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Sunday, September 30, 2012

MALE DNA FOUND IN THE FEMALE BRAIN

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Some Women's Brains Contain Male DNA: Study

Health implications are unclear, researchers say.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Male DNA and cells are commonly found in some women's brains and most likely come from male fetuses, according to a small new study.

The medical implications of male DNA and male cells in women's brains are unknown. Previous studies of microchimerism -- the presence of genetic material and cells that were exchanged between fetuses and mothers during pregnancy -- have linked it to autoimmune diseases and cancer in both helpful and harmful ways.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle analyzed brain autopsy specimens from 59 women who died between the ages of 32 and 101. Male DNA was detected in 63 percent of the women and was distributed in various brain regions. The oldest woman with male DNA was 94.

Thirty-three of the 59 women in the study had Alzheimer's disease. These women had a somewhat lower prevalence of male DNA, which was present in lower concentrations in regions of the brain most affected by Alzheimer's.

Because of the small number of women in the study and their largely unknown pregnancy history, it is not possible to establish a link between Alzheimer's disease and levels of male DNA and cells from a fetus, the researchers said in a cancer center news release.

They also added that the study does not show an association between male microchimerism in women's brains and their health or risk of disease. Further research is needed to investigate this area.

The study was published Sept. 26 in the journal PLoS One.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

No drinking while pregnant

No drinking while pregnant

STUDENT LOAN DEFAULT RATES PUBLISHED

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

First Official Three-Year Student Loan Default Rates Published

Department continues efforts to help students better manage their debt.


September 28, 2012

The U.S. Department of Education today released official FY 2010 two-year and official FY 2009 three-year federal student loan cohort default rates. This is the first time the Department has issued an official three-year rate, which was 13.4 percent nationally for the FY 2009 cohort, a slight decrease from the trial three-year rate of 13.8 percent for the FY 2008 cohort. For-profit institutions had the highest average three-year default rates at 22.7 percent, with public institutions following at 11 percent and private non-profit institutions at 7.5 percent.

"We continue to be concerned about default rates and want to ensure that all borrowers have the tools to manage their debt," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "In addition to helping borrowers, we will also hold schools accountable for ensuring their students are not saddled with unmanageable student loan debt."

The Department is in the process of switching from a two-year cohort default rate to a three-year measurement as required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. The national two-year rate rose to 9.1 percent for the FY 2010 cohort, from 8.8 percent in FY 2009.

Congress included this provision in the law because there are more borrowers who default beyond the two-year window, and the three-year rate captures a more accurate picture of how many borrowers ultimately default on their federal student loans. In particular, for-profit colleges demonstrate a large increase in borrowers who defaulted during year three.

To help students access the tools and resources they need to avoid the negative consequences of defaulting on their student loans, the Department has redoubled its efforts to make borrowers aware of their student loan repayment options, including plans like Income-Based Repayment, which allows borrowers to cap their monthly student loan payments at 15 percent of their discretionary income. The Department also recently released an interactive financial aid counseling tool that helps borrowers with their college financing decisions, including information on flexible loan repayment options.

Calculation and breakdown of the rates

The two-year cohort default rates (CDRs) announced today represent a snapshot in time, with the FY 2010 cohort consisting of borrowers whose first loan repayments came due between Oct. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010, and who defaulted before Sept. 30, 2011. More than 4.1 million borrowers from nearly 6,000 schools entered repayment during this window, and almost 375,000 defaulted for an average of 9.1 percent.

The two-year CDR increased over last year’s rates for both the public and private non-profit sectors, rising from 7.2 percent to 8.3 percent for public institutions, and from 4.6 percent to 5.2 percent for private non-profit institutions. CDRs decreased for for-profit institutions from 15.0 percent to 12.9 percent, though the sector still has the highest average two-year rate.

The FY 2009 three-year rates announced today capture the cohort of borrowers whose loans entered repayment between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2009, and who defaulted before Sept. 30, 2011. More than 3.6 million borrowers from over 5,900 schools entered repayment during this window of time, and approximately 489,000 of them defaulted.

Sector differences also exist when comparing the increase in the CDR from the two-year to the three-year rates for the FY 2009 cohort, with for-profit schools displaying the biggest jump in rates from year two to year three. The Department reported the two-year CDR for the FY 2009 cohort last year. The increases from the two-year to the three-year rates were 7.2 percent to 11 percent for public institutions, 4.6 percent to 7.5 percent for private non-profit institutions, and 15.0 to 22.7 percent at for-profit schools.

Sanctions

Two schools are subject to sanctions for having two-year default rates of 25 percent or more for three consecutive years: Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Tidewater Tech in Norfolk, Va. As a result, these schools face the loss of eligibility in federal student aid programs, unless they bring successful appeals.

No sanctions will be applied to schools based on the three-year rates until three annual rates have been calculated. During this transition period, sanctions will continue to be based on the two-year CDR. However, any school with a three-year CDR of 30 percent or more must establish a default prevention task force and submit a default management plan to the Department. There were 218 schools that had three-year default rates over 30 percent, and 37 schools had three-year default rates in excess of 40 percent.

MEK DELISTED AS FOREIGN TERRORIST ORGANIZATION

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Delisting of the Mujahedin-e Khalq

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 28, 2012
The Secretary of State has decided, consistent with the law, to revoke the designation of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and its aliases as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under the Immigration and Nationality Act and to delist the MEK as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. These actions are effective today. Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons will no longer be blocked, and U.S. entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license. These actions will be published in the Federal Register.

With today’s actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK’s past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992. The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.

The Secretary’s decision today took into account the MEK’s public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base.

The United States has consistently maintained a humanitarian interest in seeking the safe, secure, and humane resolution of the situation at Camp Ashraf, as well as in supporting the United Nations-led efforts to relocate eligible former Ashraf residents outside of Iraq.

Friday, September 28, 2012

DOD Contracts for September 28, 2012

Contracts for September 28, 2012

WOMAN INDICTED FOR IMPERSONATING OSHA EMPLOYEE FOR MONEY

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Individual Indicted in Louisiana for Impersonating an OSHA Employee to Conduct Fraudulent Hazardous Waste Safety Trainings During Gulf Oil Spill Clean up

A 22-count federal indictment was unsealed today in federal court in New Orleans charging Connie M. Knight, 46, with impersonating a federal employee for the purpose of enticing people to pay her for fraudulent hazardous waste safety training, announced Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Jim Letten, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The indictment also charges Knight with possessing false federal identification documents, creating false federal identification documents and transferring false federal identification documents to her employees.

Knight, previously of Belle Chasse, La., was arrested by federal agents earlier today in Wiggins, Miss., where she currently resides. She was scheduled to appear in federal court in New Orleans at 2:00 p.m. today.

The indictment states that Knight impersonated an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) "Master Level V Inspector and Instructor" by utilizing false OSHA credentials, a false OSHA email address, and various other means. Knight thereby enticed individuals to pay for fraudulent hazardous waste safety and awareness training under the pretense that they would get work helping to clean the Gulf.

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, many fisheries were closed, causing many fishermen in the Gulf region to seek other sources of employment, including as oil spill cleanup personnel. All cleanup personnel were required to receive hazardous waste safety training before working in contaminated areas due to dangers from the oil itself and cleanup materials.

According to the indictment, from August to December of 2010, it is estimated that Knight defrauded more than 1,000 individuals throughout the Eastern District of Louisiana. The indictment alleges that Knight created and used fraudulent OSHA credentials, along with numerous false diplomas and certifications, to convince individuals that she was an authorized trainer and that they would be able to procure lucrative cleanup work if they attended and paid for her hazardous waste training courses. Knight targeted members of the Southeast Asian communities in Southern Louisiana, many of whom neither read nor spoke English proficiently.

According to the indictment, in October of 2010, while impersonating an OSHA employee, Knight created false federal OSHA identification badges for others as well. Knight is charged with creating those additional false OSHA identification badges, as well as providing them to four residents of Southern Louisiana fishing communities whom she had hired as employees. The indictment states that Knight knew she had no authority to produce or transfer the false OSHA identification badges.

