI exhibition floor, amid the displays of more than 500 unmanned systems companies, user agencies and organizations, John Beck, Oshkosh Corp.'s chief unmanned systems engineer, spoke with American Forces Press Service.

"Most of the ground vehicles that I know of in theater today are remote controlled -- they take a human in the loop 100 percent of the time [to] monitor every motion," Beck said, and to control steering, throttling, braking and other operations.

In June, the company received a contract to produce an unmanned cargo vehicle for a Marine Corps initiative called the Cargo UGV, for the unmanned ground vehicle. The company's sponsor is the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va.

"The idea is to get this autonomous system into theater eventually for all sorts of different reasons," Beck said, "for convoy logistics missions, for route-clearance missions and for some of the combat reconnaissance and patrol missions."

The goal of the Marine Corps program, he added, is to integrate unmanned systems into manned convoys, then to understand and develop concepts of operations and tactics, techniques and procedures for using autonomous vehicles on the battlefield.

Oshkosh has experience in theater; the company builds all the heavy and medium tactical vehicles and most of the mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicles – known as MRAPs -- the Defense Department uses, Beck said.

The company has worked on autonomous systems for medium and heavy tactical vehicles since 2003, the chief engineer said, "because we saw this as an emerging technology that we wanted to participate in."

A year later, Oshkosh entered the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Grand Challenge, a driverless car competition held in the Mojave Desert in 2004.

"We made it about two miles or so," Beck said. "Nobody finished that one."

The company entered another vehicle in the 2005 Grand Challenge, a 6x6 MTVR like the TerraMax truck on display at AUVSI, Beck said, and was one of the finishers.

"At the time it was the smallest truck we built, but it was the largest one [entered in the DARPA challenge] and the only tactically relevant vehicle in the competition."

In 2007, DARPA held an urban challenge and another Oshkosh MTVR, this time a 4x4, entered the competition.

"Those were interesting challenges in that they were completely unmanned and totally autonomous," Beck said. "So we started from there, and now are back-stepping into how you would use [autonomous vehicles] in a tactical environment and in real logistics missions."

The team works on challenging problems like helping the truck deal with big slopes and grades, but they also focus on the robot's ability to perceive and understand the environment.

The truck has to understand trees, rocks and roads and where it should be driving. It has to be able to operate in environments with limited Global Positioning System access.

"It's not very difficult to do those types of things in structured environments like today's highways with lane markings and curbs and K-rail [barriers]," Beck said. "But when you get into more austere and primitive environments, it gets much more challenging."

Seeing through dust, rain and snow is another challenge, the chief engineer said. For such things the truck has a range of sensors, including lidar, for light detection and ranging, electro-optical sensors, automotive radars, near-infrared cameras and many others.

"Without perception," Beck said, "your autonomy can fall apart pretty quickly."

Oshkosh recently completed its first limited technical assessment for TerraMax, he added, "which got us through all kinds of little wickets -- obstacle avoidance, operating in dust and dealing with graded slopes and vegetation."

Next week in Pennsylvania, Beck said, the team will teach Marines how to use the truck's operator control unit and rotate them through the command-and-control and other vehicles.

The Marines, he said, will define missions for the unmanned system, monitor its progress, help it out if it needs guidance and supervise the autonomous operation of a mission.

"Part of the second phase of the program will be to have two unmanned trucks operated from one operator control unit," Beck said. "One operator in a manned vehicle somewhere within the column can monitor the progress of two autonomous vehicles. If they get into trouble the operator can help reroute them."

Eventually, Beck said, he thinks it will be possible for trucks to operate autonomously in places like Afghanistan where infrastructure is limited.

"There are plenty of hard problems to deal with, where you get into unstructured and dynamic environments," the chief engineer said. "All sorts of questions need to be answered as to how you want the vehicle to operate."

A driver might not stop at every stop sign or obey all the traffic rules in a hostile environment, Beck added. "Making the robot intelligent enough to make those types of decisions is a little ways out," he said.

Asymmetric warfare drives the need for vehicles that are increasingly autonomous, Beck said, adding that the first vehicles might be autonomous but have a driver behind the wheel who can focus on other things besides driving the truck, like looking out for roadside bombs.

