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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Obama: Strike Syrian Regime, But Have Congressional Debate, Vote

Obama: Strike Syrian Regime, But Have Congressional Debate, Vote

U.S. CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF UZBEKISTAN ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Uzbekistan Independence Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 31, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Uzbekistan as you celebrate 22 years of independence.

The United States is proud to cooperate with the people of Uzbekistan in areas of mutual importance, from promoting education and security to strengthening civil society and increasing our trade and economic engagement.

Our cooperation promotes stability, security, and prosperity throughout Central Asia and the broader region. We look forward to building on these ties as you move forward.

As you celebrate this special day, I send best wishes for peace, health, and prosperity to all the people of Uzbekistan.

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Commemorating Labor Day | The White House

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Commemorating Labor Day | The White House

U.S. CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF THE REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Trinidad and Tobago's Independence Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 30, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on your 51st anniversary of independence on August 31.

The friendly ties between our peoples reach back more than 200 years. With the government and people of Trinidad and Tobago, we seek to promote mutual respect for democracy, human rights, and diversity. Through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, we work together to protect these interests and the security of all of our citizens.

As the steel pans across your nation ring out in celebration, I wish the people of Trinidad and Tobago a safe and joyous Independence Day.

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: TESTING ORION CAPSULE

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. CONGRATULATES THE PEOPLE OF THE KYRGYZ REPUBLIC ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Kyrgyz Republic's Independence Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 31, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of the Kyrgyz Republic on your Independence Day on August 31. The United States was among the first nations to recognize the Kyrgyz Republic’s independence 22 years ago, and our friendship and partnership have grown steadily ever since.

The United States and the Kyrgyz Republic share many binding ties: a commitment to democracy, a respect for pluralism, and a belief in political and economic opportunity for all.

A stable and prosperous Kyrgyz Republic can serve as a model for the region. The United States supports the Kyrgyz Republic’s economic and democratic development, and we will continue our work to support regional security and stability. In the years ahead, we look forward to deepening our cooperation for the benefit of both peoples.

I wish all the people of the Kyrgyz Republic a joyous day of national celebration and a year of peace, progress, and prosperity.

HHS SAYS MANY MEXICAN-AMERICAN CHILDREN ON THEIR WAY TO EARLY DIABETES

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMANS SERVICES 
From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

Data on Mexican-American children indicates many are headed early toward diabetes and other health problems. Scientists at Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio examined 670 children ages 6 to 17. The researchers found a striking proportion had metabolic syndrome – warning signs of diabetes, such as belly fat and high levels of blood sugar and insulin.

Investigator Ravindranath Duggirala:

“Experiencing metabolic syndrome and related risk factors this early in life significantly increases risk of developing hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic health problems years earlier than might otherwise have been expected.”

The study in the journal Human Genetics was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more at healthfinder.gov.

HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

FAIR HOUSING TESTING PROGRAM GENERATES EVIDENCE OF HOUSING DISCRIMINATION

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Justice Department Obtains $22,000 Settlement in Housing Discrimination Lawsuit Against Mt. Washington, KY., Landlord

The Justice Department announced today that Jerry L. Wilson, a Mt. Washington, Ky., landlord has agreed to pay $22,000 to resolve allegations that he violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against African-American apartment seekers and making statements indicating a preference for families without children for certain available apartments.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, charges that Wilson and EME LLC, misrepresented the availability of, and refused to negotiate for the rental of, apartments at Treva Court Apartments based on race or color.  The lawsuit also alleges that Mr. Wilson made statements indicating a preference for families without children to rent second floor apartments at the complex he operates, located at 272 Treva Court in Mt. Washington.  The allegations are based on evidence generated by the department’s Fair Housing Testing Program, in which individuals pose as renters to gather information about possible discriminatory practices.

The consent decree resolving this matter, which is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court, imposes a $22,000 civil penalty against Wilson and EME, LLC.   In addition, the consent decree enjoins the defendants from further acts of discrimination and requires Wilson to undergo fair housing training.

“Housing discrimination based on race and against families with children remains a persistent problem.” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of fair housing laws that protect the rights of individuals and families to live where they choose free from discrimination.”

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.

LABOR ANNOUNCES FINAL RULES TO IMPROVE EMPLOYMENT OF VETERANS AND THE DISABLED

FROM:  U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT
US Labor Department announces final rules to improve employment of veterans, people with disabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Labor today announced two final rules to improve hiring and employment of veterans and for people with disabilities. One rule updates requirements under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974; the other updates those under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. For more than 40 years these laws have required federal contractors and subcontractors to affirmatively recruit, hire, train and promote qualified veterans and people with disabilities respectively.
"In a competitive job market, employers need access to the best possible employees," said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "These rules make it easier for employers to tap into a large, diverse pool of qualified candidates."
"Strengthening these regulations is an important step toward reducing barriers to real opportunities for veterans and individuals with disabilities," said Patricia A. Shiu, director of the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which enforces both laws.

The VEVRAA rule provides contractors with a quantifiable metric to measure their success in recruiting and employing veterans by requiring contractors to annually adopt a benchmark either based on the national percentage of veterans in the workforce (currently 8 percent), or their own benchmark based on the best available data. The rule strengthens accountability and record-keeping requirements, enabling contractors to assess the effectiveness of their recruitment efforts. It also clarifies job listing and subcontract requirements to facilitate compliance.

The Section 503 rule introduces a hiring goal for federal contractors and subcontractors that 7 percent of each job group in their workforce be qualified individuals with disabilities. The rule also details specific actions contractors must take in the areas of recruitment, training, record keeping and policy dissemination — similar to those that have long been required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities.


Friday, August 30, 2013

U.S. CONGRATULATES MALAYSIANS ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Malaysia Hari Merdeka
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 29, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to congratulate all Malaysians as you celebrate your 56th Independence Day on August 31.

The United States is proud to call Malaysia a partner and a friend. The longstanding ties between our people are closer than ever, through initiatives like the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program, expanded university ties, and enhanced scientific collaboration.

Malaysia’s hosting of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit on October 11-12 will bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, governments, private sector, and academics from around the globe, and will help our young people prosper.

Our robust trade and investment relationship has long benefited both our countries and will continue to do so into the future.

I wish all Malaysians around the world a Happy Merdeka Day. Selamat Hari Kemerdekaan.

HAGEL MEETS WITH ASEAN COUNTERPARTS

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Hagel Meets with ASEAN Defense Ministers in Brunei
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, Aug. 28, 2013 - On the first day of Southeast Asia's most important annual defense ministerial conference, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met here with his counterparts from the 10 nations that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
On the sidelines, the secretary also took time for bilateral talks on the region and broader topics with his counterparts from Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Brunei, Burma and China.

The ASEAN member states are Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. During lunch today and a meeting afterward, Hagel and the members discussed the need to advance practical cooperation to build trust and lower tensions throughout the region.

When Hagel was in Singapore in June attending the Shangri-La Dialogue meeting, he invited the ASEAN defense ministers to Hawaii in 2014 for an informal meeting -- their first in the United States. During the luncheon, all 10 ministers accepted his invitation.

"I'm obviously very pleased about that," Hagel said today. "It will give us another opportunity to strengthen and deepen the relationship with our partners here in the Asia-Pacific."

Hagel noted the need to continue progress toward peacefully resolving territorial disputes, and committed to continued U.S. support for ASEAN, including its Defense Ministers' Meeting, or ADMM, as a strong organization for achieving shared goals and upholding the common good, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

During the meeting, a senior defense official said, each country expressed strong support for the steady U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific and viewed U.S. engagement in the region as a key contributor to peace and stability.

The representatives also expressed their support for continued active engagement by the United States in this part of the world, he said. "They see it's essential for a peaceful stable environment and a prosperous environment around them," the official added.

Brunei has served as chair of ASEAN this year, and yesterday Hagel met with Brunei's energy minister, Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin. Little said the secretary recognized Brunei's strong leadership as ASEAN chair and organizer of the June joint exercise involving humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and military medicine. Burma will take over next year as ASEAN chair.

Tomorrow morning, Hagel will attend the ADMM-Plus ministerial conference, hosted by Yasmin and made up of the 10 ASEAN defense ministers and eight dialogue partners: the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, New Zealand and Russia.

Senior defense officials said today that Hagel's bilateral meetings were positive and productive.

During a meeting this morning with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Hagel was pleased to accept an invitation to visit Japan next year, and the two militaries agreed to establish a cyber defense effort together, a senior defense official said today.

"There's a recognition that with both state and nonstate actors, cyber threats and thefts of intellectual property as well as penetrations of government and industrial networks are an increasing concern and there's a need to cooperate and share information to deal with that," the official said.

In other discussions, Little said, Hagel and Onodera exchanged views on the regional security environment, including North Korea's continued nuclear and ballistic missile developments.

Hagel said he looks forward during a visit to Tokyo in October to continued bilateral discussion on strengthening the alliance, and both men reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance in defending Japan and contributing to regional peace and security, Little added.

Both also expressed interest in continuing to modernize the alliance by enhancing their already strong security cooperation initiatives, the press secretary said.

"The U.S. very much appreciates Japan's important role as a contributor to peace and stability in this region and the rest of the world," Hagel told Onodera through a translator as the meeting began, "and I'm very much looking forward to my upcoming visit to Japan."

Hagel also met today with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, thanking him for his friendship and reaffirming the United States' enduring defense and extended deterrence commitments to South Korea. Little said Hagel told Kim it is a mutual duty to remain vigilant during this time of heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The leaders discussed the importance of recent U.N. Security Council resolutions designed to limit North Korea's progress on nuclear and missile programs, the press secretary said. The Defense Department is focused on fulfilling security commitments but Hagel said diplomatic efforts are fundamental to encouraging North Korea to pursue the path of peace, Little added.