The charges of producing and transferring fraudulent federal identification documents each carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The charge of possessing a fraudulent federal identification document carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $5,000. The 19 counts of falsely impersonating a federal employee each carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The allegations in the indictment are mere accusations and all persons are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from OSHA, the FBI, and investigators from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s office.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Video Message to the Concordia Summit

Video Message to the Concordia Summit

DOD Contracts for September 27, 2012

Contracts for September 27, 2012

HATI PARTNERS MINISTERIAL

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT, HATI
Senior State Department Official Previewing the Haiti Partners Ministerial
Special Briefing

Senior Department Official
New York , NY
September 26, 2012
MODERATOR: All right, everybody. Thank you for joining us this morning. We have with us [Senior State Department Official] to give you a preview on background of the Haiti Partners Ministerial that’s going to happen tomorrow. And after that, we’ll have a separate backgrounder, a short one just to read out the Secretary’s meeting with Davutoglu and do a little housekeeping for the rest of the day. So hereafter known as Senior State Department Official, take it away, [Senior State Department Official].

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I know all of you guys are probably want to leave after Haiti. What we all know, right? (Laughter.) Just kidding you.

Well, first of all, thanks for being here. And secondly, tomorrow is an opportunity for the Haitian Government to actually not only share where their vision has taken them now that Martelly is fully ensconced as president, he has a prime minister that he is working closely with and he has a government that he has appointed and feels strongly about. But really it’s an opportunity for them to say to the donors for the first time we are actually in the driver’s seat and we are looking to be able to coordinate you in a fundamentally different way and be able to ensure that our leadership actually produces results.

I think one of the things that President Clinton said about the Haitian Government yesterday at CGI is that I like this government because they make decisions; I might not always agree with them, but they make decisions. And it is true that this is an administration that is committed to actually seeing an improvement for the livelihoods of their citizens and are willing to make decisions. And I think what that means for donors and partners is to ensure that they are actually working collaboratively and effectively because it’s not an instance of an administration that’s not willing to state its views, to state where it wants to see matters go, and to also be fairly direct also when they see things that are being done in a fashion that’s inconsistent with what they would believe is in the best interest.

So in that sense, I think this is a terrific opportunity for the Haitian Government. I think that there has been a lot of progress that they likely will point to, progress that they’ve made in education and the number of kids that they now have in school, progress that they’ve made in the partnerships that have reinforced and supported some of the donors’ key activities. Certainly for us, we have invested in the energy sector by putting in place a management consulting team that has helped identify about a million and a half per month in savings just in their first few months there. They’ve already doubled the amount of revenues that the electric utility is receiving. It’s going to basically increase the amount of folks who get energy by about a third, and they have been leading that and vigorous partners. So in lots of ways, whenever we’ve hit roadblocks or there’s been challenges, they have been the first ones to clear them out. But more importantly, they have been the ones to push and say that they want more.

Similarly, in housing, we have seen them make decisions so that people can actually be allocated housing and have a ministry that operates to decide policies and practices so that housing can be allocated and so that land can be addressed so that people can see the fruits of their labor. Certainly for our part, if you actually look at what has happened, one of the biggest differences you see when you go to Haiti is the number of people who are in tents. When used to arrive right after the earthquake, there was about a million and a half. Now there’s only 370,000. Three hundred and seventy thousand is still a lot of folks, and that’s a figure that IOM maintains, but it is a remarkable difference when you’re there.

The other remarkable difference is the amount of rubble that is gone. They had about 10 million cubic meters of rubble. About seven and a half of that has been removed, and the United States removed about two and a half of that with respect to our funding. And so that is also like a dramatic change when you actually go to Haiti.

The other things that I think in terms of housing, because of their efforts that they’ve made, there’s been a lot of efforts by donors to assist in providing solutions, housing solutions for individuals, be those solutions rentals, be those solutions the opportunity to be in t- shelters, or be those solutions the opportunity to be in long-term housing. For our part, we’ve done about 6,000 repairs that have actually helped people move into housing. We’ve also begun housing – new housing developments that, for those of you all who travel with the Secretary in October, she is going to be traveling to Haiti and will be looking at some of the improvements that are being made in the north. There will be a housing development there that she will be visiting. But there are a numbers of housings that we are doing both in the north of Haiti as well as in the Port-au-Prince region, and that is largely because of the Haitian Government’s ability to make some decisions, which has taken quite some time in the past and now is working reasonably well.

The other thing that the Haitian Government has been relentlessly supportive of has been the industrial park, which for us has been a major investment and collaboration with the IDB, the Government of Haiti, as well as a lot of other partners in the region. And it is going to end up with development that – outside of the park and inside of the park that will contribute to about 25,000 people who have homes, about 15,000 people who actually have, for the first time, formal jobs. In fact, the bulk of the folks who are there working right now, about 800 of them who already onboard, and the park just opened in May. And by the end of the year, we’ll probably have about 1,600 people onboard – are women and they are first-time workers. So that is a big opportunity, and ultimately this park will grow to encompass about 20,000 workers just with the first tenant alone. And there is now a new Haitian tenant as well.

And we also have been supportive of and contributing to the establishment of a new electrical plant that’s there that is going to basically provide about 100,000 folks who didn’t have it before with power. So there’s a lot that’s going on and a lot of opportunities for donors now to see their work actually be able to come to fruition, both because there’s been a lot of planning, but also there’s a government who’s willing to make decisions.

I think the biggest challenge right now confronting Haiti, from my own observations, is that they have an election that they haven’t held yet. And to have an election effectively, they have to be able to step through what it means to actually appoint electoral council board. President Martelly is the first President who actually did appoint the council of judicial leadership, which basically provides for the leadership of the supreme court. It allowed, for the first time, for three members to be appointed. So it’s the first time all three branches of government have actually been stood up since the constitution in 1987. The challenge is while the courts have appointed their three, and the President has appointed his three, the legislatures have not. That has stymied the elections, which were supposed to have been held certainly this fall, because it’s elections for all their different senators, about a third of them, as well as for a lot of their local officials. And so they are going to have to find their way to a negotiated solution among their political leaders to achieve that. And that probably will take some doing.

But I certainly do believe that this is a committed administration and a committed parliament to try and figure out how best to do that. And while there are always challenges of individuals, these collective institutions are truly committed to trying to figure out how they actually can move forward and ensure that there are elections. And certainly we are partnering with them to see that that happens. So that’s an overview, but happy to take any questions about Haiti.

MODERATOR: Andy.

QUESTION: I have two questions – sort of a broad one, which is in the broadest sense: What kind of outcomes do you expect from tomorrow’s meeting? And I know it’s not a pledging meeting, but are you expecting new commitments or a new understanding of how this works? And secondly, when you talked about the housing, in the past it was always described land tenure laws and practices were a real Gordian knot and you couldn’t get people into houses. Has that really been solved at this stage, or is that still a work in progress?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the first – the answer to your first question is tomorrow I think what the Haitian Government will do both is reaffirm their priorities, but they also will lay out what they see as the donor mechanism for this particular administration, which we have not had, right, because this President came onboard right when the IHRC was lapsing. And so this is going to be the first opportunity for them to lay out how they see donors coordinating effectively and ensuring that their investments are consistent with their priorities, and I think that plus all of the different nations who are there obviously will speak to what they see has been their progress and whether they see any challenges, because it typically is an opportunity for that kind of direct sharing at a very high level and an opportunity for people to recommit to their partnership with Haiti.

In terms of land tenure, like most developing nations, land tenure, I think, will be a long-term challenge for Haiti. I think the difference is in the past, where there was not a mechanism to be able to actually work through the challenge, there is now an opportunity with this government to go to their housing apparatus , which they set up as a ministry, and actually work in partnership with them to come to a resolution. It doesn’t make it easy. It’s not clean. It’s not the same as certainly here in the United States when you – when there’s a transfer without necessarily a lot of significant government involvement, but there is now an opportunity to be able to pursue that path, and hopefully over time, that will become easier and easier as they develop new means and mechanisms to make that both transparent and much more efficient.

MODERATOR: Other questions? No? Okay. Very rich agenda.

STATUS OF COMPREHENSIVE NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

The Last U.S. Nuclear Test--20 Years Later: Status and Prospects for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
Remarks
Rose Gottemoeller
Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security

Washington, DC

September 26, 2012

As Prepared

Thanks for having me here today. This is an auspicious time for such an event.

