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Sunday, March 31, 2013

HEALTH EDUCATION CAMPAIGN TARGETS SMOKERS WITH STORIES

FROM: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL
Education campaign returns with powerful stories to help Americans quit smoking

Campaign to expose tragic health impact of smoking

Continuing with the success of last year’s national education ad campaign, "Tips from Former Smokers," a second series of ads was launched today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The ads, funded by the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, feature compelling stories of former smokers living with smoking-related diseases and disabilities. Beginning Monday, ads will run for at least 12 weeks on television, radio, and billboards, online, and in theaters, magazines, and newspapers nationwide.

"This campaign is saving lives and saving dollars by giving people the facts about smoking in an easy-to-understand way that encourages quitting," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. This campaign is effective. The increase in calls to quitlines after last year’s campaign shows that more people are trying to quit smoking as a result of these ads."

The messages in these new ads are emotional, telling the story of how real people’s lives were changed forever due to their smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. The ads feature smoking-related health conditions— including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, more severe adult asthma, and complications from diabetes, such as blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and amputation—and candidly describe the losses from smoking and the gains from quitting.

"Smoking and secondhand smoke kill – and they also harm smokers and non-smokers. The Tips from Former Smokers campaign shows the painful effects of smoking through former smokers, in a way that numbers alone cannot," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "These are the kinds of ads that smokers tell us help motivate them to quit, saving lives and money."

The new ads feature Tiffany, who lost her mother when she was 16 to lung cancer, and recently quit smoking herself as her own daughter turned 16 because she did not want her daughter to suffer the way she did; Bill, a 40-year-old with diabetes whose smoking led to heart surgery, blindness in one eye, amputation, and kidney failure; Michael, who suffers from COPD, and is agonizing about how to tell his grandson he may not be around to share his life much longer; as well as Nathan, who suffered severe lung damage from secondhand smoke exposure at work. And, a new ad featuring Terrie, who appeared in last year’s ads showing what a head and neck cancer survivor has to do to "get ready for the day," and who wishes she had recorded her voice before she had to have her voicebox removed, since her grandson has never heard any voice but her current one.

Despite the known dangers of tobacco use, nearly one in five adults in the United States still smoke. Almost 90 percent of smokers started before they were 18, and many of them experience life-changing health effects at a relatively early age. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body. A "tip" from Bill, the ad participant with diabetes: "Make a list. Put the people you love at the top. Put down your eyes, your legs, your kidneys, and your heart. Now cross off all the things you’re OK with losing because you’d rather smoke."

The ads that ran last year had immediate and strong impact. Compared with the same 12-week period in 2011, overall call volume to 1-800-QUIT-NOW more than doubled during the Tips campaign, and visits to the campaign website for quit help increased by more than five times.

More than 440,000 Americans each year lose their lives to smoking-related diseases, and for every one death 20 more continue living with one or more serious illnesses from smoking. Nearly 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit. This education campaign provides motivation, information, and quit help to those who want it.

U.S. HONORS REVEREND UESIFILI UNASA

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

U.S. Department of State Honors Reverend Uesifili Unasa of New Zealand as the International Exchange Alumni Member of the Month
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 29, 2013
 

The U.S. Department of State has selected Reverend Uesifili Unasa of New Zealand as April’s International Exchange Alumni Member of the Month. Throughout April, Rev. Unasa will be recognized on the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ International Exchange Alumni website for his dedication to New Zealand’s Pasifika and other marginalized communities. Each month, the Bureau’s Alumni Affairs Division, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, confers this award on an outstanding alumnus or alumna.

Rev. Unasa visited Washington, D.C. as a participant in the 2011 Community Activism and Minority Rights International Visitor Leadership Program IVLP) and stood at the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous 1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Inspired by Dr. King’s example, Rev. Unasa returned to New Zealand to support New Zealand’s marginalized communities. He mobilized New Zealand’s various Pacific Island - or Pasifika - communities to take part in "The Advance Pasifika March for Our Future" making their social, economic, political, and cultural concerns known.

As Chairperson of the Auckland Mayor’s Pacific People’s Advisory Panel, he organized a dialogue with Pasifika church leaders, politicians, community groups, and members of New Zealand’s LGBT communities to share their perspectives on gay marriage. He is also active in the Living Wage campaign which seeks fair wages for unskilled and manual laborers. He organized consultations between Pasifika communities and the government on New Zealad’s ongoing constitutional review. Working with a Maori Anglican vicar, a Fijian Indian Muslim academic, and New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner, Rev. Unasa drafted and launched the "Interfaith National Settlement against Violence" campaign for women and children, which was signed by more than 40 faith-based organizations and national leaders.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Tools for Student Loan Borrowers

New Tools for Student Loan Borrowers

WWII PILOT'S REMAINS IDENTIFIED

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Missing World War II Pacific Theater Pilot Identified
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2013 - The remains of a serviceman from World War II have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors, the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office announced in a DOD news release issued today.

Army 1st Lt. John E. Terpning, of Mount Prospect, Ill., will be buried on April 3 in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va. On May 7, 1944, Terpning was a pilot of a B-24D Liberator aircraft that departed Nadzab, New Guinea, on a bombing mission.

Due to mechanical troubles, the B-24D was delayed in departing the airbase and was unable to join the formation after takeoff. The aircraft, Terpning, nor the nine other crewmen aboard the plane were seen after takeoff. In 1946, the War Department declared all ten men to be presumed dead.

In 1973, a Papua New Guinea Forest Department official reported a wartime aircraft in the mountains northeast of the city of Lae. In October 1973, a team of Royal Australian Air Force members responded to the report and visited the site, where they found aircraft wreckage that corresponded to that of a B-24D.

At that time the RAAF recovered possible human remains, which were transferred to the U.S. Army Mortuary in Tachikawa, Japan. However, given the limited technology at that time, no human remains were individually identified. In 1974, the remains were buried as a group at Arlington National Cemetery.

In April 2008, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team was sent to investigate and survey the crash site. The team recovered aircraft wreckage from a B-24D and additional remains, including a radio call sign data plate that matched the aircraft.

To identify the remains, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools such as dental comparisons and mitochondrial DNA, which matched Terpning's brother.

At the end of World War II, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans. Today, more than 73,000 Americans are unaccounted-for from that conflict.

TSA EXPEDITES SCREENINGS OF WOUNDED WARRIORS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
TSA Expedites Airport Screening for Wounded Warriors
From a Transportation Security Administration News Release

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 - The Transportation Security Administration now offers expedited airport screening to severely injured members of the armed forces.

In addition to offering curb-to-gate service, TSA now allows wounded warriors to move through security checkpoints without having to remove shoes, light outerwear jackets or hats, officials said.

"In recognition of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, we have revised our screening requirements to allow expedited screening for this trusted group of citizens," said John Halinski, TSA's deputy administrator and 25-year Marine Corps veteran.

To be eligible for this service, a wounded warrior or traveling companion should email the Military Severely Injured Joint Services Operations Center,
MSIJSOC@dhs.gov, or call 1-888-262-2396 with itinerary information for the traveling party. Traveling companions will receive standard screening.

TSA also provides expedited screening for service members. At airport checkpoints nationwide, military personnel in uniform with proper identification, whether traveling on official orders or not, are not required to remove their shoes or boots unless they set off alarms.

In addition, TSA offers expedited screening for service members, including reservists and National Guard members, at the following airports:

-- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall;

-- Charlotte Douglas International;

-- Denver International;

-- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International;

-- Honolulu International;

-- Lambert-St. Louis International;

-- Ronald Reagan Washington National;

-- Seattle-Tacoma International; and

-- Washington Dulles International.

Wounded Warriors also may enroll in "TSA Pre-check," which allows eligible passengers to volunteer information about themselves to expedite their screening experience.

Eligible passengers include U.S. citizens who opt in through a participating airline or enroll in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler program, including Global Entry, SENTRI and NEXUS.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Women's History Month at the White House | The White House

Women's History Month at the White House | The White House

More moms breastfeeding | Daily Healthbeat

More moms breastfeeding | Daily Healthbeat

A MOST WANTED FUGITIVE KILLER CAPTURED IN CALIFORNIA

FROM: U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE
U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted Fugitive Killer and Escapee Captured in California

Washington, D.C.
– A convicted killer and prison escapee who was added to the U.S. Marshals Service 15 Most Wanted fugitive list just 11 days ago was arrested Monday in California.

Two alert Los Angeles police officers arrested Keana Barnes after they came across her near the area known as Skid Row. After initially refusing to identify herself, Barnes confessed her identity and said she was wanted for escaping from a Louisiana prison.

Her arrest ends a multi-agency, nationwide search for the convicted killer who escaped from the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in January. Barnes was discovered missing and prison officials found broken glass from the window in her cell. Barnes was serving a 25-year sentence after being convicted on two counts of manslaughter in 2002.

