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Thursday, May 31, 2012


The National Veterans Golden Age Games
Last year at the National Veterans Golden Age Games, Jack Faust met a fellow competitor who was 98 and thought he was the oldest Veteran there.
Jack, 100 at the time, had to tell him he was two years short.

This year, more than 900 Veterans will travel to St. Louis, Mo. to compete in the 26th National Veterans Golden Age Games.
Jack Faust was born in 1911. Last year at the games, he won two gold medals and said: “To the youngsters competing, I say: better get practicing for St. Louis, because I intend to see you there.”

The Games are a national sports and recreation competition sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV), and Veterans Canteen Service (VCS).

Through this rehabilitative athletic event, VA strives to introduce older Veterans to the benefits of sports and recreation. These athletes will showcase their skills, mental toughness and physical fitness at the games.

Celebrating its 26th year, the games offer the largest sports and recreation competition in the world for military Veterans age 55 and older.

Hosted this year by the St. Louis VA Medical Center, the competition features sports such as swimming, cycling, golf, bowling, table tennis and others, totaling 14 competitive events.

Events are open to all U.S. military Veterans age 55 or older who are currently receiving care at any VA medical facility.

The Games have grown from 115 participants its first year to more than 700 in 2011.
It is designed to improve the quality of life for all older Veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.

The National Golden Age Games is one of the most progressive and adaptive rehabilitative senior sports programs in the world and is made possible by the support provided by co-sponsors VCS and HHV.

The Golden Age Games is truly a life saving program for our nation’s Veterans and life affirming for all those who have attended them.

Competitive events run from June 1-5, 2012.
The National Veterans Golden Age Games serve as a qualifying event for the National Senior Olympics. The National Senior Olympics is a community-based member of the United States Olympic Committee and recognizes the best senior athletes in their respective age groups in the United States.

For more information about the National Veterans Golden Age Games and other VA national rehabilitation programs,



Samoa Independence Day

Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 31, 2012
I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Samoa as you celebrate a half century of independence this June 1. This is an opportunity to reflect on your decades of progress and the challenges you have overcome as you continue to build a brighter future.

For fifty years, the United States and Samoa have enjoyed a close friendship based on trust and mutual interest, strengthened by the people-to-people ties between our two countries, particularly among Americans of Samoan descent. Today, the United States and Samoa are working together to protect the environment and fisheries, promote sustainable economic development in the Pacific region and strengthen the tenets of democracy.

I send my deepest congratulations to all Samoans around the world on this milestone anniversary. Best wishes for continued peace and prosperity in the decades to come.


TARS accident report released
Release Number: 120629

5/30/2012 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- A delayed recovery caused a tethered aerostat radar system (TARS) to break away and crash during high winds Feb. 14 in Marfa, Texas, according to an accident investigation board report released by Air Combat Command May 29, 2012.

The aerostat was assigned to and operated by ACC at the Marfa TARS site, as part of an intraservice support agreement.

The AIB president found the cause of the mishap to be the mishap flight director's late decision to recover the aerostat despite receiving a six-hour weather forecast predicting high wind gusts.

According to the report, turbulence and winds on the mishap aerostat during rapid retrieval efforts caused a 40° left roll and a 60° nose-low pitch over. This coupled with the severe cable tension caused the aerostat to nosedive and impact private property approximately 100 yards northeast of the Marfa TARS site.

Additionally, the board president found the mishap flight directors' lack of training on weather data interpretation and weather equipment use as well as an erroneous surface wind warning cancellation substantially contributed to the mishap.

The total loss is estimated at $8.8 million. There were no injuries or significant damage to government or private property. Less than one gallon of diesel fuel spilled, and the mishap crew disposed of it immediately.



Programs Assist Veterans with Jobs, Education, Homes

By Terri Moon Cronk
WASHINGTON, May 30, 2012 - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs wants veterans to know about their benefits, from job and education opportunities to home loans and programs for those who are disabled, a VA official said yesterday.

Veterans caught in today's high rate of unemployment likely can find a job in one of the more than 200 high-demand careers that have been identified by the Department of Labor, said Curtis Coy, VA's deputy under secretary for economic opportunity. Those occupations are listed on the VA's Web site.

The U.S. Department of Labor's most-recent figures from last year show 900,000 veterans out of work, averaging 7.7 percent of Americans, and 12.1 percent for veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. "The high-demand jobs list is not a narrow one; in fact, it is a very broad list," Coy said, adding that the 2011 legislation, VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 was enacted for veterans looking for "meaningful employment in high-demand jobs."

Overall, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act would lower the rate of unemployment among the nation's veterans, and combine two Congressional provisions from the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act and the Hiring Heroes Act, VA officials said. The act also would provide veterans tax credits in an all-inclusive jobs package to fight the veteran unemployment rate. The act has more than 20 provisions, including tax credits for businesses that hire veterans, Coy said.
It also makes the Transition Assistance Program mandatory as of Nov. 21 for every departing service member. TAP readies departing active-duty personnel to re-enter the civilian world, officials said. "[TAP] is going to have a major impact on VA, DOL and the Defense Department because what used to be a voluntary program is now mandatory," Coy said.
Coy also wants veterans to know they can apply for up to a year of paid training to qualify for high-demand jobs through the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program.  The VRAP training is geared toward veterans between the ages of 35 and 60, the hardest-hit unemployed age group, he said, adding that the education benefit must, by law be used toward earning an associate's degree or job certification. "The marketing tool we use is if you are or know of a veteran between ages 35 and 60 who's unemployed and [can] use another year of educational benefits to attain a high-demand job, the VRAP program is the exact, wonderful new benefit that will help them get that meaningful employment," Coy said.

Applicants for the education program are taken on a first-come, first-served basis after their eligibility is confirmed, he added. The VA Web site has details. "I think the VA always has been the institution that takes a look at our veterans, not only today, but veterans of the past, and provides those services and benefits that Congress has so generously provided to [them]," said Coy, a 24-year Navy veteran. "Our job is to ensure veterans know of and get the benefits they so richly deserve."

In addition to benefits for training for jobs, Coy wants veterans and active-duty service members to know about VA's Home Loan Guaranty program for VA mortgages and Specially Adapted Housing Grants.VA mortgages in the past 15 quarters had the lowest foreclosure rates of any component in the country, Coy said.

"That speaks volumes about our veterans, their responsibilities, and how they deal with business," he said. "The foreclosure rate in this country and the number of homes under water is a problem for many Americans. What we've done to help our veterans is keep a very close eye on [their] mortgages."  VA doesn't lend veterans the money for mortgages. Instead, VA provides a loan guarantee. "We have a vested interest in being good stewards of our taxpayer money," Coy said. "Last year, we helped over 72,000 vets retain their homes who may not have been able to retain them otherwise. That's a 10-percent increase over the year before."
He said the VA provides proactive support for veterans who might get into trouble with their mortgage. "We can be good agents for them, and in some cases intercede or help them with their banks and mortgage lenders to perhaps restructure [the loan] or take a look at the nuances of that particular mortgage," Coy explained. "We want to make sure our veterans stay in their homes, and we do everything to help them do just that," he added.

