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Saturday, December 31, 2011


EPA ISSUES MERCURY AND AIR TOXICS STANDARDS

The following excerpt is from an EPA e-mail:

“WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards,the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide. The standards will slash emissions of these dangerous pollutants by relying on widely available, proven pollution controls that are already in use at more than half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.

EPA estimates that the new safeguards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. The standards will also help America’s children grow up healthier – preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year.

"By cutting emissions that are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses like asthma, these standards represent a major victory for clean air and public health– and especially for the health of our children. With these standards that were two decades in the making, EPA is rounding out a year of incredible progress on clean air in America with another action that will benefit the American people for years to come," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will protect millions of families and children from harmful and costly air pollution and provide the American people with health benefits that far outweigh the costs of compliance."

“Since toxic air pollution from power plants can make people sick and cut lives short, the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are a huge victory for public health,” said Albert A. Rizzo, MD, national volunteer chair of the American Lung Association, and pulmonary and critical care physician in Newark, Delaware. “The Lung Association expects all oil and coal-fired power plants to act now to protect all Americans, especially our children, from the health risks imposed by these dangerous air pollutants.”

More than 20 years ago, a bipartisan Congress passed the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and mandated that EPA require control of toxic air pollutants including mercury. To meet this requirement, EPA worked extensively with stakeholders, including industry, to minimize cost and maximize flexibilities in these final standards. There were more than 900,000 public comments that helped inform the final standards being announced today. Part of this feedback encouraged EPA to ensure the standards focused on readily available and widely deployed pollution control technologies, that are not only manufactured by companies in the United States, but also support short-term and long-term jobs. EPA estimates that manufacturing, engineering, installing and maintaining the pollution controls to meet these standards will provide employment for thousands, potentially including 46,000 short-term construction jobs and 8,000 long-term utility jobs.

Power plants are the largest remaining source of several toxic air pollutants, including mercury, arsenic, cyanide, and a range of other dangerous pollutants, and are responsible for half of the mercury and over 75 percent of the acid gas emissions in the United States. Today, more than half of all coal-fired power plants already deploy pollution control technologies that will help them meet these achievable standards. Once final, these standards will level the playing field by ensuring the remaining plants – about 40 percent of all coal fired power plants - take similar steps to decrease dangerous pollutants.

As part of the commitment to maximize flexibilities under the law, the standards are accompanied by a Presidential Memorandum that directs EPA to use tools provided in the Clean Air Act to implement the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in a cost-effective manner that ensures electric reliability. For example, under these standards, EPA is not only providing the standard three years for compliance, but also encouraging permitting authorities to make a fourth year broadly available for technology installations, and if still more time is needed, providing a well-defined pathway to address any localized reliability problems should they arise.

Mercury has been shown to harm the nervous systems of children exposed in the womb, impairing thinking, learning and early development, and other pollutants that will be reduced by these standards can cause cancer, premature death, heart disease, and asthma.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which are being issued in response to a court deadline, are in keeping with President Obama’s Executive Order on regulatory reform. They are based on the latest data and provide industry significant flexibility in implementation through a phased-in approach and use of already existing technologies.

The standards also ensure that public health and economic benefits far outweigh costs of implementation. EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, the American public will see up to $9 in health benefits. The total health and economic benefits of this standard are estimated to be as much as $90 billion annually.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the final Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which was issued earlier this year, are the most significant steps to clean up pollution from power plant smokestacks since the Acid Rain Program of the 1990s.

Combined, the two rules are estimated to prevent up to 46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks among children, 24,500 emergency room visits and hospital admissions. The two programs are an investment in public health that will provide a total of up to $380 billion in return to American families in the form of longer, healthier lives and reduced health care costs.”


U.S. DETAILS REASONS FOR SALE OF FIGHTER JETS TO SAUDI ARABIA





The following excerpt is from the Department of Defense American Forces Press Service:






"F-15 Sale to Saudi Arabia Part of Broader Effort

By Donna Miles and Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2011 - The recently announced $29.4 billion sale of F-15SA fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia is just one part of a broader U.S.-Saudi military sales and defense cooperation effort that's central to regional security, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

U.S. officials announced an agreement Dec. 29 to sell 84 new F-15 fighter jets and upgrades for 70 existing aircraft to Saudi Arabia. Little said the same represents less than half of the $60.5 billion in U.S. sales of aviation capabilities agreed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the Royal Saudi Air Force, this broader program includes aviation capabilities for the Saudi Arabian National Guard, Royal Saudi Land Forces and Saudi Royal Guard, he said.

"More broadly, the U.S.-Saudi military-to-military alliance is a central feature of regional security," he said.

Little noted the U.S. Military Training Mission in Saudi Arabia, which was established in 1953 and remains a cornerstone of the U.S.-Saudi military-to-military relationship. U.S. and Saudi defense departments cooperate regularly at the highest levels, through established bilateral planning forums like the Strategic Joint Planning Commission and the Military Joint Planning Commission, he said.

In addition, the Royal Saudi Air Force trains with the U.S. Air Force in rigorous exercises that improve military cooperation and interoperability, and that facilitate the exchange of ideas, Little said. Among them is Red Flag, the U.S. Air Force's premier air-to-air combat training exercise, conducted in Nevada. Red Flag gives pilots the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties from within the safety of a training environment.

In announcing the F-15 sales agreement Dec. 29, James N. Miller, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, and Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, emphasized the close military-to-military ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
"The United States is firmly committed to the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as we have been for nearly seven decades, and ... more broadly, the United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong mutual interest in the security and stability of the Gulf," Miller said.

The F-15s Saudi Arabia will receive under the agreement "will have the latest generation of computing power, radar technology, infrared sensors and electronic warfare systems," he added.

"This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia," Shapiro said. "It demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security."

State and DOD have worked to conclude the agreement since June 2010, Shapiro added."

T

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT RECOVERS OVER $3 BILLION IN CIVIL CASES OF FRAUD


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

"WASHINGTON – The Justice Department secured more than $3 billion in settlements and judgments in civil cases involving fraud against the government in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2011, Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, announced today.   This is the second year in a row that the department has surpassed $3 billion in recoveries under the False Claims Act, bringing the total since January 2009 to $8.7 billion – the largest three-year total in the Justice Department’s history.

The $3 billion total for fiscal year 2011 includes a record $2.8 billion in recoveries under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which is the government’s primary civil remedy to redress false claims for federal money or property, such as Medicare benefits, payments on military contracts, and federal subsidies and loans.   The department has recovered more than $30 billion under the False Claims Act since the act was substantially amended in 1986.   The 1986 amendments strengthened the act and increased the incentives for whistle blowers to file lawsuits on behalf of the government.   That in turn led to an unprecedented number of investigations and greater recoveries.