Twenty years ago – this past Sunday – the United States conducted its last underground nuclear explosive test. The test, called "Divider", was followed by an official moratorium on explosive testing less than ten days later. Over the past two decades, the United States has developed the capability to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of its stockpile through the use of state-of-the-art technology and research while maintaining a moratorium on nuclear explosive testing.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino commented on the anniversary saying: "In April 2009, President Obama shared his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. As we work toward that goal, we have the world’s leading scientific facilities, the world’s fastest computers, and the world’s brightest minds working to ensure that we never again have to perform nuclear explosive testing on U.S. nuclear weapons."

The effort that D’Agostino describes entails a number of programs and tools that work together to maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear stockpile in the absence of underground nuclear explosive testing. They include:

The Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP), run by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), maintains the continued safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons in the absence of nuclear explosive testing. A key goal of the SSP is to increase scientific understanding of nuclear device performance, as well as the aging behavior of weapon materials and components to ensure a safe and effective nuclear deterrent.

Life Extension Programs (LEPs) extend the service life of the current weapons in the stockpile by using only nuclear components based on previously tested designs, thereby eliminating the need to conduct nuclear explosive tests. NNSA, in coordination with the Department of Defense (DoD), also performs alterations and modifications to the stockpile in order to sustain the warheads that underpin the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Advanced simulation and computing capabilities provide greatly increased confidence in the ability to model and evaluate the performance and safety of nuclear weapons without nuclear explosive testing. Computers have become at least a hundred-thousand times more powerful, and modern integrated design codes now more realistically capture the behavior of real nuclear devices.

Enhanced surveillance tools and models play critical roles in providing information essential to assessing weapon safety, security, and performance changes that would affect military effectiveness. The use of data from surveillance of our nuclear weapons enables us to predict how the weapons will perform over time without using underground nuclear explosive testing.

The Annual Assessment process of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile is the authoritative method for the DoD and NNSA to evaluate the safety, reliability, performance and military effectiveness of the nuclear weapons stockpile, and it is a principal tool in our ability to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent without nuclear explosive testing.

Finally, infrastructure modernization is being conducted in accordance with the Nuclear Posture Review. NNSA has identified a path for sustaining the nuclear deterrent while modernizing the supporting infrastructure without nuclear explosive testing. This modernization is implemented by focusing on recapitalization and refurbishment of existing infrastructure for plutonium, uranium, tritium, high-explosive production, non-nuclear component production, high-fidelity testing and waste disposition

All of these programs will be described in greater length in fact sheets that the State Department and the NNSA produced together. The first fact sheet with these overview details will be available today. I'll pass around an advance copy now.

The last U.S. explosive nuclear test is not the only anniversary happening this week. Sixteen years ago, this Monday, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was opened for signature. The United States signed the Treaty that same day.

U.S. ratification of the CTBT is in our national security interest. As stated in the April 2010 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review: "Ratification of the CTBT is central to leading other nuclear weapons states toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament."

Since we have maintained a 20-year moratorium on explosive nuclear testing, our policies and practices are consistent with the central prohibition of the Treaty. But ratification of the CTBT would be a significant affirmation of the importance the United States attributes to the international nonproliferation regime. More importantly, by hastening the day the Treaty enters into force, U.S. ratification would concretely contribute to reducing the role of nuclear weapons in international security.

With a global ban on nuclear explosive tests, states interested in pursuing nuclear weapons programs would have to either risk deploying weapons uncertain of their effectiveness, or face international condemnation for conducting nuclear tests. The CTBT would also subject suspected violators to the threat of intrusive on-site inspections – a further deterrent to those states tempted to carry out a nuclear test in the hope that it can be covered up.

It has been 12 years since the Senate voted against ratification of the Treaty. This Administration has been reviewing the lessons learned and it is clear the lack of support stemmed from concerns regarding the verifiability of the Treaty and our ability to ensure the continuing safety and reliability of America’s nuclear deterrent without nuclear explosive testing.

As I have already outlined with regard to our nuclear deterrent, our extensive surveillance methods and computational modeling developed under the Stockpile Stewardship Program over the last 15 years have allowed our nuclear experts to understand how nuclear weapons work and age even better than when nuclear explosive testing was conducted, as our national laboratory directors themselves affirmed to the Vice President.

The Treaty’s verification regime has also grown exponentially over the last decade. Today, the International Monitoring System (IMS) is roughly 85 percent complete and when fully completed, there will be IMS facilities in 89 countries spanning the globe. At entry into force, the full body of technical data gathered via the International Monitoring System will be available for verification purposes to all States Parties.

This system is already at work. It detected the two nuclear explosive tests announced by North Korea, and its capabilities will continue to improve as the system is completed. In addition, with the Fukushima nuclear crisis, we have seen the utility of the IMS for non-verification related purposes, such as tsunami warnings and tracking radioactivity from reactor accidents.

Entry into force also will bring to bear the option for an on-site inspection, which will help clarify ambiguities regarding a possible nuclear test.

Taken as a whole, the Treaty’s robust verification regime, which supplements our own state-of-the-art capabilities for monitoring, our national technical means, will severely challenge any state trying to conduct militarily significant explosive nuclear tests that escape detection.

As we look towards ratification of the CTBT, we acknowledge that the process will not be easy.

That said, the New START ratification process reinvigorated interest in the topic of nuclear weapons and arms control on Capitol Hill. I am optimistic that interest will continue as we engage with Members and staff on this Treaty.

I like to think of our efforts thus far as an "information exchange." We are working to get the facts out to Members and staff, many of whom have never dealt with this Treaty. We know that the key underlying issues are very technical in nature and we want people to absorb and understand the rationale behind it, that the Treaty is in the U.S. national security interest. There are no set timeframes to bring the Treaty to a vote, and we are going to be patient, but we will also be persistent.

To aid in further understanding of the Treaty, the Administration commissioned a number of classified and unclassified reports, including an updated National Intelligence Estimate and an independent National Academy of Sciences report, to assess the ability of the United States to monitor compliance with the treaty and the ability of the United States to maintain, in the absence of nuclear explosive testing, a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal so long as these weapons exist. Those reports and related materials will provide a wealth of information as the Senate considers the merits of ratification of the CTBT.

Of course, we do not expect people to be in receive-only mode – we anticipate and look forward to many substantive questions that will undoubtedly come from the Hill.

Looking outward, the Administration has been calling on the remaining Annex 2 States to join us in moving forward toward ratification. There is no reason for them to delay their own ratification processes because the U.S. has not yet ratified.

This Administration realizes that this will be a difficult task on many levels, but it is nonetheless committed to moving this Treaty forward, since the national security of the United States, and all states, will be enhanced when CTBT enters into force.

Thank you again for having me here and I am happy to take some questions

U.S. DEFENSE Contracts for September 26, 2012

Contracts for September 26, 2012

Kartierung von Erdrutschen in den Schweizer Alpen

Kartierung von Erdrutschen in den Schweizer Alpen

2012 GREEN POWER LEADERSHIP AWARD WINNERS

FROM: ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
EPA Honors Organizations for Supporting Green Power

WASHINGTON –
Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented its 12th annual Green Power Leadership Awards to 24 Green Power Partners and three suppliers for their achievements in advancing the nation’s renewable electricity market. For most municipalities, electricity usage is the single-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. By using green power, communities and businesses can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create local jobs, and improve public health.

"Our 2012 Green Power Leadership Award winners have not only demonstrated commendable civic leadership in their efforts to use renewable energy sources, they’ve also helped to reduce our carbon footprint and cut back on pollution – all while supporting America's growing renewable energy industry," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Thanks to their commitment -- and the commitment of all of our Green Power Partners -- our country is one step closer to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future."

"Green power" is electricity generated from renewable resources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas and low-impact hydro, and produces no net increase of greenhouse gas emissions. From purchasing 100-percent green power to installing large-scale solar panel arrays, the award winners help demonstrate that green power makes sense not only for Americans' health and environment but for business' bottom lines.