"The apprehension of Keana Barnes bodes well for the safety and security of our citizenry. I am personally gratified by the effort put forth by the entire law enforcement community in securing her arrest," said U.S. Marshal Kevin Harrison, Middle District of Louisiana. "Movies often portray running from the law as a glamorous, carefree adventure – the truth of the matter is nothing can be more stressful. I have no doubt the pressure applied by the U.S. Marshals made her life extremely difficult from the minute she ran to the minute she was caught."

Barnes has a criminal history dating back to 1999 with prior convictions for aggravated assault, battery, theft and manslaughter. In March 2002, she was arrested by the New Orleans Police Department for fatally stabbing her victim 17 times. One year later in March 2003, pending the outcome of her murder trial, Barnes shot and killed a man while he slept in a New Orleans apartment.

"An extremely violent criminal history landed Barnes on our 15 Most Wanted list," Assistant Director for Investigative Operations William D. Snelson said. "Thanks to the tenacity of our criminal investigators and Los Angeles Police Department’s quick action, law enforcement has taken another dangerous fugitive off the streets."

"I would like to thank all local, state and federal law enforcement authorities for their valuable assistance in the search for and capture of offender Keana Barnes, especially the Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service," said Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Correction Secretary Jimmy Le Blanc. "The Department of Corrections will bring Barnes back to Louisiana as soon as the court allows."

U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: THE COMPLICATION OF NEUROENDOCRINE DYSFUNCTION POST TBI

FROM: U.S. DEFENSE CENTERS OF EXCELLENCE

Neuroendocrine Dysfunction: Hidden Complication Following TBI

Posted by Diana Moon, DCoE Public Affairs on March 27, 2013

Health care providers understand that making the correct diagnosis is key to effective treatment and recovery. If you’re a provider, did you know that for your patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI), there’s a fair chance you could overlook a diagnosis of
neuroendocrine dysfunction (NED) post TBI? NED is a condition that can be tricky to diagnose because it has many symptoms in common with other conditions that co-occur with TBI, such as sleep disorders, depression, substance abuse disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. Health care providers should be aware that because screening for NED is not performed routinely in the acute post-injury period, the dysfunction is under-diagnosed, under-treated and may affect the patient’s rate of recovery.

According to Therese West, subject matter expert with Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center clinical affairs division, research has noted that an estimated 15 percent of patients with mild TBI experience persistent symptoms, and the incidence of NED in those mild TBI patients ranges from an estimated 16 to 40 percent. Simply put, NED refers to a variety of conditions caused by imbalances in the body's hormone production. There are two areas of the brain responsible for regulating the production of hormones, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland; both are potentially vulnerable to traumatic brain injury.

Medical guidance to evaluate and treat NED is available to providers in the Neuroendocrine Dysfunction Screening Post Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Recommendation and Reference Card developed by Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE). The tools clarify the indications for post-injury neuroendocrine screening and provide a reference point for screening following traumatic brain injury.

Hard copies of the clinical support tools are available for order through DCoE. To download electronic versions of these tools and other TBI clinical resources, visit the Resources section of the DCoE website. If your patient has symptoms that suggest NED and they don’t resolve after three months, you should consider referring your patient to an endocrinologist.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Contracts for March 28, 2013

Contracts for March 28, 2013

Cazando estrellas masivas con Herschel

Cazando estrellas masivas con Herschel

EDUCATION DEPARTMENT TOUTS NEW LOAN COUNSELING TOOLS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Education Department Launches New Loan Counseling Tools to Help Borrowers Manage Their Debt

Students who are graduating this spring are now able to take advantage of new tools that can help them better understand their loan debt and stay on track in repayment. The U.S. Department of Education has launched two key features on its StudentLoans.gov website: a Complete Counseling Web page and a new Repayment Estimator that lets borrowers compare what their monthly payment amounts would likely be across all seven repayment plan options.

Both improvements are part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to make college costs more transparent and help students make informed decisions at every step of the process – from selecting a postsecondary institution to financing their education to repaying their loans.

"With college graduation around the corner, thousands of students will soon start to repay their loans, and we want to help them select the repayment plan that makes sense for them," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "These tools give students the information they need to understand how to better manage their student loan obligations. Our goal is to make the entire challenge of college costs much less daunting, and these tools are additional steps in that direction."

Today's announcement builds on the Education Department's previous initiatives to carry out the Presidential Memorandum of June 7, 2012, which called on the Secretaries of Education and the Treasury to improve information available to borrowers about their student loan repayment options. Last July, the Department unveiled the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool (FACT) – an interactive loan counseling tool that covers topics ranging from managing a budget to avoiding default. The Complete Counseling Web page combines a number of resources, including FACT, into one comprehensive site.

The Education Department has already begun to receive feedback on the Complete Counseling site, and it is planning to release an upgraded version later this year. Meanwhile, the Department wanted to ensure that 2013 graduates could access the tool as they plan their next steps in managing their student debt.

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY SAYS U.S. COMMITTED TO ENDURING PARTNERSHIP WITH AFGHANISTAN

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Kerry Reaffirms Commitment to Partnership With Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2013 - The United States is committed to an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said yesterday in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

The United States will remain a firm partner with the emerging democracy long after the December 2014 end of the International Security Assistance Force mission, Kerry said during a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It was Kerry's first visit to Afghanistan as Secretary of State.

"We mean it when we say that as Afghans stand up and take control of their country's future, they will not stand alone," Kerry said. "America will stand with them."

Afghanistan is transitioning in three areas -- security, governance and economic -- and the United States will aid the country as it moves forward, Kerry said. The United States also will aid Afghanistan as the government reaches out to Taliban members seeking reconciliation, he added. "Reconciliation is the best way to try to provide the surest end to violence and to secure a unified and a sovereign Afghanistan," he said.

Karzai has committed to traveling to Doha, Qatar, to meet Taliban representatives. "We continue to join with President Karzai in calling on the Taliban to join a political process, to renounce the violence," Kerry said.

U.S., NATO and partner nations have been working to train Afghan security forces and that effort is paying off, the secretary said. "The Afghan people ought to be proud that their security and their police force grow stronger and grow more capable by the day," he said.

Security gains must translate to political and economic areas, Kerry said, and Afghanistan will go far if the elections next year are free and fair.

"We welcome the Afghan commitment, which is a reflection of the Afghan people's desire to conduct a credible, safe, secure, all-inclusive, and transparent, and accountable election," he said. "It's our hope that this election is going to be a unifying moment for Afghanistan, and that it will represent, in a sense, the crowning achievement of the president's vision for Afghanistan when he peacefully transfers power to a newly elected president."

Kabul is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and Afghanistan's gross domestic product is five times what it was in 2001. Access for Afghans to hospitals and health clinics has climbed, and life expectancy in the country is up 50 percent. "A recent United Nations report showed that Afghanistan has made faster gains in human development over the last 10 years than any other country in the world," Kerry said.

Roads, cell phones, buildings and businesses are increasing and pointing toward progress, and now it remains for Afghans to keep this on track, Kerry said.

HEDGE FUND MANAGER AGREES TO PAY $1.8 MILLION FOR ALLEGED ROLE IIN INSIDER TRADING CASE

FROM:  SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

California Hedge Fund Manager Agrees to $1.8 Million Settlement in Galleon-Related Insider Trading Case


The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that the Honorable Jed S. Rakoff of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has entered a final judgment approving a $1.8 million settlement between the SEC and hedge fund manager Douglas F. Whitman and his firm Whitman Capital in a case that arose from the SEC's investigation of widespread insider trading perpetrated by Raj Rajaratnam of Gallon Management and other hedge fund managers.

In its February 2012 action, SEC v. Douglas F. Whitman et al., 12-CV-1055 (SDNY) (JSR), the SEC alleged that Whitman and Whitman Capital illegally traded based on material nonpublic information obtained from Rajaratnam associate Roomy Khan, who was Whitman's friend and neighbor. Khan tipped Whitman with confidential details about Polycom Inc.'s fourth quarter 2005 earnings and Google Inc.'s second quarter 2007 earnings prior to the public announcements of those financial results by the companies. Khan had received the material non-public information that she conveyed to Whitman from a high-ranking executive at Polycom and from an employee of an investor relations firm retained by Google. According to the SEC complaint, hedge funds managed by Whitman Capital reaped over $900,000 in ill-gotten gains by trading on Khan's illegal tips.

On August 21, 2012, in the parallel criminal case arising out of the same facts, Whitman was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud. On January 29, 2012, Whitman was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by one year of supervised release, and ordered to pay forfeiture of $935,306, and a $250,000 criminal fine.