"They'll probably start out with limited, proven amounts of technology and active safety, ... like adaptive cruise control, and those capabilities will start rolling into and enabling autonomous operation," the chief scientist said.

"As the capabilities get better and the environment is understood enough so you can run these [trucks] without people in the cab, that's what will happen, especially in very high-risk areas," he added.

"I think that's when they'll start running vehicles autonomously," Beck said, "because it's less of a risk to human life."





Saturday, August 20, 2011

NASA FINDS INSIGHT INTO DEVELOPMENT OF SOLAR STORMS

The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

“WASHINGTON -- NASA spacecraft observations and new data processing techniques are giving scientists better insight into the evolution and development of solar storms that can damage satellites, disrupt communications and cause power grid failures on Earth.

The solar storms, called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), are being observed from NASA's twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, spacecraft launched in 2006. The duo represents a key component within a fleet of NASA spacecraft that enhance the capability to predict solar storms.

Previous spacecraft imagery did not clearly show the structure of a solar disturbance as it traveled toward Earth. As a result, forecasters had to estimate when storms would arrive without knowing the details of how they evolve and grow. New processing techniques used on STEREO data allow scientists to see how solar eruptions develop into space storms at the Earth.

"The clarity these new images provide will improve the observational inputs into space weather models for better forecasting," said Lika Guhathakurta, STEREO program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

CMEs are billion-ton clouds of solar plasma launched by the same sun explosions that spark solar flares. When they sweep past Earth, they can cause auroras, radiation storms that can disrupt sensitive electronics on satellites, and in extreme cases, power outages. Better tracking of these clouds and the ability to predict their arrival is an important part of space weather forecasting.

Newly released images from cameras on the STEREO-A spacecraft reveal detailed features in a large Earth-directed CME in late 2008, connecting the original magnetized structure in the sun's corona to the intricate anatomy of the interplanetary storm as it hit the planet three days later. When the data were collected, the spacecraft was more than 65 million miles away from Earth.

The spacecraft's wide-angle cameras captured the images. They detect ordinary sunlight scattered by free-floating electrons in plasma clouds. When these clouds in CMEs leave the sun, they are bright and easy to see. However, visibility is quickly reduced, as the clouds expand into the void. The clouds are about one thousand times fainter than the Milky Way, which makes direct imaging of them difficult. That also has limited our understanding of the connection between solar storms and the coronal structures that cause them.

"Separating these faint signals from the star field behind them proved especially challenging, but it paid off," said Craig DeForest, scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. and lead author of an Astrophysical Journal article released online yesterday. "We have been drawing pictures of structures like these for several decades. Now that we can see them so far from the sun, we find there is still a lot to learn."

These observations can pinpoint not only the arrival time of the CME, but also its mass. The brightness of the cloud enabled researchers to calculate the cloud's gas density throughout the structure, and compare it to direct measurements by other NASA spacecraft. When this technique is applied to future storms, forecasters will be able to say with confidence whether Earth is about to be hit by a small or large cloud, and where on the sun the material originated.

STEREO's two observatories orbit the sun, one ahead of Earth and one behind. They will continue to move apart over time. STEREO is the third mission in NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes program. The program seeks to understand the fundamental physical processes of the space environment from the sun to Earth and other planets.

The STEREO spacecraft were built and are operated for NASA by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the mission, instruments and science center. The STEREO instruments were designed and built by scientific institutions in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and Switzerland.”




FEMA SAYS FEDERAL AID MADE AVAILABLE TO LOUISIANA FOR 2011 FLOODING

The following excerpt is from the FEMA website:

"WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to Louisiana and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by flooding during the period of April 25 to July 7, 2011.

Federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the flooding in the parishes of Assumption, Avoyelles, Concordia, East Carroll, Lafourche, Madison, Point Coupee, St. Charles, St. James, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, Tensas, Terrebonne, and West Feliciana.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Gerard M. Stolar has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Stolar said that additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments."

HOW HAS BODY ARMOR BEEN WORKING FOR AMERICAN SERVICE MEMBERS?