Hagel will travel to the South Korean capital of Seoul in October to attend the annual Security Consultive Meeting, a senior defense official said, and as part of that trip will be able to help commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War with the country's leaders.

Later today, during bilateral discussions with Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh, Hagel accepted with appreciation an invitation to visit Vietnam in 2014 and through a translator wished the general a happy National Day, which the Vietnamese celebrate on Sept. 2.

Hagel expressed his commitment to growing the bilateral defense relationship with Vietnam and working on issues like maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and recovering the remains of U.S. personnel missing in action, Little said.

The secretary also conveyed his commitment to continuing to implement the 2011 Memorandum of Understanding for Advancing Bilateral Defense Cooperation, the press secretary added.

On regional security, Little said, the leaders noted the importance of peacefully resolving disputes in the South China Sea and welcomed steps to develop an ASEAN Code of Conduct to guide that process.

This afternoon, Hagel met briefly with Burma's defense minister, Lt. Gen. Wai Lwin, expressing his support for Burma's upcoming ASEAN chairmanship and telling the general that the department looks forward to supporting their efforts on ASEAN defense events next year.

A senior defense official noted that such a bilateral meeting at the defense minister level had not happened in more than 20 years with Burma, and that the meeting today is a "a sign of changes and the Obama administration's very positive engagement with the Burmese, [as well as] recognition of the reforms that have been underway in that country and progress that's being made on human rights."

Hagel discussed with the Burmese defense minister the importance of continued progress on reform and said it's also important that Burma sever military ties to North Korea, Little said.

Hagel applauded the Burmese military's support for the government's democratic reform efforts and encouraged that the reforms continue.

Hagel also held a bilateral meeting with representatives from China.

DOD Contracts for August 30, 2013

Contracts for August 30, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS ON SYRIA

http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/08/213668.htm

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

U.S. DOD ANNOUNCES TRANSFER OF PRISONERS FROM GUANTANAMO BAY TO ALGERIA

FROM:  DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Detainee Transfer Announced

           The Department of Defense announced  the transfer of Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Government of Algeria.



           As directed by the President's Jan. 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of this case. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these men were approved for transfer by consensus of the six departments and agencies comprising the task force. In accordance with Congressionally-mandated reporting requirements, the administration informed Congress of its intent to transfer these individuals.

         

           The United States is grateful to the Government of Algeria for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Algeria to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.

INVESTMENT ADVISER CHARGED IN PONZI SCHEME FRAUD

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 
SEC Charges Oklahoma Investment Adviser and Cohort with Fraud

On August 27, 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission brought securities fraud charges against former investment adviser Larry J. Dearman, Sr. and his close friend, Marya Gray, in connection with fraudulent securities offerings that raised at least $4.7 million from more than 30 of Dearman's advisory clients.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Tulsa, Oklahoma, alleges that Dearman invested his clients in various businesses that Gray owned in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. According to the Commission, Dearman and Gray misled investors about the safety of the investments and how their funds would be used, telling them, for instance, that investor funds would be used to purchase equipment for one of Gray's companies, Bartnet Wireless Internet, Inc. In truth, however, Gray and Dearman squandered the vast majority of investor funds on gambling, personal expenses, and Ponzi payments. The complaint also alleges that Dearman stole roughly $700,000 from some of his clients through various ruses.

The complaint alleges that Dearman and Gray violated or aided and abetted violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and Sections 206(1) and (2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The Commission seeks permanent injunctive relief, disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, and civil monetary penalties from both Defendants. In addition, the Commission has named as Relief Defendants three of Gray's businesses, including Bartnet Wireless Internet, Inc., The Property Shoppe, Inc., and Quench Buds Holding Company, LLC, seeking to recover funds they derived from Defendants' fraud.

DEPLOYMENT TO FIGHT CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

FROM: U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Aircraft Deploy to California to Aid Firefighting Effort
From a 153rd Air Expeditionary Group News Release

BOISE, Idaho, Aug. 28, 2013 - The U.S. Forest Service, through the National Interagency Fire Center here, has ordered the three MAFFS aircraft operating at the Boise Air Tanker Base moved to McClellan Air Tanker base near Sacramento, Calif., to assist the wildland firefighting effort in the western United States.

In a request made Aug. 26, the Forest Service also extended the military Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System mission through Sept. 30.

Five MAFFS aircraft are activated. Two are from the California Air National Guard's 146th Airlift Wing, and are operating from their home base at the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in Port Hueneme, Calif. Three others -- two from Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and one from the North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing, based in Charlotte, N.C., have been part of the MAFFS squadron operating from Boise.

Aircraft operations at Boise ended yesterday, but the command element for MAFFS will remain at Gowen Field here to coordinate with the National Interagency Fire Center. The Boise aircraft were expected at McClellan by late afternoon yesterday.

Since their initial activation June 11 to fight forest fires in southern Colorado, MAFFS aircraft have made 479 drops using 1,211,631 gallons of fire retardant. This summer, they have fought fires in Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California and Nevada.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the Forest Service. C-130 aircraft with MAFFS modules loaded into their cargo bays follow Forest Service lead planes, and military aircrews can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant along the leading edge of a forest fire in less than five seconds, covering an area a quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, ground crews at a MAFFS tanker base can refill the modules in less than 12 minutes.

An interagency Defense Department and Forest Service program, MAFFS provides aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the Forest Service's needs. A military air expeditionary group exercises control over MAFFS resources at the Forest Service's direction.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

U.S. CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF SLOVAKIA ON THEIR NATIONAL DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
On the Occasion of the Slovak Republic's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 29, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I send sincere congratulations to the people of Slovakia as you celebrate the 21st anniversary of your Constitution on September 1.

This is a special year for our two nations as we mark 20 years of U.S.-Slovak diplomatic relations. We share a long history of friendly and productive relations, and our mutual commitment to freedom, respect for human rights, and Euro-Atlantic integration will continue to unite us in the future.

Slovakia is a strong and reliable partner of the United States in NATO. We are grateful for your work with emerging democracies around the world, especially with those on the path to Euro-Atlantic integration. The cultural ties between our people are particularly close, and trade between our countries increased by nearly 60 percent from 2010 through 2012.

We look forward to building on this momentum.

On behalf of the American people, I offer best wishes for peace, prosperity, and happiness in the year to come.

DOD Contracts for August 29, 2013

Contracts for August 29, 2013

On the go?

On the go?

Post-ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus Press Conference in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Post-ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus Press Conference in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

IMPACT INSPECTIONS ANNOUNCED BY MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRAION

FROM:  U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT 
MSHA announces results of July impact inspections

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced that federal inspectors issued 149 citations and 16 orders during special impact inspections conducted at nine coal mines and four metal/nonmetal mines last month.

The monthly inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns. These matters include: high numbers of violations or closure orders; frequent hazard complaints or hotline calls; plan compliance issues; inadequate workplace examinations; a high number of accidents, injuries or illnesses; fatalities; adverse conditions, such as increased methane liberation, faulty roof conditions and inadequate ventilation; and respirable dust.
One impact inspection conducted at Affinity Coal Company LLC's Affinity Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va., resulted in 13 citations, 10 unwarrantable failure orders and one imminent danger order. MSHA inspectors secured communications from the surface to prevent the possibility of advance notice.

The imminent danger order was issued when a foreman was seen riding as a passenger in the bucket of a rubber-tired scoop in a wet, rough and uneven entry. Riding in the bucket violated a safeguard MSHA issued on Sept. 17, 2012. A miner riding in the bucket of a scoop can be thrown from the bucket and crushed. There have already been two fatalities involving scoops this year at the Affinity Mine.

Five of the unwarrantable failure orders were issued for violations of the mine's ventilation plan. MSHA measured no ventilation on a section where two miners were operating a roof bolter, and only 150 cubic feet per minute of ventilation on another section where the ventilation plan required 7,800 cfm and the operator was actively mining coal. These conditions have the potential to result in methane and dust accumulations that may result in an explosion or fire, and expose miners to conditions that can lead to black lung. Other similar conditions of airflow significantly below the mine's ventilation plan requirements were found by MSHA inspectors.

The operator also allowed excessive accumulations of combustible materials in the form of dry coal and coal dust ranging from 5 inches to 2 feet deep. Enforcement personnel identified 10 areas where the operator failed to apply rock dust along the mine roof and ribs for up to 80 feet, creating conditions that exposed miners to potential ignition and explosion hazards. The mine was cited for inadequate pre-shift examinations.

In addition, one unwarrantable failure order was issued for a violation of the roof control plan where the operator did not install reflectors to signal the last row of roof supports. Warning signals are required to prevent miners from entering areas where the mine roof is not supported and could collapse on them.

"While many mine operators have improved working conditions at their mines, we continue to see unacceptable conditions at some mines that put lives at risk," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main. "The type of conditions found by inspectors during this surprise inspection are the type that can expose miners to methane and coal dust explosions and black lung, and cannot be tolerated in the mining industry."

Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 642 impact inspections and issued 10,789 citations, 996 orders and 45 safeguards.

MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN COMPUTER NETWORK HACKING CASE

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Pennsylvania Man Pleads Guilty in Massachusetts to Hacking into Multiple Computer Networks

A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty today to charges stemming from his participation in a scheme to hack into computer networks and sell access to those networks.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts.

Andrew James Miller, 23, of Devon, Penn., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf in the District of Massachusetts to one count of conspiracy and two counts of computer intrusion.