Eligibility for a VA home loan includes being a veteran or service member, having good credit and the ability to pay the mortgage, Coy said, noting no money down is required, unlike private lenders. "We are very scrupulous to make sure veterans don't get in over their heads on their mortgages," he said. 

The VA also offers Specially Adapted Housing Grants for disabled veterans and wounded warriors, with grants up to $64,000 in homeowner assistance used to configure veterans' homes for their particular disability, Coy said.

Information on the grant is available on the VA Web site, along with toll-free numbers, a list of 57 regional offices across the country, and some 800 vocation and rehabilitation programs. "The VA always has been the institution that takes a look at our veterans, not only [from] today, but veterans of the past, and provides those services and benefits that Congress has so generously provided," Coy said. "Our job is to ensure veterans know of and get the benefits they so richly deserve."


FROM:   HHS HealthBeat (May 30, 2012) 
Medical decision-making after a traumatic brain injury

People who’ve had traumatic brain injury might not be thinking straight but still may have to make crucial medical decisions.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham tested 86 TBI patients’ ability to understand medical options, decide on treatments, and appreciate consequences of their choices.

One month after injury, patients with moderate or severe TBI – and some with mild TBI – still had impaired decision making skills.  

Researcher Daniel Marson:
"Even patients with mild injuries really depend to some degree on family members assisting them and guiding them, even if the patients still are able to make the decisions themselves."
The study in the journal Neurology was supported by the National Institutes of Health.



Driving the Economy: African Women Entrepreneurship Program Kicks Off June 4 in New York with Fashion Designer and Philanthropist Diane von Furstenberg

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 30, 2012
The U.S. Department of State announced today that the third annual Africa Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) will kick-off its international exchange component in New York on June 4. Leading off the program, fashion designer, philanthropist and Chairman/Founder of DVF Studio LP, Diane von Furstenberg will participate in a conversation with the women, who hail from the fashion and textile industry, agribusiness, and home décor. Following the program opening, they will split into sector specific groups to connect with their American counterparts, including ABC Carpet and Home, Adiree PR, Anthropologie, Cristina DosSantos Design, Decoration and Design Building, Global Table, Hunts Point Market, Indego Africa, Organic Shea Butter, and Tory Burch LLC.

Media interested in covering the conversation with Diane von Furstenberg on Monday, June 4, should R.s.v.p. no later than June 1 to Katie Leasor, U.S. Department of State, at This event will take place at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, located at 799 United Nations Plaza in New York.

The African Women Entrepreneurship Program is an outreach, education, and engagement initiative that works with African women entrepreneurs to promote business growth; increase trade both regionally and to U.S. markets through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA); create better business environments; and empower African women entrepreneurs to become voices of change in their communities.

For three weeks, 47 African women entrepreneurs from 37 countries will engage in professional development training and networking opportunities with American counterparts from civil society, corporations, industry associations, non-profit organizations, and multilateral development organizations throughout the United States. The women will develop business partnerships, attend workshops on accessing capital and U.S. markets, and learn best business practices to build their women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in their home countries. Click here to learn more.

Investing in women's entrepreneurship helps yield stronger economies and communities, that’s why Secretary Clinton put women and girls at the center of this country’s foreign policy priorities. Through AWEP, the Department of State also advances the Secretary’s Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality through civic and economic participation in sub-Saharan Africa.

Following the opening in New York, the women entrepreneurs will split into smaller groups based on their sector-specific expertise and will travel to Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco, CA; Kalamazoo, MI; Greenville, NC; Santa Fe, NM; Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. They will then travel to Washington, D.C. June 14-15 to participate in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Forum at the U.S. Department of State. They will conclude their three-week exchange in Cincinnati, OH, where they will attend the U.S.-Africa Business Conference June 21-22.

At the conclusion of the exchange, alumnae have the opportunity to work with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s three regional trade hubs in Botswana, Kenya, and Ghana to increase international export competitiveness and intra-regional trade. The State Department has also partnered with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, ExxonMobil Foundation, Intel Corporation, and the Vital Voices Global Partnership to provide follow-on activities for the more than 100 alumnae of the AWEP program.


In the week ending May 26, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 383,000, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 373,000. The 4-week moving average was 374,500, an increase of 3,750 from the previous week's revised average of 370,750.
The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.6 percent for the week ending May 19, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate.
The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending May 19 was 3,242,000, a decrease of 36,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,278,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,263,750, a decrease of 12,000 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,275,750.

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 341,167 in the week ending May 26, an increase of 10,736 from the previous week. There were 381,497 initial claims in the comparable week in 2011.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.4 percent during the week ending May 19, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week's revised rate of 2.5 pecent. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 3,043,782, a decrease of 80,602 from the preceding week. A year earlier, the rate was 2.8 percent and the volume was 3,510,507.
The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending May 12 was 6,137,862, a decrease of 30,753 from the previous week.

Extended benefits were available in Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and West Virginia during the week ending May 12.
Initial claims for UI benefits by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,199 in the week ending May 19, a decrease of 5 from the prior week. There were 2,532 initial claims by newly discharged veterans, an increase of 11 from the preceding week.

There were 16,052 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending May 12, a decrease of 1,471 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 39,153, an increase of 521 from the prior week.
States reported 2,618,366 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending May 12, a decrease of 12,141 from the prior week. There were 3,416,540 claimants in the comparable week in 2011. EUC weekly claims include first, second, third, and fourth tier activity.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending May 12 were in Alaska (4.9), Puerto Rico (4.0), California (3.6), Pennsylvania (3.6), New Jersey (3.3), Oregon (3.3), Connecticut (3.2), Illinois (3.0), Nevada (3.0), and Rhode Island (3.0).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending May 19 were in California (+2,716), Texas (+1,648), South Carolina (+1,029), Florida (+913), and Maryland (+626), while the largest decreases were in Wisconsin (-1,240), Michigan (-716), Georgia (-691), Pennsylvania (-594), and Washington


Airman has 'Memorial' reunion during Braves game
5/30/2012 - ATLANTA (AFNS) -- An Air Force reservist hit the proverbial grand slam by surprising his family at the Atlanta Braves Memorial Day baseball game here May 28.

Master Sgt. David Sims returned from a six-month deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan with a plan to surprise his loved ones.

His family, thinking he was still overseas, attended the Braves game at Turner Field. They were called onto the field at the top of the fifth inning to represent military families as part of the Braves' Memorial Day ceremonies.

They were watching a video message from Sims, who at the end of the video told them to "wait a minute." He then suddenly appeared from the other side of the Braves dugout, and the family raced across the baseball field for the heartwarming reunion, witnessed by thousands of applauding fans.