The following is from the American Forces Press Service website:

"Body Armor Works, Army Acquisition Official Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2011 - No American service member or civilian ever has deployed to the combat theater with defective body armor, Army officials stressed here today.

"I am not aware of any incident downrange where the body armor failed to protect against a round it was designed to defeat," said Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, one of the Army's top acquisition officials.

"There is nothing more important in Army acquisition. There's nothing more important to our Army than soldier protection or soldier safety," Phillips said during a Pentagon news conference. U.S. forces have the best body armor in the world, he added.

The Army procures body armor for all services and Defense Department civilians. A DOD Inspector General Report on seven contracts between 2004 and 2006 looked at the way the Army tested body armor during that period and what the service could do to improve it, he said.

"All of the recommendations from that report have been implemented," Phillips said. "We won't come to full closure until October this year, when we finish the final recommendations."

Service members are the best judge of the body armor and helmet issued today, said Army Col. Bill Cole, the project manager at Program Executive Office Soldier, adding that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines issued the armor "have high confidence" in its protective properties.

The Army will continue to improve all equipment for service members, Phillips said. "We can always improve our processes, and we can always get better," said the general added. "As we learn about better ways of testing, it is important we will implement those changes."

During the period of the report – 2004 to 2006 – the Army did not test how body armor responds when exposed to fungus and to altitude. The Army asked to be excused from those tests so the service could rush the life-saving enhanced small-arms protective plates to service members, Cole explained.

The bottom line is that absolutely no one has been sent downrange with defective equipment, Phillips said, and the Army continues to test new equipment and to pull body plates from inventory to run tests.

"Time and time again, we've shown these plates stop the most stressing bullet in theater," Cole said. To protect deployed service members, he added, would not disclose what round that is.

During the test, the Army fires the bullet at the plates at a speed that far exceeds the muzzle velocity or the normal weapon. "Again and again, they stop the enemy bullets they were designed to stop," Cole said.

Phillips and Cole said hundreds of stories exist of service members surviving point-blank enemy fire with only bruises."






Friday, August 19, 2011

DOJ INVESTIGATES LA COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT FOR DISCRIMINATION

The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

Friday, August 19, 2011
“LOS ANGELES – The Justice Department has opened a civil investigation into allegations of discriminatory policing by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) members based in the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, Calif. The investigation will focus on allegations that the Lancaster and Palmdale stations of the LASD are engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race or national origin in violation of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act.
The Justice Department will seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law, including the Fair Housing Act, by deputies of these LASD stations. The investigation will focus on allegations that the LASD has sought to identify during routine traffic stops individuals who use Housing Choice Vouchers, commonly known as Section 8, to subsidize housing costs for low income families. In addition, the investigation will examine allegations that t he LASD has conducted warrantless searches of African-American families’ homes under the auspices of housing authority compliance inspections, and that housing authority investigators based in the Lancaster and Palmdale sheriff’s stations have been accompanied by sheriff’s deputies as they conduct routine housing contract compliance checks. At times, it is alleged that the deputies approach the Section 8 recipient’s home with guns drawn and in full SWAT armor and conduct searches and questioning themselves, unrelated to the housing program.
In addition, the Justice Department has an ongoing investigation under the Fair Housing Act of the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster, as well as of the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles, to determine whether there has been a systematic effort to discriminate against African-Americans and Latinos.
During the course of the investigation of the LASD, the Justice Department will consider all relevant information, particularly the efforts that LASD has undertaken to ensure compliance with federal law. The Justice Department has taken similar steps involving a variety of state and local law enforcement agencies, both large and small, in jurisdictions such as New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and Louisiana.”

TROPICAL DEPRESSION WITH SOME HEAVY RAIN IN SPOTS HEADS FOR HONDURAS, GUATEMALA, AND BELIZE

The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

The eighth tropical depression of the Atlantic Ocean hurricane season formed from the low pressure System 93L on August 19 at 8 a.m. EDT and satellite data from NASA shows strong rainmaking potential as the depression moves out of the Caribbean and inland this weekend.

