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Saturday, November 30, 2013

WISCONSIN ARMY NATIONAL GUARD ANNOUNCES FIRST FEMALE CHIEF OF STAFF

FROM:  WISCONSIN NATIONAL GUARD PUBLIC AFFAIRS
November 25, 2013
Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs
The Wisconsin Army National Guard's new chief of staff is accustomed to taking the lead.

In her previous assignments, she was Wisconsin's first female brigade commander. She was the first female commander of Wisconsin's 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment, and the state's first non-medical female colonel. Now she is the state's first female chief of staff. But not only has Col. Joane Mathews succeeded in a military structure once dominated by men, she overcame humble beginnings on a Wisconsin Indian reservation en route to prominence in the National Guard.

Her Indian name, Gi we di no kwe, literally translates to "bucking the wind" - something Mathews has done throughout her military career, both literally as a helicopter pilot, and figuratively as a leader.

But Mathews - who now lives in Sun Prairie, Wis. - faced challenges every step of the way on her ascent from childhood to her perch as the chief of staff. Her father, a full-blooded Native American, was born and raised in a village where they spoke nothing but the native language.

Mathews grew up in a deep Native American tradition on the Ojibwe Indian Reservation in Lac Du Flambeau, Wis., where she and her cousins and siblings spent their weekends singing and dancing around a drum in the middle of her family's living room. But her mother, though half Native American herself, was also half white. As a result, Mathews ended up with a lighter complexion and blonde curly hair.

Master Sgt. Gary Peck, the Truax Field fire chief, said the department received the new equipment in late September. After receiving training and certification on the new vehicles, they officially began serving the airport Monday.

"When I was growing up, I didn't look native," Mathews recalled. "Our public school was majority Indian kids, and they all knew I was native, but I had friends who were not native.

"And so then I was either . kids can be very mean at that age," she said after a pause. "If I didn't look native, they would tease me or want to fight me. So I was kind of in between."

Because of her appearance, Mathews struggled to find her place among the Native children with whom she shared a common heritage, but she struggled in the same way among whites. Not only did she have to learn to take care of herself, but she also learned the value of treating others as equals, regardless of their appearance.

"I learned a lot going through that," she said.

"In the military you're working with all kinds of people from all different backgrounds, so I've learned just to treat everyone as equals," Mathews said. "And I do that with rank as well. Even if you have a private or a major or a colonel, everybody is a human being, and they all should be treated fairly and with respect."

Despite the challenges she faced as a child, Mathews had dreams of flying. She wanted to be a commercial airline pilot or a flight attendant - any job where she could be in flight.

After graduating from high school, she left the Ojibwe Reservation and enrolled in school at the University of North Dakota, where she got a bachelors degree in aviation administration and ratings in both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. During her sophomore year, she took an ROTC course, and since she was barely scraping by on grants and loans, she enrolled permanently in the officer commissioning program. The Army paid her way through the rest of college, and she embarked on her military career.

When she graduated, she earned her commission as an aviation officer and began flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala. Once again, even though she was already an experienced pilot, Mathews faced challenges - this time as a woman, not a Native American.

"I remember when I was going to flight school I was one of very few females in flight school, and I felt proud to be selected to be a part of something that was new," she said. "I think it challenged me more, because when you're the only female or two females out of 20, that challenges me, because you're already, I felt back then, at a disadvantage, because they're already looking at me as not as good as them. So I worked harder to be better."

Mathews, also a mother to two daughters, said the environment has improved considerably in the past 20 years. Gender matters less today compared to when she first arrived at flight school in the 1980s.

"Now we don't look at each other as male or female," she said, noting that Soldiers are now judged more by their accomplishments than anything else.

"That's how they look at you - your career or experience, not whether you're a male or female, or black, or white, or whatever your nationality is. We've come a long way, and it's good to see."

The chief of staff's experience as a young female officer in a largely male occupation, at the time, was a motivator, she said.

"I think that's what motivated me back then to be a better person, a better officer, a better pilot, or whatever my job was at the time, because I was at a disadvantage," she said. "And today it motivates me, not because I'm a female or because I'm any less of a person than anyone else. I think it's now, because I'm at the chief of staff level at a senior position in the Guard. I'm motivated to be a better person because of my position, because there are people looking up to me."