Sims is assigned to Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command's Communications Directorate at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

It's World No Tobacco Day

It's World No Tobacco Day


Presenter: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Media Operations Capt. John Kirby May 31, 2012
DOD News Briefing with Capt. Kirby from the Pentagon
             CAPTAIN JOHN KIRBY:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I don't have any major things to announce.
             I just wanted to remind everybody that the secretary is on travel ... started yesterday.  He's in Hawaii this morning.  He'll meet with the Pacific Command commander, Admiral Locklear, get some briefings and updates, and then he'll also be doing an all-hands call, a troop call with the staffers there at the Pacific Command before moving on to Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue.  And then we'll be, of course, posting transcripts of all the public things that he's saying throughout the trip.
             So with that, Bob.
             Q:  (Inaudible) -- Courtney, then.
             Q:  Oh.
             Q:  Oh, hard question?
             Q:  I actually don't have a hard question, but I can ask one.  (Laughter.)   What's -- how many U.S. military trainers are now in Pakistan?  And has that number increased recently?
             CAPT. KIRBY:  There are no U.S. trainers in Pakistan.  What has happened in just the last week or so has been the return of a couple liaison officers from Regional Command East; they're at Bagram in Eastern Afghanistan.  They -- a couple of liaison officers have returned to the area around Peshawar to coordinate and continue to liaise with the 11th Corps headquarters there at the Pakistani military.
            Q:  They were there or they're no longer there anymore?
             CAPT. KIRBY:  They were -- they were -- they -- those two liaison officers were removed from their posting there in Peshawar right after the November incident -- the cross-border incident, and then they have now returned.
            Q:  What's the purpose of that or the significance of that?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, I mean, it's significant in that, as we've been talking about all along, that the tactical and operational coordination between the ISAF and the Pakistani military is getting better, in fits and starts to be sure, but it is getting better, and this is another example of how that coordination is going to continue to improve.  It's the same number of liaison officers we had before; it's just that now they're back.  And that -- the whole purpose is to increase and improve communication between the two militaries along that border.
            Q:  So it's two?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  It's two.
            Q:  Are there any liaison officers anywhere else in Pakistan?  You have --
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Not that I'm aware of, not that I'm aware of.
            Q:  Is this something done in isolation then?  It's not part of a series of actions?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  I wouldn't say that it was a part of some sort of quid pro quo or negotiation process.  It's been -- it's been something that obviously we were interested in renewing, and this is being done -- and I might add -- at the Pakistanis' request.  I mean, they requested that these two liaison officers come back.
            Q:  No trainers?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  No trainers.
            Q:  And do you have any kind of agreement with the Pakistanis about sending trainers back in?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Not right now.  Again, even the training mission -- as you know, back before they left Pakistan, it was a train-the-trainers mission for their Frontier Corps.  And the small number of trainers that were there were at the Pakistanis' request and invitation for a requirement they believed they needed to fill.  They have not determined that that requirement exists anymore, so there are no trainers.
            Q: (Inaudible) -- movement on it?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  There's been no movement on the ground lines of communication and the gates, no.  They still remain closed.
            Q:  Different subject?
            Q:  Go ahead.
            Q:  When we asked George the day before yesterday about the North Korea story, he was very dismissive of it, to say the least, and was critical of the reporter who wrote it.  And now we find out that the general involved said in fact he did say all of those things, although he did not -- the general himself takes responsibility and says he didn't mean it to come out the way it did.
            So why did the Pentagon not tell us the day before yesterday that the general was acknowledging that he had said any of this?  Why were we not offered the complete information?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, I think timing here is an issue.  I don't think the general's statement had come out by the time that George did his briefing the other day.
            But I think what George said was, and I agree with it, is that the general's comments were taken out of context.  And when something's taken out of context, that's not just -- that's not always just the fault of the journalist or the reporter, sometimes it's the fault of the speaker.  And the general acknowledged that he could have been a little bit more concise and a little bit more clear about what he was speaking to.
            As I understand it, he was answering a hypothetical question about future potential outcomes, and it was just literally the words he used to answer the question which led to some confusion.  But look, I mean, the bottom line is that there are no U.S. troops on the ground in North Korea.  We do take our alliance with our South Korean partners very, very seriously, as we do the security of the Korean Peninsula.  And we continue to try to make that alliance stronger and better and more robust all the time.
            Q:  My question -- I understand what you're saying.  However, he is -- when you -- the -- when George spoke from the podium and -- did you have the full information at that time to make the statements that you did, that the reporter was distorting the facts?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  We had -- we had enough information to know that the general's comments had been taken out of context, that they -- that as -- that he did -- he did not mean it to come across the way it was reported.  We did know that then.  We didn't have the general's statement at that point, but we did know that they had been taken out of context.
            Q:  And let me just then, for the record, ask:  You said there were no U.S. troops on the ground in North Korea.  The question is of course 'have U.S. special forces ever parachuted into North Korea on a mission?'
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Not to my knowledge, Barbara.
            Q:  Continuing on North Korea, are we still seeing preparations for a nuclear test, as they had indicated that they were going to be doing?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, as you know, Louie, we're not going to talk about intelligence matters.  So I'm not going to be able to speak with any specificity to that.  I will just say that we continue to call on North Korea to meet their obligations to the international community and to the United Nations and to -- and to stop any and all provocative acts such as trying to pursue a nuclear weapons capability.
            Yes, sir.
            Q:  General Kehler yesterday said the -- his command was working on, in conjunction with the Pentagon, a, quote-unquote, "hedge strategy" for missile defense.  And that included the possibility of standing up the East Coast missile defense shield.  Now, what I want to ask you is, how seriously is the Pentagon -- how seriously is the Pentagon looking at setting up something like that on the East Coast?  Is this just sort of an exercise to appease Congress or is DOD really looking at serious options for standing up a missile shield on the East Coast?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, we always look very seriously at the broad scope of our missile defense capabilities and how to make them more robust and to improve them.  And as -- and the general said yesterday that there was a broad swath of things that they were looking at.  That was just one of them.  So certainly it's something that's in consideration.
            But the general also said -- and General Dempsey himself said it just a couple weeks ago -- that we don't believe we need that kind of a capability right now.  It's not programmed for in the budget we just submitted back in February.  We don't believe we need it right now.
            But just as a matter of course, we constantly look at ways to improve our capabilities, particularly in a field as dynamic and technologically challenging as missile defense.
            Q:  To follow up, then, if the marks that the House side put in on the defense spending bill, that does make it into the final version of the legislation and the money is there, would that accelerate or change DOD's sort of assessment about whether or not a missile shield will be needed?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, look, without speaking to pending legislation, it -- once the NDAA is signed into law, it becomes law.  So we will follow the law and all the components of it.
            Yes, sir.
            Q:  On the report this morning that some of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay have been subjected to hearing songs from "Sesame Street," first of all, can you comment on that?  And second, if it's true, what would you say about the characterization of some who call this torture?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, look, there's been several investigations done about the use of interrogation techniques down there at Guantanamo Bay, and particularly the use of music as incentives or disincentives between 2004, 2008, that time frame.  And universally, the -- these investigations have shown and leadership has revealed that music can be used as both an incentive and a disincentive.  It depends on how you use it.
            I don't know.  I can't say with any specificity what type of music has been used in the past or is even being used now.  But we -- I will reiterate that we don't mistreat detainees.  That's the policy.  We rigorously follow that policy.  We do not torture, and we do not abuse our detainees at all.  We subscribe to the law and to humane treatment.  So it -- but yes, music is used, again, both in a -- in a positive way and as a disincentive.  But I wouldn't get into characterizing exactly what type of music is being used.
Q:  But are you --
            CAPT. KIRBY:  But we do not -- we do not torture.
            Q:  Music from the Barney show, if not Sesame Street?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  I don't know what the playlist is.
            Q:  Can you tell me how to get -- how to get tapes of this?  (Laughter.)
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Next question, please.
            Q:  Also on Yemen, there is a -- (laughter) -- after the -- (inaudible) -- report this week, you know, one of the -- one of the, I think, implications of the report that came out were the Yemeni fighters, Yemeni security forces were being somehow outgunned by al-Qaida, at least the groups that were featured in that report.  And I -- you provided some information about, you know, the U.S. arming Yemen security forces.
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Right.