Infrared satellite data gives forecasters a good idea at the strength and height of thunderstorms, and the rainfall potential that they carry with them. When NASA's Aqua satellite passed over Tropical Depression 8 (TD8) today, August 19 at 6:59 UTC (2:59 a.m. EDT) the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) took the temperature of the cloud tops using infrared technology. AIRS data revealed a large area of powerful, high thunderstorms with cold cloud tops surrounding the center where cloud temperatures were colder than -63 Fahrenheit (-52 Celsius). The higher the thunderstorm cloud-top, the colder it is, and the more powerful they are, and typically, the heavier the rainfall.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) today noted that TD8 is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 3 to 5 inches across Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize. Isolated amounts as high as 8 inches are possible in local areas, and these heavy rains could produce flash flooding and mudslides, especially over higher terrain.

FOUR CONVICTED IN $4.7 MILLION MEDICARE FRAUD

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
"WASHINGTON – The owner of a Baton Rouge, La., durable medical equipment (DME) company, a medical doctor and two patient recruiters were each convicted late yesterday for their roles in a $4.7 million Medicare fraud scheme, announced the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) of the Louisiana State Attorney General’s Office.

After a two-week trial, Nnanta Felix Ngari, Dr. Sofjan Lamid, Henry Lamont Jones and Ernest Payne were each convicted by a federal jury in the Middle District of Louisiana of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay and receive illegal health care kickbacks.

Ngari owned and operated Unique Medical Solution Inc., a Baton Rouge-area DME supplier that specialized in the provision of power wheelchairs to Medicare beneficiaries. Evidence at trial established that beginning in late 2003, Ngari paid recruiters, including Jones and Payne, to locate and solicit Medicare beneficiaries to attend “health fairs” hosted by Jones and Payne at churches and other locations. At the health fairs, doctors, including Dr. Lamid, prescribed the beneficiaries power wheelchairs that were medically unnecessary. The prescriptions were used by Ngari to submit false and fraudulent claims, on behalf of Unique, to Medicare. According to information presented at trial, the doctors, including Dr. Lamid, were paid illegal kickbacks by Payne and Jones based on the number of power wheelchair prescriptions generated at the health fairs. Jones and Payne were also paid kickbacks by Ngari on a per prescription basis.

Between 2003 and 2009, Unique submitted approximately $4.7 million in claims to Medicare for purported services. Medicare paid Unique approximately $2.5 million for these claims.

A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled. Both conspiracy counts carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine."





NASA WORKS WITH FIREFIGHTERS IN CALIFORNIA

The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- As the summer blazes on, NASA-developed infrared imaging technology will once again be used to support wildfire incident commanders in California.

Beginning in September and continuing through the end of October, a NASA thermal-infrared scanning instrument, mounted in a NASA Beechcraft B200 King Air, will stand ready to support the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) with real-time imagery of fire characteristics.

NASA has a history of assisting with imaging wildfires and this summer will be no different. NASA has developed a thermal-infrared wildfire scanner that detects hot spots and various elements of the fire and burn characteristics, including post-fire burn severity.

“The use of the Autonomous Modular Sensor (AMS) sensor to support wildfire incident management personnel, will provide benefits to the people of California by enabling CAL FIRE to derive near-real-time information on major wildfire events, helping to save time, resources, property and potentially lives," said Vince Ambrosia of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., the project’s principal Investigator.

“The second benefit is in the long-term partnership between the entities, which allows some of these NASA-derived technologies to be matured to operational utility and adopted for use by the disaster support agencies in the state…a win-win for the residents and tax payers of California,” he added.

While in the air, the scanner collects imagery for real-time, on-board, autonomous analysis and creation of fire products for delivery through a satellite communications system to servers at NASA Ames. From there, the data is made available in many web service formats, including formats viewable within the Google Earth visualization tool.

"It’s that combination of sensors, aircraft, network and communications that advances the wildfire fighting state-of-the-art," added Randy Albertson of NASA's Airborne Science Program.

The aircraft with the AMS installed flies over the fire and collects spectral and thermal information about the fire and the surrounding landscape characteristics. This data is used by incident managers on the ground to plan mitigation strategies and fight the fire.

“The information provided by the sensor is helpful in containing the fire and preventing it from spreading,” said remote sensing satellite specialist Tom Zajkowski of the U.S. Forest Service.