The 2012 Green Power Leadership Award winners are listed below in the following categories:

First-ever Sustained Excellence in Green Power: Intel Corporation, Kohl’s Department Stores, Staples, and Whole Foods Market
Green Power Partner of the Year: City of Austin, Texas; Hilton Worldwide; Microsoft Corporation; and the University of Oklahoma
Green Power Community of the Year: Beaverton, Ore. and Oak Park, Ill.
Green Power Purchasing: American University; Bloomberg L.P.; City of Philadelphia, Pa.; Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Kettle Foods; Lockheed Martin; McDonald’s USA, LLC; MOM’s Organic Market; NYSE Euronext; Quinnipiac University; TD Bank; and The North Face
On-site Generation: Coca-Cola Refreshments and Zotos International, Inc.
Green Power Supplier of the Year: Renewable Choice Energy and Sterling Planet
Innovative Green Power Program of the Year: Wellesley Municipal Light Plant

The 24 award-winning partners were chosen from more than 1,300 partner organizations. Utilities, renewable energy project developers and other green power suppliers were eligible to apply for the Supplier of the Year and Program of the Year awards.

EPA also announced the winners of the second annual Green Power Community Challenge, a national competition between communities to use renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to the Green Power Community of the Year award, Oak Park, Ill. also won the community challenge for achieving the highest green power percentage of total electricity use at 92 percent. Washington, D.C. also won the challenge for a second year in a row for using the most green power annually with more than one billion kilowatt-hours (kWh).

EPA, through the Green Power Partnership, works with partner organizations, over half of which are small businesses and nonprofit organizations, to reduce the environmental impacts of conventional electricity use. Partners are voluntarily using more than 23 billion kWh of green power annually. Through their use of green power, these organizations are avoiding carbon pollution equal to that created by the electricity use of more than two million average American homes each year.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

HELPING TROUBLED FRIENDS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Face of Defense: Soldier Intervenes to Help Troubled Friend
By Army Sgt. Megan Garcia
3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment


ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 25, 2012 - The day Army Sgt. Sheldon Benjamin's friend asked him if he wanted his TV, Sheldon knew that something just wasn't right.

"He was real teary faced -- a way that I just wasn't used to seeing him," said Benjamin, an infantryman with Honor Guard Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). "I told him to [unlatch] his door and that I would be over there in a little bit."

When Sheldon arrived to his friend's room, he was shocked at what he saw. Instantly, he knew his friend was in trouble.

"When I went into his room, there were weird things I just wasn't used to seeing," Benjamin said. "His room was really messy. There were little pills on the floor and the desk counter, and when I looked at his computer, I saw a MoneyGram website for transferring money."

However, no warning sign was more apparent than when Benjamin heard these four words: "I'm done with this."

Immediately, Benjamin staged an intervention, calling on other soldiers to come and sit with his friend while he went and sought help.

"I was relieved," said Army Spc. Andre Whyne, an infantryman with 4th Battalion, Headquarters and Headquarters Company. "I was really stressed out. I had a lot on my mind at that time, like family and a little bit of financial issues, and it all just caved in on me. When Benjamin and the other guys responded the way they did, I knew someone actually cared about me and was there for me."

Whyne gained hope after seeing how his comrades reacted to his distress. He credits the quick actions of Benjamin and his battle buddies, as well as the immense support of his unit, for saving his life. As he took steps toward his recovery, he said, members of The Old Guard were with him every step of the way.

"After everything happened, I was in the hospital for two weeks, and every day someone from my platoon came to visit me," Whyne said. "It felt good to have people there who understood me and what I was going through."

Whyne said Army Chaplain (Capt.) Mark Denning reached out to him not only as a source of spiritual strength, but also as a friend and a listening ear.

"At first I was very closed and didn't want to talk about it, but we continued to have regular meetings, and sometimes he would take me out to lunch," Whyne said. "Eventually, I was able to open up to him."

Denning said relating to Whyne on a more personal level was key.

"For me, the difference I can make is to get to know someone for who they really are outside of just the Army," the chaplain said. "I think everyone has worth, and being able to walk through that journey with Whyne was important. Caring about someone is not just what I say, but what I do."

Whyne went back to work immediately following his release from the hospital, although he said his chain of command was willing to give him as much time as he needed.

"The biggest role that the unit has to play is leaders and other soldiers not only have to be aware and alert to a soldier who is suicidal, but also have to be willing to step up and take action," said Army Col. Michelle Roberts, Military District of Washington public affairs officer, who worked for two years on an Army suicide-prevention task force.

"With the way everyone rallied around [Whyne] and helped him through that rough time, it was natural for him to come back to work, because he still felt like part of the team," she added.

Thanks to tremendous support, Whyne said, his outlook on life has definitely changed.

"I really didn't see where my life was going at that time, but now I know things aren't as bad as I thought they were," he said. "I once thought everyone was in their own world and nobody cared about each other, but now I know differently."

Whyne said he hopes his story will inspire other soldiers to reach out to someone if they are in a desperate place.

"Talk to your closest buddy in the Army or someone in your squad or platoon," he said. "They will help you through it. Without the help of my battle buddies, I never would have made it."

ESA bei Hamburger Klimanacht am 28. September 2012

ESA bei Hamburger Klimanacht am 28. September 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

DOD Contracts for September 25, 2012

Contracts for September 25, 2012

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

STATE DEPARTMENT COMMENTS ON CONVICTION OF VIETNAMESE BLOGGERS

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Conviction of Three Vietnamese Bloggers
Press Statement

Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson


Washington, DC

September 24, 2012

We are deeply troubled by the convictions of three Vietnamese bloggers who appear to have done nothing more than exercise their right to freedom of expression. Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) was sentenced to twelve years, Ta Phong Tan received ten years, and Phan Thanh Hai, four years. All face house arrest following completion of their sentences.

Punishing activists for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression is inconsistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These convictions are the latest in a series of moves by Vietnamese authorities to restrict freedom of expression. The Vietnamese government should release these three bloggers, all prisoners of conscience, and adhere to its international obligations immediately.

A free media is essential to an open and just society. As Secretary Clinton has noted, protection of human rights is a necessary step in developing a closer, more mature bilateral relationship.

HHS PUBLISHES SUMMARY OF BENEFITS AND COVERAGE AND UNIFORM GLOSSARY


As of September 23, 2012 or soon after, health insurance issuers and group health plans are required to provide you with an easy-to-understand summary about a health plan’s benefits and coverage. The new regulation is designed to help you better understand and evaluate your health insurance choices.

Monday, September 24, 2012

DOD Contracts for September 24, 2012

Contracts for September 24, 2012

Au revoir… et merci pour tout l’oxygène

Au revoir… et merci pour tout l’oxygène


ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER SPEAKS AT AARP MEETING

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Thank you, President Romasco, for those kind words – and for inviting me to be part of this important event. I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to join you today – and I want you to know that I’m delighted to be here. Last night, I had the chance to spend some time with my oldest daughter, who just started her freshman year of college here in New Orleans. It was wonderful to see her. However, after taking in the college scene – and trying to relate to it – I must admit that it’s good to be among my peers.

So, I want to thank you all for welcoming me this morning. And I’d especially like to thank the AARP – and its outstanding leadership team and conference organizers – for bringing us together and creating a forum for this critical discussion.

After more than five decades of activism and advocacy, AARP is now 37 million members strong – and I’m proud to be counted among them. I’m also proud to be part of an organization that is working tirelessly to help empower people over the age of 50; that is helping to raise awareness about issues of challenge and consequence – issues that affect our safety, health, and financial security; and – above all – that is actively encouraging America’s seniors "to serve, not to be served."

All across the country, AARP is leading efforts to instill this selfless spirit, to promote independence, and to inspire Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life to give back. Through initiatives like your "Create the Good" Campaign – and a host of programs and activities sponsored by the AARP Foundation – you’ve been instrumental in improving the quality of life for countless citizens as they enter their golden years. That’s especially true of your efforts to help aging Americans protect their hard-earned savings. For example, your "ElderWatch Project" – which, I understand, recently held a record-setting call-a-thon – is providing consumers with vital information on investment scams that target the "50 plus" population. The AARP Foundation, which now has seven call centers nationwide, is offering much-needed advice on how to guard against the latest telemarketing schemes. Through Webinars and Tele-town Halls, which showcase tips for helping seniors keep their money safe from scammers, you are reaching people in their own homes and communities. And by working with the U.S. Department of Justice to sponsor a series of Fraud Fighter Forums, you’re helping educate the public on how to avoid becoming victims of common financial scams. In these – and many other ways – you’ve proven your commitment to advancing the work we’ve gathered to discuss: preventing and combating financial fraud crimes.

