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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

MAN GETS ARRESTED FOR PART IN DETROIT-AREA MEDICARE SCHEME

Thursday, November 3, 2011
Detroit-Area Man Arrested in Connection with $30 Million Medicare Home Health Scheme
The following is an excerpt from the SEC website:

“WASHINGTON – A Detroit-area resident was charged and arrested today in the Eastern District of Michigan for his alleged leading role in a $30 million Medicare fraud scheme involving home health services, announced the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the FBI and the HHS-Office of Inspector General (OIG). In addition to the arrest, law enforcement agents executed search warrants at five locations, seizure warrants for 31 bank accounts related to the scheme and suspended Medicare payments to 16 health care companies associated with the scheme.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Detroit, Zafar Mehmood, 45, allegedly masterminded a $30 million scheme involving the submission of fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided through at least four home health agencies. The four home health agencies named in the complaint are Access Care Home Care Inc. and Patient Care Home Care Inc., in Ypsilanti, Mich., and Hands On Healing Home Care Inc. and All State Home Care Inc., in Detroit.
Mehmood is alleged to have paid kickbacks to patient recruiters and billed Medicare for services that were not medically necessary and/or not performed through Access, Patient Care, Hands On Healing and All State. Mehmood is also accused of laundering the proceeds of the scheme through sham companies and intermediaries.
Mehmood is scheduled to make his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub.
Today’s charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the HHS-OIG Office of Investigation. Including today’s charges, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in Detroit have charged a total of 139 individuals in cases involving approximately $174 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Gejaa T. Gobena and Catherine Dick of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The investigations were conducted jointly by the FBI and HHS-OIG, as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since their inception in March 2007, the strike force operations in nine districts have charged more than 1,140 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
Criminal complaints contain merely charges and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”

Monday, November 28, 2011

STORMY SATURN

This false-color mosaic from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the tail of Saturn's huge northern storm. In mid-September 2004, the Cassini spacecraft chronicled a similar, but smaller, storm in the southern hemisphere called the "Dragon Storm." The head of this storm is beyond the horizon in this view. Saturn's atmosphere and its rings are shown here in a false color composite made from 12 images taken in near-infrared light through filters that are sensitive to varying degrees of methane absorption. Red and orange colors in this view indicate clouds that are deep in the atmosphere. Yellow and green colors, most noticeable near the top of the view, indicate intermediate clouds. White and blue indicate high clouds and haze. The rings appear as a thin horizontal line of bright blue because they are outside of the atmosphere and not affected by methane absorption. The oval in the upper left of this image that appears slightly blue is the same hole in the deep clouds of the planet's atmosphere that can be seen near the tail in a larger false-color mosaic, PIA14903. The blue color comes from the high haze overlying the hole. This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from just above the ring plane. The shadow of the moon Enceladus is visible on the planet in the lower left of the image. The images were taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera using a combination of spectral filters sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light. The images filtered at 890 nanometers are projected as blue. The images filtered at 728 nanometers are projected as green, and images filtered at 752 nanometers are projected as red. The images were taken on Jan. 12, 2011, over about one hour at a distance of approximately 684,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 52 degrees. The images were re-projected to the same viewing geometry, so that scale in this final mosaic is 76 miles (122 kilometers) per pixel. Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Friday, November 25, 2011

NEW LUNAR MAP FROM NASA

The following is an excerpt from the NASA website:

"NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter science team released the highest resolution near-global topographic map of the moon ever created. This new topographic map shows the surface shape and features over nearly the entire moon with a pixel scale close to 328 feet.