NASA Ames and CAL FIRE have previously collaborated on wildfire support exercises. In 2010, they entered into a five-year non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement to use NASA technology and capabilities to help support the management and mitigation of wildfire disasters and to seek paths to transfer the technology to agencies such as CAL FIRE, following many years of cooperation between the agencies.

"The B200 King Air recently completed checkout flights of the onboard equipment, including the AMS instrument over active fires in addition to post-burn assessment," said Marty Trout, NASA B200 project pilot at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif. "The aircraft and ground control teams are ready to fly missions during the fall fire season."

In 2006, with the AMS mounted in the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems' Altair unmanned aircraft, NASA provided real-time fire information to the incident management team on the Esperanza Fire near Banning, Calif. From 2007 to 2009, the AMS flew on NASA's Ikhana unmanned aerial vehicle gathering information about wildfires for incident team leaders and to support research on fire behavior and post-fire recovery. Although the Ikhana missions were valuable, the investigators didn’t have the ease of use that a manned aircraft offered. In order to realize easier access to the National Airspace System, scientists turned to the manned B200 aircraft this year for routine mission operations.

“The September – October period is one of California’s most problematic seasons for wildfire activity, especially in Southern California, where Santa Ana-driven wildfires routinely lick at the margins of major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and San Diego.” Ambrosia said.

“By planning for operations during that time of year, and staging the NASA B200 and the AMS sensor at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, we hope to rapidly deploy the system to support those fast moving Southern California events," Ambrosia said. "That will provide the Incident teams with quicker and more frequent fire information, in order to assess and combat and control the wildfires before they spread catastrophically into those urban wildland fringe areas.”



JOINT COMMAND ISSUES

The following excerpt is from an American Forces website:

Karzai, ISAF Condemn Herat Province IED Attack
Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2011 - Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his government's interior ministry and the International Security Assistance Force jointly condemned today's improvised explosive device attack that reportedly killed numerous civilians and wounded many others in the Tark Abad district of Afghanistan's Herat province, military officials reported.

Initial reports indicate 24 Afghans were killed and 11 others were wounded when IEDs struck two separate vehicles. Among the dead are children and five women. Afghan officials said the Taliban were behind the attacks.

"Insurgents plan attacks such as these without regard for the civilians they kill, looking for the attention of the media," said Navy Rear Adm. Hal Pittman, an ISAF spokesman. "The Afghan people see the selfish destruction the insurgents bring. ISAF joins President Karzai and [the interior ministry] in condemning this atrocity."

In other Afghanistan news, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, issued a statement today in which he wished the Afghan people a joyous Independence Day holiday.

Allen's statement reads:

"To the honorable people of Afghanistan -- Salam-u-Alaikum! On behalf of all the members of the NATO International Security Assistance Force, I would like to wish you a joyous celebration during the Afghanistan Independence Day holiday. On this occasion, I express my heartfelt appreciation to all Afghans faithfully serving their country, whether in government, as members of the Afghan National Security Force, or as peace-loving civilians.

"For ten years, ISAF and its members have been working with our Afghan brothers and sisters to build a stronger, freer, and safer Afghanistan. Together, we have crippled the al-Qaida terrorist organization in the region and worked tirelessly to weaken the insurgency. Together, we continue to promote the conditions necessary for a stable and free Afghanistan. And together, we will ensure a prosperous future for the people of Afghanistan.

"Earlier this year, ever-strengthening Afghan National Security Forces began assuming primary security responsibility from ISAF forces in several areas throughout the country. These Afghan forces will continue to grow in both quantity and quality, so that in the near future, they will be trained, equipped, and capable of independently defeating the insurgents wherever they may try to hide.

"I, along with every member of my command, am proud of the progress being made, Shohna ba Shohna with our Afghan partners. I look forward to the continued progress that will be made through 2014 and beyond, as the nations of ISAF remain forever faithful hamkar to the Afghan people, and we will continue to support a free and stable Afghanistan.

"We are bound together in our efforts and sacrifices, and we will continue to work toward a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. That bond will remain strong long after we've prevailed over the insurgency, and will ensure Afghanistan is a country where its people can have faith in their government and live without the fear of violence. With courage and honor, together we will prevail."