The final judgment in the SEC action permanently enjoins Whitman and Whitman Capital from violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5. It also requires Whitman and Whitman Capital to jointly and severally disgorge $935,306, and orders Whitman to pay a civil penalty in the amount of $935,306. Pursuant to the final judgment, Whitman's civil disgorgement liability will be offset by his obligation to make criminal forfeiture of the same amount. The imposition of the civil penalty is in addition to the criminal fine that has been assessed. Separately, Whitman has also agreed to be barred from the securities industry.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Contracts for March 27, 2013

Contracts for March 27, 2013

Swearing-in Ceremony of Julia Pierson as the Director of the U.S. Secret Service | The White House

Swearing-in Ceremony of Julia Pierson as the Director of the U.S. Secret Service | The White House

Healthy Game-Day Meals with the LA Kings & LA Galaxy | The White House

Healthy Game-Day Meals with the LA Kings & LA Galaxy | The White House

European Space Agency United Kingdom (EN) Update

European Space Agency United Kingdom (EN) Update

U.S. OPEN SKIES AGREEMENT WITH GUYANA

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Open Skies Agreement with Guyana
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 25, 2013

U.S. Ambassador to the Co-operative Republic of Guyana Brent D. Hardt and Guyana’s Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn signed an Open Skies air services agreement on March 25 in Georgetown, Guyana, formalizing the liberalization of the bilateral aviation relationship between both nations. The Open Skies agreement entered into force upon signature.

The Open Skies agreement creates opportunities for strengthening the economic partnership between the United States and Guyana through closer links in transport and trade.

Open Skies agreements permit unrestricted air service by the airlines of both countries between and beyond the other’s territory, allowing airline managements to determine how often to fly, the kind of aircraft to use, and the prices to charge. This agreement will strengthen and expand our strong trade and tourism links with Guyana, benefitting U.S. and Guyanese businesses and travelers by expanding opportunities for air services and encouraging vigorous price competition by airlines, while preserving our commitments to aviation safety and security.

The United States has Open Skies agreements with over 100 partners around the world.

SERVING THE COMMUNITY AND THE AIR FORCE

FROM: U.S. AIR FROCE
Schriever volunteers use skills to serve community


3/21/2013 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- First Lt. Mark Long, 4th Space Operations Squadron, learned the value of hard work at an early age. He grew up on a farm in southwestern Indiana, building, fixing and maintaining structures, vehicles and equipment. So when he searched for the right volunteer opportunity, Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity seemed like the perfect fit.

When he arrived at Schriever last August, he was surprised to learn that the base had no organized Habitat For Humanity volunteer crew. He set about rectifying that situation, and now, coordinates up to 40 volunteers each month.

"I actually have a few selfish reasons for not only volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, but for helping draw others to do this important work," he said. "I gain valuable experience at every job site, which I hope will serve me well when I someday build my own home. I'm fascinated by the magic of making something where there was nothing and I want to create a distinct leadership identity for myself."

As a nonprofit organization, PPHFH uses volunteer labor and donations of money and materials to build and rehabilitate homes for low-income families. Since 1986, the Colorado Springs community has built or rehabilitated 118 homes through the PPHFH program.

Capt. Aaron Doyle, 4 SOPS, is one of the Schriever members Long recruited to volunteer with PPHFH. Ironically, Doyle already had Habitat for Humanity experience. He volunteered for the organization several years ago while stationed at Eglin AFB, Fla. Since joining the Schriever volunteer group he has also helped out at the PPHFH ReStore.

At the ReStore, Doyle unloads trucks and helps organize the store so customers have a better shopping experience. He explained that the ReStore is similar to a thrift store, only it's for home construction materials. If someone is say, remodeling their kitchen, they might be able to find a gently used sink there.

"Volunteering at the ReStore is interesting because you have an opportunity to exercise your organization skills," he said. "When materials come in, you stack items around and try to make the best use of the space. It's sort of like playing a three-dimensional Tetris game."

Doyle serves double duty for HFH. He also volunteers on home construction sites along with his fellow 4 SOPS and 50th Operations Group members. Together, they can do just about any task assigned to them.

"One aspect that's nice about HFH is they teach you construction skills as you work," Doyle said. "Usually there's one guy who is really skilled and he gives everyone sub tasks. Then, before the work is fully implemented, he'll do a spot check to make sure everything is constructed the way it should be."

Sometimes, it's Long or Doyle who fills the role of teacher and mentor.

"I think we provide community service on a variety of levels," Doyle said. "On our last construction site, we were able to teach some of the new guys about proper construction methods that they'll be able to use not only in future volunteer service, but also to improve their own homes. I really enjoy the teaching aspect of volunteering when the opportunities arise."

On a recent construction project, Long mentored other volunteers as a team attached roof trusses on a home, but he soaked up knowledge and skills on another part of the site.

Lindsey Desmarais Nubern, PPHFH volunteer manager said volunteers complete 90 percent of the work on each home the organization has built in El Paso County. Volunteers build foundations and floors, frame walls, install insulation, doors, windows and siding. They also and paint and complete roofs.

"The money we save in construction wages keeps the cost of the homes low for families and goes directly to supporting building of more homes for local families," Nubern said. "Air Force members have volunteered on 76 different days to build on PPHFH construction sites across the county and we could not accomplish our mission without their help. They are making the dream of home ownership come true for many local families."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Let's Move! Q&A with the LA Kings and LA Galaxy | The White House

Let's Move! Q&A with the LA Kings and LA Galaxy | The White House

DOD Contracts for March 26, 2013

Contracts for March 26, 2013

STATEMENT ON ARMS TRADE TREATY IN PLENARY

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
U.S. Statement on the Arms Trade Treaty in Plenary
Remarks
Thomas Countryman
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Arms Trade Treaty Conference
New York City
March 25, 2013

Thank you, Mr. President. For years now, the United States has sought to achieve an Arms Trade Treaty that is strong, meaningful, and implementable -- a treaty on which the United States could join consensus, a treaty the U.S. government could sign, and ultimately recommend to our Senate for ratification. Thanks to you, Mr. President and your exceptional team, that goal is in sight and the U.S. will spare no effort to achieve it.

To give you examples of how hard we have worked with you and other delegations, let me mention Article 6, which was just mentioned by our friend from Norway. Last week, we endorsed a suggestion by Japan, which we saw as a sound basis for negotiation, and which led to a discussion among the U.S. and many others that has made real progress towards addressing an important issue. We will, of course, take this latest proposal by Norway into consideration. Article 6 and 7 together are the heart of the treaty, a barrier against the misuse of conventional arms.

We have worked toward a compromise on Article 5.2 but none has been found. In the end, we cannot accept language that is contrary to the plain meaning of the treaty.

My delegation came to this final UN conference prepared to work, as the General Assembly decided, on the basis of the July 26 text, a text that had its flaws but was the result of real, politically balanced compromise, a text that would both be meaningful and attract the widest possible consensus. At that time, 90 countries said they could accept that text. Since that time, your March 22 text is stronger, clearer, and more implementable. I would hope all those who could accept the July text could accept this stronger one.

Let me remind you that this is not an arms control treaty, not a disarmament treaty -- it is a trade treaty regulating a legitimate activity. Allow me to comment on its two primary purposes. A minimum requirement for national action is to regulate, in a fashion that will curb abuses against humanity and common sense, what is, nonetheless, a very legitimate international activity: the transfer of conventional arms to enhance, rather than undermine, peace and security -- this is the heart of the regulation provisions. This text contains strong language on these points that would bring the world closer to the standard of the United States and other major exporters. On the second major goal, combating diversion, we are prepared to work on meaningful language either in a separate article or in clauses throughout the text. Some diversion occurs between exporter and importer. More diversion occurs after receipt by the importer. To address all aspects of diversion, we are ready to work on meaningful language that expands international cooperation but recognize it must have language that respects domestic jurisdictions over domestic criminal activity.

Let’s be honest with each other; we are barely 48 hours away from a final text. It is much too late to try to reopen some of the hard-fought compromises that were achieved last July -- or to push the treaty into something new. The U.S., like other delegations, has been constructive and leaned forward as much as we could, but trying to stretch that attitude into new topics at this point in time simply risks the rubber band snapping back and leaving us with a far less useful result than we already have seen. So I would urge my colleagues to keep their focus on the object we share: ensuring that we produce and agree on, at the end of the week, an instrument that will optimize -- not maximize, but optimize -- the prospects for completing the full process of making an effective Arms Trade Treaty a working and living instrument.

PENTAGON'S BUDGET UPDATE

FROM: U.S DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Pentagon Official Provides Budget Update
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2013 - Expressing the hope that a bill will pass through Congress this week to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, a senior Pentagon official today told an audience at the Precision Strike conference here that while the bill would fix some problems, other fiscal challenges will remain.

"We live in interesting times. It's an insane budget environment that we're living in," said Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics.