Although the moon is Earth's closest neighbor, knowledge of its morphology is still limited. Due to the limitations of previous missions, a global map of the moon’s topography at high resolution has not existed until now. With LRO's Wide Angle Camera and the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter instrument, scientists can now accurately portray the shape of the entire moon at high resolution."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN SENT E-MAIL DISCUSSING MIDDLE- CLASS TAX HIKE

Novermber 22, 2011

The followng is an excerpt from an e-mail sent out by U.S. Vice President Joe Bident:

"Good afternoon,
I'll cut to the chase: If Congress doesn't act soon, middle-class Americans will see their taxes go up starting on January 1st, taking almost $1,000 out of the pockets of a typical family next year.
Last year, President Obama and members of both parties in Congress cut the payroll tax for 155 million workers, putting money in your pockets. Now, that tax cut is expiring. So in September, the President and I proposed extending that tax cut and cutting your taxes even further: giving the typical family a $1,500 tax cut. Steps like this won't just help families feel more secure in their budgets, it'll give them more money to spend at local businesses that will hire more people and make investments in new equipment too.
We thought the extension would win bipartisan support again. How could Republicans in Congress, some of whom have pledged not to raise taxes by a penny, oppose extending the same tax cuts they just passed? But after years of protecting expensive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, many Republicans now say we should let this middle-class tax cut expire.
There's a lot at stake here for you and your family, and the better folks understand how much more they may have to pay, the easier it will be to get Congress to do the right thing. We've put together a calculator to show how much of your money hangs in the balance."

FDIC REPORTS PROFITS INCREASE BY $11.5 BILLION AT BANKS AND SAVINGS INSTITUTIONS

The following is an excerpt from an FDIC e-mail:

November 22, 2011
"Commercial banks and savings institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported an aggregate profit of $35.3 billion in the third quarter of 2011, an $11.5 billion improvement from the $23.8 billion in net income the industry reported in the third quarter of 2010. This is the ninth consecutive quarter that earnings registered a year-over-year increase.
"We continue to see income growth that reflects improving asset quality and lower loss provisions," said FDIC Acting Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg. "U.S. banks have come a long way from the depths of the financial crisis. Bank balance sheets are stronger in a number of ways, and the industry is generally profitable, but the recovery is by no means complete.
"Ongoing distress in real estate markets and slow growth in jobs and incomes continue to pose risks to credit quality," Acting Chairman Gruenberg added. "The U.S. economic outlook is also clouded by uncertainties in the global economy and by volatility in financial markets. So even as the banking industry recovers, the FDIC remains vigilant for new economic challenges that could lie ahead."
As was the case in each of the last eight quarters, lower provisions for loan losses were responsible for most of the year-over-year improvement in earnings. Third-quarter loss provisions totaled $18.6 billion, almost 50 percent less than the $35.1 billion that insured institutions set aside for losses in the third quarter of 2010.
A majority of all institutions (63 percent) reported improvements in quarterly net income from a year ago. Also, the share of institutions reporting net losses for the quarter fell to 14.3 percent, down from 19.5 percent a year earlier. The average return on assets (ROA), a basic yardstick of profitability, rose to 1.03 percent, from 0.72 percent a year ago.
Asset quality indicators continued to improve as noncurrent loans and leases (those 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status) fell for a sixth consecutive quarter. Insured banks and thrifts charged off $26.7 billion in uncollectible loans during the quarter, down $17.2 billion (39.2 percent) from a year earlier.
Financial results for the third quarter and the first nine months of 2011 are contained in the FDIC's latest Quarterly Banking Profile, which was released today. Also among the findings:
Loan portfolios grew slowly for a second consecutive quarter. Loan balances posted a quarterly increase for the second quarter in a row and for only the third time in the last 12 quarters. (The first increase, in the first quarter of 2010, reflected the rebooking of securitized loans onto banks' balance sheets as a result of new accounting rules, not an actual increase in lending.) Total loans and leases increased by $21.8 billion (0.3 percent), as loans to commercial and industrial borrowers increased by $44.8 billion and residential mortgage loan balances rose by $23.7 billion. Loans to other depository institutions declined by $37.1 billion (25.3 percent), reflecting the elimination of intra-company loans reported in the second quarter between two related institutions that merged in the third quarter.
Large institutions again experienced sizable deposit inflows. Deposits in domestic offices increased by $279.5 billion (3.4 percent) during the quarter. Almost two-thirds of this increase ($183.8 billion or 65.8 percent) consisted of balances in large noninterest-bearing transaction accounts that have temporary unlimited deposit insurance coverage. The 10 largest insured banks accounted for 75.7 percent ($139.1 billion) of the growth in these balances.
The number of institutions on the FDIC's "Problem List" fell for the second quarter in a row. The number of "problem" institutions declined from 865 to 844. This is the second time since the third quarter of 2006 that the number of "problem" banks has fallen. Total assets of "problem" institutions declined from $372 billion to $339 billion. Twenty-six insured institutions failed during the third quarter, four more than in the previous quarter, but 15 fewer than in the third quarter of 2010. Through the first nine months of 2011, there were 74 insured institution failures, compared to 127 failures in the same period of 2010.
The Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) balance continued to increase. The DIF balance — the net worth of the fund — rose to $7.8 billion at September 30th from $3.9 billion at June 30th. Assessment revenue and fewer expected bank failures continued to drive growth in the fund balance. The contingent loss reserve, which covers the costs of expected failures, fell from $10.3 billion to $7.2 billion during the quarter. Estimated insured deposits grew 3.6 percent in the third quarter. Much of this increase is attributable to the growth in balances exceeding $250,000 in noninterest-bearing transaction accounts, for which the Dodd-Frank Act temporarily extended unlimited insurance coverage through the end of 2012.”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