According to court documents, from 2008 to 2011, Miller remotely hacked into a variety of computers located in Massachusetts and elsewhere, and, in some instances, surreptitiously installed “backdoors” into those computers.  These “backdoors” were designed to provide future administrator-level, or “root,” access to the compromised computers.  According to court documents, Miller obtained log-in credentials to the compromised computers.  He and his co-conspirators then sold access to these backdoors, as well as other log-in credentials.  The access sold by Miller and his co-conspirators allowed unauthorized people to access various commercial, education and government computer networks.

Judge Wolf scheduled sentencing for Nov. 19, 2013.  The maximum penalty for the conspiracy count is five years in prison.  One of the computer intrusion counts carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and the other, involving intentional damage to a protected computer, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The case was investigated by the FBI.  It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Mona Sedky of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Bookbinder of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

SEC ISSUES WARNING REGARDING DISASTER INVESTMENT ADVISORS

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) issued a Risk Alert on business continuity and disaster recovery planning for investment advisers.  The alert was prompted by a review of responses to Hurricane Sandy, which caused widespread damage to Northeastern states and closed U.S. equity and options markets for two days in October 2012.

The Risk Alert follows a joint advisory issued on August 16 by OCIE, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority on business continuity and disaster recovery planning in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  While the joint advisory covered a broad array of firms, the Risk Alert focuses exclusively on investment advisers.  Both documents are intended to encourage firms to review their business continuity plans so as to improve responses to and reduce recovery time after significant large-scale events.

“Our staff examined approximately 40 advisers in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to assess their preparedness for and reaction to the storm,” said OCIE Director Andrew Bowden.  “We hope our observations in this Risk Alert and those in the earlier joint advisory will help industry participants better prepare for future events that threaten to disrupt market operations.”

The Risk Alert makes observations in the following areas:

Preparation for widespread disruption
Planning for alternative locations
Preparedness of key vendors
Telecommunications services and technology
Communication plans
Reviewing and testing
Firms can strengthen their business continuity and disaster recovery plans by considering the observations in the Risk Alert and implementing or strengthening practices as appropriate.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

DOD Contracts for August 28, 2013

Contracts for August 28, 2013

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

Navy Boosting Forward Presence

Navy Boosting Forward Presence

Readout of Secretary Hagel's Meeting with Brunei Host

Readout of Secretary Hagel's Meeting with Brunei Host

Andreas Mogensen fliegt 2015 zur ISS

Andreas Mogensen fliegt 2015 zur ISS

Diabetes is not cheap

Diabetes is not cheap

FACE OF DEFENSE: WOUNDED MARINE HELPS OTHERS GO INTO BUSINESS

Face of Defense: Wounded Marine Helps Others Go Into Business

FUGITIVE FROM JUSTICE CAUGHT AFTER 8 YEARS ON THE RUN

FROM:  U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE 
8 Year Fugitive Captured on Tybee Island

 SERFTF logoSavannah, GA – A Waycross man wanted for Failure to Surrender for Sentence and Bond Violation for a 2005 conviction by the United States Marshals Service was arrested on Tybee Island, Georgia by the United States Marshals Service Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Tybee Police Department on August 22, 2013.

Mark Ashley Griffin, 37, was wanted by the U.S. Marshals Service in a warrant issued in 2006 for Failure to Surrender to serve a sentence and Bond Violation. Griffin was convicted in U.S. District Court in Waycross, Georgia for Conspiracy to distribute, possession with intent to distribute, and manufacture in excess of 50 grams of cocaine base (crack). Griffin was sentenced to serve 110 months in federal prison on December 14, 2005. Griffin was allowed to self-surrender to the Federal Prison in Jesup, Georgia on January 17, 2006. Griffin failed to surrender and has been on the run since the date of conviction.

Numerous leads and interviews were conducted over the last almost eight years in Georgia and Florida to try to locate Griffin. Information was generated early on that said Griffin had fled the country to an island that did not have an extradition treaty with the United States. Although this was never confirmed, the investigation continued to try and find him. The U.S. Marshals have a reputation of being excellent fugitive hunters and as good as we are, we are also grateful for a little luck in the form of anonymous phone calls. Griffin’s luck ran out on August 22, 2013, when the U.S. Marshals Savannah office of the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Tybee Island Police department located him in an apartment a 13 Izlar Street on Tybee Island, Georgia. Griffin had gone to great lengths to hide his true identity by using the alias of Dave Van Guard, had grown out his hair and dyed it blond, covered his distinctive tattoos with new tattoos and worked on a cash basis. Griffin had nothing in his name. Griffin had taken on the proverbial “surfer dude” look, totally opposite of his 2005 appearance. Griffin has laid low for the last almost eight years and never surfaced to the attention of law enforcement on Tybee Island other than being seen all over the island. Griffin even taught surfing lessons to the children on the island. An anonymous tip was received by the Marshals Task Force that stated that Griffin was in the area of 16th/17th Streets on Tybee Island. The task force set up surveillance in the area and observed Griffin come out of the Izlar address. Marshals went to the address and arrested Griffin without incident. Griffin was transported to the McIntosh County jail to await his court appearance on the outstanding charges.

Annually, investigations carried out by the U.S. Marshals result in the apprehension of over 36, 000 federal fugitives. More federal fugitives are arrested by the Marshals Service than all other federal agencies combined. In 2011, U.S. Marshals led task forces arrested more than 86,000 state and local fugitives, which cleared over 113,000 warrants.

The Marshals Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force has three offices: Atlanta, Macon, and Savannah. The task force covers the whole state of Georgia. The Savannah Office of the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force is a team comprised of investigators from the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department, the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the McIntosh County Sheriff’s Department, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department, the Hampton County Sheriff’s Department, and the United States Marshals Service. The task force objective is to seek out and arrest fugitives charged with violent crimes, drug crimes, sex offenders, and other felonies.

CFTC PERMANENTLY BARS CPA FROM PRACTICING BEFORE THE COMMISSION

FROM:  U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION 
CFTC Permanently Bars Accountant, Jeannie Veraja-Snelling, for Failing to Properly Audit Peregrine Financial Group, Inc.

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that it filed and settled charges against Jeannie Veraja-Snelling, d/b/a Veraja-Snelling & Company (Veraja-Snelling), a certified public accountant and sole practitioner from Glendale Heights, Illinois, barring her from practicing before the Commission. The CFTC’s Order charges Veraja-Snelling with failing to audit Peregrine Financial Group, Inc. (Peregrine) in accordance with CFTC Regulation 1.16.

Veraja Snelling was the auditor for Peregrine, a registered Futures Commission Merchant (FCM). On July 10, 2012, the CFTC charged Peregrine and its sole owner and chief executive officer, Russell Wasendorf, Sr. (Wasendorf), with fraud, among other violations, within 24 hours after the discovery that Wasendorf had misappropriated millions of dollars in customer funds (see CFTC Press Release 6300-12). Among the violations that were discovered, Peregrine’s 2011 certified financial statements filed with the Commission were fraudulently overstated by more than $215 million. According to the CFTC’s Order entered today, Wasendorf deceived Veraja-Snelling and others by manufacturing bogus bank statements that overstated Peregrine’s bank balances and by forging documents sent to Veraja-Snelling that purported to provide bank confirmation of the overstated balances.

According to the Order, Wasendorf was able to perpetrate and conceal his fraud in part because Peregrine lacked proper internal accounting controls and was not subject to audits performed in accordance with CFTC Regulations. The Order finds that Veraja-Snelling’s audits of Peregrine’s financial statements were not performed in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards (GAAS) and did not include appropriate review and tests of internal accounting controls and procedures for safeguarding customer assets, as required by CFTC Regulation 1.16.

David Meister, the CFTC’s Director of Enforcement, stated, “As the Peregrine debacle shows, the importance of the independent accountant’s gatekeeper function cannot be overstated. FCMs and, most importantly, their customers, rely on auditors to approach each and every auditing assignment professionally and with due care. There is no place in the CFTC-regulated world for below-standard audits or auditors who do not have a sufficient understanding of the futures industry.”

The Order finds that Veraja-Snelling lacked the necessary technical expertise needed to audit an FCM, failed to adequately staff and plan the Peregrine audits, and failed to exercise due care in performing the Peregrine audits. Among other failures, Veraja-Snelling’s review and testing of Peregrine’s internal controls during the Peregrine audits did not identify that Wasendorf had exclusive control over the customer segregated account and its financial reporting, which reflected a material inadequacy in Peregrine’s internal controls, according to the Order.

In addition, the Order finds that Veraja-Snelling improperly conducted the process to confirm bank account balances, which generally entails an auditor sending a confirmation form to a bank for a bank officer to sign and return to the auditor. Here, Veraja-Snelling relied on Peregrine’s accounting staff to prepare the confirmation request and identify the proper recipient. After Peregrine’s accounting staff provided the confirmation request and envelope to Veraja-Snelling for mailing, she sent the confirmation request to a post office box that was secretly controlled by Wasendorf. Wasendorf responded to the request by forging the signature of a bank employee on the form, confirming the false balance amounts.

The Order concludes that Veraja-Snelling’s failure to conduct the Peregrine audits in accordance with Regulation 1.16 constituted improper, unprofessional conduct, and the Order permanently bars her from appearing or practicing as an accountant before the Commission. In addition, the Order requires her to relinquish her right to receive payment for performing the 2011 audit.

In related actions, the CFTC filed a Complaint on June 5, 2013 against U.S. Bank National Association for unlawfully using and holding Peregrine’s customer segregated funds (see CFTC Press Release 6601-13).  Wasendorf was also criminally charged by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa, pled guilty, and on January 23, 2013 was sentenced to 50 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $215 million in restitution. United States v. Russell Wasendorf, Sr., 12-cr-2021-LRR.