“Twenty-eight percent of the recoveries in the last 25 years were obtained since President Obama took office,”Assistant Attorney General West said.   “These record-setting results reflect the extraordinary determination and effort that this administration, and Attorney General Eric Holder in particular, have put into rooting out fraud, recovering taxpayer money and protecting the integrity of government programs.”

Assistant Attorney General West noted that the $3 billion recovered this year included $2.4 billion in recoveries involving fraud committed against federal health care programs.   Most of these recoveries are attributable to the Medicare and Medicaid programs administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).   They also include the TRICARE program administered by Department of Defense (DoD), the Federal Employees Health Benefits program administered by the Office of Personnel Management and Veterans Administration health programs.

Fighting health care fraud is a top priority for the Obama Administration.   On May 20, 2009, the Attorney General and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the creation of an interagency task force, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), to increase coordination and optimize criminal and civil enforcement.   Since January 2009 alone, the department has used the False Claims Act to recover more than $6.6 billion in federal health care dollars.   This is more recovered under the act than in any other three-year period.

The historic $2.8 billion recovered in whistle blower cases came from suits filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.   These provisions allow private citizens, known as relators, to file lawsuits on behalf of the government.   In the 25 years since the False Claims Act was substantially amended, whistle blowers have filed more than 7,800 actions under the qui tam provisions.  Qui tam suits hit a peak of 638 this past year, after hovering in the 300s and low 400s for much of the decade.

Assistant Attorney General West thanked the courageous citizens who have come forward to report fraud, often at great personal risk:   “We are tremendously grateful to whistle blowers who have brought fraud allegations to the government’s attention and assisted us in this public-private partnership to fight fraud,” he said.

In 1986, Senator Charles Grassley and Representative Howard Berman led successful efforts in Congress to amend the False Claims Act, including enhancements to the qui tam provisions to encourage whistle blowers to come forward with allegations of fraud.   In this 25th anniversary year of the 1986 amendments, Assistant Attorney General West paid tribute to the bill’s sponsors, saying that “without their foresight, the breadth of the recoveries we announce here today would not have been possible.”   He also expressed his gratitude to Senator Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and to Senator Grassley and Representative Berman for their support of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009, which made additional improvements to the False Claims Act and other fraud statutes.

Assistant Attorney General West also applauded Congress’ passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, which reenforced the government’s ability to redress fraud in the nation’s health care system.   Among many other changes, the ACA amended the False Claims Act to provide additional incentives for whistle blowers to report fraud to the government and strengthened the provisions of the federal health care Anti-Kickback Statute.

Enforcement actions involving the pharmaceutical industry were the source of the largest recoveries this year.   In all, the department recovered nearly $2.2 billion in civil claims against the pharmaceutical industry in fiscal year 2011, including $1.76 billion in federal recoveries and $421 million in state Medicaid recoveries.   These cases included $900 million from eight drug manufacturers to resolve allegations that they had engaged in unlawful pricing to increase their profits.   Additionally, GlaxoSmithKline PLC paid $750 million to resolve criminal and civil allegations that the company knowingly submitted, or caused to be submitted, false claims to government health care programs for adulterated drugs and for drugs that failed to conform with the strength, purity or quality specified by the Food and Drug Administration.  

Adding to its successes under the False Claims Act, the department obtained 21 criminal convictions and $1.3 billion in criminal fines, forfeitures, restitution, and disgorgement under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).   The FDCA’s criminal provisions are enforced by the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.

In addition to health care, the department continued its aggressive pursuit of fraud in government procurement and other forms of financial fraud, including grant, housing and mortgage fraud that emerged in the wake of the financial crisis.   In November 2009, President Obama established the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to hold accountable the individuals and corporations who contributed to the crisis as well as those who would claim illegal advantage through false claims for funds intended to stimulate economic recovery.   Of the $3 billion in fiscal year 2011 recoveries, these non-war related procurement and consumer-related financial fraud cases accounted for nearly $358 million.

Overall, the department recovered $422 million in fiscal year 2011 in procurement fraud cases, including $89.3 million in recoveries in connection with the wars in Southwest Asia.   This brings civil fraud recoveries in connection with the wars in Southwest Asia since January 2009 to $153.4 million, and the total amount recovered in procurement fraud cases during that time to $1.5 billion, again a greater amount than in any previous three-year period.

Assistant Attorney General West expressed his deep appreciation for the dedicated public servants who contributed to the investigation and prosecution of these cases.   These individuals include attorneys, investigators, auditors and other agency personnel throughout the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, HHS, DoD and the many other federal and state agencies."




Friday, December 30, 2011

THE TWIN LUNAR SPACECRAFT HAVE MAIN-ENGINE BURNS ON NEW YEARS


The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

“PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's twin spacecraft to study the moon from
crust to core are nearing their New Year's Eve and New Year's Day
main-engine burns to place the duo in lunar orbit.

Named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), the spacecraft
are scheduled to be placed in orbit beginning at 1:21 p.m. PST (4:21
p.m. EST) for GRAIL-A on Dec. 31, and 2:05 p.m. PST (5:05 p.m. EST)
on Jan. 1 for GRAIL-B.

"Our team may not get to partake in a traditional New Year's
celebration, but I expect seeing our two spacecraft safely in lunar
orbit should give us all the excitement and feeling of euphoria
anyone in this line of work would ever need," said David Lehman,
project manager for GRAIL at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
in Pasadena, Calif.

The distance from Earth to the moon is approximately 250,000 miles
(402,336 kilometers). NASA's Apollo crews took about three days to
travel to the moon. Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Sept. 10, 2011, the GRAIL spacecraft are taking about 30 times that
long and covering more than 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers)
to get there.

This low-energy, long-duration trajectory has given mission planners
and controllers more time to assess the spacecraft's health. The path
also allowed a vital component of the spacecraft's single science
instrument, the Ultra Stable Oscillator, to be continuously powered
for several months. This will allow it to reach a stable operating
temperature long before it begins making science measurements in
lunar orbit.

"This mission will rewrite the textbooks on the evolution of the
moon," said Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. "Our two
spacecraft are operating so well during their journey that we have
performed a full test of our science instrument and confirmed the
performance required to meet our science objectives."

As of Dec. 28, GRAIL-A is 65,860 miles (106,000 kilometers) from the
moon and closing at a speed of 745 mph (1,200 kph). GRAIL-B is 79,540
miles (128,000 kilometers) from the moon and closing at a speed of
763 mph (1,228 kph).

During their final approaches to the moon, both orbiters move toward
it from the south, flying nearly over the lunar south pole. The lunar
orbit insertion burn for GRAIL-A will take approximately 40 minutes
and change the spacecraft's velocity by about 427 mph (688 kph).
GRAIL-B's insertion burn 25 hours later will last about 39 minutes
and is expected to change the probe's velocity by 430 mph (691 kph).