But the Defense Department will get through it, he added. "The center may hold," he said. "We're not there yet, but I'm seeing some things that make me a little bit hopeful."

Congressional negotiations over a continuing resolution to fund government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, may yield a bill to send to the president for signature this week, Kendall said. The bill probably would roughly resemble the Defense Department's requested fiscal year 2013 budget, he added.

The bills currently before the House and Senate both leave the Defense Department's budget "reasonably intact," Kendall said.

"At the end of the day, I'm still hopeful the center will hold, but I think we're going to go through a very tough time getting there," he said.

If the bill passes, Kendall said, the budget situation will improve, but sequestration would remain as a challenge.

"The Hill is fixing a piece of the biggest problem we have right now, which is [operations and maintenance] funds," he told the audience.

The Army is about to run out of operational funds, Kendall said, and the other services aren't far behind. A continuing resolution, he said, would address some of that issue.

"We still are not where we need to be, ... [but] at that point in time, things will be a little bit better," Kendall added.

If a continuing resolution for the duration of the fiscal year passes, he said, furloughs of federal civilian employees still would take place, he said, but possibly not for the 22 unpaid days now projected.

Though sequestration spending cuts that took effect March 1 didn't immediately lead to a "cliff," Kendall said, they will still have a "huge impact" that will occur gradually.

"The snowball's starting to slowly roll," he said, "and we're seeing more things happening. I think people have been holding back a little bit, hoping it will go away. I don't know that it's going to go away."

Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Defense Department was required to cut $487 billion from its budget. The department devised a new budget consistent with the remaining resources, Kendall said.

"It's tight," he told the conferees. "We took some risk there. We're tight on things like readiness. ... We're not assuming any overruns in our development programs, our acquisition programs --- which is, historically, certainly how it happens. ... But it is consistent with the strategy, and it does fund a reasonably healthy Department of Defense."

Further budget reductions will require the department to make some tough choices, Kendall said. One of the strategy's tenets is technological superiority, he noted, and "we are being challenged, in terms of the technology that we have in fielded systems, by others."

Part of the reason for the shift to the Asia-Pacific region in the new defense strategy was in recognition of China's "very aggressive and very focused" modernization program, he added.

Other countries also are investing in military technologies, Kendall said, and are capitalizing on commercial investment to gain a competitive edge. "And they're doing things that are focused on our capabilities and how to defeat our capabilities," he said.

Since the Cold War ended more than 20 years ago, he said, there's been a presumption that the United States is technologically superior. "I don't think we can safely carry that presumption forward," he added. "We have to work to maintain that."

As the Defense Department makes additional budget cuts, Kendall said, he will dedicate himself to protecting future capabilities.

"This is a race that isn't over," he added. "We need to be thinking about the next generation. What comes after the [technological] revolution that we showed to the world?"

DOD's force structure is sized appropriately for the missions it carries out, Kendall said, but there is excess capacity elsewhere. The Defense Department's budget carries a lot of fixed costs, he noted, one of which is installations.

"We didn't get rid of nearly all of our excess capacity in the first three rounds of [base realignment and closure], so there's more to be done there and money to be saved," he said. "Essentially, the taxpayers of the country are carrying the load of these extra installations -- these extra facilities -- that we don't need, because of local politics. That's not the right thing to do for the country or for national security."

Congress needs to strike a "grand deal," Kendall said.

"It seems to take a ... strong forcing function to get the Congress to do anything," he said, noting that the next crisis that will force Congress to act is the debt ceiling, expected to hit in June or July.

"We really need the politicians to sit down and resolve their differences and come to some compromise about how to handle the deficit," Kendall said

Monday, March 25, 2013

President Obama on the Importance of Passover | The White House

President Obama on the Importance of Passover | The White House

President Obama Speaks at a Naturalization Ceremony | The White House

President Obama Speaks at a Naturalization Ceremony | The White House

Solve the outbreak | Daily HealthBeat

Solve the outbreak | Daily HealthBeat

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

President Obama Speaks at a Naturalization Ceremony | The White House

President Obama Speaks at a Naturalization Ceremony | The White House

U.S. DOD Contracts for March 25, 2013

Contracts for March 25, 2013

Immagine EO della settimana: Nhamundá

Immagine EO della settimana: Nhamundá

STATE DEPARTMENT'S CARTER VISITS INDONESIAN LEADERS

FROM: U.S DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE,
Carter Engages With Indonesian, Regional Leaders
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

JAKARTA, Indonesia, March 20, 2013 - On the last leg of his weeklong trip to Asia, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter spent two days here visiting defense and government officials, delivering remarks at an international conference, and holding bilateral talks with leaders from nations in the region.

This was Carter's second trip to Asia since January 2012, when President Barack Obama announced details of the new U.S. defense strategy.

A main element of the strategy was a rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region for U.S. military forces after a decade-long focus on the Middle East made necessary by a war in Iraq that ended in December 2011 and a war in Afghanistan that will end in December 2014.

Carter arrived in Jakarta on March 18 after visits this week with leaders in Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. Today, he spoke on the opening day the third Jakarta International Defense Dialogue, called the JIDD.

Carter spoke today during the event's first session, an international panel, reaffirming the strategic importance of the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and outlining how the United States is implementing the rebalance from a defense perspective.

The deputy secretary also had bilateral meetings today with defense ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and also met with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, called ASEAN, a group formed in 1967 to help in building regional stability.

ASEAN member states are Burma, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The United States supports ASEAN-led defense cooperation in critical areas that include humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, maritime security, nonproliferation and counterterrorism.

Upon his arrival in Jakarta, Carter began his visit at the residence of David Carden, U.S. ambassador to ASEAN, where he met with members of the ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representatives, the association's highest permanent governmental body.

The committee consists of ambassadors from each of the 10 ASEAN member states posted to the ASEAN Secretariat. The deputy defense secretary and the ambassadors shared perspectives on regional security issues and discussed U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific region.

U.S. OFFICIAL'S REMARKS BEFORE THE OAS SPECIAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Remarks Before the Organization of American States Special General Assembly
Remarks
William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
As Prepared
Washington, DC
March 22, 2013

Mr. Chairman, Secretary General Insulza, thank you for convening this Special General Assembly.

In a single generation, our hemisphere transformed from an exception to an example of the worldwide embrace of democratic values. The consolidation of democracy created freer and more inclusive societies. It also made them more prosperous.

At the core of this transformation was our regional architecture. The Organization of American States played a leading role – from settling border disputes, to rolling back coups, encouraging economic development, and fighting corruption. And so did the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – a founding pillar of our regional human rights architecture and an example for the world.

For more than five decades, the Commission has served as the hemisphere’s moral conscience. It upheld the rights of individual women, men, and children throughout the Americas -- a bulwark against government overreach and abuse. During the Cold War, it faced down military strongmen, documented forced disappearances, and catalogued the human costs of brutal wars. In the 1980s and 90s, it challenged the legacies of authoritarianism, impunity for past atrocities, and discrimination against women and minorities. More recently, it has tackled censorship, violence against women, indigenous rights, and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

While our progress in defending and advancing human rights is significant, it also remains incomplete and uneven. This is why a stronger and more capable Commission is in all our interests. This is why the United States provides significant funding – including a $1 million contribution today – and why we encourage all member states to do the same. This is why we actively respond to the Commission even as it raises challenging issues for us – from the death penalty and the human rights of migrants and incarcerated children, to the status of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. And this is why we continue to collaborate with the Commission – including its recent on-site visit to immigrant detention facilities in the United States.

We do this not because we always see eye to eye with the Commission. We do it because we are secure in our commitment to democratic principles and in our conviction that we are accountable to our citizens for the protection of their human rights. We do it because we believe that no government should place itself beyond international scrutiny when it comes to the protection of basic human rights and civil liberties.

This conviction drives us to continue to try to perfect this institution. Former Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry, when he was a United States Senator, both underscored the urgency and need for our governments to take an active role in reforming the OAS. And two years ago, we welcomed this opportunity to also strengthen the work of the Inter-American Commission. Since then, our governments – in partnership with the region’s robust civil society – have debated how our regional human rights system can operate more effectively and efficiently. Broad consultations were held, productive exchanges took place, and today reforms are underway.

The Commission is already improving its settlement process so that it can move more quickly and creatively to address human rights challenges. Its rules now include specific criteria for determining when a country deserves special scrutiny and when life-saving precautionary measures are in order.

These and dozens of other changes to the Commission’s practices, procedures, and rules, respond directly to recommendations from member states. We applaud the Commission for its seriousness of purpose and openness to constructive dialogue during this process.

As we debate additional proposals, we must ensure that they not come at the expense of the Commission’s autonomy, independence, and credibility. We must be vigilant against efforts of some to weaken the Commission under the guise of reform. That agenda is clear: to undermine the Commission’s ability to hold governments accountable when they erode democratic checks and balances and concentrate power through illiberal manipulation of democratic processes.