            Q:  What's the latest, you know, interaction between U.S. and Yemen on their request for arms from the U.S. or the U.S. offering arms?  Is this -- is this a concern for the Pentagon that security forces are, you know, Yemen security forces are outgunned by al-Qaida or is --
            CAPT. KIRBY:  I -- well, first of all, it's an ongoing dialogue and discussion that we have with the Yemeni military about the kind of support and the assistance that we give them, and it's not just military.  I mean, the relationship with Yemen is not just about security, although that's a major component of it.  So it's an ongoing discussion that we're having, to try to meet their needs as best we can.  It's a comprehensive CT strategy that we have in Yemen.
            I don't believe that we believe that the Yemeni military is, quote-unquote, "outgunned."  Al-Qaida, AQAP specifically, in Yemen remains a threat not just to our interests and to our allies and to the American people, but to the Yemeni people and to the Yemeni government.  And we are constantly -- as I said the other day, constantly looking at ways to try to help to improve our ability to help the Yemenis improve their capacity and capability.
            Q:  (Off mic) -- there's been a number of news reports on -- one on a ship carrying arms headed for Syria; another one today of Iranian commercial airliners, again, being used to carry arms into Syria.
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Yeah.
            Q:  What can you tell us about the level of arms smuggling you're seeing going on and your concerns that both Iran and Russia specifically may be using some of these techniques to get arms into Syria?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, we remain deeply troubled and concerned by the ongoing violence in Syria and by the horrific acts of the Assad regime against its own people.  And we certainly have seen reports and have reason to believe that Iran continues to assist the Assad regime in committing these acts of atrocities against the Syrian people.
            So it remains -- it remains a matter of deep concern.  And we also know that other nations share that concern, and some of those nations are providing lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition as well.  For our sake, what we're doing remains nonlethal assistance.
            Q:  Do you have anything on this -- on this report at all about the Iranians using commercial airliners, which has been a technique in the past?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Yeah, we've seen the reports; can't confirm them.  But again, the larger issue here is that the Iranian regime -- Tehran continues to support, in tangible and intangible ways, the Assad regime.  And that needs to stop.
            Q:  On Syria, talking about the al-Qaida threats in the region, could you confirm if -- do you have any information if recently al-Qaida has had any significant presence inside Syria?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  I don't know that anybody has an accurate number on al-Qaida's presence in Syria.
            We do believe that al-Qaida has some presence inside Syria and interest in fomenting violence in Syria.  They are not -- we do not believe that they share the goals of the Syrian opposition or that they are even embraced by the opposition at all.  But we -- I think we'd be hard-pressed to give you an exact number of how many are there.  The sense that we get is that it is primarily members of AQI that are migrating into Syria.
            Q:  Al-Qaida in Iraq, you mean?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Yeah, correct.  Yeah, sorry, al-Qaida in Iraq.
            Q:  Take it back, John, to what you were saying earlier about the two liaison officers returning to Pakistan.  Could you -- just for my clarification, you're saying their liasing with who and what --
             CAPT. KIRBY:  With the 11th Corps headquarters there.  The 11th Corps is the -- is the chief command of the Pakistani military that -- that's their area of responsibility is that border region.  That marries up with RC East on the Afghan side.  And so these are liaison officers that every -- work every day there or will now work every day there in Peshawar with their counterparts in the 11th Corps headquarters staff, again, just to improve the communication between the two sides.
            Q:  Regarding -- (inaudible) -- border -- (inaudible) --
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Regarding -- yes, regarding operations along the border.
             Q:  They've been out of there since November?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Correct.
            Q:  Or do they --
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Correct.
            Q:  John, this was raised the other day, but since then there's been further developments.  The sort of language and rhetoric on Syria, military intervention or otherwise, has really been steadily creeping up over the last couple of days.  Hillary Clinton is the latest, perhaps, to give her views on it, although she was pretty anti-intervention, but she did say it can't be ruled out.  I wonder whether the exercise now completed has provided any valuable lessons or any potential future --
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Which exercise?
            Q:  Eager Lion.
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Oh, the exercises in Jordan.
            Q:  (Off mic) -- not connected to Syria, blah, blah, blah, but --
            CAPT. KIRBY:  (Laughs.)
            Q:  -- whether that has actually provided some pretty good lessons.  A lot of people are talking now about, you know, using proxy forces to carry out the wishes of the alliance or America or whoever it may be.  And you know, there were a lot of so-called proxy partners involved in that exercise.
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, let me start small and then try to get to a bigger point.
            The -- it was an important exercise, and we were grateful for the opportunity to participate in it.  It was a -- it was an exercise designed to deal with regional challenges, not a specific threat or a specific country, as you said yourself, Mike, and we are still processing the lessons learned from the exercise.  So I have not seen a lessons-learned document from it; so I couldn't sit here and give you any specifics.  I think all that work is being done.
            It was a big exercise; it's going to take a little while, I think, to digest all the information and the results.  But it -- but the intent was really about regional partnerships in those and regional challenges there.
            But, to your other point about options, I mean, look, this building, the military, the Pentagon exists to provide the president options.  That's what we do, and we would be irresponsible if we weren't thinking about options whether or not they're called for.  And so, of course, we're certainly looking at a broad range of potential options here.
            But that's not the track we're on.  The president has been very clear that he wants to continue a diplomatic and economic regimen of pressure on the Assad regime to step down and to stop killing their people.  And that's the track this government's on, and that's the track that the Pentagon supports.
            Q:  Military options?  Military options to do what?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, again, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals or specific planning scenarios.  But again, we would -- it would be irresponsible for us if we weren't looking at a broad range of potential options.  And you know very well, covering this beat for so long, that the military is -- can be valuable in any number of different scenarios, not all of which involve combat.
            The point is we're doing the prudent thing that we're supposed to do, which is to think through options.  But we've not been called to present any.  And these are decisions that only the policymakers can make.  And again, we're supporting the commander in chief's intent, which is to keep the pressure on them diplomatically and economically.
             Q:  Say to what extent you've discussed these military options that are being planned -- not yet asked for -- with U.S. military allies in the region?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  What I'll tell you is that we remain in communication with our allies and partners routinely.  And we continue to be in communication with them as the situation develops in Syria.  But I won't go beyond that.
            Q:  And if you were asked by the White House, the president, to exercise one of these military options, whatever they might be, how ready would the U.S. military be to do that?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  We get paid to be ready, Barbara.
            Q:  Going back to the North Korea story, the quote that George had was that it was contorted, distorted and misreported.  Do you still think that's a fair characterization?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Yes, I do.
            Q:  What exactly is misreported, though, if it was a --
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, I think -- again, it was -- the reporting was that there were U.S. boots on the ground in North Korea.  There aren't.  There aren't.  And the general didn't say that there were.  He was talking hypothetically about a future scenario that he was asked about.
            But look, I mean, this isn't about bashing the journalist who wrote this blog, and it's not about bashing the general, who admitted that he used some unfortunate rhetoric.  These things happen.  It's unfortunate, but it happens.  He didn't choose his words as precisely as he would have liked, and he admitted that, and what resulted was a story that didn't get it right in terms of what the situation really is in North Korea.  And that's really the larger -- think we got to keep our mind on here, which is there aren't troops in North Korea and that we remain committed to our alliance there.  That's really the important thing.
            Yes, sir.
            Q:  Just following up on the point regarding al-Qaida's sort of influence in the Syrian -- amongst the Syrian rebel forces, there was a story, I think last week --
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Well, I didn't say they were part of rebel forces --
            Q:  OK.
            CAPT. KIRBY:  -- or that they're even operating with the opposition.  We don't believe that they are, and they -- certainly we don't believe they share the same goals as the Syrian opposition.  So I'm sorry.
            Q:  But there was -- I think it was a report last week saying the administration was considering a plan to start vetting certain units or parts of the Free Syrian Army, whether or not to evaluate if there was any sort of influence of al-Qaida in those units and whether or not they can receive weapons, wherever they may come from.  Is the Pentagon -- has the White House approached the Pentagon about that plan?  Has the Pentagon been briefed on that plan?  And if so, what's DOD's -- is -- what is DOD's role in that?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  Not to my knowledge.  But I'm happy to take the question and look at it, but not to my knowledge.
            Q:  The U.S. and Israel back earlier this year had postponed a large missile defense exercise.  And I think it's supposed to start around this time frame.  Is it going to start soon?  And what can we expect from it?
            CAPT. KIRBY:  I'll have to get back to you on that.  I'll check on that.  You're right that that was supposed to -- that that exercise was postponed for later in the year.  And I'll check and see where we are on that.
            Thanks, everybody