This is a commitment that – at every level of today’s Justice Department and in each one of our 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices – my colleagues and I share. It’s been said – and I believe it’s true – that "the defining issue of our time… [is] how to keep the basic American promise alive." You understand what that promise is all about – a sense of peace and security, and an assurance that our financial playing field is fair, open, and transparent.

It’s no exaggeration to say that this promise is precisely what’s at stake in our fight against financial fraud. Many of you have seen firsthand how common fraud crimes can devastate individuals and families – wiping out retirement funds and life savings. You know they can erode faith in our financial markets, threaten our nation’s ongoing economic recovery, and undermine the fabric of our communities. Particularly in recent years, we’ve come to understand that these crimes are most frequently committed – not by sophisticated criminal networks targeting financial centers – but by seemingly-trustworthy individuals who are willing to prey on their own neighbors, parishioners, coworkers, and even family members.

In cities and towns across America, the scars of financial fraud crimes – whether from investment fraud or bank fraud, from consumer fraud or mortgage fraud – can be clearly seen. And, unfortunately, aging and elderly Americans are often targeted. In fact, a recent study showed that roughly one in five Americans over the age of 65 has been victimized by a financial swindle. The losses suffered by these victims each year are staggering – totaling nearly $3 billion in 2010 alone. That’s an increase of 12 percent over the amount estimated just two years earlier, in 2008. But behind these numbers are stories that shock our collective conscience and break our hearts; stories of lost savings and dreams; of bankruptcies, forced moves and foreclosures, and unexpected debt; of seniors who once hoped to retire in peace and with dignity, but are now searching for jobs and living in poverty, fear, desperation, and dependency. Each one of these stories is unacceptable. That’s why today’s Justice Department has taken significant – and in some cases historic – steps to fight back.

Protecting the American people from financial fraud crimes – and safeguarding the most vulnerable members of society – is, and will remain, a Justice Department priority. Over the last few years, we’ve been focused on working in bold, innovative, and collaborative ways – and on utilizing the power of sound science and new technologies – to combat these terrible crimes. And we’ve placed a special focus on standing with our nation’s seniors – and working with strong allies like AARP – to more effectively protect their interests, investments, and hard-earned savings.

As many of you know, one important step was taken in 2009, when the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force was established. It is the biggest and broadest coalition of law enforcement officials, investigators, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. I am honored to chair this group. And I can attest to its powerful impact – in helping to streamline the investigative and enforcement efforts of multiple agencies and offices; to enlist new partners from across the private sector, as well as state, local, and tribal governments; and to advance cutting-edge strategies for recovering – and most efficiently utilizing – precious taxpayer resources.

As a result of the Task Force, our approach to identifying and combating financial fraud has been smart, systematic, and effective – and our results speak for themselves. Over the last three years, we successfully executed not only the largest financial and health-care fraud takedowns on record – but also the biggest bank fraud prosecution in a generation. We’ve secured charges – and record sentences of up to 60 years – in a wide range of cases against CEOs, CFOs, corporate owners, board members, presidents, general counsels, and other executives of Wall Street firms, hedge funds, and banks engaged in fraudulent activities. And in February of this year, in cooperation with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 49 state attorneys general, and other partners – the Justice Department reached an historic $25-billion settlement with the nation’s top five mortgage servicers – the largest ever obtained. These results are a testament to the hard work of investigators, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and analysts at every level of the Justice Department, in each of our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and across a variety of partner agencies and organizations.

With these partners, we’ve also moved to stem the recent, troubling rise in investment fraud schemes – from Ponzi schemes, to what are known as "grandparent schemes," "lottery schemes," "affinity fraud," "phantom debt," and "strike it rich" scams – that frequently target elderly middle-class individuals. We’ve learned that these crimes can be carried out in person, on the telephone, by mail, and over the Internet; and we know that, far too often, these victims are robbed of most, if not all, of their retirement savings.

In the face of such criminal activity, our response has been – and will continue to be – aggressive. Since the beginning of last year, the Justice Department’s Criminal Division – and 85 U.S. Attorney’s Offices – have reported cases related to investor fraud. And we’ve placed a special priority on combating investor fraud at the retail level – where the total reported fraud since early 2011 now tops $20 billion. This staggering number includes individual cases involving tens of thousands of dollars – and many others involving hundreds of millions in hard-earned savings and many thousands of victims. Although the defendants in these federal prosecutions used a variety of tactics and schemes, they often took the same approach – guaranteeing high returns and, in many instances, providing falsified investment documents to victims. As a result, those victims lost retirement savings, military survivor benefits, family death settlements, and money set aside for college tuition and mortgage payments.

But I’m pleased to tell you that, since the beginning of last year, approximately 800 defendants have been charged, tried, pled or sentenced in approximately 500 federal prosecutions involving this type of investor fraud. Within just the last year, the Department has obtained a prison sentence of 50 years against an individual who preyed on more than 400 elderly victims in a $40 million Ponzi scheme; as well as a sentence of 10 years against another perpetrator who victimized over 200 seniors and retirees by advertising high returns and then losing their hard-earned money on high-risk investments. And – right here in New Orleans – we secured a sentence of 30 years against the man behind the largest Ponzi scheme in Louisiana history, who used roughly $15 million entrusted to him by more than 160 retirees to build a home for himself, buy jewelry and luxury cars, pay his friends and family, and make private investments of his own.

Now, these are just a few of many examples. And we can all be proud and encouraged by the decisive victories that have been achieved against those who would victimize their fellow citizens for personal gain. But – let me assure you – this is only the beginning.

To build on these successful efforts, earlier this year, the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force established two new Working Groups – a Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, which brings federal and state partners together to investigate and prosecute abuses in our housing markets; and a Consumer Protection Working Group, which aims to enhance civil and criminal enforcement of consumer fraud.

Both of these groups have hit the ground running – and are helping us to address specific areas of concern in a cohesive, comprehensive way. But I also recognize that building on this record, better understanding the evolving threats we face – and effectively protecting the economic interests of America’s "50 plus" population – is not something that the Justice Department, or any of our law enforcement partners, will be able to do alone.

In the fight against financial fraud, we cannot simply prosecute our way out of this problem. That’s why the Justice Department – in conjunction with U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the nation and our Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force partners – is reaching out to enlist the support of community members like all of you. We need your help in raising awareness about investor fraud and educating the American people about strategies for protecting themselves – some of which are as simple as reminding potential investors to do their homework before handing over their retirement savings, and to heed the old adage that "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." And we especially need your assistance in encouraging victims and members of the public to report suspected fraud schemes. Of all the shocking statistics I’ve come across, one of the most concerning is the fact that – according to a major AARP study – 3 out of 4 financial fraud victims over the age of 55 are unlikely to report that they’ve been victimized. That rate is significantly higher than any other age group. And we all have a role to play in reversing this trend and making sure that victims know where they can – and why they must – report schemes and suspicious activities.

Such public education efforts are a key area of focus for the Justice Department, and – specifically – for the Consumer Protection Working Group. In fact, just this past March, the Working Group convened a consumer summit that brought together federal and state law enforcement officials, regulators, and consumer advocates in order to discuss strategies, emerging schemes, and methods for advancing our education and outreach efforts – and making certain that these efforts reach America’s seniors and other high-risk groups. A similar meeting was held in June. And the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch – which is part of the Civil Division – has met at least twice with AARP experts to discuss emerging trends in consumer fraud, and to help direct and focus precious resources.