The insertion maneuvers will place each orbiter into a near-polar,
elliptical orbit with a period of 11.5 hours. Over the following
weeks, the GRAIL team will execute a series of burns with each
spacecraft to reduce their orbital period from 11.5 hours down to
just under two hours. At the start of the science phase in March
2012, the two GRAILs will be in a near-polar, near-circular orbit
with an altitude of about 34 miles (55 kilometers).

When science collection begins, the spacecraft will transmit radio
signals precisely defining the distance between them as they orbit
the moon. As they fly over areas of greater and lesser gravity,
caused both by visible features such as mountains and craters and by
masses hidden beneath the lunar surface. they will move slightly
toward and away from each other. An instrument aboard each spacecraft
will measure the changes in their relative velocity very precisely,
and scientists will translate this information into a high-resolution
map of the Moon's gravitational field. The data will allow mission
scientists to understand what goes on below the surface. This
information will increase our knowledge of how Earth and its rocky
neighbors in the inner solar system developed into the diverse worlds
we see today.

JPL manages the GRAIL mission. MIT is home to the mission's principal
investigator, Maria Zuber. The GRAIL mission is part of the Discovery
Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,
Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.”




POSSIBLE LISTERIA CONTAMINATION CAUSES RECALL OF DAIRY PRODUCTS IN MASSACHUSETTS


The following excerpt is from the FDA website:

"December 29, 2011 - The MA Department of Public Health (MDPH) is issuing a warning to consumers to avoid consumption of certain cheese and milk products because the products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes). The presence of L. monocytogenes in foods such as cheese and milk products represents a significant danger to public health.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued an 11/24/11 health alert notifying residents of Canada of a voluntary recall initiated by the dairy plant, 3903052 Canada Inc., Boisbriand, in Québec. This large recall followed two previous alerts, fairly extensive product testing and a clinical match to a case of listeriosis.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified MDPH on 12/28/11 that product was distributed to Cedar Market located in Norwood, MA.  Cedar Market is a retail establishment, which also sold the following products to Bahnan’s located in Worcester, MA.

The recalled products distributed in Massachusetts have the brand name “Fromagerie Marie Kade”.  All cheese products involved bear establishment number 1874. Any Best Before dates up to and including those listed, are affected by the alert. The cheese products that are the subject of the consumer alert in Massachusetts include:
  • Akawi Cheese Best Before 08 MAR 2012
  • Baladi Cheese Best Before 08 FEB 2012.
  • Shinglish Cheese Best Before 07 NOV 2012
  • Tresse Cheese Best Before 10 NOV 2012
  • Vachekaval Cheese Best Before 10 MAR 2012
  • Halloom Best Before 01 MAY 2012
  • Moujadale Best Before 04 MAY 2012      
L. monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.  Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms, such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, listeria infection can cause miscarriages and still births among pregnant women.
To date, no illnesses have been reported in MA.  MDPH has worked with the US FDA and local officials to embargo and destroy these products and to review inventory records for distribution.
Since the recalled products have not expired, it is possible that consumers may have products in their home. For that reason, MDPH is advising consumers who have purchased products listed to discard them. Consumers with questions may call MDPH Food Protection Program at 617-983-6712.
Canadian notice:  http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/corpaffr/recarapp/2011/20111124be.shtml
The Canadian website may periodically list expanded products involved in this recall."

WINN-DIXIE STORES INC., RECALLS STORE BRAND ITALIAN GREEN BEANS


The following is a press release excerpt from the Food and Drug Administration:

"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - December 28, 2011 - Jacksonville, Fl – Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., is voluntarily recalling Winn-Dixie Brand Italian Green Beans sold in the 14.5 oz can with a UPC code of 2114021236 and a best by date of Sept. 2014, due to a potential for in-shell peanuts mixed with the green beans. Individuals with an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction.
The recall is being initiated out of an abundance of caution for guest safety, though the company has received no reports of illness associated with product consumption.
"We encourage guests with any concerns to return the product for a full refund, no questions asked," said Mary Kellmanson, Winn-Dixie's group vice president of marketing. "We are conducting a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the peanut contamination in order to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.”
Consumers with questions about the recalled product may contact the Winn-Dixie Guest Service Center toll free at 1.866.WINN-DIXIE (866.946.6349).
About Winn-Dixie 
Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., is one of the nation’s largest food retailers. Founded in 1925, the Company is headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla. The Company currently operates approximately 480 retail grocery locations and approximately 380 in-store pharmacies in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi."

84 F-15 FIGHTERS BOUGHT BY SAUDI ARABIA

The following excerpt is from the Department of Defense publication "American Forces Press Service" website:


"US to Sell F-15 Fighters to Saudi Arabia

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2011 - The United States will sell 84 new F-15 fighter jets and upgrades for 70 existing aircraft to Saudi Arabia under a nearly $29.4 billion agreement, U.S. officials announced today.
During a joint State Department and Defense Department briefing today, James N. Miller, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, and Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, discussed the sale.

"The United States is firmly committed to the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as we have been for nearly seven decades, and ... more broadly, the United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong mutual interest in the security and stability of the Gulf," Miller said.

The F-15s Saudi Arabia will receive "will have the latest generation of computing power, radar technology, infrared sensors and electronic warfare systems," he added.

"This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia," Shapiro said. "It demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security."

State and DOD have worked to conclude the agreement since June 2010, Shapiro added.
The White House earlier today released a statement detailing the Foreign Military Sales program agreement, which also will provide munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance and logistics support for the F-15s to the Royal Saudi Air Force."
 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

NEW MAGNETIC BACTERIA COULD BE USEFUL IN BIOTECH AND NANOTECHNOLOGY


The following excerpt is from the National Science Foundation website:

“Nevada, the "Silver State," is well-known for mining precious metals.
But scientists Dennis Bazylinski and colleagues at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) do a different type of mining.
They sluice through every water body they can find, looking for new forms of microbial magnetism.
In a basin named Badwater on the edge of Death Valley National Park, Bazylinski and researcher Christopher Lefèvre hit pay dirt.
Lefèvre is with the French National Center of Scientific Research and University of Aix-Marseille II.
In this week's issue of the journal Science, Bazylinski, Lefèvre and others report that they identified, isolated and grew a new type of magnetic bacteria that could lead to novel biotech and nanotech uses.
Magnetotactic bacteria are simple, single-celled organisms that are found in almost all bodies of water.
As their name suggests, they orient and navigate along magnetic fields like miniature swimming compass needles.
This is due to the nano-sized crystals of the minerals magnetite or greigite they produce.
The presence of these magnetic crystals makes the bacteria and their internal crystals--called magnetosomes--useful in drug delivery and medical imaging.
The research was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Energy and the French Foundation for Medical Research.
"The finding is significant in showing that this bacterium has specific genes to synthesize magnetite and greigite, and that the proportion of these magnetosomes varies with the chemistry of the environment," said Enriqueta Barrera, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences.
While many magnetite-producing bacteria can be grown and easily studied, Bazylinski and his team were the first to cultivate a greigite-producing species. Greigite is an iron sulfide mineral, the equivalent of the iron oxide magnetite.
"Because greigite-producing bacteria have never been isolated, the crystals haven't been tested for the types of biomedical and other applications that currently use magnetite," said Bazylinski.
"Greigite is an iron sulfide that may be superior to magnetite in some applications due to its slightly different physical and magnetic properties. Now we have the opportunity to find out."
Researchers found the greigite-producing bacterium, called BW-1, in water samples collected more than 280 feet below sea level in Badwater Basin. Lefèvre and Bazylinski later isolated and grew it leading to the discovery that  BW-1 produces both greigite and magnetite.
A detailed look at its DNA revealed that BW-1 has two sets of magnetosome genes, unlike other such bacteria, which produce only one mineral and have only one set of magnetosome genes.
This suggests that the production of magnetite and greigite in BW-1 is likely controlled by separate sets of genes. That could be important in the mass production of either mineral for specific applications.
According to Bazylinski, the greigite-producing bacteria represent a new, previously unrecognized group of sulfate-reducing bacteria that "breathe" the compound sulfate rather than oxygen as most living organisms do.
"With how much is known about sulfate-reducing bacteria, it's surprising that no one has described this group," he said.
Working with Bazylinski and Lefèvre on the project are David Pignol of the French National Center of Scientific Research and University of Aix-Marseille II; Nicolas Menguy of Pierre and Marie Curie University, France; Fernanda Abreu and Ulysses Lins of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Mihaly Pósfai of the University of Pannonia, Hungary; Tanya Prozorov of Ames Laboratory, Iowa; and Richard Frankel of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.”


CHIINESE NATIONAL SENTENCED TO SERVE 87 MONTHS FOR STEALING TRADE SECRETS


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

December 21, 2011
“WASHINGTON – Kexue Huang, a Chinese national and a former resident of Carmel, Ind., was sentenced today to 87 months in prison and three years of supervised release on charges of economic espionage to benefit components of the Chinese government and theft of trade secrets.

The sentencing was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa O. Monaco, U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett of the Southern District of Indiana, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones of the District of Minnesota, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent in Charge of the Indianapolis Field Office of the FBI.

This is the first prosecution in Indiana for foreign economic espionage.  Since its enactment in 1996, there have been a total of eight cases charged nationwide under the Economic Espionage Act.

“Mr. Huang stole valuable trade secrets from two American companies and disseminated them to individuals in Germany and China,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.   “Economic espionage and trade secret theft are serious crimes that, as today’s sentence shows, must be punished severely.   Protecting trade secrets is vital to our nation’s economic success, and we will continue vigorously to enforce our trade secret and economic espionage statutes.”

“The theft of American trade secrets for the benefit of China and other nations poses a continuing threat to our economic and national security,” said Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.  “Today’s sentence demonstrates our commitment to detect, prosecute and hold accountable those engaged in these illegal activities.”

“The United States Attorney’s Office takes seriously its obligation to protect Hoosier businesses from economic espionage,” U.S. Attorney Hogsett said. “I thank the federal agents and prosecutors who helped bring this landmark case to a successful conclusion.”

“The Kexue Huang investigation and prosecution is an excellent example of how law enforcement and American corporations can work together to protect our corporations from economic espionage and the theft of extremely valuable trade secrets,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Holley stated.   “Dow Agrosciences and the FBI cooperated extensively to make this important investigation a success. Economic espionage is a crime that undermines the competiveness of our corporations and our national interest in protecting intellectual property. The FBI will continue to work collaboratively with the private sector to aggressively investigate those individuals that seek to harm our country’s economic interests by stealing our intellectual property and thereby undermining our competitive economic position in the world.”

Huang, 46, was sentenced by the U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence in the Southern District of Indiana.  On Oct. 18, 2011, Huang pleaded guilty to one count of an indictment filed in the Southern District of Indiana for misappropriating and transporting trade secrets from Dow AgroSciences LLC with the intent to benefit components of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  Huang also pleaded guilty to one count of an indictment filed in the District of Minnesota for stealing a trade secret from a second company, Cargill Inc.

According to court documents, from January 2003 until February 2008, Huang was employed as a research scientist at Dow, a leading international agricultural company based in Indianapolis that provides agrochemical and biotechnology products.  In 2005, Huang became a research leader for Dow in strain development related to unique, proprietary organic insecticides marketed worldwide.

As a Dow employee, Huang signed an agreement that outlined his obligations in handling confidential information, including trade secrets.   The agreement prohibited him from disclosing any confidential information without Dow’s consent.  Dow employed several layers of security to preserve and maintain confidentiality and to prevent unauthorized use or disclosure of its trade secrets.                                                  
         
Huang admitted that during his employment at Dow, he misappropriated several Dow trade secrets.  According to plea documents, from 2007 to 2010, Huang transferred and delivered the stolen Dow trade secrets to individuals in Germany and the PRC.  With the assistance of these individuals, Huang used the stolen materials to conduct unauthorized research with the intent to benefit foreign universities that were tied to the PRC government.  Huang also admitted that he pursued steps to develop and produce the misappropriated Dow trade secrets in the PRC, including identifying manufacturing facilities in the PRC that would allow him to compete directly with Dow in the established organic pesticide market.

According to court documents, after Huang left Dow, he was hired in March 2008 by Cargill, an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services.  Huang worked as a biotechnologist for Cargill until July 2009 and signed a confidentiality agreement promising never to disclose any trade secrets or other confidential information of Cargill.  Huang admitted that during his employment with Cargill, he stole one of the company’s trade secrets – a key component in the manufacture of a new food product, which he later disseminated to another person, specifically a student at Hunan Normal University in the PRC.

In the plea agreement, Huang admitted that the aggregated loss from the misappropriated trade secrets exceeds $7 million but is less than $20 million.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia J. Ridgeway of the Southern District of Indiana, Trial Attorneys Mark L. Krotoski and Evan C. Williams of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Paulsen of the District of Minnesota, with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterespionage Section.   Significant assistance was provided by the CCIPS Cyber Crime Lab and the Office of International Affairs in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division."

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STAR FOUND ROTATING 100 TIMES FASTER THAN OUR SUN


The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

Fastest Rotating Star Found in Neighboring Galaxy
This artist's concept pictures the fastest rotating star found to date. The massive, bright young star, called VFTS 102, rotates at a million miles per hour, or 100 times faster than our sun does. Centrifugal forces from this dizzying spin rate have flattened the star into an oblate shape and spun off a disk of hot plasma, seen edge on in this view from a hypothetical planet. The star may have "spun up" by accreting material from a binary companion star. The rapidly evolving companion later exploded as a supernova. The whirling star lies 160,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER COMMENTS ON INCREASE IN OFFICER DEATHS IN THE LINE OF DUTY




The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

December 28, 2011

"WASHINGTON – The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund today released preliminary fatality statistics for 2011, which show a 13 percent increase in the number of federal, state and local officers who died in the line of duty, from 153 in 2010 to 173 in 2011.  The data shows that 68 officers lost their lives in firearms-related incidents, 64 officers were killed in traffic-related incidents and 41 deaths were attributed to other causes.