She knows that not only are other Soldiers looking up to her, but so are other women and members of her tribe still living on the Ojibwe Reservation, where she still regularly returns.

Though Mathews has blazed the trail for other women in the National Guard, she has achieved many firsts for women in the Wisconsin Guard because of her credentials, not her gender.

"Col. Mathews is taking command of the 64th Troop Command because she is the best qualified officer poised to take this command at this critical time," Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, the deputy adjutant general for Army, said during a ceremony when Mathews was selected as a brigade commander in October 2012.

"It's true that Col. Mathews has been the first in many areas of throughout her career," said Brig. Gen. Kenneth Koon, the state's assistant adjutant general for readiness and training - and Mathews' predecessor as chief of staff. "But it really hasn't been about her gender or ethnicity, but rather the best person available for the assignment at the time of selection."

As the chief of staff, Mathews will help shepherd the Guard through a challenging and uncertain time of potential budget cuts, asymmetrical warfare, and demanding domestic and overseas missions. Rather than dwelling on her past achievements, Mathews said she is focused on the future. Her top priorities as chief of staff will be combating sexual harassment and assault within the Guard's ranks, suicide prevention and maintaining the personnel readiness of the Wisconsin National Guard.

And, perhaps, continue a 27-year tradition of blazing new trails in the National Guard.

Friday, November 29, 2013

DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY CARTER SERVES U.S. TROOPS THANKSGIVING LUNCH IN AFGHANISTAN


U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter serves U.S. troops Thanksgiving lunch on Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2013. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo.

MESSAGE FROM THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS 

November 27, 2013

The blessings of freedom and justice, opportunity and prosperity, so dear to all Americans, were not gained without sacrifice, nor preserved without purpose.
These blessings are at the heart of our American celebration of Thanksgiving, a holiday that acknowledges both our colonial roots and the beneficence of the Almighty.  Vital in that history was the sharing of the harvest by American Indians, enabling the preservation of our early settlers during those first winters in the New World.  Sharing one’s blessings and giving thanks for the bounties of the harvest, long a part of Native American culture, became part of our American Thanksgiving celebration, as well.  This cherished tradition endured and flourished as our Nation grew and prospered.

Of this rich, new land, Thomas Jefferson once proclaimed to fellow Virginian, James Monroe, "My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!" [Letter, June 17, 1785]

The principles and values that define us as Americans found their origins in Jefferson’s time and have been sustained since by the vigilance and valor of generation after generation of men and women who, in both peace and war, have safeguarded our way of life.  At the Department of Veterans Affairs, caring for those who, in President Abraham Lincoln’s words, “have borne the battle” remains our noble mission.

President Lincoln further established the last Thursday of November as a national “day of Thanksgiving” for the benevolence and bounty that has been given to the American people.  On this uniquely American holiday, let us remember our good fortune at living in a land of plenty—safe, secure, and free from tyranny and oppression.

Another courageous generation of young Americans serves today as a force for good in some of the most remote and unforgiving places in the world.  Many will observe Thanksgiving and the upcoming Holiday Season without the warmth and companionship of families and friends.  Their missions are difficult and dangerous, and they perform them without hesitation.  In this season of Thanksgiving, let us pray for their well-being and safe return.  As we gather at our own tables on November 28th, let us not only give thanks for the blessings in our own lives, but give thanks for the men and women who now serve, and for those who have served on Thanksgivings past, ensuring for us and future generations of Americans the “precious blessing” of liberty.

“Happy Thanksgiving” to all our Veterans and their families, to the Survivors of the Fallen, and to my VA colleagues across our Department, who serve them so faithfully.  May God continue to bless this great and wonderful country of ours.
                                                                                     -- Eric K. Shinseki

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Weekly Address: Wishing the American People a Happy Thanksgiving | The White House

Weekly Address: Wishing the American People a Happy Thanksgiving | The White House

La nouvelle vision de l’ESA pour étudier l’univers invisible

La nouvelle vision de l’ESA pour étudier l’univers invisible

HHS RECOMMENDS KNOWING FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY

FROM:  U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 
From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Talib Babb with HHS HealthBeat. 