I also want to note that, t oday, in Los Angeles, the local U.S. Attorney will be hosting a Consumer Education Fair to help local residents, including veterans and the elderly, learn how to detect and avoid common scams. And, in the first two weeks of October, local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, under the auspices of our Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, will lead a series of regional Investor Fraud Summits – in Connecticut, California, Colorado, Tennessee, Ohio, and Florida. These summits will provide a unique educational platform – by bringing together U.S. Attorneys, Justice Department prosecutors, representatives from the SEC and other federal agencies, as well as advocates from organizations like AARP and the Better Business Bureau, and – perhaps the best experts of all – investor fraud victims. Additionally, in the coming weeks, the Department will partner with the Certified Financial Planner Board and the Foundation for Public Planning – in an unprecedented event – to offer free financial consulting services to 8,000 victims – many of them seniors – of an investment fraud scheme that was indicted in Chicago.

As we continue this work, I can assure you that today’s Justice Department will never hesitate to move swiftly – and fairly – to enforce our laws and bring those who commit financial fraud crimes to justice; and to help provide Americans with the tools and information they need to protect themselves. Through new resources like the website, www.stopfraud.gov, and with a new level of engagement across government agencies, private industries, and communities, we’re making important strides. But we have more to learn – and much more to do. According to the Administration on Aging, within roughly the next decade and a half, nearly 72 million Americans will be over the age of 65. That’s nearly 20% of the entire population. With this in mind, we must – and we will – continue to be vigilant.

That’s where you – and organizations like AARP – come in. If we are going to achieve the goals we share – and provide all Americans, especially our seniors, with the support they need and deserve, then we must work together like never before – to identify and monitor fraud crimes; to stop them in their tracks by encouraging all Americans to remain vigilant; to educate seniors about the need to approach potential investments with caution; and, most importantly, to help report suspected fraud schemes to the appropriate authorities. As AARP members, each of you has an opportunity – and, I believe, a responsibility – to take advantage of the resources that this organization, in cooperation with our nation’s Justice Department, has made available to you. And we all have an obligation to help spread the word, and share knowledge and expertise, throughout our communities.

With your commitment to this work, and AARP’s continued partnership and engagement, I’m confident that – as we conclude this conference – we stand poised to build upon the momentum we’ve established, and to take our anti-fraud efforts to a new level. I am proud to count each of you as colleagues – and as partners – in this ongoing work. And I look forward to where our joint efforts must – and surely will – take us from here.

Thank you.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weekly Address: Congress Must Act to Create Jobs and Grow the Economy | The White House

Weekly Address: Congress Must Act to Create Jobs and Grow the Economy | The White House

THERMAL GRADIENT AND LIFE ALONG THE COAST

FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Where North Meets South in the Sea

July 24, 2012

The Atlantic Ocean off Nova Scotia ... and off Florida.

Along some 2,000 miles, its waters go from icy to steamy. Can a marine species live in both temperatures--and everywhere in between?

If it's a small fish known as the Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia), it can.

The East Coast of North America has one of the fastest water temperature changes, which scientists call a thermal gradient, of any ocean or sea. It plummets 1 degree Celsius for each degree of latitude.

What effect does this steep thermal gradient have on marine species that live along the Atlantic Seaboard? How do they adapt to the extreme differences?

A study by marine scientist David Conover, currently director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences--along with Lyndie Hice and Tara Duffy of Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., and Stephan Munch of NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz, Calif.--shows that Atlantic silversides reflect the drop in water temperature in changes in their genetics.

Atlantic silversides range from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada to northeastern Florida in the U.S. Walk along any East Coast shoreline and you're likely to see one--or a school of them--flashing silver in the shallows.

The fish are often found swimming in brackish waters, such as near the mouths of rivers and streams that connect with the sea. They're among the most common piscine residents of the world's largest such estuary, the Chesapeake Bay.

The small fish gather in salt marshes, which offer shelter for spawning and a haven from predators such as striped bass.

Atlantic silversides fuel coastal food webs from north to south. They're also a common subject of scientific research because of their sensitivity to environmental changes.

Conover and colleagues recently published the results of their study of these ubiquitous fish in the journal Ecology Letters. Hice is the lead author.

The study, she says, is the most comprehensive look at genetic variation across latitudes in a marine species.

"The Atlantic silverside is a fish that survives in a spectrum of water temperatures. There's also extensive mixing of its populations throughout its range. Scientists once assumed that all such populations would have similar traits, but we found otherwise."

Despite a blending of Atlantic silverside populations across latitudes, "the fish show remarkable genetic differences over very short distances," says Conover.

For example, the fish's maximum growth rate, and its number of vertebrae, are different in populations as little as 60 kilometers (37 miles) apart.

Conover and colleagues conducted experiments on Atlantic silversides from 39 locations along the fish's 3,000 kilometer (1,864 mile) range, mapping genetic variation in growth rate, number of vertebrae and sex determination.

They initially hypothesized that areas along the coastline where there are abrupt changes in climate, such as North Carolina's Cape Hatteras, would be places where the traits of silversides would rapidly shift in concert.

Instead they found that each trait varied uniquely with latitude--and not necessarily where expected.

The growth rate of silversides, for example, is fastest in northernmost populations.

"These patterns tell us that natural selection appears to be acting independently on each trait," says Hice.

Relationships between environmental gradients and local populations within a single species, say the scientists, are more complex than anyone thought.

"Knowledge of the conditions that lead to local adaptations in growth rate and other traits," says Conover, "will improve management of marine species and fish stocks--and our understanding of the effects of a changing environment."

As water temperatures warm with climate change, what will happen to fish like Atlantic silversides?

"Understanding how marine species adapt to changes in climate with latitude," says Conover, tells us a lot about their capacity to weather climate change in the future.

As climate and water temperatures warm, Atlantic silversides may someday splash their way north as far as Newfoundland, Labrador--and well beyond.

Cheryl Dybas, NSF

Federal Aid Programs for the State of Alabama Disaster Recovery

Federal Aid Programs for the State of Alabama Disaster Recovery


Friday, September 21, 2012

Behind the Scenes Video: Team USA at the White House | The White House

Behind the Scenes Video: Team USA at the White House | The White House

Hasta luego… y gracias por el oxígeno

Hasta luego… y gracias por el oxígeno

Contracts for September 21, 2012

Contracts for September 21, 2012

ESA übergibt Kontrolle über Wettersatelliten MetOp-B an EUMETSAT

ESA übergibt Kontrolle über Wettersatelliten MetOp-B an EUMETSAT

Contracts for September 20, 2012

Contracts for September 20, 2012

TERRITORIAL DISPUTES IN ASIA

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Maritime Territorial Disputes and Sovereignty Issues in Asia

Testimony

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Washington, DC

September 20, 2012

Chairman Webb, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on these critically important issues.

Before I begin, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Chairman Webb, for your leadership on this issue and for your work to enhance our engagement with the Asia-Pacific region, particularly Southeast Asia. Your strong voice on this Committee and in the Senate to draw attention to East Asian and Pacific issues is greatly appreciated. You and your Subcommittee have played a fundamental role in sustaining the rich bipartisan tradition of engaging the Asia-Pacific and advancing U.S. interests in the region. Working together, it is as important as ever to demonstrate without question the enduring nature of this bipartisan commitment.

The United States is and will remain a Pacific power, bound to the Asia-Pacific region by virtue of our geography, history, alliances, economic ties and people. Much of the history of the 21st century will undoubtedly be written in this dynamic region, which today accounts for more than half the world’s GDP and nearly half of its trade, is a key driver of innovation, and houses some of the fastest growing economies in the world. The Asia-Pacific holds vast opportunity, but still faces tremendous challenges that, if not addressed, will pose significant risk to the future of the region and America’s interests as well.

The United States is intensifying its focus on the Asia-Pacific, recognizing that greater strategic investment in the region will be essential to both seize opportunities and address challenges. We are taking steps to strengthen our alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines. We are deepening partnerships with new and emerging partners, like Singapore, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Vietnam and taking steps to strengthen unofficial relations with Taiwan. As Secretary Clinton noted in her recent visit to Beijing, we are also working tirelessly to build a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China and write a new, constructive answer to the age-old question of what happens when an established power and an emerging power meet.