“This is a devastating and unacceptable trend.  Each of these deaths is a tragic reminder of the threats that law enforcement officers face each day – and the fact that too many guns have fallen into the hands of those who are not legally permitted to possess them,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “Departments across the country have mourned the loss of too many dedicated colleagues and friends, but my colleagues and I at the Justice Department are determined to turn back this rising tide.  I want to assure the family members and loved ones who have mourned the loss of these heroes that we are responding to this year’s increased violence with renewed vigilance and will do everything within our power – and use every tool at our disposal – to keep our police officers safe.”

The Department of Justice is advancing officer safety with critical new programs including the Officer Safety Initiative, which provides training programs and information-sharing platforms.   In addition, in partnership with the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) has established the Officer Safety & Wellness Working Group.  This forum gains and shares information and insight to help enhance programs, policies and initiatives related to officer safety and wellness.

The department also is standing behind its commitment to police officers with significant strategic investments to numerous officer safety programs, including BJA’s Bulletproof Vest Partnership program. Since January 2011, 16 officers have been saved due to protective vests purchased in part with funding from this program .   In FY 2011, the BJA reimbursed jurisdictions across the United States more than $23 million for 79,684 bullet- and stab-resistant vests.  

In addition to this life-saving program, the department also is supporting officer safety through programs such as the Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability ( VALOR) program.   VALOR is designed to prevent violence against law enforcement officers and ensure officer resilience and survivability following violent encounters during the course of their duties.  VALOR provides training and technical assistance to state, local and tribal law enforcement in a variety of ways, and will conduct and disseminate analysis of violent encounters in various forms, including after-action reviews and lessons learned publications. To date, 538 officers have been trained through the program, and more than 100 incidents where officers were forced to use their firearm have been analyzed.   VALOR also includes funding that has been allocated to develop training and technical assistance programs – and resources like the Officer Safety Toolkit, which the department released this year to help officers learn how to anticipate and survive violent encounters.  Since its release, approximately 5,000 print and electronic copies of the toolkit have been distributed nationwide.   

The Justice Department also has made significant investments to help launch the Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police and to provide additional support for the families of law enforcement officers, especially in times of tragedy.  The department also has expanded its Smart Policing Initiative, which fights crime with innovative and evidence-based strategies, granting 16 new awards in FY2011 and bringing the total number of agencies participating to 31."


GRAND JURY HANDS DOWN INDICTMENT FOR ALLEGED ASSAULTS AGAINST OHIO AMISH


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

December 20, 2011
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced today that a federal grand jury in Cleveland returned a seven-count indictment charging 10 men and two women, all residents of Ohio, with federal crimes arising out of a series of religiously-motivated assaults on practitioners of the Amish religion.   The indictment addresses five separate assaults that occurred between September through November 2011.   In each assault, defendants forcibly removed beard and head hair from the victims with whom they had ongoing religious disputes.   As set forth in the indictment, the manner in which Amish men wear their beards and Amish women wear their hair are symbols of their faith.

“Every American has the right to worship in the manner of his or her choosing without fear of violent interference,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez.   “The Civil Rights Division will aggressively investigate allegations of religiously motivated violence.”

“For nearly 500 years, people have come to this land so that they could pray however and to whomever they wished,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M. Dettelbach.   “Violent attempts to attack this most basic freedom have no place in our country.”      

“One of our most fundamental rights is freedom of religion,” said Stephen Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI – Cleveland Field Office.   “The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, are committed to protecting this fundamental right against those who would use violence and intimidation to attack it.”

The indictment charges Samuel Mullet Sr., Johnny S. Mullet, Daniel S. Mullet, Levi F. Miller, Eli M. Miller, Emanuel Shrock, Lester Miller, Raymond Miller, Freeman Burkholder, Anna Miller and Linda Shrock with conspiracy to violate the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which prohibits any person from willfully causing bodily injury to any person, or attempting to do so by use of a dangerous weapon, because of the actual or perceived religion of that person, and Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1512, which prohibits obstruction of justice, including witness tampering and the destruction or concealment of evidence.    The indictment also charges various groups of defendants with each separate assault, and charges Samuel Mullet Sr., Lester Mullet, Levi Miller and Lester Miller with concealing or attempting to conceal various items of tangible evidence, including a camera, photographs and an over-the-counter medication that was allegedly placed in the drink of one of the assault victims.

According to the indictment, Samuel Mullet Sr. is the Bishop of the Amish community in Bergholz, Ohio, while the remaining defendants are all members of that community.   Mullet Sr. exerted control over the Bergholz community by taking the wives of other men into his home, and by overseeing various means of disciplining community members, including corporal punishment.   As a result of religious disputes with other members of the Ohio Amish community, the defendants planned and carried out a series of assaults on their perceived religious enemies.   The assaults involved the use of hired drivers, either by the defendants or the alleged victims, because practitioners of the Amish religion do not operate motor vehicles.  The assaults all entailed using scissors and battery-powered clippers to forcibly cut or shave the beard hair of the male victims and the head hair of the female victims.   During each assault, the defendants restrained and held down the victims.   During some of the assaults, the defendants injured individuals who attempted to intervene to protect or rescue the victims.   Following the attacks, some of the defendants participated in discussions about concealing photographs and other evidence of the assaults.

The maximum potential penalty for the conspiracy count is five years in prison.   The maximum penalty for the hate crime charges is life in prison.   The maximum penalty for the obstruction charge is 20 years in prison.  

This case is being investigated by the Cleveland Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Getz and Bridget M. Brennan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio and Deputy Chief Kristy Parker of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation.   All defendants are presumed innocent of the charges until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.”