The CFTC Division of Enforcement appreciates the assistance of the CFTC Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight in this matter.

The CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this matter are Lindsey Evans, Heather Johnson, Mary Beth Spear, Ava Gould, Scott Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger, and Richard Wagner.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

U.S. DOD Contracts for August 27, 2013

Contracts for August 27, 2013

Hagel Talks to Indonesian Soldiers About Education, Training

Hagel Talks to Indonesian Soldiers About Education, Training

Hagel: U.S. Continues to Work With Other Nations on Syria

Hagel: U.S. Continues to Work With Other Nations on Syria

OSHA'S NEWLY PROPOSED RULE REGARDING WORKER EXPOSURE TO CRYSTALLINE SILICA

FROM:  U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT 
US Department of Labor’s OSHA announces proposed rule to protect workers exposed to crystalline silica

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced a proposed rule aimed at curbing lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America's workers. The proposal seeks to lower worker exposure to crystalline silica, which kills hundreds of workers and sickens thousands more each year. After publication of the proposal, the public will have 90 days to submit written comments, followed by public hearings.

"Exposure to silica can be deadly, and limiting that exposure is essential," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "Every year, exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. This proposal is expected to prevent thousands of deaths from silicosis — an incurable and progressive disease — as well as lung cancer, other respiratory diseases and kidney disease. We're looking forward to public comment on the proposal."

Once the full effects of the rule are realized, OSHA estimates that the proposed rule would result in saving nearly 700 lives per year and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis annually.

Exposure to airborne silica dust occurs in operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete, brick, block and other stone products and in operations using sand products, such as in glass manufacturing, foundries and sand blasting.

The proposal is based on extensive review of scientific and technical evidence, consideration of current industry consensus standards and outreach by OSHA to stakeholders, including public stakeholder meetings, conferences and meetings with employer and employee organizations.

"The proposed rule uses common sense measures that will protect workers' lives and lungs — like keeping the material wet so dust doesn't become airborne," added Michaels. "It is designed to give employers flexibility in selecting ways to meet the standard."

The proposed rulemaking includes two separate standards — one for general industry and maritime employment, and one for construction.
The agency currently enforces 40-year-old permissible exposure limits (PELs) for crystalline silica in general industry, construction and shipyards that are outdated, inconsistent between industries and do not adequately protect worker health. The proposed rule brings protections into the 21st century.

The proposed rule includes a new exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica and details widely used methods for controlling worker exposure, conducting medical surveillance, training workers about silica-related hazards and recordkeeping measures.

OSHA rulemaking relies heavily on input from the public and the agency will conduct extensive engagement to garner feedback from the public through both written and oral comments. OSHA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for 90 days following publication in the Federal Register, followed by public hearings. Once public hearings conclude, members of the public who filed a notice of intention to appear can then submit additional post-hearing comments.


U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: VACCINE FOR MALARIA

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

TAX PREPARER FOR DEFENSE CONTRACTOR WORKERS BARRED FROM TAX PREPARATION

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Friday, August 23, 2013

Texas Tax Preparer Is Permanently Barred from Tax Preparation for Allegedly Falsifying Returns for Overseas Customers and Impeding Audits
Many Customers of a Southlake Woman Allegedly Worked Overseas for Defense Contractors

The Justice Department announced that yesterday a federal court in Ft. Worth, Texas permanently barred Karena Mondrianh, of Southlake, Texas, from preparing tax returns and from operating a tax-preparation business.  Mondrianh consented to entry of the preliminary injunctions without admitting the allegations against her.

In its complaint, the government alleged that Mondrianh prepared fraudulent tax returns understating customers’ income by inventing – sometimes without customers’ knowledge – false business expenses and by falsely claiming that customers’ income was exempt from tax.   According to the complaint most of Mondrianh’s customers work overseas for defense contractors. The permanent injunction order was signed by Judge John H. McBryde of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

The complaint further alleged that Mondrianh provided false information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in improper attempts to delay IRS audits of customers.  She also allegedly urged a customer to lie to an IRS agent in order to forestall an IRS audit.

PHYSICIAN SETTLES FALSE CLAIMS ACT VIOLATIONS RELATED ALLEGED OVERBILLING

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Long Island Physician to Pay U.S. $388,000 to Settle False Claims Act Allegations Related to Overbilling Medicare

Richard S. Obedian, a Long Island, N.Y., orthopedic surgeon, will pay the government $388,000 to settle allegations that he violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims to Medicare for minimally invasive spine procedures, the Justice Department announced today.

Allegedly, throughout 2005, Obedian knowingly submitted improper claims to Medicare for a procedure known as kyphoplasty, a minimally invasive procedure used to treat compression fractures of the spine that often are due to osteoporosis.  Prior to 2006, Medicare billing rules required the use of a specific billing code to denote the performance of a kyphoplasty procedure.  Those same rules precluded the use of other codes assigned to more invasive and complicated, and therefore more expensive, surgeries.  The government alleged that Obedian knowingly circumvented lower payment rates for kyphoplasty procedures performed throughout 2005 by using incorrect billing codes assigned to more complicated surgeries, thereby inflating his Medicare reimbursements.    
                                       
“We expect physicians who participate in federal health care programs to bill for their services accurately and honestly,” said Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.  “Neither the Department of Justice nor the taxpayers will tolerate those who knowingly overbill federal health care programs.”

“We will continue to vigorously enforce the False Claims Act for the protection of the taxpayers and the United States government,” said William J. Hochul, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York.

“The Obedian settlement vividly illustrates the role of dynamic law enforcement partnerships in the battle to protect Medicare from those who would bill inappropriately,” said Thomas O’Donnell, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, New York region.  “Our office continues working to ensure that taxpayer money is spent wisely.”

“This resolution is a prime example of CMS’ successful partnership with the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to carry out our mission to prevent and detect Medicare fraud and protect the Medicare Trust Fund,” said Peter Budett, Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Program Integrity in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $14.8 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $10.8 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

This settlement was the result of a coordinated effort among the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General.  The settlement is part of the Department’s broader investigation into kyphoplasty billing practices among hospitals, which has resulted in settlements with more than 100 hospitals totaling approximately $75 million to resolve allegations that they mischarged Medicare for kyphoplasty procedures.  In addition, the government previously settled with Medtronic Spine LLC, the corporate successor to Kyphon Inc., for $75 million to settle allegations that the company defrauded Medicare by counseling hospital providers to perform kyphoplasty procedures as inpatient rather than outpatient procedures.

The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Joint Press Conference with Secretary Hagel and Minister of Defense Purnomo in Jakarta, Indonesia

Joint Press Conference with Secretary Hagel and Minister of Defense Purnomo in Jakarta, Indonesia

President Obama Awards the Medal of Honor | The White House

President Obama Awards the Medal of Honor | The White House

KERRY MAKES REMARKS ON SYRIAN USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS

http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/08/213503.htm

DOD Contracts for August 26, 2013

Contracts for August 26, 2013

Coast Guard Searches for Missing Fisherman

Coast Guard Searches for Missing Fisherman

Army Releases Suicide Data

Army Releases Suicide Data

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAGEL SPEAKS OF PARTNERSHIP WITH MALAYSIA

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Hagel Underscores Commitment to Partnership With Malaysia
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Aug. 25, 2013 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had productive meetings here today with Malaysian officials and said the United States is committed to building on progress made over the past few years and strengthening the U.S.-Malaysian partnership.
Hagel's first visit to Malaysia as defense secretary is part of an Asia-Pacific trip that will include visits to Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.
"Malaysia has been a good friend to the United States, and the close security partnership we've forged holds great promise for ensuring our shared security and prosperity in the 21st century," Hagel said this afternoon during a joint news conference with Defense Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

"I know President [Barack] Obama appreciates the close relationship that exists between our two countries," he added, "and I know he looks forward to his visit here in October to [attend] the Global Entrepreneurship Summit."

Hagel and Hishammuddin met, the secretary said, "to discuss a range of security issues of importance to both our countries and to this region."

Praising Malaysia's growing military capabilities, Hagel said Malaysia has made increasingly important contributions to regional and global security.

The Malaysian military has made impressive contributions to counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and to United Nations peacekeeping efforts with nearly 1,000 troops deployed worldwide this year, he said, adding that Malaysian armed forces medical personnel are contributing to security in Afghanistan.

The United States welcomes these efforts by the Malaysian military, Hagel said, "and today I made clear that the U.S. is continuing to assist Malaysia's military as it increases its capabilities in areas like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping, maritime security and counterterrorism."

This year the United States will conduct more than 75 activities, exchanges and visits with the Malaysian military, the secretary added, all designed to help it become a more professional and flexible force.

Hagel said he and the defense minister also discussed ways to counter transnational threats, such as trafficking and proliferation, and future areas of cooperation, such as technology collaboration and expanding defense trade and information sharing.

"Minister Hishammuddin and I reaffirmed our shared belief that greater multilateral cooperation and strong regional institutions are essential -- essential," Hagel stressed, "to greater stability in the region."

After the news conference, Hagel met with Prime Minister Najib Razak and later delivered a speech at the Ministry of Defense to a packed auditorium of defense officials and business leaders.

In the speech, the secretary discussed how the Asia-Pacific region will help to shape the trajectory of global security and prosperity, and how the United States is rebalancing the weight of its global diplomatic, economic and security engagement toward the Asia-Pacific.