Getting the story on your family health history is a great way to learn more about possible health risks that you or other members of your family may face. While you can’t change your family health history, you can act to reduce your disease risk and keep yourself and your family healthy.

The Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait tool provides consumers with an easy free way to record their family health information. Consumers are able to organize their family history information and share it with their family and health care professionals.

Dr. Boris Lushniak is acting surgeon general.

“You can input really rare diseases. But also you can input the real common diseases that we know have a real genetic predisposition that do run in families. So that includes heart disease, various cancers and diabetes”

SEC CHARGES ALABAMA RESIDENTS WITH SECURITIES FRAUD

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 

SEC Charges Alabama Based Defendants with Securities Fraud and Reporting Violations

On November 22, 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an action in federal court in the Northern District of Georgia, charging Charles H. Merchant, Sr. (Merchant), an Anniston, Alabama resident, and his company Southern USA Resources, Inc. (Southern USA), a Delaware corporation based in Ashland, Alabama, with violations of the antifraud provisions and various reporting violation of the federal securities laws.

The complaint alleges that in 2012, Southern USA, a company purportedly focused on the exploitation of gold mining rights in Alabama, and Merchant, the company’s CEO, CFO, president, secretary, treasurer and director, filed materially false reports with the Commission that misrepresented the value of the company’s land. During 2012, Merchant also filed with the Commission certifications that contained false statements about the company’s internal controls and his understanding of those controls. Southern USA is currently delinquent with respect to its 2012 Form 10-K and its two most recent Forms 10-Q. Defendant Merchant has resigned his CEO and CFO positions with no successors named, and the company’s outside auditor also has resigned – none of which has been disclosed by Southern USA in a Form 8-K.

The complaint alleges that Merchant by virtue of his conduct, directly or indirectly, has engaged in and unless enjoined, will engage in violations of Sections 10(b) and 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5, 13a-14 and 13b2-1 thereunder. Further, Merchant also aided and abetted defendant Southern USA’s violations of Sections 10(b), 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act, and Rules 10b-5, 13a-1, 13a-11, 13a-13, and 13a-15 thereunder; and is liable as a “control person” under Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act for defendant Southern USA’s violations of Sections 10(b), 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act, and Rules 10b-5, 13a-1, 13a-11, 13a-13, and 13a-15 thereunder.

The complaint further alleges that Southern USA by virtue of its conduct, directly or indirectly, has engaged in and unless enjoined, will engage in violations of Sections 10(b), 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Rules 10b-5, 13a-1, 13a-11, 13a-13, and 13a-15 thereunder.

The Commission has also filed signed consents with the Court from the two defendants to proposed orders of permanent injunction and other ancillary relief. The Commission acknowledges the assistance and cooperation of the Alabama Securities Commission in the investigation of this matter.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

U.S. SENDS BEST WISHES TO PEOPLE OF ALBANIA ON THEIR NATIONAL DAY

FROM;  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
On the Occasion of Albania's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 27, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I send best wishes to the people of Albania as you celebrate your Independence Day on November 28.

Since the establishment of a democratic republic, Albania has made substantial strides forward by holding successful multiparty elections. Albania is a force for stability in the Western Balkans, and we are particularly grateful for Albania’s contributions to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and for its willingness to accept former Camp Ashraf residents for permanent resettlement.

This year’s peaceful transition of power and legislative advances underscore Albania’s democratic credentials. The United States supports the people of Albania as they continue to seek the advancement of rule of law and economic reforms, and we welcome the European Commission’s recommendation that Albania receive European Union candidate status.

As you celebrate with family and friends, the United States stands with you as a steadfast partner and Ally. We look forward to a future of continued friendship and collaboration.

FDA LIST OF CURRENT DRUG SHORTAGES

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/DrugShortages/ucm050792.htm?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

U.S. SENDS BEST WISHES TO PEOPLE OF MAURITANIA ON THEIR NATIONAL DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Mauritania National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 27, 2013

On behalf of the American people, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Mauritania on the 53rd anniversary of independence on November 28.