DEFENSE SECRETARY LEON PANETTA SENT ANTI-BULLYING MESSAGE TO SERVICE MEMBERS





The following excerpt is from the Department of Defense publication called the American Forces Press Service:






"Panetta 'Will Not Tolerate' Bullying, Hazing

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27, 2011 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta added a pointed anti-bullying directive to a holiday message sent Dec. 23 to service members around the world.
"I cannot be more proud of who you are and what you represent as you serve and sacrifice for our great nation," the message read, in part. "With that honor, is the responsibility to show by example our core values that demand we treat everyone with dignity and respect at all times.
"In that vein, let me be clear," the secretary continued. "I will not tolerate any instance where one service member inflicts any form of physical or psychological abuse that degrades, insults, dehumanizes or injures another service member."
Panetta directed military commanders to "personally review" policies and ensure compliance.
"This has my personal attention, as we continue our combat mission in Afghanistan, transition from our campaign in Iraq, and continue our global presence performing our nation's duties," the secretary wrote. "I need you to continue to make this a priority within your commands as this has a direct impact on our force readiness."
Members of the Defense Department and the services "will protect each other through fair, scrupulous, and unbiased treatment as individuals -- caring for them, teaching them and leading them," Panetta wrote. "It is the obligation of each member in the chain of command to ensure hazing is not allowed and that all service members are treated, at all times, with genuine dignity, fairness, and respect."
The Army Dec. 21 charged eight soldiers allegedly involved in the death of Army Pvt. Danny Chen. Chen, an infantryman deployed to southern Afghanistan with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, was found dead in a guard tower Oct. 3 from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also spoke out strongly against hazing and bullying after the charges were announced. In a message posted to Facebook and Twitter Dec. 22, he wrote that while instances of hazing appear to be isolated, the practice is "simply intolerable."
"It undermines our values, tarnishes our profession and erodes the trust that bonds us," the chairman added.
The secretary's message to troops ended with his thanks for their work.
"May God bless each and every one of you and your families not only through the holiday season but also throughout the New Year," Panetta concluded."
 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

MICHIGAN TAX EVADERS SENTENCED TO PRISON


December 19, 2011
“WASHINGTON - David A. Cusumano of Plymouth, Mich., and Henry Nino, a resident of Northville, Mich., were sentenced today following their pleas of guilty to tax evasion, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) announced today.  District Court Judge Gerald E. Rosen, presiding in Detroit, sentenced Cusumano to 15 months and Nino to 18 months in prison.  Judge Rosen also imposed three years of supervised release for each defendant.

According to court documents, Cusumano was a mechanical engineer who worked at various companies throughout Michigan.   Nino was an electrician with an automotive company.  Despite earning substantial income in their respective jobs, for multiple years, Cusumano and Nino failed to file income tax returns and failed to pay taxes due and owing to the IRS, Cusumano during the calendar years 2003-2008 and Nino during the calendar years 2004-2008.   Both men successfully prevented their employers from withholding federal income taxes from their wages by submitting false IRS Forms W-4 to their employers on which they falsely claimed they were “exempt” from income tax withholding.  A Form W-4 is a document that an employee submits to an employer to assist the employer in withholding the correct amount of income taxes from the employee’s pay.

The plea agreements state that in addition to failing to file income tax returns and submitting false Forms W-4 to their employers, the two men also attempted to prevent the IRS from determining their tax liabilities and collecting their unpaid taxes by participating in several obstructive schemes.   Both men paid tax fraud promoters, including a Florida-based organization called American Rights Litigators/Guiding Light of God Ministries to submit frivolous and obstructive correspondence to the IRS and to the defendants’ employers, including false complaints that wrongly accused IRS employees of criminal activity.   Cusumano and Nino also submitted multiple fake financial instruments to the IRS in a failed attempt to pay off their outstanding tax debts.

Court documents state that Nino also attempted to prevent the IRS from collecting his unpaid taxes for the years 1996, 1997 and 2000-2003 by, among other things, transferring title of his personal residence to a nominee entity called the Michigan Natural Group, using money orders to make mortgage payments and cashing paychecks rather than depositing them in a bank account.

Cusumano caused a tax loss to the government of $390,145.   Nino’s conduct resulted in a tax loss of $366,088.   Under the terms of their plea agreements, both are required to make restitution to the IRS in the amount of their unpaid taxes.”

.



ELEPHANT IVORY SMUGGLER PLEADS GUILTY

The following is from the Department of Justice website:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Ivory Smuggler Pleads Guilty in New York
“WASHINGTON – Lin Feng Xu, 31, an antique dealer in China, has pleaded guilty to smuggling and to violating the Endangered Species Act in connection with the illegal export of African elephant ivory in his carry-on luggage.
According to documents filed in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., today, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security officer at JFK International Airport in Queens, N.Y., alerted inspectors with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on Sept. 17, 2011, that Xu, a Chinese national, was carrying suspected wildlife items in his carry-on luggage based on x-ray screening. When questioned about 18 carved art objects apparently made of ivory, Xu initially stated that he did not know what they were made from and that they had been purchased for approximately $3,000 to 4,000 at U.S. auction houses. In pleading guilty, Xu has admitted that he knew that the carvings were ivory and that they had a value of approximately $50,000. Also, Xu knew that it was a crime to export ivory from the United States without required documents and approval, according to papers filed in Court. Xu packed the ivory carvings in aluminum foil in order to conceal their outline from x-ray screening.
According to an expert examination of the ivory carvings, most are newly carved ivory and not genuine antiques. The African elephant is listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and is also protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty regulating trade on endangered species to which the United States is a party. The global demand for antiques and art made of or containing elephant ivory is believed to have resulted in a significant impact on the species and given life to a thriving black market. Despite international efforts to control the ivory trade and stop the decline of elephant populations, prices and demand remain high, thus causing continued elephant poaching and illegal ivory finding its way into international and domestic markets.
Xu was charged with a felony count for illegal smuggling that carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain from the offense. Xu was also charged with a misdemeanor violation of the ESA for knowingly engaging in trade of ivory specimens, contrary to the provisions of CITES, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000, or twice the gross gain from the crime.
The Xu investigation was conducted by Special Agents of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Northeast Regional Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Inspectors, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the TSA. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Richard A. Udell of the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section, Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Pravda of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York“.

Monday, December 26, 2011

AFGHAN BORDER INCIDENT PROMPTS CHANGES


The following excerpt from  the American Forces Press Service Department of Defense website:

"Mattis Directs Corrective Actions Following Pakistan Border Incident
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 26, 2011 - Drawing on findings from the investigation into the deadly Nov. 25-26 incident near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, U.S. Central Command commander Marine Corps Gen. James R. Mattis directed the International Security Assistance Force to take a series of corrective actions.
The actions, directed to ISAF Commander Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, are intended to correct problems of mistrust and miscommunication among those working in the border area. Those kinds of problems led to the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers.

U.S. Central Command today released an unclassified version of the investigation report by its investigating officer, Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments for Air Force Special Operations Command.

"The strongest take-away from this incident," Mattis said in a statement, "is the fundamental fact that we must improve border coordination, and this requires a foundational level of trust on both sides of the border."

On the night of Nov. 25-26, an Afghan National Army Commando company, partnered with U.S. Army Special Forces, landed near Maya Village in Afghanistan's Khas Konar District in an area of operations assigned by ISAF to its Regional Command-East.