NASA SAYS POLUTION MAKES DRY REGIONS DRYER

The following excerpt is from the National Science Foundation website:

November 14, 2011
"Increases in air pollution and other particulate matter in the atmosphere can strongly affect cloud development in ways that reduce precipitation in dry regions or seasons.

This while increasing rain, snowfall and the intensity of severe storms in wet regions or seasons, according to results of a new study.

The research provides the first clear evidence of how aerosols--soot, dust and other particulates in the atmosphere--may affect weather and climate.

The findings have important implications for the availability, management and use of water resources in regions across the United States and around the world.

"Using a 10-year dataset of atmospheric measurements, we have uncovered the long-term, net impact of aerosols on cloud height and thickness and the resulting changes in precipitation frequency and intensity," says Zhanqing Li, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland and lead author of a paper reporting the results.

The paper was published today in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Co-authors are Feng Niu and Yanni Ding, also of the University of Maryland; Jiwen Fan of the U.S. Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Yangang Liu of the U.S. Department of Energy Brookhaven National Laboratory; and Daniel Rosenfeld of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"Aerosols' effects on cloud and precipitation development are key questions for scientific community," says Chungu Lu, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research.

"The question is not only important for our understanding of the effects of natural processes and human activities on climate change, but for addressing issues in air pollution, disaster relief, water resource management and human weather modification."

In addition to the scope and timeframe of the research team's observations, the scientists matched their findings with results from a cloud-resolving computer model.

"Understanding interactions among clouds, aerosols and precipitation is one of the grand challenges for climate research in the decade ahead," says Tony Busalacchi, a scientist at the University of Maryland and chair of the Joint Scientific Committee of the World Climate Research Program.

"Findings from this study are a significant advance in our understanding of such processes, with implications for both climate science and sustainable development," says Busalacchi.

"We have known for a long time that aerosols impact both the heating and phase changes [such as condensing and freezing] of clouds, and that they can either inhibit or intensify clouds and precipitation," says Russell Dickerson, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland.

"What we have not been able to determine until now is the net effect," says Dickerson. "This study shows that fine particulate matter, mostly from air pollution, impedes gentle rains while exacerbating severe storms. It adds urgency to the need to control sulfur, nitrogen and hydrocarbon emissions."

According to Steve Ghan of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, "This work confirms what previous cloud modeling studies had suggested: that although clouds are influenced by many factors, increasing aerosols enhances the variability of precipitation, suppressing it when precipitation is light and intensifying it when it is strong.

"This complex influence is completely missing from climate models, casting doubt on their ability to simulate the response of precipitation to changes in aerosol pollution."

Aerosols are tiny solid particles or liquid particles suspended in air. They include soot, dust and sulfate particles and are what we commonly think of when we talk about air pollution.