"Since President Obama took office in 2009, the United States has made major advances in its relationships in Southeast Asia and recognized the centrality of ASEAN," Hagel said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, whose 10 member states are Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Defense ministers from these nations are attendees of the annual ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting, or ADMM. And the upcoming ADMM-Plus meeting is made up of ASEAN members and eight dialogue partners: the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, New Zealand and Russia.

"My upcoming visit to the ADMM-Plus [in Brunei]," Hagel said, "and my travel to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines this week is an example of how the United States is engaging in 'defense diplomacy' in the region."

Other diplomatic efforts include engagement with Burma, engagement in the region by Obama administration officials, and a high-standard trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership whose negotiations Malaysia has joined, the secretary said.

"These diplomatic and economic initiatives are designed to bring greater prosperity to all of our nations by building trade and investment, increasing our cultural and societal ties, educating our people, and fostering innovation to provide better health care, more renewable energy, and a sustainable environment," Hagel said. "But success in every one of these areas is underpinned by peace and security."

A key component of the U.S. security strategy is to help nations and institutions across the region improve their ability to address these threats through joint military exercises and engagements, he said. As part of the rebalance, the United States is making such exercises more robust and is including more nations across the region. An example is Cobra Gold.

What began as a bilateral military exercise between the United States and treaty ally Thailand in 1980 has evolved into a multilateral exercise involving more than 13,000 personnel from the United States, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, the secretary said, all training together in areas such as jungle warfare, counterproliferation, and combined arms.

Another example is RIMPAC, he said, the U.S. Navy's largest multilateral exercise. This features 46 navy vessels, 200 aircraft and more than 25,000 personnel. India joined the exercise in 2012, and in 2014 Brunei and China will participate for the first time.

The United States is also helping partners improve capabilities by providing new defense technology and equipment.

"Our most recent budget includes $90 million for foreign military financing and international military education and training programs in Southeast Asia, an increase of more than 50 percent compared to four years ago," Hagel said.

The United States is increasing commercial defense trade, he added, and envisions moving toward co-production and co-development of new platforms with close partners in the region, sharing American technology and expertise to deepen security partnerships.

Multilateral cooperation -- U.S. partners in the region cooperating more effectively with each other and with other nations in the region -- is essential to meeting transnational security challenges, Hagel explained. Such nations include close U.S. allies Australia, Japan and South Korea, and emerging powers such as China and India, he added, without whose active involvement and participation no security architecture in Southeast Asia can succeed.

"To further this kind of cooperation, we are making new investments in the Asia-Pacific region's growing security architecture, particularly ASEAN-led institutions like the ADMM-Plus, which is now Asia's primary multilateral defense ministerial," the secretary said.

Enhancing U.S. contributions to regional institutions is a key pillar of U.S. strategy in the region, he added.

"Together," Hagel told the audience, "the United States and all the nations of this region are defining a new future, one where we embrace the obligation to conduct ourselves responsibly and identify ways to work together to solve common challenges."

NLRB CONSOLIDATES HEADQUARTERS' OFFICES

FROM:  NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD 
National Labor Relations Board Creates Division of Legal Counsel at Headquarters

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has created a new Division of Legal Counsel at its Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  The new Division consists of three branches created by the consolidation of several Headquarters’ offices.  The consolidation eliminates duplication of functions, improve the delivery of services, streamline operations and integrate services.   The new Division of Legal Counsel is headed by Associate General Counsel Margery E. Lieber.  The three Branches of the Division of Legal Counsel are:

The Ethics, Employment and Administrative Law Branch provides the NLRB with legal counsel and advice in the areas of ethics, labor relations, employment and personnel law, government contracting and Federal Tort Claims Act matters.
The Contempt, Compliance and Special Litigation Branch provides compliance and contempt advice and conducts litigation when external statutes, programs or outside proceedings threaten the Agency’s ability to carry out its mission.  It also provides advice and engages in litigation to attain compliance with outstanding court judgments and initiates ancillary collection proceedings.  It protects the Board’s remedial orders in bankruptcy courts or against attachments, garnishments, and liens.  It also assists with defending Agency employees when they have been sued in their individual capacity for actions taken in their official capacity, and assists Regions regarding compliance work related to potential derivative liability.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Branch coordinates the processing of all FOIA requests in the Regional Offices and directly handles all FOIA requests in Headquarters, as well as all FOIA appeals.  In the near future, it is anticipated that all FOIA work will be centralized at the NLRB Headquarters, and, at that time, the FOIA Branch will be responsible for processing all FOIA requests nationwide.
In addition, the Division of Legal Counsel’s Lead Technology Counsel renders advice and assistance regarding e-litigation and e-discovery matters.

HEAT WAVE IN CHINA

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=81870&src=eoa-iotd

U.S. CONGRATULATE PEOPLE OF MOLDOVA ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
On the Occasion of Moldova's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 23, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Moldova as you celebrate the 22nd anniversary of your independence this August 27.

The United States supports the aspirations of the Moldovan people for a prosperous and stable democracy. We look forward to the conclusion of an EU Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership Summit in November, which will promote political and economic reform and increase opportunities for the Moldovan people.

The United States supports a negotiated, peaceful settlement that ensures Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity while providing a special status for Transnistria within the Republic of Moldova.

With cooperation and determined effort, I am confident that all Moldovans can achieve a better, more prosperous future.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

HAGEL SAYS DEFENSE HAS OPTIONS FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA ON SYRIA

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Hagel: Defense Department Has Options for Obama on Syria
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Aug. 23, 2013 - Shortly after takeoff on the first leg of his second official trip to the Asia-Pacific region, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel joined a video teleconference with President Barack Obama's senior national security advisors that focused on the deadly situation in Syria.
n the latest tragedy in the stricken nation, more than 1,000 men, women and children died in what may have been a chemical weapons attack on its own citizens by the government of President Bashar Assad. The United Nations and others are investigating the attacks.
After leaving Hawaii, the first stop on his trip, Hagel spoke today with reporters who are traveling with him to Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.

"The president has asked the Defense Department for options. {As] always, the department is prepared, has been prepared, to provide ranges for all contingencies for the president of the United States, and we'll continue to do that," Hagel said.

"We're dealing with a very serious issue," the secretary added. "We are working with our international partners, the international community [and] the United Nations. We are looking at every option."

Referring to an interview that Obama gave Chris Cuomo on CNN about Syria, Hagel said the president framed the situation there "exactly right" when he said the United States must be part of the international community in its response to the actions in Syria.

As the president noted, the secretary said, the United States must consider its long-term objectives, its long-term interests, and its objectives for influence and outcomes in deciding upon any response.

"The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies, and that requires positioning our forces [and] positioning our assets to be able to carry out whatever options the president might choose," Hagel said.

"On the specific option of military use or force in response to what we will determine at some point here very shortly what did happen, and we're still assessing that," he added. "I think the range of military options is always part of the range of options the president has."

Hagel said he thinks the international community is moving quickly to get the facts and the intelligence right about what happened in Syria so a decision can be made swiftly about how to respond.

"If, in fact, this was a deliberate use and attack by the Syrian government on its own people using chemical weapons, there may be another attack coming," he said. "A very quick assessment of what happened and whatever appropriate response should be made."

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: The Jets

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

Secretary Hagel's Remarks at Malaysia's Institute of Defence and Security

Secretary Hagel's Remarks at Malaysia's Institute of Defence and Security

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER'S REMARKS AT NATIONAL ACTION TO REALIZE THE DREAM MARCH

Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the National Action to Realize the Dream March
~ Saturday, August 24, 2013

It is an honor to be here – among so many friends, distinguished civil rights leaders, Members of Congress, and fellow citizens who have fought, rallied, and organized – from the streets of this nation, to the halls of our Capitol – to advance the cause of justice.

Fifty years ago, Dr. King shared his dream with the world and described his vision for a society that offered, and delivered, the promise of equal justice under law.  He assured his fellow citizens that this goal was within reach – so long as they kept faith with one another, and maintained the courage and commitment to work toward it.  And he urged them to do just that.  By calling for no more – and no less – than equal justice.  By standing up for the civil rights to which everyone is entitled.  And by speaking out – in the face of hatred and violence, in defiance of those who sought to turn them back with fire hoses, bullets, and bombs – for the dignity of a promise kept; the honor of a right redeemed; and the pursuit of a sacred truth that’s been woven through our history since this country’s earliest days:  that all are created equal.

Those who marched on Washington in 1963 had taken a long and difficult road – from Montgomery, to Greensboro, to Birmingham; through Selma and Tuscaloosa.  They marched – in spite of animosity, oppression, and brutality – because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept.  Their focus, at that time, was the sacred and sadly unmet commitments of the American system as it applied to African Americans.  As we gather today, 50 years later, their march – now our march – goes on.  And our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities, and of countless others across this country who still yearn for equality, opportunity, and fair treatment.

Dr. King’s indelible words helped to alter the course of history, and his work provided the foundation for much of the progress that has followed.  But this morning, as we recommit ourselves to his quest for progress, we must note that in addition to Dr. King, we also stand on the shoulders of untold millions whose names may be lost to history, but whose stories – and contributions – must be remembered and treasured:  surely those who stood on this Mall in the summer of 1963 – but we must also remember those who rode buses, sat at lunch counters, stood up to racist governments and governors, and, tragically, those who gave their lives.  We must remember generations who carried themselves on a day to day basis with great dignity in the face of unspeakable injustice – sacrificing their own ambitions so that the opportunities of future generations would be assured.  We must remember those who labored for wages that measured neither their worth nor their effort.  We must remember those who served, and fought, and died wearing the uniform of a nation that they cared so much about but which did not reciprocate that devotion in equal measure.