Mauritania and the United States work closely to advance regional peace and security. We are especially proud of our cooperation through the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.

The United States fully supports Mauritania’s democratic and economic development. We look forward to finding new opportunities to promote human rights and expand trade and investment.

I wish all Mauritanians a safe and festive 53rd anniversary celebration. We are committed to building upon our partnership to promote prosperity and peace in the coming year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Importance of Youth Jobs | The White House

The Importance of Youth Jobs | The White House

FDA TOUTS ROLE IN PROTECTING THE HEALTH OF TRAVELERS

FROM:  U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION 
FDA Protects Travelers' Health

The roots of the Interstate Travel Program at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can be traced back to long before the agency existed—to the presidency of John Adams.

Originally part of the Public Health Service, the program focused in the early days on the health of those traveling on Merchant Marine ships and was seen as instrumental in increasing the security of our young nation.

As the U.S. role in the world grew, so did the need for greater attention to the safety of travelers using both government-subsidized and privately owned transportation systems.

"During World War I and II there was nothing worse than sending 3,000 troops on a vessel and 400 of them show up well and the other 2,600 are sick," says Matt Albright, a consumer safety officer at FDA.

Throughout the 1800s the program expanded as trains traveling across the U.S. were struck by yellow fever and small pox outbreaks. In the early 1900s, buses joined the ranks of interstate transportation and the program went airborne in the 1920s.

For the past 45 years the program has been under the purview of FDA, which has been working diligently to keep travelers healthy.


Conception to Implementation
ITP is responsible for inspecting the food, water and waste-disposal systems in all commercial transport vehicles that travel from one state to another. However, its involvement begins long before the food and water are loaded aboard.
When the train, bus, ship or jet is being planned, ITP is involved from the beginning of the engineering process, including giving feedback on blueprints and designs.

With 20 years in the field conducting inspections and 10 more at FDA headquarters in College Park, Md., ITP manager Bruce Kummer knows that disease and infection can indeed be in the details.

"You don't want your sewage discharge in front of the intake for water," says Kummer, describing a basic design flaw. The team inspects for details that include making sure the fitting sizes are different for waste and water, so a worker couldn't accidentally hook up the waste hose to the potable water intake. Safeguards like this—when implemented during construction – decrease the likelihood of errors that could endanger passengers' health.

Another important aspect of the construction review process is limiting entrance and harborage areas for pests like rats, mice or cockroaches.

"You can't fix deficiencies and structural integrity of a conveyance once it is in operation if it was built poorly," says Albright. "You have to build it properly first."


Inspections Continue For Years
To ensure that the passenger conveyance is engineered and built in compliance with standards established by FDA, the ITP team inspects the prototype and addresses issues before mass production begins.
Kummer notes that FDA can withhold a Certificate of Sanitary Construction from a shipyard or other transport builder if there are major sanitary construction defects.

Throughout the transport vehicle's construction and in the years that follow, FDA does spot checks and inspections as necessary. Larger companies, like Boeing, take advantage of a self-certification program in which FDA is provided with detailed reports on compliance with Agency regulations. FDA can – and has – entered facilities to perform audits to ensure that companies are complying with the construction guidelines.

Generally, FDA issues Warning Letters when deficiencies are discovered to give the company a short time to fix the problems while still operating its vehicle. If companies do not correct the problems, further regulatory steps may be taken and the transport vehicle can be taken out of service.

"Provisional" letters may be sent to operators of caterers, commissaries, watering points, and servicing areas if significant sanitary deficiencies are observed, giving the operators a limited amount of time to correct these items or risk losing their status as an FDA-approved facility. Transport companies are required under FDA regulations to use only approved facilities, which places more pressure on the servicing companies to clean up the deficiencies so they do not risk losing their approved status.

"I feel a lot of pride for my involvement in this work, in keeping travelers safe whether they're traveling by land, sea or air," Kummer says.