Aerosols come, for example, from the combustion of fossil fuels, from industrial and agricultural processes and from the accidental or deliberate burning of fields and forests.

They can be hazardous to human health and the environment.

Aerosol particles also affect the Earth's surface temperature by reflecting light back into space.

The variable cooling and heating that results is, in part, how aerosols modify the stability that dictates atmospheric vertical motion and cloud formation.

Aerosols also affect cloud microphysics because they serve as nuclei around which water droplets or ice particles form.

Both processes can affect cloud properties and rainfall. Different processes may work in harmony or offset each other, leading to complex yet inconclusive interpretations, scientists say, of their long-term net effect.

Researchers agree that greenhouse gases and aerosol particles are two major agents dictating climate change.

The mechanisms of climate warming effects of increased greenhouse gases are clear: they trap solar energy absorbed at the Earth's surface and prevent it from being radiated as heat back into space.

The climate effects of increased aerosols are much less certain.

"This study demonstrates the importance and value of keeping a long record of continuous and comprehensive measurements to identify and quantify the important roles of aerosols in climate processes," says Steve Schwartz, a scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

"While the mechanisms for some of these effects remain uncertain, the well-defined relationships discovered demonstrate their significance," says Schwartz. "Controlling for these processes in models remains a future challenge, but this study clearly points to important directions."

"The findings from ground measurements of long-term effects are consistent with the global effects revealed from satellite measurements reported in our separate study," says Li.

"They attest to the needs of tackling the climate and environmental changes that matter so much to our daily lives."

-NSF-"

Friday, November 18, 2011

DEPARTMET OF JUSTICE OBSERVES THE TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE

The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

“November 18th, 2011 Posted by Tracy Russo
On Thursday, over 50 Department of Justice and federal government employees gathered at the department to observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to celebrate the courage and honor the memory of victims of anti-transgender discrimination and violence. The keynote speaker was Diana Flynn, Chief of the Appellate Section of the Civil Rights Division, who offered a presentation about the ways in which the Civil Rights Division and other federal agencies have been working to end all forms of discrimination on the basis of gender, including gender identity and expression.
Other speakers included Robert Moossy of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section, who spoke of the division’s efforts to investigate and prosecute gender-identity motivated violence under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act; Becky Monroe, Acting Director of the Community Relations Service (CRS), who spoke about CRS’ work with communities affected by anti-transgender hate crimes; and Matt Nosanchuk, Senior Counselor the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Tom Perez.
Transgender individuals – meaning people whose gender identity or internal sense of being male or female is different from the gender marker assigned to them at birth – face enormous odds. According to a recent survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, discrimination against transgender individuals is pervasive: 63% of respondents said they had experienced a serious act of discrimination that had a major impact on their quality of life and ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally. As a result, transgender individuals are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty than the general population, and 41% reported attempting suicide. They are also too often the target of violent crime, including murder.
Other than the Shepard-Byrd hate crimes statute, no federal law explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Most federal laws, however, do prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, and the Civil Rights Division has been actively exploring ways in which the Department can use these laws to address discrimination against transgender individuals. For example, the Civil Rights Division’s Education Section has participated in a number of cases involving the harassment of students because of their real or perceived failure to conform to sex stereotypes. (The division’s employees recently filmed a video for the It Gets Better project.)
Although the “sex stereotyping” theory is the most well-established avenue for securing protection for transgender people against discrimination, the Civil Rights Division is committed to exploring all viable arguments that can be made to ensure equality under the law for all people, irrespective of gender identity and expression.
Moreover, under the authority of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Civil Rights Division has engaged in outreach to the transgender community to encourage it to seek help from law enforcement when hate crimes occur, and has helped train thousands of law enforcement officers on the new law and on the importance of responding to victims of anti-transgender violence. The Division also documented violations of the civil rights of transgender individuals in its comprehensive findings letter from its investigation of the New Orleans Police Department. When violence does occur, the Community Relations Service has worked with communities affected by that violence to build bridges – by facilitating communication and building trust – between those communities, with the goal of preventing future violence.
As our speakers reminded us, what is often lost in debates about transgender individuals and issues, is that transgender lives are human lives. The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day to recommit ourselves to breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence that affects far too many transgender Americans."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