Diminishing the status of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is not in keeping with the spirit of the Inter-American Democratic Charter or the commitments we took in the Summits of the Americas process. Preventing the Commission from taking urgent steps to save lives at imminent risk of harm undermines its independence and effectiveness. Underfunding the Commission deprives our citizens of the opportunity to be heard, and deprives our governments of the chance to take timely corrective action when challenges arise.

All the member states of this organization pledged to strengthen – not to weaken – the Inter-American Human Rights System through this important reflection process. Consequently, until we fully finance the system through the regular budget, it is essential to uphold existing rules permitting contributions and funding for specific aspects of the Commission’s human rights work. We should be clear: Restricting contributions or eliminating the possibility of funding specific Commission activities violates our pledge to make the system stronger.

It is not just rules of procedure or phrasing of resolutions that is at stake -- it is the very foundation on which decades of political, economic, and social progress rest. The majority of member states committed to perfecting our human rights system must protect the Commission from the determined few who seek to debilitate it.

Mr. Chairman, Maria da Penha’s story should remind us all about the Commission’s enormous impact on our hemisphere. When Maria’s husband shot her in the back, leaving her paraplegic, it was the culmination of years of domestic abuse. She rightly sought justice and she fortunately had an ally. In cooperation with the Commission’s inquiry into her case, the Brazilian Government took decisive steps - Maria’s ex-husband went to jail and in 2006, Brazil adopted landmark legislation on violence against women. Its name: the Maria da Penha Law.

Maria da Penha’s name, like those of Myrna Mack, Marcarena Gelman, and others, resonates powerfully in our hemisphere as reminders of those who saw in the inter-American human rights system a last chance for justice. And so today, we must honor their legacy and our common vision, by making sure that the Commission remains a strong and impartial champion for human rights in the Americas for many generations to come.

Thank you.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

U.S. CONGRATULATES GREECE ON GREEK NATIONAL DAY

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Greek National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 24, 2013

 

On behalf of the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Greece on the 192nd anniversary of Greece’s independence this March 25.

Ancient Greeks forged the initial principles of democracy, the ideals that form the basis of our own system of government. In honoring the founding of the Hellenic Republic, we recognize the positive legacy of governance for the people and by the people which remains unwavering today.

We also celebrate the deep bonds of friendship and close cooperation between the citizens of Greece and the United States, based on our shared values and strong commitment to freedom and liberty. The United States applauds Greece’s efforts to reform its economy and lay the foundation for a more prosperous future. We commend the people of Greece for your resilience and courage during these trying economic times. We stand in solidarity with you as you strive to restore economic growth and stability.

As you celebrate this special day, know that the United States is a partner and friend. We look forward to deepening our cooperation in the years to come to foster a more secure and prosperous world.


NURSE PLEADS GUILTY TO MEDICARE FRAUD

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Friday, March 22, 2013
Registered Nurse Pleads Guilty in Connection with Detroit Medicare Fraud Scheme

A registered nurse who fabricated nursing visit forms in connection with a $24 million home health care fraud conspiracy in Detroit pleaded guilty today for her role in the scheme, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade, Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley III of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Chicago Regional Office.

Beverly Cooper, 59, of Detroit, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts in the Eastern District of Michigan to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Cooper admitted that she and others conspired to defraud Medicare through home health care companies operating in the Detroit area, including Reliance Home Care LLC, First Choice Home Health Care Services Inc. and Accessible Home Care Inc. According to court documents, Cooper fabricated nursing visit notes and other documents to give Medicare the impression that she had provided home health care services, when, in fact, home health care was not needed and/or was not being provided. Cooper also admitted that while at these companies, she signed nursing visit notes for home visits made by other unlicensed individuals to give Medicare the false impression that she had provided home health care. Court documents reveal that Cooper understood that the documents she created would be used by these companies to submit claims to Medicare for home health services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided.

Court documents show that when home health companies were inspected by state regulatory agencies, Cooper and her co-conspirators participated in staged home health visits, posing as employees of these companies and treating fake patients, all to give inspectors the false impression that these companies’ operations were legitimate and that home health services were in fact being provided.

Court documents allege that between 2006 and May 2012, Cooper’s conduct caused Reliance, First Choice and Accessible to submit claims to Medicare for services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided, causing Medicare to pay these companies approximately $5,403,703.

At sentencing, scheduled for July 23, 2013, Cooper faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney William G. Kanellis and Assistant Chief Gejaa Gobena of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. It was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY'S STATEMENT OF CONCERN REGARDING AMERICAN DETAINED IN IRAN

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Detained U.S. Citizen Saeed Abedini
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 22, 2013


I am deeply concerned about the fate of U.S citizen Saeed Abedini, who has been detained for nearly six months and was sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. I am disturbed by reports that Mr. Abedini has suffered physical and psychological abuse in prison, and that his condition has become increasingly dire. Such mistreatment violates international norms as well as Iran’s own laws.

I am also troubled by the lack of due process in Mr. Abedini’s case and Iran’s continued refusal to allow consular access by Swiss authorities, the U.S. protecting power in Iran. I welcome reports that Mr. Abedini was examined by a physician and expect Iranian authorities to honor their commitment to allow Mr. Abedini to receive treatment for these injuries from a specialist outside the prison. The best outcome for Mr. Abedini is that he be immediately released.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

MARINE SHOOTINGS AT QUANTICO

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Quantico Shooting Incident Leaves 3 Marines Dead
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2013 - Three active-duty Marines are dead after a shooting incident that began late last night at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

One of the dead was the shooter, who died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said.

The names of the dead are being withheld, pending notification of their families.

The base provost marshal's office responded to the incident at about 11 p.m., with assistance from the Prince William County police department. The base was locked down as part of the response, and normal operations resumed early this morning.

The incident is under investigation, officials said.

In a statement released this morning, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was saddened to learn of the shootings.

"This tragedy, as well as the tragedy in Nevada earlier this week, took the lives of Marines who volunteered to serve their nation," Little said. "His heart and his prayers are with them and their families. He believes that the legendary strength of the United States Marine Corps will ensure that they are forever remembered."

Seven Marines training at Hawthorne Army Depot, Nev., were killed March 19 in an explosion.

FUTENMA REPLACEMENT MOVES AHEAD IN JAPAN

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
U.S., Japan Move Forward With Futenma Replacement Initiative
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2013 - Japan's government has moved forward with the submission of a landfill request permit to the Okinawa prefectural government in the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

"This is a key milestone that comes after many years of hard work between the United States and Japan," Little said. "It marks a significant step toward realizing the vision of the 2006 Realignment Roadmap and toward achieving a sustainable U.S. military presence with less impact on the Okinawan people."

The U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to relocate the air station, currently in Okinawa's Ginowan City, to a more remote area of the island. The plan also would move about 8,000 Marines now based on Okinawa to Guam, in line with U.S. defense priorities in the Asia-Pacific region.

"In the April 2012 2+2 Joint Statement, the United States and Japan reconfirmed the view that the current Futenma replacement facility plan at Camp Schwab-Henoko Bay remains the only viable alternative to the continued use of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma," Little said.

This effort, he added, is critical to the Defense Department's ongoing rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and its ability to maintain a well-distributed and politically sustainable force throughout Asia.

Little said that along with the relocation of Marines to Guam and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma will reduce the U.S. footprint in the most populated part of Okinawa. It will also enable the return of significant land south of Kadena Air Base while sustaining U.S. military capabilities vital to the peace and security of the region, he added.

"We will be working with the Japanese government to jointly release these plans for land returns soon," Little said. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Japanese government on these issues and to moving ahead with the relocation of Marines to Guam."

Friday, March 22, 2013

U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing - March 22, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - March 22, 2013

U.S. DOD Contracts for March 22, 2013

Contracts for March 22, 2013

Spin Your Thesis! Selezionate le squadre 2013: due sono italiane!

Spin Your Thesis! Selezionate le squadre 2013: due sono italiane!

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY'S COMMENTS ON DEATH OF BANGLADESHI PRESIDENT RAHMAN

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
On the Passing of Bangladeshi President Zillur Rahman
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 20, 2013


We were saddened to learn of the passing of the President of Bangladesh Zillur Rahman. From his early days as a history student and political activist, President Rahman dedicated his life to the people of Bangladesh. His efforts helped lead to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, and his subsequent decades of public service helped Bangladesh establish itself as the democracy it is today. As Bangladesh nears the 42nd anniversary of its independence, President Rahman’s death offers a moment for all Bangladeshis to come together in mourning and reflect on what unites them as a nation.

On behalf of the American people, I offer my sympathies to President Rahman’s family and to the Bangladeshi people during this sad time.