U.S. Department of State Supports More than 630 American 2012 Critical Language Scholarship Participants for Intensive Summer Institutes in 14 countries

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 30, 2012
The Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is supporting 631 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to study critical languages through the 2012 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program. Participants will attend an intensive seven-to-ten week institute in one of 14 countries this summer where Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, or Urdu are predominantly spoken. Students hailing from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, a wide range of 252 U.S. colleges and universities, and many academic disciplines were chosen from more than 5,200 applicants through a merit-based selection process.

 The U.S. Department of State launched the Critical Language Scholarships for Intensive Summer Institutes in 2006 to increase opportunities for American students to study critical languages overseas. The program, which is administered by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers and the American Councils for International Education, is part of a wider U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical languages.

 The CLS Program allows participants to develop fluency in their targeted critical language and cultural competency in their host country through group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences. CLS participants are expected to continue their language study beyond this scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their career plans.

 Beginning May 29, participants attend country-specific orientations in Washington, D.C., before departing for their respective institutes. During the orientations, students will learn information about their host countries, strategies for successful language learning, and ideas for incorporating language skills into their career plans. They will also interact with officials from ECA, CLS alumni, embassy representatives from the host countries, and panelists representing government, academia, nonprofits and business.

 CLS Program participants are among the more than 40,000 academic and professional exchange program participants supported annually by ECA to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
 Please visit our websites at and to learn more about the CLS Program or other exchange programs offered by ECA.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012



Panetta Calls on Navy Grads to Focus on Asia-Pacific

By Donna Miles
ANNAPOLIS, Md., May 29, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta called on the U.S. Naval Academy's class of 2012 at its graduation and commissioning ceremonies here to help restore America's maritime presence and power with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Panetta, speaking under a brilliant blue sky at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium,
noted that the 1,099 new officers are joining the fleet and Corps at a "strategic turning point after a decade of war."

He cited key accomplishments: the return of U.S. forces from Iraq, NATO's approval last week of a plan to transition full security responsibility in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, and the successful NATO effort to free Libya of Muammar Gadhafi's brutal regime, among them.

In addition, the secretary said, the U.S. "has successfully gone after the leadership of al-Qaida to send a clear message that no one -- no one -- attacks the United States and gets away with it," drawing loud applause.
"And yet we still face challenges and risks," the secretary said, from violent extremism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to the destabilizing behavior of Iran and North Korea, military modernization across the Asia-Pacific, turmoil in the Middle East, piracy and cyber-attacks.

"Our nation now looks to you, the next generation of military leaders, to confront these challenges, to protect our nation and to ensure that America always has the strongest military force in the world," the secretary said. "That is the way it has always been. And that's the way it always will be."

Panetta recognized the Navy and Marine Corps' legacies of leading the military and the nation and called on the graduating class to keep the tradition strong. "It is up to your generation to ensure that our fleet remains unrivaled by any other nation on earth," he said.

Adaptation has always been one of the Navy's hallmarks throughout its history, Panetta noted. It remains important, he said, as the Defense Department implements new strategic guidance to meet the challenges of the 21st century at a time of fiscal constraints at home.

The new strategy calls for agile, flexible, deployable and technologically advanced military forces and puts emphasis on the Asia-Pacific as well as the Middle East. It calls for strengthening key alliances and partnerships and protecting investments in new capabilities ranging from cyber to unmanned systems to space to special operations. It also ensures that the U.S. military "can confront aggression and defeat any opponent anytime, anywhere," the secretary said.

"The Navy and Marine Corps are fundamental to every element of that strategy," the secretary said. He called on the new officers and their generation to sustain and enhance American strength across the vast Asia-Pacific maritime region.

"America's future prosperity and security are tied to our ability to advance peace and security along the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean and South Asia," he said. "That reality is inescapable for our country and for our military, which has already begun broadening and deepening our engagement throughout the Asia-Pacific."

"Your charge," Panetta told the midshipmen, "is to help ensure the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific for the 21st century."