Each of these brave men and women displayed a profound love of country that must always be appreciated.  It is to these people that we owe the greatest debt – Americans of all races, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds who risked everything in order that their fellow citizens, and their children, might truly be free.  It is to them that we must all say – in the most profound way – “thank you.”  It is to them that I dedicate my words this morning.  And it is in their honor that I pledge my continuing service, in the hope that it might pay worthy tribute to their sacrifices.

But today's observance is about far more than reflecting on our past.  Today’s March is also about committing to shape the future we will share – a future that preserves the progress, and builds on the achievements, that have led us to this moment.  Today, we look to the work that remains unfinished, and make note of our nation's shortcomings, not because we wish to dwell on imperfection – but because, as those who came before us, we love this great country.  We want this nation to be all that it was designed to be – and all that it can become.  We recognize that we are forever bound to one another and that we stand united by the work that lies ahead – and by the journey that still stretches before us.

This morning, we affirm that this struggle must, and will, go on in the cause of our nation’s quest for justice – until every eligible American has the chance to exercise his or her right to vote, unencumbered by discriminatory or unneeded procedures, rules, or practices.  It must go on until our criminal justice system can ensure that all are treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the law.  And it must go on until every action we take reflects our values and that which is best about us.  It must go on until those now living, and generations yet to be born, can be assured the rights and opportunities that have been too long denied to too many.

The America envisioned at this site 50 years ago – the “beloved community” – has not yet been realized.  But half a century after the March, and 150 years after Emancipation, it is finally within our grasp.  Together – through determined effort; through a willingness to confront corrosive forces tied to special interests rather than the common good; and through devotion to our founding documents – I know that, in the 21st century, we will see an America that is more perfect and more fair.  I thank each of you for your continuing dedication to this cause, and your leadership of this important work.  And I look forward to all that we will surely achieve together – by advancing the cause that remains our common pursuit.  By preserving the legacy we are called to extend.  And by helping to realize the dream that still guides our every step.

Thank you.

COMPANY TO PAY $26 MILLION TO RESOLVE ALLEGATIONS OF IMPROPER CLAIMS FOR INPATIENT STAYS

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Monday, August 19, 2013
Shands Healthcare to Pay $26 Million to Resolve Allegations Related to Inpatient Stays at Six Florida Hospitals

Shands Teaching Hospital & Clinics Inc., Shands Jacksonville Medical Center Inc. and Shands Jacksonville Healthcare Inc. (collectively, Shands Healthcare), which operates a network of health care providers in Florida, will pay the government and the state of Florida a total of $26 million to settle allegations that six of its health care facilities submitted false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health care programs for inpatient procedures that should have been billed as outpatient services, the Justice Department announced today.  The six Florida hospitals are:  Shands at Jacksonville; Shands at Gainesville, also known as Shands at the University of Florida; Shands Alachua General Hospital; Shands at Lakeshore; Shands Starke and Shands Live Oak.

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that Medicare funds are expended appropriately, based on the medical needs of patients rather than the desire of health care providers to maximize profits,” said Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.  “Hospitals participating in Medicare must bill for their services accurately and honestly.”

Allegedly, from 2003 through 2008, the six hospitals knowingly submitted inpatient claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for certain services and procedures that Shands Healthcare knew were correctly billable only as outpatient services or procedures.
           
“The public expects its medical professionals to operate with a high degree of integrity,” said A. Lee Bentley III, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.  “When health care providers seek higher profits at the expense of their professional judgment, the public trust in the medical system is compromised.”

“Regardless of the complexity of these schemes to siphon off crucial health care dollars,” said Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “our law enforcement officials will work tirelessly to seek justice.”

The six Florida hospitals were named as defendants in a qui tam, or whistleblower, lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act, which permits private citizens to sue on behalf of the government and receive a portion of the proceeds of any settlement or judgment awarded against a defendant.  The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Jacksonville, Fla., by Terry Myers, the president of a healthcare consulting firm, YPRO Corp.  Of the $26 million settlement, $25,170,400 will go to Medicare and other federal health care payors.  The settlement also resolved allegations under the Florida False Claims Act; the state of Florida will receive $829,600.  Myers’ portion of these recoveries has yet to be determined.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $14.8 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $10.8 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort among the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General and Office of Counsel to the Inspector General, and the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Making Higher Education More Affordable for the Middle Class | The White House

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Making Higher Education More Affordable for the Middle Class | The White House

Background Briefing En Route to Malaysia

Background Briefing En Route to Malaysia

U.S. SEND BEST WISHES TO PEOPLE OF URUGUAY ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Uruguay's Independence Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 23, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I send best wishes to the Uruguayan people on the 188th anniversary of your nation’s independence this August 25.

Our relationship is strong and rooted in the shared values of democracy, rule of law, and human rights. In these and other areas, Uruguay is an important partner for the United States and a model for other nations. We look forward to expanding institutional and educational exchanges, exploring new opportunities for trade between our countries, and continuing to cultivate our relationship in the years to come.

The United States wishes Uruguay a festive independence day celebration.

VA SAYS MORE MONEY AVAILABLE TO HELP HOMELESS VETERANS

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
HUD, VA Announce More Funds to Help Homeless Veterans
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2013 - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs today announced the second round of HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing funding to local public housing agencies across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The $7.8 million in added funding will provide housing and clinical services for 1,120 currently homeless veterans.

In May of this year, the two agencies announced $60 million in HUD-VASH vouchers.

The supportive housing assistance announced today is provided through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA. Since 2008, a total of 58,140 vouchers have been awarded and 43,371 formerly homeless veterans are currently in homes of their own because of HUD-VASH.

"Our nation's veterans have sacrificed and given up so much for our freedom," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "These vouchers are helping America end veterans' homelessness one veteran at a time until we see not one veteran living on the street. I look forward to continue working with Secretary Shinseki and the Department of Veterans Affairs to target assistance to our homeless veterans."

"These HUD-VASH vouchers are a vital tool in our effort to provide these brave men and women with the earned care and benefits that help them live productive, meaningful lives," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "So long as a single veteran lives on our streets, we have work to do. But with the continued support of President Obama, Congress and our community partners, we will end homelessness among veterans."

HUD-VASH is a critical part of the Obama Administration's commitment to end Veteran and long-term chronic homelessness by 2015. "Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness," serves as a roadmap for how the federal government will work with state and local communities to confront the root causes of homelessness, especially among former servicemen and women. HUD's annual "point in time" estimate of the number of homeless persons and families for 2012 found that veteran homelessness fell by 7.2 percent, or 4,876 people, since January 2011, and by 17.2 percent since January 2009. On a single night in January 2012, 62,619 veterans were homeless.

The grants announced today are part of $75 million appropriated this year to support the housing needs of homeless veterans. Local public housing authorities provide rental assistance to homeless veterans while nearby VA medical centers offer supportive services and case management. This is the second round of the 2013 HUD-VASH funding. HUD expects to announce more HUD-VASH funding this year.

VA medical centers work closely with homeless veterans then refer them to public housing agencies for these vouchers, based upon a variety of factors, most importantly the duration of the homelessness and the need for longer-term, more-intensive support to obtain and maintain permanent housing. The HUD-VASH program includes both the rental assistance the voucher provides and the comprehensive case management that VA medical center staff provides.

Veterans participating in the HUD-VASH program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. VA offers eligible homeless veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S., Guam and Puerto Rico.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Press Briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest | The White House

Press Briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest | The White House

Troops Prepare to Deploy

Troops Prepare to Deploy

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

Back to School

Back to School

ARMY RELEASES JULY 2013 SUICIDE INFORMATION

ARMY RELEASES JULY 2013 SUICIDE INFORMATION

U.S. DOD Contracts for August 23, 2013

Contracts for August 23, 2013

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF UKRAINE ON COUNTRY'S NATIONAL DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
On the Occasion of Ukraine's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 22, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I congratulate the people of Ukraine on the 22nd anniversary of your country’s independence.

The American and Ukrainian people share a proud history as partners and friends. Every day, we work together on mutually important issues, from promoting economic growth and energy diversification to cooperating on nuclear security and non-proliferation.

We remain committed to helping our Ukrainian partners as you work to become a prosperous European democracy with a free and open economy. We strongly support Ukraine’s fulfillment of the European Union’s conditions for signature of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement at the Vilnius Summit in November.

We appreciate Ukraine’s leadership as chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We also applaud Ukraine’s efforts to advance global peace and security in the European neighborhood and across the globe.

The United States look forward to continued cooperation on these and other issues as we strengthen the ties of friendship between our governments and our people.

Sleeping natural

Sleeping natural

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

MAN PERMANENTLY ENJOINED FROM COMMITTING FURTHER VIOLATIONS OF SECURITIES ACT

FROM:  SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 
Federal Court Permanently Enjoins Atlanta-Area Registered Representative Blake Richards from Securities Fraud Violations

On August 20, 2013, the Honorable Julie E. Carnes of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, entered an order of permanent injunction against Blake Richards of Buford, Georgia enjoining the defendant from further violations of the securities laws in connection with allegations that the registered representative misappropriated investor funds.  Specifically, Richards is permanently enjoined from further violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws, Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”), Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and Sections 206 (1) and Section 206 (2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”).  The Order further provides that the issues of disgorgement and civil penalties will be resolved on motion of the Commission at a later date, and that in response to that motion, Richards is precluded from arguing that he did not violate the federal securities laws.  Further, for purposes of that motion, the Order also provides that the allegations of the Complaint shall be accepted as and deemed true by the Court.  Richards consented to the entry of the order of permanent injunction, without admitting or denying the allegations of the Commission’s complaint.