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined Afghan and coalition force killed numerous insurgents and detained two others during a security operation in the Khugyani district of Nangarhar province. The security force was searching for a Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin terrorist organization leader when they observed several groups of heavily armed insurgents. A firefight ensued when the insurgents, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and assault rifles, attacked the security force. The target of the operation was an insurgent leader who directs a group of Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin and Taliban fighters in the district. He also plans and conducts ambush and roadside-bomb attacks against Afghan forces.

-- In the Ghormach district of Faryab province, a combined force killed two insurgents and detained a suspect while searching for a senior Taliban leader. The leader is the Taliban-appointed deputy governing official for insurgent operations in the Shirin Tagab district, and is responsible for roadside-bomb and rocket attacks against Afghan forces.

-- A combined force detained a Taliban leader and a suspected insurgent in the Qalat district of Zabul province. The leader was responsible for roadside-bomb attacks against Afghan security forces patrolling the Tarnak Wa Jaldak and Qalat districts.

-- In the Arghandab district of Kandahar province, a combined force detained a suspect during an operation targeting a Taliban leader who conducts intimidation operations against Afghan civilians and coordinates attacks against Afghan forces.

-- Also in Kandahar province, a combined force detained numerous suspected members of the Taliban during a security operation in the Panjwai district. The target of this operation is a Taliban leader who directs several lower-ranking leaders and fighters in the area.

-- A combined Afghan and coalition force detained several suspects in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. The force conducted the operation to disrupt a Taliban cell responsible for running a prison operation in the area.

-- A combined force killed two insurgents and detained several suspects during a security operation in the Pul-e Alam district of Logar province. The force was searching for a Taliban leader who coordinates and plans attacks against Afghan security forces. The combined force confiscated rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles, several other grenades and chest racks.

-- A combined force detained several suspects during a search for a Taliban leader in Ghazni city, Ghazni province. The leader manages fighters, facilitates roadside bomb operations and coordinates attacks with other Taliban leaders and facilitators.

In Aug. 17 operations:

-- A combined force found and safely destroyed an explosives cache in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand province. The cache contained 9,149 pounds of ammonium nitrate and 3,858 pounds of homemade explosives.

In Aug. 16 operations:

-- A combined Afghan and coalition operation resulted in the detention of a key roadside-bomb facilitator and several other suspected insurgents in the Kabul district of Kabul province.

-- In the Now Zad district of Helmand province, a combined patrol detained numerous suspects during an operation targeting a Taliban leader who is responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

NASA MAPS ANARTIC ICE FLOW

The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

"WASHINGTON -- NASA-funded researchers have created the first complete map of the speed and direction of ice flow in Antarctica. The map, which shows glaciers flowing thousands of miles from the continent's deep interior to its coast, will be critical for tracking future sea-level increases from climate change. The team created the map using integrated radar observations from a consortium of international satellites.

"This is like seeing a map of all the oceans' currents for the first time. It's a game changer for glaciology," said Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the University of California (UC), Irvine. Rignot is lead author of a paper about the ice flow published online Thursday in Science Express. "We are seeing amazing flows from the heart of the continent that had never been described before."

Rignot and UC Irvine scientists Jeremie Mouginot and Bernd Scheuchl used billions of data points captured by European, Japanese and Canadian satellites to weed out cloud cover, solar glare and land features masking the glaciers. With the aid of NASA technology, the team painstakingly pieced together the shape and velocity of glacial formations, including the previously uncharted East Antarctica, which comprises 77 percent of the continent.

Like viewing a completed jigsaw puzzle, the scientists were surprised when they stood back and took in the full picture. They discovered a new ridge splitting the 5.4 million-square-mile landmass from east to west.

The team also found unnamed formations moving up to 800 feet annually across immense plains sloping toward the Antarctic Ocean and in a different manner than past models of ice migration.

"The map points out something fundamentally new: that ice moves by slipping along the ground it rests on," said Thomas Wagner, NASA's cryospheric program scientist in Washington. "That's critical knowledge for predicting future sea level rise. It means that if we lose ice at the coasts from the warming ocean, we open the tap to massive amounts of ice in the interior."