Beyond our bilateral relationships, a critical evolution in American strategy in the Asia-Pacific has been an unprecedented commitment to engaging the region’s multilateral institutions – principally, ASEAN, the Pacific Island Forum and APEC – and supporting their evolution into more effective, solutions-oriented bodies. We have taken systematic steps to elevate our economic statecraft in the region to help fuel the U.S. recovery, as exemplified by July’s U.S.-ASEAN Business Forum, which brought together the largest grouping of U.S. and ASEAN governments and business leaders ever to discuss shared opportunities. We are expanding our economic ties to the region and refocusing our efforts to build a level playing field so that American companies can compete and win. In addition, as you know, we have embarked upon a comprehensive defense strategy to develop a force posture in the region that can better respond to non-traditional security threats, protect allies and partners, and ultimately defend U.S. national interests. Finally, we remain steadfast in our commitment to advance freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Senator Webb, your efforts with respect to Burma have played an essential role in this regard. Each element of this strategy is mutually reinforcing and meant to positively affect the Asia-Pacific strategic environment and to advance peace, prosperity, and security.

As the United States pivots to the Asia-Pacific region, the recent spate of disputes in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Sea of Japan are sending reverberations throughout the region, threatening instabilities that could undermine U.S. interests.

Let me begin by noting recent developments in the South China Sea. The South China Sea is a vital throughway for global commerce and energy. Half the world’s merchant tonnage flows through the South China Sea and over 15 million barrels of oil per day transited the Straits of Malacca last year. We cannot afford to allow disputes in the South China Sea to endanger the global economy, our recovery, or regional security: diplomatic approaches must prevail.

Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam each claim sovereignty over parts of the South China Sea, including its land features. The parties vary widely in their claims, as well as the intensity and manner in which they assert them.

Despite the fact that tensions in the South China Sea have ebbed and flowed for decades, the most important feature of these disputes is that, with rare exceptions, countries have chosen the path of peace, diplomacy, and shared prosperity to address them. Even following heightened tensions in the 1990s, including the events at Mischief Reef in 1995, ASEAN and China resolved to reach agreement on a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. While non-binding, the 2002 Declaration was an important milestone, built upon the 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea and unequivocally signaling a willingness among the parties to approach disputes multilaterally. In the 2002 Declaration, ASEAN and China committed to respect freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, and to resolve their disputes through peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force. They also committed to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including steps to inhabit presently uninhabited land features.

Nevertheless, the region entered into a new period of heightened tensions beginning in 2007, stemming in part from the combination of an increasingly intense demand for natural resources, including hydrocarbons, and rapidly improving capabilities to extract resources in deep water. Additionally, fishing stocks in coastal and inland areas have significantly declined due to overfishing and environmentally harmful techniques, pushing fishing fleets further offshore into the South China Sea.

Complex domestic political dynamics in each of these countries are also a significant factor in efforts to build lasting and peaceful solutions. The separate incidents this year involving the Philippines, Vietnam and China, underscore this deeply complex environment.

U.S. policy toward the South China Sea has been both consistent and well-coordinated. Our strategy strives to set a context for peaceful approaches to disputes in the region, with the long-term goal of supporting a rules-based order, undergirded by agreements and strong institutions, that can support the management and, ultimately, resolution of the disputes. In order to promote a stable environment in the region, the United States has clearly articulated our principles and interests in accordance with long-standing policy. As Secretary Clinton has made clear, as a Pacific nation and resident power, the United States has a national interest in the maintenance of peace and stability; respect for international law; unimpeded lawful commerce; and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. The United States does not take a position on the competing sovereignty claims over land features in the South China Sea, and we continue to encourage all parties to take steps to address these disputes diplomatically and in a collaborative manner. We oppose the use of coercion, intimidation, threats, or force by any claimant to advance its claims. We believe that claimants should explore every diplomatic and other peaceful means for dispute resolution, including the use of arbitration or other international legal mechanisms. In order to decrease the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation, we continue to urge all parties to clarify and pursue their territorial and maritime claims in terms consistent with international law, including the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.

For our part, we can strengthen our hand in engaging disputes in the South China Sea by joining the Law of the Sea Convention. As the Secretary emphasized when she testified before the full Committee in May, "[O]ur navigational rights and our ability to challenge other countries’ behavior should stand on the firmest and most persuasive legal footing available, including in critical areas such as the South China Sea. . . . [A]s a party to the convention, we would have greater credibility in invoking the convention’s rules and a greater ability to enforce them."

Over the past several months, we have closely watched incidents and activities by multiple parties that have raised tensions in the region. We have maintained close, direct dialogue with the Philippines, Vietnam, China, other ASEAN members, and ASEAN as a whole, facilitated by our Mission and Resident Ambassador to ASEAN located in Jakarta. In the past several years, we have substantially increased the level and frequency of our engagements with ASEAN which has significantly improved our ability to address tensions. We have also sustained substantial dialogue with other countries that have critical interests in the region, including India, Japan, Australia, Russia, as well as the European Union, to explore how we can work together to foster a peaceful, stable environment. In multilateral channels, we remain committed to advancing a collaborative and diplomatic course of action in ASEAN-based meetings, particularly the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit.

We have also coordinated closely with our colleagues at the Department of Defense to ensure that our South China Sea diplomacy is supported by an effective and well-calibrated defense strategy.

A consistent and critical element of our approach has been exercising U.S. leadership and maintaining public engagement when necessary to underscore the importance of peaceful and diplomatic approaches to disputes. Most recently, the United States released a statement on August 3 which reaffirmed U.S. interests, raised concerns about recent incidents, and urged the parties involved to take necessary steps to lower tensions. The statement was eagerly welcomed by key ASEAN states, contributing to a cooler political environment and helping to set the stage for progress on ASEAN-China Code of Conduct discussions.

We support ASEAN and China’s efforts to develop an effective Code of Conduct, as called for in the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration. History has shown that a region united by rules and norms enjoys greater peace and stability, and a Code of Conduct can be an important element of the emerging rules-based order in the region. While it is up to the parties to agree to the terms of a Code of Conduct, we believe that it should be based on the widely accepted and universal principles of the UN Charter, the international law of the sea, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and the 2002 Declaration on Conduct. An effective Code of Conduct would also create a rules-based framework for managing and regulating the conduct of parties in the South China Sea, including preventing and managing disputes.

We also encourage relevant parties to explore new cooperative arrangements for managing the exploitation of resources in the South China Sea. For example, as Secretary Clinton discussed at the ASEAN Regional Forum this July in Cambodia, this could include equitable joint exploration and exploitation arrangements for hydrocarbon resources in areas of unresolved claims. Joint exploration would not only allow claimants to reap material benefits, but could also help to build the habits of cooperation and collaboration that will ultimately be needed to resolve these disputes.

I would now like to say a word about other maritime disputes that are currently roiling the region, different but equally complex situations, where territorial disputes over the Senkaku Islands and Liancourt Rocks (known to the Japanese as Takeshima, and Korea as Dokdo) have flared up in recent months. In both cases, as with the South China Sea disputes, the United States has reiterated its long-held position that it does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the land features in question, and that the claimants should address their differences peacefully. The United States has an interest in peaceful relations among all of our Northeast Asian partners and allies, and has nothing to gain from seeing the situation escalate.

Given the intense level of commerce and people-to-people ties among these three great Northeast Asian nations of China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, and the extraordinary potential costs of conflict, we are hopeful that all involved will make sincere efforts to settle their disputes amicably. These economies account for a fifth of global GDP and if not appropriately managed these tensions can pose risk to the necessary foundation of global economic recovery: security and stability. As Secretary Clinton said when meeting with the APEC nations in Vladivostok this month, now is the time for everyone to make efforts to reduce tensions and strengthen diplomatic involvement. We have made this point both publicly and privately to all of the countries involved.

The United States has no better or closer allies than Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK). For more than half a century, our alliances with both countries have undergirded peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific and have provided a context for regional and global economic growth and prosperity. As the United States increases its strategic investments in the Asia-Pacific, our close and enduring ties with the ROK and Japan will remain the fulcrum of this pivot, and tensions between our closest allies damage our strategic interests.

Over the past several years, the U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral relationship has become an increasingly important engine for promoting our mutual national security goals both in the region and around the world. From our cooperative efforts to put a stop to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and promote the human rights of its people, to our coordinated actions to address Iran’s nuclear program, to our efforts to address maritime piracy off the Horn of Africa, to our shared work to promote democracy and good governance in Burma and around the world, the United States, Japan, and South Korea enjoy an active and growing partnership on a global scale.