The Commission’s complaint alleged that, since at least 2008, Richards, a registered representative of a broker dealer, misappropriated approximately $2 million from at least seven investors.  The majority of the misappropriated funds constituted retirement savings and/or life insurance proceeds from deceased spouses.  The Commission further alleged that Richards instructed investors to write out checks to entities under his control with the understanding that Richards would invest their funds in fixed income assets, variable annuities and/or common stock, and that none of these investments were made as represented.  None of the investments appeared on the client’s brokerage account statements, and Richards received no commission income from these investments.  The complaint further alleged that Richards siphoned off the funds entrusted to him for personal use.

 

DOD Contracts for August 22, 2013

Contracts for August 22, 2013

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BARTON'S REMARKS AT SOCIETY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLENARY SESSION

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

Keynote Remarks at the Society for International Development Plenary Session



Remarks
Rick Barton
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations
SID Plenary Session
Washington, DC
June 21, 2013



ASSISTANT SECRETARY BARTON:  Good afternoon and thank you all for being here. Thanks to John, Daniel, Rodney Bent, and to everyone who put this together. Thanks most of all to all of you here for all of your years of fine work in this field. I had a chance to meet with you when this was a much smaller group, and there were these Saturday workshops, and there seemed to be only about 25 people in the room. Now they have me in front of a blinding spotlight, in front of thousands, so you’ve been doing well. It’s a sign of the great work you’ve been doing.

I thought I would try to spend ten minutes, and sadly, I don’t have a watch because I’ve got poison ivy, but you’ll give me a signal here. I want to bring you up to date on what we’ve been doing to just set the table for a conversation, because I see you’ve had keynote speeches and keynote addresses, and I thought maybe a keynote conversation would be the best we could do in this slot right after your break.

I’ll give you a brief update on this one year that we’ve been in existence, because I think it’s quite telling in a lot of ways, and give you a sense of how we’re gaining traction. I’ll also talk about a couple of the nagging problems that we’re facing that some of you, obviously, are addressing, and then, just quickly summarize what the ambition is going forward. I’ll put them all in a summary fashion so that it sets up the question and answer and the conversation with all of you.

This new bureau, CSO, was created at the State Department a year ago, as part of the QDDR process with a very simple mission, which was to make the U.S. Government more effective and more coherent in addressing conflict and crisis cases in order to break cycles of violence. So it’s a pretty ambitious mission. What we’ve tried to do this year is focus 80 percent of our effort in four major engagements—Kenya and election-related violence, Syria, Burma—the peace process—and Honduras, Northern Central America’s issue with the proliferation of homicide and the loss of state control. I know that many of you work in these spaces, but we’ve also been in ten other countries to try to work across the conflict spectrum in every part of the world with a range of initiatives, always looking for multiple partners and being as opportunistic in that regard as possible, and with a default position that is to build on the best available local opportunities.

I think we’ve gained traction in doing that by really emphasizing a few things. First, we try to go into places that really matter to the U.S. Government as opposed to spreading ourselves all over the world at the same time with something relatively new. So we’ve focused on places that matter, and when we’ve looked at those places, we’ve tried to see if there is a “ripeness of place,” whether going in at this time would actually make any difference. We also make sure that we have rigorous, joint, independent analysis. I’m sure that we all know that if we send in an agronomist, the answer may well be that there’s an agronomy problem. If we send in a refugee person, there are always refugees. If we send in a counterterrorism person, the answer might well be terrorism. The United States should avoid showing up in a place in all of our splendor; it makes more sense to focus on what’s most important, where we can make the greatest progress. That’s what we’ve been trying to bring to the policy and strategy-shaping side of this conversation. Make sure that we have an emphasis on what appears to be the most important issue. Then we want to see the implementation being done by those who are the most capable. That’s not a default position to anybody, no sense of entitlement. We’re not trying to elbow our way into the room, but we look for who is the best placed to do the necessary work. It can be anyone from one of our international partners, to a private firm, to obviously, USAID, who is our most common, most regular partner, but also the Department of Defense or whoever seems to be best placed at the UN.

One brief example I’d like to give you involves Kenya. I think almost everyone realized that if Kenya went back in to a cycle that it had faced five years ago when its last election occurred, when over a thousand people were killed, hundreds of thousands left their homes, and really the political elite that had driven that very negative process were back in the same place that they had been four years before, that Kenya, the country that we all count on as an anchor in the region, and is really an anchor in Africa, would be at risk.

AID’s Democracy and Governance office put together a meeting for us in the Rift Valley, which we had looked at as one of the two hot spots in the country. At that meeting, they had the 15 or so critical partners of the U.S. Government. Since over $600 million of our $800 million portfolio there was really in the health space, we needed to have some of the people who were working on AIDS, as well as agronomy, and the range of issues that AID and the U.S. Government were advancing. When we had that conversation, it was a slightly different one than usual. We didn’t ask people to give us their portfolios to describe their own work. Instead, the conversation started off with: “What do you think is the most important problem in your country this year?” And every single Kenyan in the room, said: “Election-related violence. If Kenya falls into violence, everything that we’re doing will not matter.”

Then we asked, “Are you doing everything that you can to help prevent that?” And they all said no. So we said, “Would you like to do more?” And they replied, “Yes, of course, because this is what’s most important to our country.” Then we got to: “What might you bring to this particular challenge—hot spots, a police capacity that is not able to respond, a very rich civil society that might not be engaged in this problem, a political elite that seems to be manipulating people, and obviously the problem of idle youth and a labor force that was available if needed.” The first person to speak was the agronomist, and he said, “You know, I don’t really have much that I can bring to this problem. I have only 4,000 people involved in my program in this area of the country.” I said to him, as a former politician, that you can get elected governor of any state in the United States except for Texas with 4,000 people.

The next person to speak was from the AIDS program, and he said that he visits just 200,000 households in this area a week, and didn’t know if that would be of any value. We had two people on the ground who were meeting with the Catholic and Episcopal bishops; they were meeting with the elders, systematically going around, and we had a number of wonderful AID programs, and OTI had some great activities out there. But the opportunity that quickly presented itself was that there was this immense wealth of talent, they all knew what the most critical problem was, and all they really needed was to take their asset base—their connections, their communities—and direct them toward the biggest problem in the country without totally interrupting their own work and compromising that.

What they needed was additional Kenyan help to use their resource base to direct it to that problem. So that’s something we were able to contribute, in a very timely fashion. Part of what we do is to look at that 12-to-18 month period—when it’s hard for some of the more normal programs to get going and to really accelerate what we’re doing.

Very quickly, here are a couple of nagging problems that I know some of you are working on—to stimulate the conversation. The first one is near-term public safety. I think all of us find that this is a real challenge in trying to do our work; it’s obviously the consuming interest of any local citizen. Part of what we’ve started to find is that there really are capabilities in the local police, in particular, that we are underestimating, and we have to find ways to take advantage of. In Kenya all of those citizen groups became an early-warning system for the police, but they also created a demand on the police, so that the police knew they were not only getting help from the community, but there was an expectation that they would actually have to do something.
We found the same thing in Honduras, where a new tax has been passed. But the likelihood that the tax would be collected well, appropriated wisely, and spent appropriately was not that great. So that was a chance to take advantage of another local opportunity.

The final thing I’d like to say about nagging problems involves our ability to generate fresh ideas. From the time I had with the UN, this particular administration was being welcomed back into the world community in a way that we may have drifted away from during the first part of this century. But then the expectation was very quickly about what ideas we have to solve these nagging problems. So it’s not enough just to be there and have people thinking favorably of you, but what are you doing?

I think that some of our own behavior continues to get in the way of our being the idea generators that we need to be. In particular, I think that we have a sense of entitlement to certain spaces, with the sense that “I do that work, why are you in this space?” Whether it’s policy discussions, and oftentimes, the State Department has an off-putting way with AID, the Department of Defense, by saying that we’ll handle the policy and the strategy, or whether it’s in implementation, where I’ve had people say to me, “I’m not sure we need you in this country, I think we’ve got this problem solved,” and I’m thinking that this person, with six Greek gods, would still be overwhelmed. But there is this sense of a proprietary interest which is keeping us from solving problems.

So what I’d like to do is offer a new metaphor for how we should think about these things: One of the ways that we’ve looked at these problems in the government is by saying: “Stay in your lane,” and my feeling about staying in your lane these days is that this is a very 20th century idea. Now, staying in your lane brings to my mind the picture of a swim meet and people swimming up and down in their lanes, but the games that we’re playing look an awful lot more like water polo. It’s the same pool, it takes many of the same skills, but people are pushing you to the bottom of the pool on regular occasions, there is a net at the end, there is a ball…there are significant differences, it’s much more chaotic, much more dynamic, and we’ve got to get out of this “stay in your lane” mentality.

I remember being at the White House for a meeting with Samantha Power, and she started off her comments by saying, “Well, I know this is way outside of my lane.” As it turned out, this was the most valuable contribution that anyone made throughout the meeting. And I remember saying to her after the meeting, “Samantha, please stay out of your lane from here on out.” So I invite all of you to do the same because I think we clearly need that if we’re going to fulfill the potential we have in these places.