The work was conducted in conjunction with the International Polar Year (IPY) (2007-2008). Collaborators worked under the IPY Space Task Group, which included NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the Alaska Satellite Facility in Fairbanks, and MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. The map builds on partial charts of Antarctic ice flow created by NASA, CSA and ESA using different techniques.

"To our knowledge, this is the first time that a tightly knit collaboration of civilian space agencies has worked together to create such a huge dataset of this type," said Yves Crevier of CSA. "It is a dataset of lasting scientific value in assessing the extent and rate of change in polar regions."

DOJ AND ERIE COUNTY HOLDING CENTER MAKE AGREEMENT TO PROTECT PRISONERS

The following is an excerpt from the Department of Justice Website:

"Thursday, August 18, 2011
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a stipulated order of dismissal to resolve its lawsuit concerning conditions of confinement at the Erie County Holding Center (ECHC), a pre-trial detention center in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Erie County Correctional Facility (ECCF), a correctional facility in Alden, N.Y. The lawsuit, which the department filed on Sept. 30, 2009, in federal court in the Western District of New York, alleged that conditions at the facilities routinely and systemically deprive prisoners of constitutional rights through inadequate medical and mental health care, failures to protect prisoners from harm, and deficiencies in environmental health and safety.
“As the Supreme Court confirmed over 35 years ago, ‘There is no iron curtain drawn between the Constitution and the prisons of this country,’” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The relief that we have obtained through this agreement will ensure that prisoners in Erie County are no longer denied the basic constitutional rights that humanity affords to them. This agreement follows on the heels of last year’s settlement on suicide prevention to reverse the tide of years of neglect and harm at the Erie County facilities.”
“This is a historic agreement. As a result of the government’s lawsuit, the county of Erie will be making broad and significant changes that will ensure the prisoners at ECHC and ECCF will be afforded their rights under the Constitution, such as comprehensive mental health care and medical care and protection from harm,” said William J. Hochul, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York.

On June 22, 2010, the department resolved a portion of its lawsuit against Erie County regarding suicide prevention and related mental health care following a series of suicides that occurred after the United States filed suit. However, individuals with mental illness continued to suffer as a result of lack of appropriate treatment in ECHC and ECCF, and were also subjected to excessive uses of force by staff. The stipulated order entered by the court today requires Erie County to implement a comprehensive mental health program for its prisoners, including:
Screening and assessment of individuals by qualified mental health professionals within designated time periods;
Referral of individuals with mental health issues for treatment within designated time periods on an emergent, urgent or routine basis;
Provision of clinically appropriate mental health treatment at outpatient, residential and crisis levels of care; and
Implementation of medication administration policies to ensure that psychotropic medications are prescribed and delivered in a timely and clinically appropriate manner.
In order to implement this comprehensive mental health treatment program, Erie County has increased the number of mental health staff at its facilities. This stipulated order, coupled with the June 2010, stipulated settlement agreement, will afford individuals held at ECHC and ECCF with appropriate mental health care.
Erie County also has agreed to enhance its provision of medical care at the facilities, including maintaining complete and unified medical and mental health records at the location where each prisoner is actually housed, in order to ensure continuity of treatment and care. Erie County will also establish quality assurance reviews for its medical and mental health treatment programs to analyze and correct trends that present risk of harm to prisoners.
The stipulated order also includes comprehensive provisions aimed at addressing sexual abuse at ECHC and ECCF by changing the way the county investigates allegations of sexual abuse by prisoners and staff, including appointing a sexual abuse coordinator within the facilities, offering counseling services for victims of sexual abuse, and increasing training and awareness on prison rape and sexual violence. Additionally, the stipulated order includes provisions to ensure proper investigation of allegations of violence and excessive force.
Independent consultants will monitor compliance with the medical and mental health provisions of the stipulated order and the previously ordered suicide prevention settlement. The c ourt will retain the ability to enforce the terms of both settlements."

AFGHANISTAN NEWS FROM THE AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE

The following story is from the American Forces Press Service:

Governance, Development Efforts Continue in Afghanistan
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2011 - Corruption and insurgent violence remain serious issues, but Afghan community members and leaders are strengthening their local governments "from the bottom up," a senior Defense Department civilian serving in Afghanistan said today.