A key pillar of this trilateral partnership is the ROK-Japan relationship. The United States welcomes both countries’ efforts to strengthen their political, economic, security, and people-to-people ties, as well as to address in a constructive and future-oriented manner the differences between them. As we enter the second decade of the Asia-Pacific century, we have every hope and expectation – and we will do what is necessary to ensure – that the ties and cooperation between and among the United States, Japan, and the ROK will continue to strengthen in every way.

A stable and productive Japan-China relationship is also in the strategic interest of the United States and the region as a whole. We have been concerned by the rising tensions in Sino-Japanese relations over the Senkaku Islands, the violence of anti-Japanese protests in China, and the potential for miscalculation or accidents in the East China Sea that could lead to even greater tension. We have consistently urged both sides to take steps to defuse the situation and resolve their differences peacefully.

RACE BASED HIRING CASE SETTLED IN CINCINNATI

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Meyer Tool will pay $325,000 to 60 African-American applicants to settle US Labor Department allegations of racial discrimination at Cincinnati plant

CINCINNATI — The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has reached an agreement with federal contractor Meyer Tool Inc. to settle findings of race-based hiring discrimination. Under a consent judgment approved by a Labor Department administrative law judge, Meyer Tool will pay $325,000 in back wages and interest to 60 qualified African-American applicants who were rejected for entry-level machinist positions at the company's manufacturing plant in Cincinnati. Meyer Tool also will extend job offers to at least 11 members of the original class as positions become available.

"Workers should never be denied a fair shot at employment because of factors that have absolutely nothing to do with their ability to do the job," said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu. "I am pleased that we were able to reach a fair settlement with Meyer Tool — one that will provide remedies to the affected workers and guarantee that, going forward, qualified applicants of all races and backgrounds will have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field for good jobs."

Based on a compliance review of the facility, OFCCP investigators determined that Meyer Tool had failed to ensure qualified job applicants received equal consideration for employment without regard to race as required by Executive Order 11246. The department filed an administrative complaint on Nov. 19, 2010, alleging systematic discrimination on the part of the company.

Under the terms of the consent judgment, Meyer Tool not only will provide financial remedies and job offers to the affected workers, but also will maintain employment records as required by law, provide equal employment opportunity training to all employees involved in the hiring process and submit detailed progress reports on this front to OFCCP for the next two years.

Cincinnati-based Meyer Tool manufactures engine parts, primarily for the aerospace industry, and is one of the area's largest private companies. During the period of OFCCP's review, Meyer Tool held contracts worth nearly $300,000 to provide engines and engine parts to the U.S. Army.

In addition to Executive Order 11246, OFCCP enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. As amended, these three laws require those who do business with the federal government, both contractors and subcontractors, to follow the fair and reasonable standard that they not discriminate in employment on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Remarks at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Remarks at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

CJCS Dempsey speaks at the Association's Air and Space Conference

CJCS Dempsey speaks at the Association's Air and Space Conference

DOD Contracts for September 19, 2012

Contracts for September 19, 2012

Million Hearts Recognition Ceremony

Million Hearts Recognition Ceremony

U.S.-MEXICO SIGN AGREEMENT ON GENDER EQUALITY

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

United States-Mexico Sign Agreement to Collaborate in Promoting Gender Equality
Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

September 18, 2012

Today, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa signed the U.S.-Mexico
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Promotion of Gender Equality, the Empowerment of Women and Women’s Human Rights prior to the Merida Initiative High-Level Consultative Group meeting.

This MOU demonstrates the U.S. and Mexican commitment to full integration of gender equality into our bilateral relationship. It recognizes the essential role women play as agents of change in society as well as their contributions to the economic development, democratic institutions, citizen security, and prosperity of both nations.

The United States and Mexico agreed to cooperate on gender equality efforts and initiatives in a number of key areas, including but not limited to:

1. Promoting economic empowerment and opportunity for women and girls;

2. Promoting social development that supports gender equality;

3. Strengthening citizen security, with a particular focus on women and girls;

4. Promoting increased access to justice.

The MOU reflects Secretary Clinton and the Department of State’s commitment to integrating the advancement of women and girls fully into the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy.

SOLAR PANEL MANUFACTURER CHARGED WITH DEFRAUDING INVESTORS

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
On September 6, 2012 the Securities and Exchange Commission charged a solar panel manufacturer headquartered in South San Francisco and three of its former executives with defrauding investors by concealing the transfer of nearly half of the ownership stake in its Chinese subsidiary to three individuals in China who manage the subsidiary.

The SEC alleges that Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing USA Inc. (WEMU) raised nearly $9 million from U.S. investors in early 2010 in order to expand its solar subsidiary based in Rugao City, China. The Chinese subsidiary represented the bulk of WEMU's operations and generated 77 percent of the company's revenue the previous year. In a power point presentation at road shows and in other communications with investors, the company's founder and chairman of the board Jimmy Wang and the company's president Jeffrey Watson touted the solar subsidiary's success as the primary growth area for the company and represented that the company fully owned its Chinese subsidiary. They neglected to tell investors that WEMU actually was set to transfer 49 percent of the equity in the Chinese subsidiary to its three managers. This critical ownership deal was not disclosed in the company's filings or offering documents. Later, Wang and his wife Mindy Wang, who served as the company's vice president, secretary and treasurer, went so far as to sign additional agreements to effectuate the transfer that were concealed from WEMU's board and auditors.

WEMU, the Wangs, and Watson agreed to settle the SEC's charges.

According to the SEC's complaint filed in federal court in San Francisco, because the company's future success depended on the technical expertise and sales connections of the three Chinese solar managers, WEMU entered into a stock option agreement with them in January 2008 that included consideration for a future change in organizational structure. The Chinese subsidiary grew dramatically over the next year and quickly became WEMU's most profitable subsidiary. In February 2009, Jimmy Wang signed two key agreements on behalf of WEMU to share 49 percent of the Chinese subsidiary's net profits with the solar managers and to transfer 49 percent of the subsidiary's equity to them in February 2010. Failure to disclose these agreements resulted in WEMU filing false and misleading quarterly reports for the first three quarters of 2009 and first quarter of 2010.

According to the SEC's complaint, WEMU management began planning a capital raise in the fall of 2009 so it could expand its solar operations by building a factory in China to manufacture solar panels. When Jimmy Wang and Watson went out to raise money from investors in early 2010, there was no mention of the agreement to transfer an ownership stake. Instead, in order to avoid informing investors about the profit sharing arrangement and contractual obligation to transfer equity to the Chinese subsidiary's managers, Jimmy and Mindy Wang traveled to China in March 2010 to secretly sign a set of side agreements that allowed the solar managers to begin the registration process with the Chinese government to effectuate the transfer. Both Jimmy and Mindy Wang concealed these side agreements from WEMU's auditors, other executives, and its board of directors. The company's failure to report the transfer of the solar subsidiary resulted in a material overstatement of net income to WEMU's reported financial statements.

The SEC's complaint charges all defendants with violating Sections 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Sections 10(b) and 13(b)(5) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ("Exchange Act") and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC further charges WEMU with violating Sections 13(a) and 13(b)(2)(A) and (B) of the Exchange Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, 13a-11 and 13a-13 thereunder. The SEC charges the individual defendants with falsifying books and records and making false or misleading statements to auditors in violation of Exchange Act Rules 13b2-1 and 13b2-2, and with aiding and abetting WEMU's violations of Sections 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and (B) of the Exchange Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, 13a-11 and 13a-13. The SEC further charges Jimmy Wang and Watson with filing false certifications in violation of Rule 13a-14 of the Exchange Act and Section 906 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

Without admitting or denying the SEC's allegations, WEMU agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty and be permanently enjoined from future violations of antifraud, reporting, books and records and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws. The Wangs and Watson consented to permanent bars from serving as officers or directors of a public company and agreed to be permanently enjoined from future violations of the antifraud and other provisions of the federal securities laws. Mindy Wang and Watson each agreed to pay penalties of $50,000. The terms of the settlement with Jimmy Wang reflect credit given to him by the Commission for his substantial assistance in the investigation and the fact that he has entered into a cooperation agreement to assist in the ongoing investigation.