This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Nov. 25, 2013

COURT DENIES MOTION TO VACATE DEFAULT JUDGEMENT IN SECURITIES FRAUD CASE

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 
District Court Denies Motion to Vacate Default Judgment Against Medical Software Company and Its CEO

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that on November 25, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York denied defendant Aurelio Vuono’s motion to vacate the default judgments previously entered against MedLink International, Inc., a medical software company, and its CEO, Aurelio Vuono, also known as Ray Vuono. The Commission had charged MedLink, Vuono, and MedLink’s CFO, James Rose, with filing an annual report falsely stating that MedLink’s audit had been completed and with defrauding a MedLink investor. In its ruling, the court found that Vuono’s default was wilful and that he had failed to present any meritorious defense to the Commission’s charges.

Previously, on May 23, 2013, the court had entered default judgments against the defendants and ordered permanent injunctions from violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Sections 10(b) and 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5, 12b-20, 15d-1 and 15d-14. The court also ordered each defendant to disgorge, jointly and severally, $149,473/50, representing their illicit profits, together with pre-judgment interest of $8,942.48, for a total of $158,415.98. In addition, the court ordered civil penalties of $650,000 against MedLink, $130,000 against Vuono, and $130,000 against Rose. Finally, the court barred Vuono and Rose from penny stock offerings or severing as an officer or director of a public company.

Vuono, a resident of Huntington Station, New York, is a recidivist securities law violator. In SEC v. Hasho, et al, 784 F.Supp. 1059 (S.D.N.Y. 1992), Vuono was found liable for violating the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A One-Two Punch

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=82433&src=eoa-iotd

President Obama Speaks on the Economy | The White House

President Obama Speaks on the Economy | The White House

Las 37.000 observaciones de Herschel

Las 37.000 observaciones de Herschel

Lago de sal Qarhan, China

Lago de sal Qarhan, China

AG HOLDER'S SPEECH AT ANNUAL ATTORNEY GENERAL AWARDS



FROM: U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Monday, November 25, 2013 In 61st Year of DOJ Awards Program, Attorney General Holder Recognizes Department Employees and Others for Their Service  





Attorney General Eric Holder Recognizes 270 Justice Department employees for their distinguished public service today as part of the 61st Annual Attorney General Awards program. In addition, 53 other individuals, including federal employees and civilians, are also honored for their work. These annual awards recognize department employees and other individuals for their dedication to carrying out the Department of Justice’s mission.

“Despite significant challenges, evolving threats, and unprecedented budgetary difficulties, these dedicated employees have exemplified the very best of what it means to serve the American people,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Over the past year, each of them has gone above and beyond the call of duty to carry out the Justice Department’s critical mission and protect our fellow citizens.  Some of these remarkable men and women have placed their own lives at great risk in order to save others. All of these employees and their families have made tremendous sacrifices in the name of public service. I am proud, and humbled, to count them as colleagues. And I congratulate them on this prestigious and well-deserved recognition.”
Attorney General Holder bestows the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service – the department’s highest award – to two teams this year. The awards are given to teams involved in the defense of the Affordable Care Act and the prosecution of companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster.
The Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service is presented to the following team for its successful defense of the Affordable Care Act, a landmark piece of legislation. With high stakes and a staggering volume of work to be done, this team withstood intense pressure and showcased superb litigation skills in drafting the law’s defense to constitutional challenges and lawsuits.

From the Civil Division Federal Programs Branch recipients include: Jennifer D. Ricketts, Director; Sheila M. Lieber, Deputy Director; Brian G. Kennedy and Joel McElvain, Senior Trial Counsels; and Eric Beckenhauer, Michelle R. Bennett, Ethan P. Davis, Kimberly Herb, Tamra T. Moore, Scott A. Risner, Justin M. Sandberg, Eric Richardson Womack and Kathryn L. Wyer, Trial Attorneys.  From the Appellate Staff of the Civil Division, recipients include: Mark B. Stern and Michael S. Raab, Appellate Litigation Counsels; Alisa B. Klein, Appeals Counsel; and Samantha L. Chaifetz, Anisha Dasgupta and Dana Kaersvang, Trial Attorneys.  From the Office of the Solicitor General, recipients include: Edwin S. Kneedler, Deputy Solicitor General, and Joseph R. Palmore, Trial Attorney.  From the Office of Legal Counsel, recipients include: Leondra R. Kruger, Deputy Assistant Attorney General.  From the Appellate Staff of the Tax Division, recipients include: Gilbert S. Rothenberg, Section Chief; Francesca Ugolini, Attorney; and Teresa E. McLaughlin, Reviewer.

The Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service is also presented to the following team that dedicated itself to the historic prosecution of BP in connection with the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster and its aftermath.  From the Deepwater Horizon Task Force, recipients include: John D. Buretta, Director and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (former); Avi Gesser, Deputy Director and Counsel to the Chief of the Fraud Section (former); and Derek A. Cohen, Deputy Director and Deputy Chief of the Fraud Section (former.  From the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division, recipients include: Rohan A. Virginkar, Trial Attorney, and Katelynn Loughnane, Paralegal.  From the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, recipients include: Colin L. Black, Trial Attorney.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, recipients include Scott M. Cullen, Assistant U.S. Attorney.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, recipients include: Richard R. Pickens II, Assistant U.S. Attorney.  From the New Orleans Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Sandra M. Zulli, Supervisory Special Agent; Kelly C. Bryson, Michael R. Forrester, J.R. Smith, and Jeffrey T. Wright, Special Agents; Barbara G. O’Donnell, Special Agent (retired); and Darrell W. Hill, Intelligence Analyst.

The Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Heroism recognizes an extraordinary act of courage and voluntary risk of life during the performance of official duties. One award is presented this year.
The Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Heroism goes to a team of federal, state and local law enforcement officers involved in the apprehension of a dangerous fugitive on Feb. 29, 2012 in Cambridge, Md. The 30-minute gun battle that ensued with the fugitive injured a member of the team, who ultimately was saved by the courageous efforts of his colleagues. After the team member was injured, his colleagues urged him to jump out of a window, where he was quickly rescued and taken to a police vehicle. During the firefight, the injured detective also managed to protect the fugitive’s girlfriend from the ensuing gunfire. From the Investigative Operations Division of the U.S. Marshals Service, recipients include: Barry S. Boright, Supervisory Inspector, and Brian P. Sheppard, Inspector.  From the Maryland State Police, recipients include: Christopher Snyder, Senior Trooper.  From the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office, recipients include: Thomas Funk, Detective.  From the Salisbury Police Department, recipients include: Milton Rodriguez, Detective.  From the Cambridge Police Department, recipients include: Christopher Flynn and Antoine Patton, Detectives; Justin Todd, Sergeant; and Joseph Jones, Private First Class.
The Edward H. Levi Award for Outstanding Professionalism and Exemplary Integrity pays tribute to the memory and achievements of former Attorney General Edward H. Levi, whose career as an attorney, law professor, dean and public servant exemplified these qualities in the best traditions of the department. This year, the award is presented to Ronald A. Cimino, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Matters in the Office of the Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division.

Cimino, through his nearly 40-year career, has enabled the government to achieve successful results in many important criminal tax cases, each time demonstrating himself to be a primer criminal litigator and senior manager. Over the course of his service to the department, Cimino has mentored and inspired countless attorneys, and is held in the highest regard within the tax community.

The Mary C. Lawton Lifetime Service Award recognizes employees who have served at least 20 years in the Department and have demonstrated high standards of excellence and dedication throughout their careers. This year’s award is presented to Daniel L. Koffsky, Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).  Koffsky is honored for his exceptional contributions to OLC, the department, and the rest of the Executive Branch, including especially the sharing of his expertise across an extremely wide range of legal topics.  A living repository of OLC’s precedents and practice, Koffsky has brilliantly served the department and his colleagues.  He is a lawyer with the utmost integrity and judgment.

The William French Smith Award for Outstanding Contributions to Cooperative Law Enforcement is an honorary award granted to recognize state and local law enforcement officials who have made significant contributions to cooperative law enforcement endeavors. This year’s award is presented to Timothy J. Johnstone, Executive Director of the Sacramento Regional Threat Assessment Center of the Central California Intelligence Center, for his development of the office’s “Fusion Center” model in the Eastern District of California. With his leadership, more than 250 law enforcement agencies over 88,000 square miles and 34 counties have been able to communicate effectively with one another on key law enforcement planning matters.