BANK CONVERSION OFFERING SCHEME GETS SEC'S ATTENTION

October 31, 2011
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Drake Asset Management, LLC and
The following excerpt is from the SEC website:
Oliver R. Grace, Jr., Civil Action No. 11-CV-01905 (D.D.C. Oct. 31, 2011)
SEC Charges New York-Based Hedge Fund Adviser and its Co-Owner for Scheme to Evade Group Purchase Limits in Several Bank Conversion Offerings
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced the filing of a civil injunctive action against Drake Asset Management, LLC (Drake), of Glen Head, NY, and Oliver R. Grace, Jr., of Hobe Sound, FL, for conducting a scheme to evade the group purchase limits of the public offerings of seven banks that were converting from mutual to stock ownership. The SEC’s complaint alleges that, from 2003 through 2007, Grace knowingly or recklessly failed to disclose his association with certain entities, including hedge funds managed by Drake, which participated in the offerings alongside Grace. Under Grace’s direction, Drake also knowingly or recklessly failed to disclose the hedge funds’ association with Grace. By failing to disclose these associations, the Drake hedge funds and Grace were able to acquire stock that exceeded the offerings’ group purchase limits, in violation of offering terms and banking regulations. The complaint alleges that Drake and Grace, to conceal their relationships and group activity from converting banks and their underwriters, arranged for the hedge funds and Grace’s other associated entities to take steps to prevent the banks from associating these group orders. Over the course of the scheme, Drake and Grace generated $610,781 in ill-gotten gains. Because the seven offerings at issue were oversubscribed, the scheme harmed other bank depositors by limiting the amount of stock available to them.

The SEC’s complaint, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, charges Drake and Grace with violations of the antifraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder.

Drake, without admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint, has consented to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining it from violating the abovementioned provisions and imposing a civil monetary penalty of $175,000. Grace, without admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint, has consented to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining him from violating the abovementioned provisions, ordering him to pay $838,285 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, and imposing a civil monetary penalty of $150,000. The settlements are subject to approval by the Court.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HELD COURSE TO TRAIN TRIBAL PROSECUTORS IN ARIZONA

The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

November 17th, 2011 Posted by Tracy Russo
This post is part a series highlighting the department’s work with tribes in honor of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. For more information visit justice.gov/tribal.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona held a week-long course to train prosecutors from several of Arizona’s tribal governments so they may participate in the federal prosecution of offenders from their communities.
The training kicks off the U.S. Attorney’s Office -Tribal Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA) program. This cross-commissioning is encouraged by the Tribal Law and Order Act and mandated by the District of Arizona’s Operational Plan for Public Safety in Indian Country.
Attorney General Holder has identified building and sustaining safe and secure tribal communities as one of the Department of Justice’s top priorities. In June of 2009, the department launched a wide-ranging initiative to strengthen public safety in Indian Country and since that time, the department has taken a number of steps to deepen its commitment to tribal communities and to develop more effective partnership with tribal leaders, police, prosecutors, courts and advocates to combat crime in tribal communities. The federal cross-commissioning of tribal prosecutors through the Tribal SAUSA program is just one way that U.S. Attorney’s Offices with Indian country jurisdiction are playing a crucial role in carrying out the department’s strategy through their own operational plans.
The goal of the Tribal SAUSA program is to train eligible tribal prosecutors in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques to increase the likelihood that every viable criminal offense is prosecuted in tribal court, federal court or both. The program also allows the tribal prosecutors to serve as co-counsel with federal prosecutors on felony investigations and prosecutions of offenses arising out of their respective tribal communities. After completing training, each tribal SAUSA will be assigned an experienced federal prosecutor assigned to the Violent Crime Section to serve as a mentor and co-counsel on their federal cases.
The District of Arizona’s SAUSA program currently has 13 participants from 8 participating tribes – the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Gila River Indian Community, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and the White Mountain Apache Tribe – and is expected to grow.
Seven tribal prosecutors participated in the training course this week, which included classroom work and participation in proceedings before the federal court and grand jury. The remaining participants will attend an identical training planned for January 2012.”