According to the report, these ground forces were executing Operation Sayaqa, approved by ISAF Joint Command headquarters, when they came under fire from positions on a ridge near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In self defense they used air support to engage the ridgeline positions. The air engagement ended 90 minutes later and had included about 45 minutes of fire. Fire from positions near the ridge had stopped. Eventually, it became clear from various information exchanges that those engaged at the ridge were Pakistan military personnel.

In the early hours of Nov. 26, the report said, supporting aircraft pulled back from the border area and Pakistani authorities reinforced their border positions and reportedly removed 24 dead and 13 wounded.

The ground forces completed Operation Sayaqa. They left the area shortly after midnight on Nov. 27, arriving back at their base later that morning.”

As a result of the investigation and report, Mattis directed Allen to implement the following actions as soon as possible:

- Improve mutual trust among those working in the border areas.

- Clarify authorities, responsibilities and standard operating procedures for command, control and communication in near-border operations and develop formal training exercises and drills.

- Implement a program of full disclosure of all border area facilities and installations on both sides of the border, with systematic updates based on a common database and map.

- Before conducting any operation, direct all future coalition units and formations contemplating near-border area operations to confirm all installations near the border and the planned objective.

- To prevent friendly fire incidents, develop and share with the Pakistan military the common use of force-escalation measures such as show of force and other standard procedures.

- Consider harmonizing ISAF and Operation Enduring Freedom rules of engagement to promote clarity and transparency.

Among the investigation's critical findings are that the international law of armed conflict was respected and that rules of engagement -- directions given to military forces that define the conditions, degree and manner in which force may be used -- were appropriately and legally applied.

The report found that the catalyst for the engagement was the opening of fire by Pakistan soldiers and that their continued fire made the situation worse.

The operation was conducted in support of ISAF campaign objectives, the report said, but the issue of Operation Enduring Freedom rules of engagement in an ISAF campaign causes confusion and friction among coalition partners, the report said, and ISAF and OEF orders, standard operating procedures and directives related to border-area operations lack clarity and precision and were not followed.

Also lacking are time-sensitive senior command override measures for border-area incidents and pre-mission near-border coordination for the operation, according to the report.

A series of miscommunications within the chain of command -- but especially in the area of the border coordination nexus -- delayed confirmation of the identity of the Pakistani forces, the report said.

"In the context of this tragedy, a way forward must be found to prevent similar occurrences in the future," Clark said in his concluding comments.

"Over the long term," he added, "the way to ... peace and stability along the border is to be found in resolving the long-standing border disputes that perpetuate a state of uncertainty and mistrust within which local cooperation and coordination efforts are less likely to succeed."










$15 MILLION IN SOCIAL SECUITRITY AND MEDICARE TAXES POCKETED BY EMPLOYER


BUSINESSMAN CONVICTED FOR FAILING TO PAY OVER $15 MILLION IN PAYROL TAXES

The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

December 21, 2011
“WASHINGTON - Bruce Gregory Harrison III was convicted yesterday following a jury trial in federal court in Winston-Salem, N.C., announced the Department of Justice.   Harrison had been charged in a 63-count indictment with large-scale payroll tax fraud and failure to file individual income tax returns.   The evidence at trial proved that Harrison failed to pay over more than $15 million dollars in federal taxes withheld from the pay of his thousands of employees in the years 2004-2006 and 2009.

“Mr. Harrison not only defrauded his own employees, but he defrauded the American people as well,” said Ripley Rand, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. “This sort of conduct is intolerable, especially during these difficult economic times, and we will do everything we can to make sure it is punished accordingly.”

“Honest, hard-working taxpayers count on their payroll deductions for Social Security and Medicare being paid over to fund their retirement and health care needs,” said John A. DiCicco, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division.  “They should rest assured that those who would steal those funds will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The IRS-Criminal Investigation Division takes these violations of law very seriously.   Payroll tax fraud results in the loss of tax revenue to the United States government and the loss of future social security or Medicare benefits for the employees,” said Victor S.O. Song, Chief of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – Criminal Investigation.

According to the trial evidence and other documents filed in the case, Harrison, a resident of Greensboro, N.C., did business under various corporate names including U.S.A. Staffing and Compensation Management Inc.   He owned or controlled temporary staffing companies operating in at least nine states.   Harrison’s staffing companies were headquartered in Guilford County, N.C., and contracted with client businesses to provide temporary workers.   Harrison’s companies promised to assume full responsibility for the payment of wages and the withholding and transmitting of taxes to the IRS for those employees.   Instead, Harrison failed to account for and pay over in excess of $15 million in federal payroll taxes for the employees of those companies.   The evidence at trial showed that Harrison caused false bank statements to be presented to auditors to conceal the nonpayment of the payroll taxes.

Harrison was also convicted of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the IRS by means of false statements to IRS revenue officers.   Evidence established he had used company funds to purchase personal residences, to buy a yacht and to finance commercial motion pictures, including National Lampoon’s Pucked and Home of the Giants.   Harrison was also convicted of failing to timely file his own income tax returns for 2004, 2005 and 2006.   Following the jury verdict, Chief Judge James A. Beaty Jr. ordered Harrison detained.   Sentencing is scheduled for April 6, 2012, at 9:30 a.m. in Winston-Salem.

U.S. Attorney Rand and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General DiCicco commended Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank Chut and Terri-Lei O’Malley and Tax Division Trial Attorney Jeffrey McLellan, and the IRS Agents who assisted them, in successfully prosecuting the case.”



Sunday, December 25, 2011

FEMA TO FUND RE-ROOFING OF THE AUDUBON AQUARIUM OF THE AMERICAS


The following excerpt is from the Federal Emergency Management Agency website:

December 21, 2011
“NEW ORLEANS, La. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced recently nearly $2.1 million in funding to replace the existing roof at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, which continues to suffer interior water leaks stemming from Hurricane Katrina’s initial impact.
FEMA’s grant was provided to the Audubon Commission, the overseers of the Audubon Aquarium, who recently provided new damage findings to the federal agency. The new findings indicated that prior roof repairs did not solve all the Katrina-related roof problems, as some existing problems were unforeseen until now.

“The new data submitted showed additional Katrina-water infiltration that was not originally known,” said FEMA’s Louisiana Recovery Office Deputy Director of Programs Andre Cadogan. “Because we now have a more accurate feel for eligible damages, we’ve realigned this project’s scope of work to account for these damages and support the aquarium’s roof replacement.”

Previously, FEMA provided funding for repair work to approximately 6,280 square feet of the aquarium’s roofing surface, yet the facility’s interior leaks have continued since those repairs were finished. In an attempt to determine the cause and source of the interior leaks, the Audubon Commission had a thermo-scan performed on the entire aquarium’s roof surface.