The Attorney General’s Award for Meritorious Public Service is the top public service award granted by the Department of Justice, and is designed to recognize the most significant contributions of citizens and organizations that have assisted the department in the accomplishment of its mission and objectives. This year’s award is presented to Ernie Allen, President and Chief Executive Office (former) of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Allen, who served from 1984 until 2012 at the Center, is awarded for his leadership in circulating millions of photos of missing children and increasing the organization’s recovery rate from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today.

The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service is the Justice Department’s second-highest award for employee performance. The recipients of this award exemplify the highest commitment to the department’s mission. Ten awards are presented this year to individuals and teams.

One award is presented to Richard Zayas, Special Agent in the Special Operations Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Special Agent Zayas displayed exemplary performance in the creation of Operation Gideon, an undercover operation designed to use ATF agents to reduce violent crime and target firearms. Special Agent Zayas directed numerous undercover operations that resulted in 200 defendants being referred for federal prosecution and more than 100 firearms being seized.

The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service is also presented to a team for its extraordinary work in implementing the President’s conclusion that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional and warrants heightened scrutiny. This dedicated team of litigators and staff showed a deep understanding of the law and sound strategic vision in litigating matters ranging from bankruptcy to federal benefits and immigration.

From the Civil Division Office of Immigration Litigation, recipients include: Jeffrey S. Robins, Assistant Director; Aaron S. Goldsmith, Senior Litigation Counsel; and Timothy M. Belsan and Jesi J. Carlson, Trial Attorneys.  From the Appellate Staff of the Civil Division, recipients include: Robert E. Kopp, Director (retired); Michael Jay Singer, Assistant Director; and August E. Flentje, Helen L. Gilbert, Adam C. Jed, and Benjamin S. Kingsley (former), Trial Attorneys.  From the Federal Programs Branch of the Civil Division, recipients include: Arthur R. Goldberg, Assistant Director; Christopher R. Hall and Jean Lin, Senior Counsels; Steven Y. Bressler and W. Scott Simpson, Senior Trial Counsels; and Judson O. Littleton, Trial Attorney.  From the Office of the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, recipients include: Matthew S. Nosanchuk, Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General (former).  From the Appellate Staff of the Civil Rights Division, recipients include: Holly Thomas, Trial Attorney, and Sharon M. McGowan, Trial Attorney (former).  From the Office of the Attorney General, recipients include Jenny R. Mosier, Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Attorney General.  From the Office of Legal Policy, recipients include: Lamar W. Baker, Deputy Assistant Attorney General (former), and Steven B. Siger, Chief of Staff.  From the Office of the Solicitor General, recipients include Pratik A. Shah and Eric J. Feigin, Trial Attorneys.  From the Office of the General Counsel for the Executive Office for the U.S. Trustees, recipients include: Lisa A. Tracy, Deputy General Counsel.

The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service also is presented to a team of attorneys for their outstanding investigation and litigation in United States v. Wells Fargo Bank.  Their efforts led to a settlement of $234 million, including compensation for more than 38,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers nationwide who were systemically steered into subprime mortgage products or charged higher prices because of their race or national origin.  From the Office of the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, recipients include Eric I. Halperin, Special Counsel for Fair Lending.  From the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division, recipients include Steven H. Rosenbaum, Chief; Jon M. Seward, Deputy Chief; and Elizabeth Parr Hecker, Holly C. Lincoln and Coty R. Montag, Trial Attorneys.