Finally, I would say that I think we can make a difference in these conflict places. Obviously, I felt this over the 18 years that I’ve worked in this space and in the conflicts that I’ve been in. But to do that, we’re going to have to get more coherent, we’re going to have to get more effective, we’re going to have to get more inclusive of each other, and I think if we do, this will be a more peaceful world. I look forward to your questions and comments, and this conversation. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks Rick, thank you so much. You can see why Rick is such a beloved and missed figure at CSIS. He’s smart, he understands the politics, he’s also got lots of ideas and I think it’s great he’s in public service, and I admire your public service very much, Rick, so thanks for being with us today. There are a lot of smart people in this room who think about the issues of conflict and development—I’m looking at Arthur Keys, I’m looking at Rodney Bent, I’m looking at Matt McLean, I’m also thinking of…there are a number of groups here who do community policing work, there are some folks here from ICMA, I know Creative Associates does that, but first, Arthur, I’m going to put you on the spot, everyone knows I’m doing this now. Could you bring up the microphone to Arthur Keys, who’s the CEO of IRD. Arthur, you think quite a lot about the issue of conflict and development. If you would, just kick off the conversation.

ARTHUR KEYS: Rick, I’m going to put you on the spot. It seems like a real hot spot in Syria. What creative and positive scenarios do you see there from the U.S. Government and NGO perspective?

MODERATOR: Why don’t I bunch a couple? Matt, you’ve been part of a small business thinking about the intersection between civil-military affairs and government for a long time, as well. Both at AID as a member of the National Security Council, and perhaps other government agencies in another life, but I won’t say which ones. I can’t remember at this point what the other ones were. Can we get a microphone over here to my friend Matt McLean? … Matt? And Rodney, I’m going to ask you to comment, as well.

MATT MCLEAN: Rick, good to see you again. Recalling my NSC days, one of my chief responsibilities at the White House was to integrate different agency activities and keep the policy in line, so in that capacity you’re dealing with a number of different conflict and post-conflict places around the world. Really, there are two parts to the question. One, what are the key instruments that the US government brings to bear? And two, how do you get that coordinated across different agencies and what are some of the challenges there?

MODERATOR: And let me just do one more—we’re doing this World Bank style.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BARTON: Make sure I heard that, Matt. I’m sorry.

MODERATOR: Matt, could you just repeat that?

MATT MCLEAN: Sure—the question is what are some of the key instruments that the U.S. Government can bring to bear in conflict and post-conflict situations? Particularly, there are some that are going to be tier 1, and some places that are not so tier 1. And secondly, how do you at the State Department help leverage, or encourage, or motivate, or whip up different agencies into their “swim lanes,” if you will, so we’re working toward a common objective?

MODERATOR: Okay, Rodney, Alonzo, I’m going to want you to comment, as well. Please, Rodney.

RODNEY BENT: (laughs) This feels like a collective punishment.

MODERATOR: It is!

RODNEY BENT: Never sit in the front of the classroom.

MODERATOR: I know, exactly. I can see you guys, you’re in my line of fire because of the bright lights.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BARTON: If he does this just right, I’ll get all the questions, and we’ll run out of time.

MODERATOR: (laughs) Exactly!

RODNEY BENT: That would be the typical Congressional appropriator move. Rick, it’s great to see you again. Congratulations on your job. I want to latch together two parts of your past—your UN work, and piggy-backing a little bit on Matt’s question, it’s not just using UN agencies—I’m sorry—U.S. Government agencies, what do you see as the possibilities, and going back to Arthur’s question about Syria, of working more internationally. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of either group?

MODERATOR: Okay, Alonzo? Could I ask you also to comment as the former mission director in Afghanistan, among the many other jobs you’ve held?

ALONZO: Rick, once again, I want to echo the comments of Dan, and thank you for your continued government service at an excellent level. One of the questions I have is that we learned a lot of lessons from 2005, or 2004-2010 in regards to intergovernmental relations, trying to do a whole-of-government approach to addressing the problems we’re having in a lot of conflict areas. It seems as though over the past couple of years that that whole approach has gone away. Clearly there were a lot of lessons learned over that process, and I want to get a sense from you of how much of that we’ve taken away if the demand goes up again and we have another Afghanistan situation.

MODERATOR: Those will be the questions, Rick. Those four. I promise.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BARTON: Okay, thank you. Let me see if I can get through these. How much time do we have?

MODERATOR: Five minutes.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BARTON: Okay, so concise answers to good, tough questions.
Syria obviously is just a brutal challenge right now, and I want to set up the challenge in a slightly different way. When the revolution started, we didn’t really know the people who started it, so we didn’t have a good base of knowledge of the place, and I’ve believed for some time that one of the critical weaknesses in the way that the US has approached many of these interventions is that we didn’t know the places we went into. Afghanistan and Iraq were good examples of getting ahead of our familiarity with a place. And aside from knowledge, you have to have a common view of what the case is—which I felt we lacked in Afghanistan, where we were fighting terrorism and we were building a model democracy, and we would compromise one for the other at almost any moment. That’s not a particularly good way to move ahead.
In Syria, the problem was compounded by closing the embassy and having to work out of neighboring countries. So we didn’t really know the people, we didn’t know the place that well, and then we’re not able to work in the country because of the nature of the conflict. So over the last year we’ve tried to broaden our knowledge of the Syrians, and the depth of our familiarity with them. We’ve used a number of methods to do that, but basically training and equipping the non-violent opposition, the people who had started the revolution. We’ve done that to make them more capable for today and for tomorrow, so we want them to be more capable as a means of bringing an end to the conflict, but also when the conflict ends so that there will be some base of people who are going to be able to continue furthering some of the goals of the revolution when it started. I think right now, as people look at this, they see fragmentation as being the logical outcome of the conflict, and I think that part of it is that you have to prepare for the best-case scenario, because if you go the current direction of the status quo, the situation probably isn’t going to be getting better. I think we have a better idea of what to do if things really go to hell, so you have to imagine what would be a positive scenario.

My feeling now is that the most positive scenario is a fragmentation, with part of the people who are really dedicated to some of the founding ideals of the revolution, which is to function in a more open, more democratic, and more peaceful way. I think that is a possibility, and what we are trying to prepare for. Part of that is to give the training and equipping for communications, so we’ve helped to establish a nation-wide FM network so that the opposition can talk to the people without networking through the regime. We’ve done a lot of other mass media stuff that we think is useful, and we have a base of over 500 Syrians that we’re working with on a regular basis. We’re also looking at going to Congress for more flexibility to help pay for stipends for the defected police and others who are providing for public safety in some of those pockets that the opposition has taken control of. There is still the larger problem of the conflict, which as you know, is obviously the overriding concern. But within that, there is an awful lot that can be done, and that is what we’re trying to do, but the bombing is still the first thing that every Syrian talks to you about, and obviously that issue is still hanging out there.

I think I can do Matt and Rodney’s questions together. One of the key instruments the U.S. Government has is the ability to mobilize—to mobilize its allies, to mobilize the organizations that we’re a part of, and to mobilize our own government. But sometimes one of the problems when we get mobilized is that everyone brings their favorite toy, what they’re used to bringing. I think that comes back to having some greater coherence, and if we really do insist on what is the most important challenge of the place as opposed to everyone showing up in their splendor. I’ve been in endless meetings over the years where people say—the first question that’s asked is we’ve got a terrible situation, what can the United States do? I happen to think that’s the wrong problem, the wrong set of questions. The right question is: What is most needed? Because if we can actually get the people working on the place motivated around what’s most needed, we have a much greater chance of success than if we just bring the splendor of all of our own programs.

Up until about two weeks ago when Van Cliburn died, I described it as the Van Cliburn effect, and there he was on the front page of The New York Times, and I had to stop using his name. Does anybody remember who Van Cliburn was? Remember, he looked like the central casting concert pianist—he had the white hair, he had the tails, he looked spectacular. And he’d sit down, flip up the tails, and he’d sit down—that’s sort of what the U.S. Government does. We arrive in these places, and we have all of this talent, and some money…remember there were some people who said we’d have been better off in Bosnia if we had everything in play, so we put everything in play in Iraq, and it didn’t turn out to be that much more successful, but we’re doing cross finger drills and a whole variety of other things. I think these are places that are just so complex and so difficult to work in—tougher than Washington—and how tough is it to get anything done in Washington? Brutally difficult. So let’s focus on the two or three things that can be felt by the people of the country, because they generally have something that matters more to them than everything else. It’s not like we have a gigantic matrix—we’re not going to get everything right in that country, so we have got to give them hope, we’ve got to give them confidence, we’ve got to get some momentum going, and that’s why focusing on what’s most important to them is what is going to make us the most successful. I think that’s something the United States Government has a real capacity to do, but we’ve got to have self-discipline to do that, as well.

Obviously, the international community is a natural partner. We have about seven countries that are looking at these problems the same way we are and putting money to it, but we’re all fairly small still, and the league is just developing, but I think that’s one way we’ll get more influence.
Alonzo, just finally—I’m sorry to go over a minute or two, here—in terms of the whole of government, I’m finding that there’s tremendous openness to working in partnership within the U.S. Government, and very few people who want to lone-wolf any one of these problems right now. What we’re trying to do is to say: Let’s try to do something concrete. Let’s not just build rosters. This is not a bureaucratic exercise, building capacities…let’s take a real problem, and show that by working together, we can actually have more impact on it. And let’s show the capacity as a result of successes, rather than the more bureaucratic way, which is to say, you give me 300 million bucks, you give me 300 people, and I’ll deliver this for you tomorrow. I think that this model is not going to work quite as well these days as taking on real cases, finding how we complement each other, and then making sure that the people who are best suited have the most leadership responsibility, and has more implementation responsibility, and not a natural default to either a bureau, or an agency or any other part of the government.
It’s hard to do that. It doesn’t sit quite right with our practices, but our practices have not been so endearing that every taxpayer in the country is cheering us right now. I think we have an opportunity to try something a little bit different and probably build more support.
Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you all very much. Please join me in thanking Rick Barton.
(Applause)