Alisa Stack, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command's deputy chief of staff for stability operations, briefed Pentagon reporters by video uplink from the command's headquarters in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Stack has served in her current position since fall 2009, when ISAF's Joint Command was formed. She is responsible for synchronizing security plans and operations with national and provincial plans for governance and development.

"I'm focused on local government initiatives and work for those responsible for providing daily support to Afghan citizens," she said.

Stack said the command, known as IJC, not only brings together coalition members and Afghan partners, but also coordinates with other governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations working to improve conditions in Afghanistan.

"I can verify that our partnered efforts have brought about some truly remarkable achievements," she said. Examples of concrete progress in governance and development can be found in many areas, she added.

"In Helmand province, the security situation has improved sufficiently that work is now under way to add justice centers in Marja, Nad Ali [and] Gereshk, expanding on the success of the province's initial center in Lashkar Gah," Stack said.

Complementing that work, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission recently held the first monthly district outreach shura -- a community council -- in Nad Ali, Stack said, while the Kabul-based nongovernmental organization Women for Afghan Women is contracted to provide civil law, women's rights and family counseling training throughout Helmand province.

Kandahar residents are seeing similar progress, as their provincial leaders begin work on a comprehensive health strategy and implementation plan, Stack said.

"Orchestrated by the Kandahar Department of Public Health, the strategy will benefit from input from a number of municipal departments, Kandahar University, the World Health Organization and [the U.S. Agency for International Development], among others," she added.

Stack said progress in infrastructure and economic development is evident in Helmand, where a new business park is more than half complete, and in Mazar-e Sharif, where a combined U.S.-German military effort provides electricity for a growing industrial park.

"Last month, seven areas around the country underwent a peaceful, successful transition of security responsibility from ISAF to the Afghan government," she said. "As security improves across the country and more provinces transition and assume their own control, each will ... require tailored solutions to implement good governance and effective development at the provincial, district and municipal levels."

U.S. and coalition force structures must adapt to reflect those evolving priorities, she said, with close coordination among provincial reconstruction teams, civil agencies, the international community and nongovernmental organizations.

While such assistance is essential to helping Afghans develop government and development capacity, Stack said, "ultimately, Afghanistan's success in this counterinsurgency must come from a capable government at all levels that can be trusted by the Afghan people."

That government must be real, it must be fair and just, and above all, it must serve the needs and the will of the people, she said.

Corruption is a concern Afghans in and out of government have expressed to her repeatedly, Stack said.

"It is a serious problem, and it's one that the Afghan government and we are taking very seriously," she said.

IJC has examined its own business practices and directed the regional commands and others to take an "Afghan-first approach," looking for direct agreements with Afghan businesses in hiring and contracting, Stack said.

"We are taking it very seriously," she added. "We do take a holistic approach to it. And I think one of the strongest things that we've done is change how we work, and that has a very strong effect then on the Afghan market and on the expectations of the Afghan people."

Insurgent attacks on government officials and Afghan civilians are "absolutely a concern" for Afghan government and ISAF officials, Stack said, but recent incidents also highlight the nation's growing capability.

Following an Aug. 14 attack in which six suicide bombers killed at least 22 people during a raid on the Parwan governor's complex, Stack said, "the Afghan national security forces reacted very well ... with minimal support from us."

Within hours, the Afghan government and private organizations were working to repair damage to the provincial center, she said.

"The governor remained working throughout that day, and is working today," she added.

While IJC does not lead the effort, Stack said, several coalition members and USAID are working to train civil servants and local officials. The Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, through the U.S. government and USAID and with sponsorship from the Afghan Civil Service Institute, has trained 16,000 civil servants nationwide, she noted.

"Germany just started a program that's focused on developing provincial councils ... to understand what it means to represent a constituency, how you run a council meeting -- just the order for minutes, for notes, for follow-up," she said.

Italy has taken similar efforts in the west, and the United Kingdom has a provincial reconstruction team in Helmand partnering directly with local officials, she added.

The Afghan government and people's performance this summer and last shows resilience and persistence, Stack said, as well as "the desire for competent administration, to be competent administrators, and to have control over governance in their area."