MILITARY HAS TOP-TIER MEDICAL SCHOOL

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Uniformed Services University Ranks Among Top Medical Schools
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2013 - The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. -- the only university of its kind dedicated to educating military doctors, graduate nurses and other specialized health-care professionals -- has earned distinction as one of the top-ranked U.S. graduate schools.

U.S. News & World Report identified the university's F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine as a top-tier medical school in its "Best Graduate Schools 2014" rankings released last week.

USU's primary-care program ranked 39th among 126 medical schools, and its research programs ranked 55th.

In addition, the university's nurse anesthesia master's degree program ranked fifth in the nation. Its partner program, run by the Army in San Antonio, maintained the No. 1 ranking it has held for the past several years.

Dr. Brian V. Reamy, USU's associate dean of faculty and family medicine professor, said during a telephone interview that the medical school's first appearance on the respected graduate-school rankings list is further affirmation of its accomplishments over the 40 years since its founding.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, the largest U.S. physician specialty society, has recognized the university's family medicine department has one of the nation's top 10 for the past three years, he reported.

USU is unique among medical schools, as it produces highly trained medical professionals for both the military and the Public Health Service, Reamy said. Students arrive with a commitment to military or federal service and the men and women in uniform they will care for, often in harm's way.

About 40 percent of USU's graduates go into primary care, about twice the percentage of those at other medical schools, Reamy said. "From its founding, the Uniformed Services University has really had a focus and attention to excellence in primary care – family medicine, pediatrics and general international medicine," he said. "Over the years, that focus has not changed, but it has become a little more publicly known."

In addition, the university distinguishes itself with a heavy emphasis on preventive medicine and research directly relevant to the military: traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, emerging infectious diseases and combat casualty care, he said.

The National Science Foundation recognized USU as one of the nation's top medical schools to receive federal research funding over the past 10 years. Reamy called that a testament to the quality of its programs. "You get federal research funding because you are doing excellent research," he said.

The U.S. News and World Report ranking, he said, "recognizes the unique role that USU is playing in terms of providing research in areas that directly affect the health and welfare of the military, but also have secondary benefits across medicine in the United States."

Navy Cmdr. Robert Hawkins, director of the nurse anesthesia program within the Graduate School of Nursing, also spoke by telephone with American Forces Press Service and said the program's high rankings in the new report recognize the quality of the professionals it produces.

A demanding curriculum that combines scientific concepts and extensive clinical practice prepares students to operate as independent practitioners. That will be critical, he said, particularly because most students deploy within nine months of graduation.

While savoring recognition for its masters-degree-level nurse anesthesia program, USU is preparing to transition to a doctoral program this spring, Hawkins reported. That transition, based on American Association of Colleges of Nursing recommendations, will extend the program from 30 to 36 months.

The first doctoral-level class will arrive at USU in May and graduate two years later.

Hawkins said he's optimistic this next step in the program will further enhance the bedside care military nurse anesthetists provide – whatever care their patients need, and wherever that care is provided.

One individual at a time, he said, they will have a profound impact on military medicine.

"When you have practitioners with the best skill sets, trained in the best way in the best environment, the chances of changing the health-care system one patient at a time will have a profound impact overall," he said.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Contracts for March 21, 2013

Contracts for March 21, 2013

President Obama Speaks to the People of Israel | The White House

President Obama Speaks to the People of Israel | The White House

President Obama Speaks at an Arrival Ceremony in Israel | The White House

President Obama Speaks at an Arrival Ceremony in Israel | The White House

Department of Defense News Briefing with Gen. John F. Kelly from the Pentagon

Department of Defense News Briefing with Gen. John F. Kelly from the Pentagon

MILITARY SUBSTANCE ABUSE RESEARCH

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Military Substance Abuse Research Progresses, Doctor Says
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2013 - Defense Department officials are developing research-based methods to curb substance abuse among service members, their families and veterans, a senior DOD medical official said here yesterday.

Dr. Michael E. Kilpatrick -- deputy director for force health protection and readiness programs in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for force health protection and readiness -- spoke as part of a congressional series on Capitol Hill.

The briefing was sponsored by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which supports research on substance abuse and associated mental health problems among active duty members, their families and veterans.

Kilpatrick, who spent 25 years as a Navy physician, outlined some of the research that looks promising for those who battle substance abuse in addition to mental health issues. His years of research and clinical care made him realize that "the more we do, the more we need to do," he said.

The doctor noted the major advances of saving lives with top-notch U.S. military medicine in war zones. "We're doing a great job with those physical wounds," he said, but he added that Defense Department officials want to focus on the invisible wounds of war and know much more needs to be done.

"We recognize there are tremendous stressors, and going to war in itself is a stressor," Kilpatrick said. "Not knowing what the outcome is going to be, not knowing exactly when you'll be back or what's happening to your loved ones while you're gone [are stressors]."

Studies and research have shown that the act of going to war -- even without engaging in combat -- is a tremendous stressor, he added.

Several programs are under way in DOD to help battle substance abuse and mental health issues, and the Army and Marine Corps have begun resilience training for that reason, he said.

"We try to get [service members] to understand what their strengths are," Kilpatrick said. "What did they grow up with? What were the strengths that got them to the Army or the Marine Corps? And how do they build on those strengths to develop even better coping skills to withstand the stressors that come [with the military]?"

To detect mental health and substance abuse problems, Kilpatrick said, every service member goes through a health assessment after deployment, followed by yearly assessments. The Army, he added, does health assessments in the combat theater every year.

"In each of those assessments, there are questions about mental health, about [post-traumatic stress disorder], suicide ideation and depression," Kilpatrick said, noting assessments also include questions about alcohol and tobacco use.

"We find a very high rate of people who respond that they think they're having trouble with alcohol," he said.

A presidential executive order requires DOD and the Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments to work together to provide mental health services, suicide prevention information and substance abuse treatment, Kilpatrick said. All the departments will operate on the same programs to treat mental health and substance abuse issues, with common language and nomenclature, he added.

"That way, there is a single network and not three or four independent systems," he noted. "As we look at strategies over the next three to four years, we'll look at how to improve. ... It's been an exciting step forward."

FIRST LADY RECOGNIZES WOMEN VETERANS

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

First Lady Recognizes Women Veterans, Addresses Unemployment

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, March 19, 2013 - First Lady Michelle Obama today honored 14 women veterans who, after serving honorably, continued as leaders at the local, state, regional or national level.

During a "Champions of Change" event at the White House, Obama also pledged to continue addressing ongoing employment challenges through her Joining Forces initiative, which -- among other things -- connects servicemen and women, veterans and military spouses with the resources they need to find jobs at home. The first lady co-sponsors Joining Forces with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.

"You all are part of a long line of women who have broken barriers, ... defied expectations and served this country with unparalleled courage and determination," the first lady said to the veterans. "You've been on the front lines, often in the line of fire, and generation after generation, women like you have proven you not only serve alongside men, you lead them as well."

Obama lauded the women for performing their jobs with "grace, ... poise and dignity" wherever they'd served, and noted their demonstrated dedication and selfless service continues beyond their military obligations.

"You don't stop serving [the country] after you hang up your uniforms," she said. "You are the leaders in our businesses and schools and our communities. You're mothers raising your kids with that same sense of honor that defines your own lives."

Obama commended the women whose accomplishments include helping veterans and their families start businesses, promoting gender equality in the military, and working to end homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault.

"Being part of something bigger than ourselves ... is the common thread that connects our 14 honorees," Obama said. "We're determined to ensure that all of our veterans and military families get the benefits, support and respect that they have earned."

This mission, Obama said, is particularly urgent as hundreds of thousands of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking employment, or will be soon. "We have so many talented, highly skilled veterans who have so much to offer this country," she said. "We need that service operating here at home."

The first lady said she recently attended the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers representing more than 80 of the nation's leading businesses.

"I challenged some of the biggest [companies] in this nation to hire and train even more of veterans and military spouses in the coming years," she added, to ensure that veterans have access to the jobs they need and deserve when they return home.

Efforts under way include President Barack Obama offering tax credits to businesses hiring veterans or wounded warriors, as well as helping troops translate their skills and match them with civilian careers that suit their experiences. American Job Center, an online jobs bank, connects U.S. companies to veterans in local communities, the first lady said, and efforts continue to streamline the credentialing processes for military people to earn professional certifications.

"This work couldn't be more urgent," she said of the leagues of women hanging up their uniforms. "We know that right now is the time when you need us most."

The first lady acknowledged that many women veterans face a critical transition.

"We are not going to stop working until all of our veterans and all of their families feel the support of the entire country," she said. "We are proud of you, we are grateful and we're going to keep working for our nation, because we still need you."