"We need you to project America's power and to reflect America's character" as you operate throughout the region," he said, strengthening historic alliances and building robust new partnerships.
"We also need you to strengthen defense ties with China," he told the class. "China's military is growing and modernizing. We must be vigilant. We must be strong. We must be prepared to confront any challenge. But the key to peace in that region is to develop a new era of defense cooperation between our two countries -- one in which our militaries share security burdens to advance peace in the Asia-Pacific and around the world."
Panetta thanked the graduates for choosing to serve their country in wartime. "You have set yourselves apart in a profound and in an honorable way," he said.

"No one can tell you what challenges you will face in the future," Panetta added. "But one thing is sure. You must be prepared to respond to whatever threats we confront in the future -- with courage, with creativity, with leadership."

The secretary also recognized the diversity of the class, the first to graduate and accept commissions since repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military.
"You are men and women from every state in the union and 12 foreign countries: rich and poor, secular and religious, black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian, straight and gay," he said. Panetta called this diversity a tribute to retired Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Brown, the first African-American to graduate from the Naval Academy, who died last week at age 85.



Obama Administration Launches $26 Million Multi-Agency Competition to Strengthen Advanced Manufacturing Clusters Across the Nation 

Fourteen Federal Agencies Collaborate to Enhance Global Competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturers and Create Jobs

WASHINGTON – The Obama Administration today announced a $26 million multi-agency Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge to foster innovation-fueled job creation through public-private partnerships. These coordinated investments will help catalyze and leverage private capital, build an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and promote cluster-based development in regions across the United States. This is the third round of the Jobs Accelerator competition, which is being funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); the U.S. Department of Energy; the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration; the Small Business Administration; and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
“This $26 million Accelerator Challenge is yet another example of the Obama Administration’s commitment to supporting American manufacturers in building things here and selling them everywhere,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson. “We are so pleased to join with our federal agency partners to further strengthen the American manufacturing sector, which creates high quality, good paying jobs. Commerce’s Economic Development Administration has a strong record of investing in regional innovation clusters that foster the job creation and business development crucial to an economy that is built to last. This Challenge further bolsters our efforts and builds on the momentum we have seen in the manufacturing sector in recent months, including the 489,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs that have been added since January 2010.”
Advanced manufacturing is critical to the health of the national economy and provides essential goods and equipment directly to consumers as well as to a wide range of industries, including the energy production, agriculture, medical and computing industries, and the security and intelligence sectors.
“The Accelerator Challenge is one way the federal government is helping to support the manufacturing industry, a vital source of middle-class jobs,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “The innovative products developed as a result of this federal grant program will help our economy maintain its global competitive advantage, while also creating jobs at home.”
Manufacturing accounts for 70 percent of private-sector R&D and 60 percent of U.S. exports–including a record $1.2 trillion in goods exported in 2011. Over the past 25 months, manufacturers have created nearly half a million jobs–the best streak since 1995. The Jobs Accelerator Challenge is designed to assist the development and implementation of regionally-driven economic development strategies that will support advanced manufacturing and cluster development. The goal is to create jobs, grow the economy, and enhance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers in the global marketplace.
“’Made in America’ is making a comeback,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs Accelerator is an opportunity to build on the momentum we’re seeing in U.S. manufacturing and to support small businesses and local economies through regional innovation clusters.  By working with other federal agencies, we can link, leverage, and align our resources to give small businesses the tools they need to work together, grow and create jobs in the manufacturing sector.”
Approximately 12 projects are expected to be chosen through a competitive inter-agency grant process. Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals that will help grow a region’s industry clusters by strengthening connections to regional economic development opportunities and advanced manufacturing assets; enhance a region’s capacity to create high-quality sustainable jobs; develop a skilled and diverse advanced manufacturing workforce; increase exports; encourage the development of small businesses; and accelerate technological innovation.
“Through this partnership, the National Science Foundation will connect innovations from NSF-supported advanced manufacturing research with stakeholders who can accelerate technology commercialization and economic growth,” said Thomas Peterson, NSF Assistant Director for Engineering. “NSF is making available up to $1 million for existing NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II grantees that are part of winning projects.
The deadline for applications is July 9, 2012, and guidelines for submissions are accessible here. In addition to the six funding partners, the initiative is supported by eight other Federal agencies: U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, Housing and Urban Development; Environmental Protection Agency; Denali Commission; and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), Minority Business Development Administration (MBDA), and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
“As President Obama made clear, an American economy built to last will depend on American manufacturing, American energy and skills for American workers,” saidU.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “This is why the Energy Department invests in innovative, public-private initiatives like the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge that support American leadership and competitiveness in manufacturing.”
As part of President Obama’s commitment to putting more people back to work and creating an economy built to last, the Administration has invested over $200 million promoting regional innovation clusters. The Administration also created an interagency task force, known as the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters (TARIC), to develop and administer interagency grant competitions. More than a dozen federal agencies have participated in TARIC-led grant competitions by providing grant funding or other forms of support to the winners of the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenges.



Mexico: PepsiCo Firebombings

Taken Question
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 30, 2012

QUESTION: Is the United States assisting PepsiCo or Mexican authorities in the recent attacks? If so, how?
ANSWER: The United States strongly condemns these attacks and all acts of criminal violence.
Our Embassy in Mexico City is in contact with company officials and Mexican authorities.
President Calderon, the Mexican government, and the Mexican people have shown great courage and determination in the face of challenges and threats from transnational criminal organizations.
The United States will continue to assist Mexico's efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations in strict accordance with Mexican law and with respect for Mexican sovereignty.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter Speech to the American Enterprise Institute Washington, DC

Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter Speech to the American Enterprise Institute Washington, DC


FROM:  HHS HealthBeat (May 29, 2012) 
Fighting fat genes
A researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health says even people with fat genes can control their weight.

Qubin Qi looked at data on about 12,000 people. He and his colleagues calculated, based on what’s known about genes, the predisposition toward weight – and looked at lifestyles that affect weight.

People with a predisposition added weight if they were sedentary – lots of TV, for instance. But the equivalent of brisk walking for an hour a day cut the predisposition effect in half.

So Qi advises more activity and less sitting:
"Overall, these are very important in prevention of obesity, particularly in people with a high genetic risk."

The study presented at an American Heart Association meeting was supported by the National Institutes of Health.


Combined Force Kills 2 Insurgents in Firefight
Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases
WASHINGTON, May 29, 2012 - A combined force killed two insurgents and seized several AK-47 rifles and some ammunition magazines during a search for a Haqqani leader in the Gomal district of Afghanistan's Paktika province today, military officials reported.

The sought-after insurgent leader conducts roadside bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in the Sarobi district, officials said. He also coordinates the movement of insurgents and weapons throughout the region.

Two armed insurgents fired on the Afghan and coalition troops as they approached the insurgents' suspected location. The security force returned fire, killing the insurgents. A post-incident assessment confirmed that no civilians were harmed during the operation.