Friday, November 4, 2011

NASA SURVEYS ANTARCTICA’S CHANGING ICE

“WASHINGTON -- Scientists with NASA's Operation IceBridge airborne research campaign began the mission's third year of surveys this week over the changing ice of Antarctica.

Researchers are flying a suite of scientific instruments on two planes from a base of operations in Punta Arenas, Chile: a DC-8 operated by NASA and a Gulfstream V (G-V) operated by the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The G-V will fly through early November. The DC-8, which completed its first science flight Oct. 12, will fly through mid-November.

Ninety-eight percent of Antarctica is covered in ice. Scientists are concerned about how quickly key features are thinning, such as Pine Island Glacier, which rests on bedrock below sea level. Better understanding this type of change is crucial to projecting impacts like sea-level rise.

"With a third year of data-gathering underway, we are starting to build our own record of change," said Michael Studinger, IceBridge project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "With IceBridge, our aim is to understand what the world's major ice sheets could contribute to sea-level rise. To understand that you have to record how ice sheets and glaciers are changing over time."

IceBridge science flights put a variety of remote-sensing instruments above Antarctica's land and sea ice, and in some regions, above the ocean floor. The G-V carries one instrument: a laser-ranging topography mapper. The DC-8 carries seven instruments, including a laser altimeter to continue the crucial ice sheet elevation record begun by the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) mission, which ended in 2009. The flying laboratory also will carry radars that can distinguish how much snow sits on top of sea ice and map the terrain of bedrock below thick ice cover.

While scientists in recent years have produced newer, more detailed data about the ice sheet's surface, the topography of the rocky surface beneath the ice sheet remains unknown in many places. Without knowing the topography of the bedrock, it is impossible to know exactly how much ice sits on top of Antarctica.

A gravimeter aboard the DC-8 will detect subtle differences in gravity to map the ocean floor beneath floating ice shelves. Data on bathymetry, or ocean depth, and ocean circulation from previous IceBridge campaigns are helping explain why some glaciers are changing so quickly.

Flights take off from Punta Arenas and cross the Southern Ocean to reach destinations including West Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula and coastal areas. Each lasts 10 to 11 hours.

"We will be re-surveying our previous flight lines to see how much glaciers and ice sheets have changed, and we'll cover new areas to establish a baseline for future years and the ICESat-2 mission in 2016," Studinger said.

Early high-priority DC-8 flights include several flight lines over sea ice near the Antarctic Peninsula, before too much of the ice melts in the southern spring. IceBridge sea ice flights are designed to help scientists understand why sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere is not following the steady decline of sea ice thickness and extent seen in the Arctic.

Other high priority flight lines follow ground traverses being made this year and next, during which NASA scientists will travel different sections of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, measuring snowfall accumulation and the characteristics of Pine Island Glacier.

Many flight lines will retrace either previous ICESat-1 tracks or future ICESat-2 tracks. Some also will align with current observations made by the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite. The overlapping flight lines and satellite tracks ultimately will help scientists improve the accuracy of their data.

NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., is responsible for IceBridge project management. The DC-8 is based at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

FORMER POLICE LT. SENTENCED TO FOUR YEARS IN PRISON IN DANZIGER BRIDGE CASE

The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

“Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Former New Orleans Police Department Lieutenant Sentenced in Connection with Shootings on Danziger Bridge