The honorees are:

-- Navy veteran Tia Christopher of Davis, Calif., chief of staff for the Farmer-Veteran Coalition. She speaks nationally on women veterans' issues, including testifying before the state and federal legislature about military sexual trauma. She wrote "You Are Stronger Than You Think You Are: A Straightforward Transition Manual."

-- Stacy L. Pearsall of Charleston, S.C., a combat-disabled Air Force veteran who earned the Bronze Star Medal and commendation with valor for heroic actions under fire. She now plays a key role in developing new policy regarding veteran health care at the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She singlehandedly funds and photographs veterans for the Veterans Portrait Project Foundation. Though disabled from combat injuries, Pearsall is a multi-medaled athlete, including gold, from the U.S. Paralympic Committee-sponsored Warrior Games in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

-- Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught of Arlington, Va., who was instrumental in building the $22.5 million Women's Memorial at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery. She is now the President of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, the nation's only major memorial to pay tribute to America's 2.5 million women who have served.

-- Kayla Williams of Ashburn Va., who wrote "Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army," a memoir about her experiences negotiating the changing demands on women in today's military during a deployment to Iraq. Williams graduated cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in English literature from Bowling Green State University, and earned a master of arts degree in international Affairs with a focus on the Middle East from American University.

-- Natasha Young of Boston, a fellowship recruitment associate at The Mission Continues, serving the northeastern and southeastern United States. A 12-year veteran of the Marine Corps, Young served two tours in Iraq and a recruiting tour stateside before a medical discharge in October 2011. She has dedicated herself to helping other veterans overcome the struggles of their transitions and emerge empowered not only to lead new lives of service, but also to set the example for others to follow.

-- Ginger Miller of Accokeek, Md., founder and CEO of Women Veterans Interactive, which is dedicated to meeting women veterans at their points of need and actively promotes the importance of tailoring services to women veterans' needs. She has organized women veteran programs that feature information, mentoring and peer support. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley appointed her to the Maryland Commission for Women and the Maryland Caregivers Support Coordinating Council.

-- Michelle Racicot, of Albuquerque, N.M., a family nurse practitioner at an urgent care center. A former Army Nurse Corps officer who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, Racicot is the vice executive director for American Women Veterans, a national organization that advocates on behalf of servicewomen, veterans, and their families. Racicot educates legislators and local community members about homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, women in combat and health disparities.

-- Retired Navy Capt. Glenna Tinney of Arlington, Va., who for more than three decades has facilitated change in both the civilian and military systems to eliminate violence against women. She is the military advocacy program coordinator for the Battered Women's Justice Project, a national technical assistance provider for the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women. As one of the original 12 Navy social workers recruited for active duty in 1980, Tinney served for 24 years working with military families and managing worldwide family violence and sexual assault programs. Today, she manages a special project funded by OVW to develop a model coordinated community response to co-occurring incidents of combat-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and intimate partner violence.

-- Dawn Halfaker of Arlington, Va., who was seriously injured during a combat patrol near Baghdad in 2004. She formed Halfaker and Associates in 2006 to empower veterans through meaningful careers. Today, her team has more than 130 employees.

-- Priscilla Mondt of Fayetteville, Ark., chief of chaplain service at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center there. An Army veteran who served in operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, Mondt received the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit. Her approach to spiritual care, from personal care to technology, set a high standard for addressing the needs of veteran patients and families.

-- Marsha Tansey Four of Philadelphia, an in-country Vietnam veteran who sits on the national board of directors for Vietnam Veterans of America, and has devoted the past 24 years to working with and advocating for veterans by contributing, writing, and delivering testimony related to veterans issues on local, state and federal levels. In 1993, Tansey initiated the Philadelphia Stand Down for Homeless Veterans and recently retired as the executive director of the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center, a nonprofit agency providing free, comprehensive services to regional veterans.

-- Sharie Derrickson, of Nashville, Tenn., who served at the military's Stars and Stripes newspaper and was a combat photojournalist with Navy Combat Camera. She is now the vice president of New Wind Energy Solutions in Nashville, where she and her team are committed to global sustainability, vetting the newest technologies to ensure they are not only reliable, but practical, and affordable. She has helped her company grow through projects around the world, including international relief efforts.

-- Marylyn Harris of Houston, who in 2010 founded the nation's first and only Women Veterans Business Center there to educate and empower women veterans and their families in starting their own businesses. A former Army nurse and disabled war veteran, Harris travels throughout the country advocating for active service members, veterans and military families.

-- Becky Kanis of Los Angeles, who served for nine years as an Army officer after her 1991 graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Unwilling to continue obscuring her sexual orientation, she resigned her commission in 2000 and soon began working to end homelessness in New York City. After helping to reduce street homelessness in Times Square by more than two thirds, Kanis became the director of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a grassroots nationwide effort to find and house 100,000 of the most chronic and vulnerable homeless people by July 2014. Under her leadership, more than 37,000 homeless Americans, including 13,000 veterans, have found permanent homes. In 2012, she co-founded the Social Change Agency with her wife, Christine, to support nonprofit leaders in creating thriving teams that change the world.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Contracts for March 20, 2013

Contracts for March 20, 2013

U.S. SAYS FREEING OF JOURNALIST BY SOMALIA SUPREME COURT STRENGTHENS FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

FROM: U.S STATE DEPARTMENT
Somalia Supreme Court Frees Journalist
Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 20, 2013


 

The United States welcomes the Somali Supreme Court's March 17 decision overturning the conviction of Somali journalist Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim for interviewing a woman who alleged rape by Somali security forces. We are hopeful that this ruling, along with earlier statements of Somalia’s President and Prime Minister expressing concern over the original verdict, will help strengthen protection of freedom of expression in Somalia, as guaranteed by the provisional federal constitution. The United States continues to support the Government of Somalia as it develops and strengthens transparent and accountable institutions to protect human rights, including women's rights and freedom of expression, as part of its efforts to promote peace and democracy.

Fussy babies’ TV time | Daily HealthBeat

Fussy babies’ TV time | Daily HealthBeat

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL'S CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY REGADING SYSRIAN CRISIS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
The Syrian Humanitarian Crisis
Testimony
Anne C. Richard
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, United States Senate
Washington, DC
March 19, 2013
Introduction

Good afternoon, Chairman Casey, Ranking Member Risch, and Members of this committee. Thank you for hosting this hearing today on the humanitarian crisis inside Syria. I am pleased to be able to appear before the Committee with my colleague, USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg. Our offices work closely together to provide critical humanitarian aid to those affected by the violence in Syria.

The two year anniversary of the Syria uprising coincides with another dark milestone: over one million refugees have now fled across Syria's borders into neighboring countries. More troubling news is that half of that number arrived in the last two months. The United Nations (UN) estimates that over 2.5 million people are displaced inside Syria and many more have been affected by the upheaval and fighting.

I would like to share with you the approach my bureau in the State Department is taking to address the crisis and how our efforts and USAID's work are complementary and mutually reinforcing... I shall first briefly comment on how the refugee crisis is affecting the neighboring countries, discuss the challenges we face in delivering humanitarian assistance to those in need throughout the region, and provide some specifics on the priorities of the Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and our diplomatic outreach to other countries.

Refugees in Neighboring Countries

Countries bordering Syria are approaching a dangerous saturation point with refugees. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in January of this year, 2,000 people fled Syria every day. In February, the number climbed to 5,000 a day; and in March, we've seen 8,000 people a day crossing from Syria into Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. In addition to serving as evidence that life inside Syria has become extremely dangerous for many, the number and the rate are overwhelming the capacity of humanitarian aid organizations to meet the needs of these victims and are sorely testing the limits of host countries' abilities to provide safe shelter. If international borders are closed to Syrians seeking refuge, the awful tally of human destruction will only increase.

Jordan: There are approximately 350,000 refugees in Jordan according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Approximately 70 percent of refugees in Jordan live outside of the refugee camps in cities and towns. Many have been taken in or helped by relatives, friends or even strangers. Only 30 percent live in the Za’atri refugee camp in northern Jordan. The Government of Jordan set up Za’atri in response to the large numbers of refugees crossing the border, and it has moved to set up another camp, as yet uninhabited, and initiated plans for another. Za’atri camp has been plagued by security problems and we have been in active conversations with the UNHCR and the Government of Jordan to improve the safety of refugees there as well as humanitarian workers.

Jordan is allowing refugees to cross its borders but is finding that its resources are stretched to help massive flows of refugees while providing services to its own citizens at the same time. We should note that we are concerned by reports that some Palestinian and Iraqi refugees have been turned around at the border and we have asked the Government of Jordan to let them cross. We’ve thanked the Government of Jordan for its ongoing assistance to the refugee population, and asked them to keep their borders open to all refugees. Knowing the significant economic cost associated with hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees, the U.S. government is providing Jordan with budget support.