The damage assessment showed that a large portion of the roof’s insulation had been saturated with water prior to the actual roof repairs. Once the repairs were made, the new roof surface acted as a moisture seal, not allowing the saturated water vapors to escape, resulting in leaks throughout the facility.
“FEMA has devoted a lot of time and effort toward a resolution of this situation and we appreciate that,” said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. “We’re especially grateful for FEMA’s willingness to re-evaluate the new information as it came in.”
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.
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, December 24, 2011

ASTRONOMERS WORK TOGETHER TO STUDY COSMIC MYSTERY


The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

“WASHINGTON -- NASA's Swift, Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory have teamed up to study one of the most puzzling cosmic blasts yet observed. More than a week later, high-energy radiation continues to brighten and fade from its location.

Astronomers say they have never seen anything this bright, long-lasting and variable before. Usually, gamma-ray bursts mark the destruction of a massive star, but flaring emission from these events never lasts more than a few hours.

Although research is ongoing, astronomers say that the unusual blast likely arose when a star wandered too close to its galaxy's central black hole. Intense tidal forces tore the star apart, and the infalling gas continues to stream toward the hole. According to this model, the spinning black hole formed an outflowing jet along its rotational axis. A powerful blast of X- and gamma rays is seen if this jet is pointed in our direction.

On March 28, Swift's Burst Alert Telescope discovered the source in the constellation Draco when it erupted with the first in a series of powerful X-ray blasts. The satellite determined a position for the explosion, now cataloged as gamma-ray burst (GRB) 110328A, and informed astronomers worldwide.

As dozens of telescopes turned to study the spot, astronomers quickly noticed that a small, distant galaxy appeared very near the Swift position. A deep image taken by Hubble on April 4 pinpoints the source of the explosion at the center of this galaxy, which lies 3.8 billion light-years away.

That same day, astronomers used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to make a four-hour-long exposure of the puzzling source. The image, which locates the object 10 times more precisely than Swift can, shows that it lies at the center of the galaxy Hubble imaged.

"We know of objects in our own galaxy that can produce repeated bursts, but they are thousands to millions of times less powerful than the bursts we are seeing now. This is truly extraordinary," said Andrew Fruchter at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

"We have been eagerly awaiting the Hubble observation," said Neil Gehrels, the lead scientist for Swift at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The fact that the explosion occurred in the center of a galaxy tells us it is most likely associated with a massive black hole. This solves a key question about the mysterious event."

Most galaxies, including our own, contain central black holes with millions of times the sun's mass; those in the largest galaxies can be a thousand times larger. The disrupted star probably succumbed to a black hole less massive than the Milky Way's, which has a mass four million times that of our sun

Astronomers previously have detected stars disrupted by supermassive black holes, but none have shown the X-ray brightness and variability seen in GRB 110328A. The source has repeatedly flared. Since April 3, for example, it has brightened by more than five times.

Scientists think that the X-rays may be coming from matter moving near the speed of light in a particle jet that forms as the star's gas falls toward the black hole.

"The best explanation at the moment is that we happen to be looking down the barrel of this jet," said Andrew Levan at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, who led the Chandra observations. "When we look straight down these jets, a brightness boost lets us view details we might otherwise miss."

This brightness increase, which is called relativistic beaming, occurs when matter moving close to the speed of light is viewed nearly head on.

Astronomers plan additional Hubble observations to see if the galaxy's core changes brightness.

NASA Goddard manages Swift, and Hubble, and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages Chandra. The Hubble Space Telescope was built and is operated in partnership with the European Space Agency. Science operations for all three missions include contributions from many national and international partners.”  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

PFC BRADLEY E. MANNING PRETRIAL FOR LEAKING DOCUMENTS WRAPS UP


The following excerpt is from the Department of Defense website:

12/22/2011 01:40 PM CST

Pretrial Wraps Up for Alleged Document Leaker

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FORT MEADE, Md., Dec. 22, 2011 - The prosecution and defense rested today after delivering their closing statements in the Article 32 hearing of a soldier charged with leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.
Today's session, which adjourned at about 10:30 a.m., wrapped up eight days of pre-trial proceedings in the case against Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning that began Dec. 16.
An Article 32 hearing, often compared to a civilian grand jury, is a pretrial hearing to determine if grounds exist for a general court martial, the most serious of courts martial.
The investigating officer, Army Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, now has until Jan. 16 to issue his recommendations to the Special Court Martial Convening Authority, a Military District of Washington spokesperson told American Forces Press Service.
Alamanza may ask for an extension, if needed, the official said.
His report will recommend that the case be referred to a court martial, or that some or all of the charges against Manning be dismissed.
The Special Court Martial Convening Authority, Army Col. Carl Coffman, will then provide Alamanza's recommendation to the General Court Martial Convening Authority, and indicate whether he concurs with it, the MDW official said.
Manning, an intelligence analyst, is suspected of leaking military and diplomatic documents to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks in what officials believe is the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history.
WikiLeaks, in turn, released thousands of these documents, including classified records about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on its website last year.
At the time, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other senior defense officials condemned the organization's actions, claiming the act put deployed service members at an increased risk.
The Article 32 hearing marked 24-year-old Manning's first appearance in a military court since his arrest in Iraq in May 2010.
He faces more than 20 charges alleging he introduced unauthorized software onto government computers to extract classified information, unlawfully downloaded it, improperly stored it, and transmitted the data for public release and use by the enemy.
The charge of aiding the enemy under Article 104 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice is a capital offense; however, the prosecution team has said it won't recommend the death penalty, a legal official said.
If convicted of all charges, Manning would face a maximum punishment of life in prison. He also could be reduced to E-1, the lowest enlisted grade, face a total forfeiture of all pay and allowances and dishonorable discharge, officials said."

TWO MEN CHARGED WITH ALLEGEDLY TRAFFICKING IN COUNTERFEIT PERFUMES

The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

Monday, December 5, 2011
“WASHINGTON – Two New Jersey men were charged in an indictment unsealed on Dec. 1, 2011, in the Eastern District of New York for their alleged roles in a conspiracy to import and traffic in counterfeit perfume, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch of the Eastern District of New York.
Sanjay Anandani, 34, of Clinton, N.J., was arrested on Dec. 1, 2011, in Secaucus, N.J., and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy in the Eastern District of New York. Rohit Rohit, 28, of Edgewater, N.J., surrendered to authorities on Dec. 2, 2011, and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollack in the Eastern District of New York.
According to the indictment, Anandani and Rohit conspired with each other and others to traffic in counterfeit perfume. The indictment alleges that Anandani and Rohit imported three shipping containers with counterfeit perfume during 2009 and 2010, as well as 4,600 fragrance boxes bearing counterfeit perfume trademarks.
The two-count indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York charges each defendant with conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and trafficking in counterfeit goods. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The trafficking charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $2,000,000 fine.
Criminal indictments are only charges and are not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty by proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The indictment announced today is an example of the type of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force). Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders. To learn more about the IP Task Force, go to www.justice.gov/dag/iptaskforce/.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Jason Gull of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
The ICE HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 19 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft.”