Also today, a combined force detained one suspect and seized a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with rockets, several grenades, sniper ammunition and illegal narcotics during a search for a Taliban leader in the Khugyani district of Nangarhar province. The Taliban leader plans and coordinates roadside bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition troops. He also provides other insurgents with weapons, ammunition and improvised explosive devices.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:
-- Two International Security Assistance Force service members died following a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan. The cause of the crash is under investigation. Initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash.

-- An ISAF aircraft crashed during routine operations in eastern Afghanistan. There were no fatalities reported. The aircrew and passengers were safely transported to a nearby ISAF installation for evaluation. ISAF is investigating the cause of the crash. Initial reporting indicates that there was no enemy activity in the area.

-- An Afghan-led, coalition-supported force detained a Taliban leader and two other suspected insurgents in the Panjwa'i district of Kandahar province. The leader coordinated suicide bombings and attacks against Afghan forces and civilians and coalition troops. He also supervised the construction of suicide vests and other explosive devices and distributed them to insurgents under his control.
-- In the Baghlan-e Jadid district of Baghlan province, a combined force searched for a Taliban leader. The leader plans and conducts roadside bombings, indirect-fire attacks and other operations against Afghan and coalition troops. He also builds IEDs.

-- A combined force called in an airstrike that killed one insurgent during a search for an al-Qaida leader in the Dangam district of Kunar province. The leader facilitates the movement of weapons, equipment and insurgents. He also procures and transports supplies for insurgents throughout the province.
-- A combined force detained a Haqqani leader and two other insurgents in the Jaji district of Paktiya province. The insurgent leader planned and directed roadside bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In May 27 operations:
-- A combined force called in an airstrike that killed Sakhr al-Taifi, an al-Qaida leader, and one additional al-Qaida terrorist in the Watahpur district of Kunar province. Sakhr al-Taifi, also known as Musthaq and Nasim, was al-Qaida's second-highest leader in Afghanistan, responsible for commanding foreign insurgents, in addition to directing attacks against coalition and Afghan forces. He frequently traveled between Afghanistan and Pakistan, carrying out commands from senior al-Qaida leadership. He also supplied weapons and equipment to insurgents operating in eastern Afghanistan and managed the illegal transport of insurgent fighters into Afghanistan. No civilians or property were harmed in the operation.

-- A combined force killed one insurgent during a firefight in the Tagab district of Kapisa province.
-- A combined force discovered IED-making materials in the Ab Band district of Ghazni province.
-- A combined force killed 16 insurgents and detained one suspect in the Musa Khel district of Khowst province.

-- A combined force detained several suspects during a search for a senior Taliban leader in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. The sought-after insurgent is the senior Taliban leader in the Marjeh district and manages multiple insurgent cells in the area. He directs suicide bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition troops throughout the Marjeh and Nahr-e Saraj districts. He also coordinates with Taliban leaders to move suicide bombers and explosives into Afghanistan.

-- A combined force killed several insurgents during a search for a senior Taliban leader in the Aliabad district of Kunduz province. The leader is the senior Taliban insurgent in the district and controls multiple insurgent cells. He plans, coordinates, and conducts roadside bombings and other attacks against district government officials and Afghan and coalition forces.

-- In the Khwajah Sabz Posh district of Faryab province, a combined force detained several suspects while searching for an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator. The facilitator distributes funds, weapons and other equipment between IMU cells and manages the recruitment and movement of insurgents for attacks against Afghan and coalition troops.

-- In the Arghistan district of Kandahar province, a combined force detained several insurgents while searching for a Taliban leader. The insurgent leader conducts roadside bombings and indirect-fire attacks against Afghan and coalition troops in the Tarnek wa Jaldak district of Zabul province. He also provides weapons, ammunition and roadside bombs to insurgents.

-- An Afghan-led, coalition-supported force detained several suspects during a search for a Taliban leader in the Kandahar district of Kandahar province. The leader conducts roadside bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in the Daman and Shah Wali Kot districts. He also builds IEDs and distributes them to insurgents.

-- In the Sherzad district of Nangarhar province, an Afghan-led, coalition-supported force detained two suspects and seized one pistol during a search for a Taliban leader. The leader conducts roadside bombings and ambushes against Afghan and coalition forces in the Sherzad and Khugyani districts.
-- A combined force detained two suspects and seized one pistol and two grenades during a search for a Taliban leader in the Charkh district of Logar province. The leader conducts roadside bombings and ambushes against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the district.

In May 26 operations:
-- An Afghan-led, coalition-supported force detained one suspect and confiscated 10 rocket-propelled grenades, eight fuel cells, 50 machine gun rounds and a rifle in the Tarin Kot district of Uruzgan province.
-- A combined force killed two insurgents and detained two suspects during a search for a senior Taliban leader in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province. The sought-after insurgent leader controls several Taliban commanders and coordinates their attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He is responsible for several roadside bombings along highways between Kandahar and Zabul provinces and for attacks against Afghan police forces.

-- In the Kandahar district of Kandahar province, an Afghan-led, coalition-supported force detained several suspects during a search for a Taliban facilitator. The facilitator operates in Kandahar and Farah provinces providing weapons, explosives and vehicles to insurgents.

-- An Afghan-led, coalition-supported force detained several suspects and seized multiple weapons while searching for a Haqqani leader in the Sabari district of Khost province. The leader conducts attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the district. He also provides weapons, ammunition and equipment to insurgents.

-- In the Jalrayz district of Wardak province, an Afghan-led, coalition-supported force detained two suspects and seized multiple mortar rounds and one shotgun during a search for a Taliban leader. The leader conducts attacks against Afghan and coalition convoys traveling throughout the Maidan Shahr district in Wardak province. He also distributes weapons, ammunition and funds to insurgents.

In May 25 operations:
-- Combined forces found and destroyed 20 IEDs consisting of 365 pounds of homemade explosives, 16 pressure plates and 10 pounds of ammonium nitrate in the Zharay and Maiwand districts of Kandahar province.

In May 23 operations:
-- A combined force detained a bomb maker and several other insurgents and seized explosives, IED-making components and weapons in the Tarin Kowt district of Uruzgan province.



McHugh: Language Skills Critical to Mission Success

By Claudette Roulo
WASHINGTON, May 25, 2012 - Language skills and cultural understanding are critical tools for accomplishing missions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, Secretary of the Army John McHugh said during a May 21 visit to the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif.

The facility provides resident instruction in 23 languages and two dialects. Students include active duty and reserve component service members from all branches of the armed forces, members of foreign militaries and civilian law enforcement personnel.

McHugh toured the Persian-Farsi school and viewed demonstrations of the educational technologies used in developing and sustaining language skills.

As the Army downsizes, McHugh said, soldiers with language skills will become even more critical to the force's mission success.