Lebanon: Lebanon is hosting over 354,000 Syrian refugees. Lebanon has also taken in 32,000 Palestinian refugees who have fled the violence in Syria. Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in host communities and are not in camps, which allows for greater freedom of movement, greater possibilities for self-sufficiency and a semblance of a normal life. At the same time, the presence of so many refugees in a country of 4 million people taxes Lebanon’s infrastructure and resources and has increased tensions within the refugee-hosting communities. Hizballah's presence in southern Lebanon creates a challenge for UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGO) in providing aid, while its involvement in the Government of Lebanon complicates U.S. efforts to provide help during this crisis. Despite these strains, the Government of Lebanon continues to keep its borders open, though its leaders have warned that Lebanon has reached its saturation point and requires significant international assistance in order to support the refugees.

Iraq: Over 110,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Iraq, and most are now in Kurdistan. Domiz camp in Kurdistan accommodates approximately 54,000 persons, and two camps in Anbar province at Al-Qaim accommodate over 7,500 persons. In addition to those living in camps, there are many who live in villages and communities. In Kurdistan, Syrians are permitted to live and work in the community once they have registered.

Since October 21, 2012, the Government of Iraq has kept the Al-Qaim border crossing with Syria closed, except for medical emergencies and some family reunification cases. Local authorities and the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement state that the border is closed for security reasons. Syrian refugees in Anbar prior to the closure of the border are restricted to the camps, although some have family members nearby. The main reasons for return to Syria continue to be lack of freedom of movement out of the camp and lack of a way to earn a living. UNHCR continues to provide support to those expressing interest in returning to Syria but is not encouraging repatriation because conditions are not conducive to a safe return.

Turkey: Since the beginning of the crisis, the Government of Turkey has supported most of the humanitarian needs of the refugees from Syria who have crossed its border. In addition to 186,200 refugees registered in 17 camps set up by the government and 71,000 registered (or soon to be registered) outside of camps, the Government of Turkey estimates that an additional 100,000 unregistered refugees live in urban areas. While the government has previously focused its support for Syrian refugees on the camp-based populations, it is now beginning to address the needs of the out-of-camp Syrians by setting up centers where urban refugees can register for IDs and free health services. Turkey has a strong economy but is experiencing a decline in its once vibrant cross-border trade with Syria.

Challenges in Crisis Response

The challenges before us are many. USAID Nancy Lindborg’s testimony discusses access, security and funding issues. Therefore, I will focus on: (1) the need to work with host governments to ensure that they keep their borders open to refugees and have what they need to help the refugees; (2) specific contributions made by the PRM bureau; and (3) ensuring that other countries are contributing to humanitarian aspects of the crisis so that the UN and other humanitarian agencies have more of the support they need to respond.

Working with Host Governments

We recognize the huge strain that the influx of refugees is currently placing on countries that neighbor Syria. In both Jordan and Lebanon, government leaders are concerned about their capacity to absorb so many refugees. Iraq has expressed concerns that al-Qaeda and its Syria affiliate, al-Nusrah Front, are sending fighters and weapons across the border. Turkey, for the most part, has maintained an open border policy for all refugees, although each day it limits the number of refugees allowed to cross at border crossings with high traffic. It is essential that neighboring countries continue to keep their borders open for those refugees fleeing violence in Syria. In every meeting with officials from these countries, we thank them for allowing refugees to cross and discuss ways to help them uphold humanitarian principles while safeguarding their own security so that they are protected from a spillover of violence.

It is important that short-term relief programs link to longer-term development aid as part of overall U.S. government aid to the region. This is particularly the case in Jordan and Lebanon. We must leverage other aid and investments and incorporate refugees into the fabric of these countries, in order to minimize the costs that hosting refugees places on communities. This is an important area in which the State Department and USAID are working together.

Department of State Response

The Department and USAID lead the U.S. government’s humanitarian response and we work closely together in response to the crisis. Nancy Lindborg and I have traveled together to the region twice and were also recently joined by Ambassador Ford in Turkey, prior to our participation at the Kuwait Donors Conference in January. Our communications teams are taking advantage of maximizing every opportunity to get the message out to domestic and international audiences about the dimensions of the crisis and to highlight our government’s leadership role in responding.

That said, allow me to outline the role the State Department has in helping to get as much humanitarian aid into Syria as possible through partners. Over several decades, PRM has developed a privileged relationship with the humanitarian agencies of the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and non-governmental organizations. These agencies are a key part of the international humanitarian system that is governed by humanitarian principles. They bring technical expertise and operational capacity to respond to this large-scale crisis. Of the nearly $385 million in humanitarian assistance that USAID and the State Department are providing in response to the Syria crisis, the State Department’s contributions total nearly $185 million. Our contributions provide life-saving emergency assistance to meet basic humanitarian needs, such as shelter, water, sanitation, and health both inside Syria and in host countries.

The delivery of assistance is often undertaken at great personal risk to those distributing the aid. For example, in the past couple of months, two UNHCR convoys and one UN interagency convoy have delivered aid into north-west Syria, where thousands of internally displaced people are in acute need of humanitarian help. The operations were carried out in collaboration with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the local community. Once the convoys moved across battle-lines into areas controlled by the opposition, the missions were facilitated by the Syrian Opposition Coalition. Such operations are dangerous and difficult, which underscores the need for unhindered and safe access for those providing humanitarian assistance inside Syria. We will continue to encourage the UN to do more such cross-line assistance deliveries, counting on the Syrian Opposition Coalition to help coordinate and negotiate safe access. While these convoys are good, much more is needed to ensure supplies consistently and safely reach people in need.

Of course, people in need are not concentrated in one area and instead can be found on both sides of shifting battle-lines. Humanitarian organizations provide aid in a neutral and impartial manner. The United Nations is seeking to get access to all communities in need on a regular basis. It is unacceptable and a violation of humanitarian principles for the Syrian regime to deny this access.

I should also mention the plight of the 525,000 Palestinian refugees who were living in Syria prior to the start of the conflict. They, too, have been caught up in the violence in Syria. Fighting has engulfed many Palestinian refugee camps and neighborhoods, including in Yarmouk, causing over half of Syria’s Palestinian population to be displaced. For the most part, the Palestinian population has kept away from taking sides in the conflict. Those refugees who remain in camps are the poorest and most vulnerable. Some Palestinians have fled Syria, but most remain inside the country, having heard that they will be turned away at the borders with neighboring countries. The U.S. is the largest bilateral donor to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the UN agency responsible for assisting Palestinian refugees. There are also approximately 63,000 Iraqi refugees inside Syria. In recent months, many other Iraqis who were living as refugees in Syria have chosen to return to Iraq or flee for a second time to other countries.

Contributions of Other Countries

With no end in sight, we are facing a resource crisis. The UN's Regional Response Plan to assist up to 1.1 million Syrian refugees in the region has thus far received only 21 percent of the funds it needs to operate for the first half of 2013 and, as of mid-March, refugee arrivals have already nearly reached June 2013 planning figures. Despite our own budget constraints, the United States continues to make every effort to continue to provide funding to meet the increasing needs. However, it is vital that other donors quickly honor the pledges they have made and provide the cash that agencies need to keep life-saving operations going.

Even if the Asad regime falls soon, displacement and the need for humanitarian aid will continue. This is because of the widespread destruction of Syria's infrastructure and predicted flows of refugees that would continue to cross borders – likely in both directions. If refugees are not able to return for years, host countries will need to continue to help host Syrian children in schools, and help families with medical facilities, and provide other public services.

Using diplomatic channels, we are using every opportunity to ask other donors to follow through on the pledges they made at the Kuwait Donors Conference in January in order to raise the promised $1.5 billion. The Secretary and other Department principals have reached out to other governments to ask them to do more for the Syrian people, including Syrian refugees. Funding is urgently needed if UN agencies and others are able to continue to operate.

Coordination of the international humanitarian response is complex and must occur on multiple levels. The United States participates in meetings in Geneva of the Syria Humanitarian Forum that bring together senior officials from key donor governments, countries affected by the crisis and UN leaders to discuss the humanitarian aspects of the crisis, and to coordinate our collective response. We also actively participate in UN coordination meetings in the field. In addition, we are deepening our coordination with the Syrian Opposition Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit. We have also encouraged UN agencies and other partners to do the same, and are pleased with the initial results.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, I would like to say that my bureau’s primary concerns are providing protection to and aiding those who have fled the violence. The State Department’s overall goal, of course, is a return of peace and stability to Syria and to one day see the refugees return home.

I am grateful for the generosity of Congress and the American people who make our assistance possible, and for the excellent collaboration with the State Department’s Near East and European bureaus, and USAID colleagues. Thank you once again for the opportunity to highlight PRM’s role and some of our concerns regarding the Syrian humanitarian crisis. I would be happy to answer any of your questions.