“WASHINGTON – A former lieutenant with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), was sentenced today for his role in a conspiracy to obstruct justice and for misprision of a felony (for concealing a known crime), in connection with a federal investigation of two police-involved shootings that left two civilians dead and four others seriously wounded in the area of the Danziger Bridge in the days after Hurricane Katrina.
Michael Lohman, 41, of Terrytown, La., was sentenced in federal court to serve four years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. During the first year of supervised release, Mr. Lohman is to perform 300 hours of community service. Additionally, he has been ordered to meet with NOPD recruit classes to serve as a warning to officers tempted to disobey the law. The court also imposed a $2500 fine. On Feb. 24, 2010, Lohman pleaded guilty in federal court in New Orleans before U. S. District Court Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle.
Mr. Lohman admitted to helping with the Sept. 4, 2005, cover up and also admitted – first during his guilty plea and later when he testified at the trial of five fellow officers -- that he knew that the shootings on the bridge were unjustified, and that he helped other officers cover up what had happened on the bridge.
When Lohman arrived on the scene shortly after the shootings, he noticed that there were no guns on or near the dead and wounded civilians. After determining that the involved officers could not come up with any evidence to justify the shooting, he concluded that they had been involved in a “bad shoot.” Rather than reporting the shooting as a bad shoot, Lohman, a well-respected lieutenant with NOPD, participated in a conspiracy that involved, among other things, writing false reports about the incident, planting a gun and making up false witness statements.
Deputy Chief Bobbi Bernstein, a prosecutor on the case, said in court that Lohman’s crimes were reprehensible, and that he needed to be punished with prison time. However, she also asked the judge to sentence Mr. Lohman to less than the five years called for by sentencing guidelines, in recognition of the fact that he provided cooperation that was critical to the prosecution of others. Ms. Bernstein noted that the victims of the Danziger Bridge shooting have been “an inspiration” for the prosecution, and that every recommendation the government has made for sentencing – including any requests the government has made for leniency for cooperating police officers – has been with the blessing of those victims.
“I’m pleased with today’s sentence,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Mr. Lohman owes a serious debt to society for betraying the badge he had been trusted to wear. But he also deserves some leniency for the critical role he played in allowing other offenders to be brought to justice. The government is outraged by Mr. Lohman’s crimes, but grateful for his cooperation in this case.”
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten stated: “The sentencing of former New Orleans Police Officer Michael Lohman today was the product of his important admission of guilt, his essential and truthful testimony at trial, and the government’s request to the court for leniency by appropriately recognizing his substantial and even critical assistance. Such tremendously important cases and the just results they produce can often only be brought with such cooperation. Moreover, our request that Mr. Lohman’s sentence require his conducting outreach to future NOPD officers was not only appropriate but essential in ensuring that such violations of public trust are not repeated. As United States Attorney and as a citizen, I—along with the prosecution team—believe that our resolution of this case and our request for consideration in sentencing Mr. Lohman is the right course to take.”
David Welker, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI New Orleans field office stated, “The law must be respected by those that are entrusted to enforce it. If the law is to be honored, it must first be respected by those who enforce it. Unfortunately, Lt. Lohman failed to remain faithful to the oath he took as a police officer and as a result tarnished the badge that many wear so proudly.”
This case was investigated by the New Orleans Field Office of the FBI, and was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Bobbi Bernstein and Trial Attorney Cindy Chung of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted Carter of the Eastern District of Louisiana.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

FLOWS ON A SPRING AND SUMMER MARTIAN SLOPE

The following is an excerpt from the NASA website:

"This image, which combines orbital imagery with 3-D modeling, shows flows that appear in spring and summer on a slope inside Mars' Newton Crater. Sequences of observations recording the seasonal changes at this site and a few others with similar flows might be evidence of salty liquid water active on Mars today. Evidence for that possible interpretation is presented in a report by McEwen et al. in the Aug. 5, 2011, edition of Science. This image has been reprojected to show a view of a slope as it would be seen from a helicopter inside the crater, with a synthetic Mars-like sky. The source observation was made May 30, 2011, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Color has been enhanced. The season was summer at the location, 41.6 degrees south latitude, 202.3 degrees east longitude. The flow features are narrow (one-half to five yards or meters wide), relatively dark markings on steep (25 to 40 degree) slopes at several southern hemisphere locations. Repeat imaging by HiRISE shows the features appear and incrementally grow during warm seasons and fade in cold seasons. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
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