"The relevancy of this program -- this entire mission -- I think has never been greater," he added. "As our number and our footprint gets smaller, I think we would expect those who remain behind to be more culturally aware, to be more adept at language."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The lead bullet removed from President Abraham Lincoln is part of an exhibit at the National Medical Museum in Silver Spring, Md. Also included are skull fragments, a small swatch of Lincoln's hair and the probe that is thought to have located the assassin's bullet. DOD photo by Terri Moon Cronk  

National Medical Museum Reopens on 150th Anniversary
By Terri Moon Cronk
SILVER SPRING, Md. , May 22, 2012 - Featuring artifacts from President Abraham Lincoln's assassination including the bullet that killed him, and information on the progress of treating traumatic brain injuries, the National Museum of Health and Medicine officially reopened to the public on its 150th anniversary here yesterday.
The Defense Department-sponsored museum, once called the Army Medical Museum when it was housed at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., moved into its new building last year as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process.

Twenty-five million medical objects, including human specimens and some of the first microscopes developed, are displayed at the museum.

The 20,000-square-foot museum draws the gamut of people from curiosity seekers to medical doctors and students, in addition to history buffs, said Tim Clarke, the museum's deputy director for communications.

Museum offerings include displays that showcase specimens of anatomy and pathology, Civil War military medicine and methods for human identification.

The museum was established during the Civil War on May 21, 1862, when Army Surgeon General William A. Hammond ordered that military medical objects and specimens would be collected for future study. Since then, objects reaching as far back as the Revolutionary War have been added to the museum's vast collection, Clarke said.

In the military medicine exhibit, 200-year-old surgical tools are featured, across the aisle from a large slab of concrete flooring taken from Trauma Bay II in Balad, Iraq. It was there that the medical facility saved 98 percent of wounded soldiers' lives from 2003-07, more than any other single medical unit in Iraq.

"From doctors to nurses and patients, we've found people connect to that slab of flooring in ways we didn't expect," Clarke said. "They might have known someone who was there, or have another connection to it. It has an emotional effect on people who were saved there."

Advances in military medicine include a collection of cryptic molds of facial reconstruction initiated during the Civil War. Other exhibits showcase techniques in wounded warrior rehabilitation, the growing technology of prostheses, and other advances in medical research.

A second large gallery houses the collection of military medical history and research from 1862 forward, including the Lincoln assassination and autopsy display.
Human specimens are preserved in paraffin and in formalin. Jars filled with various limbs and other body parts depict what gunshots can do to such parts as the lower spine, shoulder joint and limbs. The remains of bones collected from the Civil War Battle of Antietam are also on display.

An exhibit of microscopes –- one traced back to the 1600s from Paris –- show one that was used when a scientist first determined what became known as a cell.
The amputated leg of a 27-year-old man with elephantiasis in 1894, which stems from a parasite, is preserved in a large jar-like vat to show what the disease can do to humans. Another exhibit explains the beginnings of biomedical engineering and the study of pathology and physiology from its beginnings to today's advances in the science.

Specimens of brain tissue show changes from traumatic brain injury -- a signature wound from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the specimens are real, although some reproductions are made from molds, such as the reconstructed faces from the Civil War era, Clarke said.

The public also can peer through a window into a lab where they can watch staff members work on future exhibits. These exhibits change periodically to keep the displays supplied with new material. This year's Civil War display is from 1862, Clarke explained, and will be followed by follow-on years of the war, beginning with 1863 next year.

The museum is open to the public and for tours, free of charge, every day, except Dec. 25. A Medical Museum Science Café meets once a month in Silver Spring and features a variety of topics, which are listed on the museum's web site, Clarke said.


FROM:  HHS HealthBeat (May 22, 2012) 
Life after smoking
It’s not easy, but it could be the most important decision you ever make. Quitting smoking, or never starting, is so vital to your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a new campaign, Tips from Former Smokers, to show just how harsh tobacco can be, first and second hand.

Suzy was 15 when she started smoking. When she was 57 she suffered a stroke.
"Apparently, a lot of people don’t know smoking can cause a stroke. It can. It caused mine. I used to love to travel. Now, I can’t leave the house by myself. And I can’t drive anymore."

Tobacco use causes cancer and other diseases. CDC offers free resources to help people quit.

USMA Graduation Ceremony

USMA Graduation Ceremony

Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricane Preparedness

Obama attends Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington cemetery

Obama attends Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington cemetery


May 22, 2012
United States and Mexico make efforts to strengthen US-Mexican bi-national health
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Mexico Secretary of Health Salomón Chertorivski today announced a series of new steps to strengthen health security cooperation between the two countries.  The health secretaries outlined these efforts during the 65th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The United States and Mexico have had a long and close relationship in supporting and improving our ability to respond to public health events and emergencies of mutual interest when they arise,” Secretary Sebelius said.  “The trade links between our two countries, our common border, and the high degree of trade in food products speak to the need for close bilateral cooperation in health security for both of our nations.”

“It is important to strengthen the programs of regulation and surveillance of medical products and health services on behalf of public health.  International collaboration and the development of new strategies will create a more effective process that protects against health risks,” Secretary Chertorivski said.  “Mexico is committed to continue working to develop the best tools and procedures for the care and control necessary to maintain the best health possible for the population.”

The two health secretaries signed a declaration formally adopting a shared set of technical guidelines that both countries will follow to respond to public health events and emergencies of mutual interest when they arise.  The guidelines describe how the two nations will coordinate the exchange of information, and they complement the International Health Regulations, which call for neighboring countries to develop accords and work together on shared epidemiologic events and public health issues. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Mexico’s General Directorate of Epidemiology led the development of the guidelines, along with support from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Mexico’s Secretariat of Health. The two health secretaries signed a declaration formally adopting a shared set of technical guidelines that both countries will follow to respond to public health events and emergencies of mutual interest when they arise.  The guidelines describe how the two nations will coordinate the exchange of information, and they complement the International Health Regulations, which call for neighboring countries to develop accords and work together on shared epidemiologic events and public health issues. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Mexico’s General Directorate of Epidemiology led the development of the guidelines, along with support from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Mexico’s Secretariat of Health.

Secretaries Sebelius and Chertorivksi also renewed an agreement between the United States and Mexico that strengthens existing scientific and public health activities related to the regulation of food safety, including products and feed for food-producing animals. This arrangement recommits the two countries to communicate on food safety and to identify areas for coordination and collaboration between several U.S. and Mexican agencies—HHS, through its Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and the Secretariat of Health, through the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risk (COFEPRIS) and the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food in Mexico through its National Service of  Health, Food Safety and Agro Food Quality (SENASICA). The renewed agreement is evidence of the ongoing commitment to help ensure that the foods for our populations as well as foods traded between our countries are safe and wholesome.

Finally, Secretary Sebelius presented Secretary Chertorivksi with a plaque welcoming the Mexican Secretariat of Health’s National Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference as a member of CDC’s Laboratory Response Network.  Mexico is the fourth country to join the LRN along with Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. This achievement is a result of Mexico’s upgraded capabilities to respond quickly to acts of biological threats, emerging infectious diseases, and other public health threats and emergencies.