The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service also goes to a team recognized for their successful investigation and prosecution of Colonial Bank/Taylor, Bean and Whitaker. Within weeks of the cooperation of an insider familiar with the conspirators’ actions during the financial crisis, this dedicated team of prosecutors and federal agents executed search warrants that ultimately led to an indictment returning only 11 months later for wire and securities fraud. From the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division, recipients include: Patrick F. Stokes, Deputy Chief, Robert A. Zink, Trial Attorney, Brigham Q. Cannon and Charles D. Reed, Trial Attorneys (former), and Jennifer Z. Gindin, Paralegal Specialist (former); From the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Division, recipients include: Jeannette M. Gunderson, Acting Assistant Deputy Chief.  From the Appellate Staff of the Criminal Division, recipients include: Kirby A. Heller, Attorney.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, recipients include: Charles F. Connolly, Chief of the Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Unit (former); Paul J. Nathanson, Assistant U.S. Attorney; and Lisa K. Porter, Paralegal Specialist.  From the Operational Technology Division of the FBI, recipients include: W.L. Scott Bean III, Section Chief.  From the Washington Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: John M. Gardner, Special Agent, and Scott J. Turner, Special Agent (retired).  From the Office of Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, recipients include: Peter C. Emerzian, Deputy Inspector General of Investigations; Paul G. Conlon, Supervisory Special Agent; Timothy A. Mowery, Senior Special Agent; and Kari E. Meyer and David A. Mosakowski, Special Agents.  From the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, recipients include: C. Ed Slage, Special Agent in Charge.  From the Office of Inspector General for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, recipients include: John T. Crawford, Senior Special Agent.

Also being awarded with the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service for their outstanding and historic achievement in successful investigation and prosecuting GlaxoSmithKline is a team of attorneys nominated for their exceptional creativity, determination and perseverance in resolving the largest health care fraud settlement in department history.  The $3 billion civil and criminal resolution will significantly deter future pricing misconduct and future fraud by pharmaceutical companies who withhold important safety information about their products and seek to manipulate the marketplace.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, recipients include: Sara Miron Bloom, Brian Pérez-Daple, Amanda Strachan, Susan G. Winkler and Edwin G. Winstead, Assistant U.S. Attorneys.  From the Consumer Protection Branch of the Civil Division, recipients include: David A. Frank and Patrick Jasperse, Trial Attorneys.  From the Civil Fraud Section of the Civil Division, recipients include: Andy J. Mao and Jamie Ann Yavelberg, Assistant Directors; and Charles J. Biro, Natalie A. Priddy, Douglas J. Rosenthal, Lisa Katz Samuels and Jeffrey A. Toll, Trial Attorneys.

The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service also is presented to a team responsible for the successful investigation and conviction of Jared Lee Loughner, an Arizona man who attempted to assassinate Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others at a mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz.  In the wake of this tragedy, the team demonstrated skill, professionalism and compassion in dutifully carrying out their responsibilities.  Due to the team’s efforts, Loughner was sentenced to serve seven consecutive life terms and an additional 140 consecutive years in prison.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, recipients include: Wallace H. Kleindienst, Senior Litigation Counsel; Mary Sue Feldmeier, Beverly K. Anderson, Christina M. Cabanillas and Bruce M. Ferg, Assistant U.S. Attorneys; Shawn M. Cox, Victim Witness Coordinator; Delores J. Arter and Mary-Anne Estrada, Victim Witness Specialists; Thomas J. Jefferson, Victim Witness Specialist (former); Wendy A. Dolph, Supervisory Legal Assistant; Celeste Maniscalco, Legal Assistant; and Sylvia Romero, Appellate Paralegal Specialist.  From the Tucson Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Tony M. Taylor Jr. and Alan P. Misiaszek, Special Agents.

The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service also goes to a team involved in the successful investigation and prosecution of public officials in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, effectively ending the reign of a corrupt regime in the state’s largest county.  This team proved at several trials that a County Commissioner orchestrated a decade-long racketeering conspiracy that involved almost 20 separate schemes and more than 100 bribes.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, recipients include: Antoinette T. Bacon, Henry DeBaggis, Nancy L. Kelley, Sharon L. Long, Robert J. Patton, Justin J. Roberts, Ann C. Rowland and Bernard A. Smith, Assistant U.S. Attorneys.  From the Cleveland Division of the FBI, recipients include: Gregory D.L. Curtis, Melissa L. Fortunato, Raymond Michael Massie, Kirk P. Spielmaker and William M. Werner, Special Agents.  From the Wilmington Resident Agency of the FBI, recipients include: Christine C. Oliver, Special Agent.  From the Internal Revenue Service of the U.S. Department of Treasury, recipients include: Kelly D. Fatula, Special Agent.
Also awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service are members of a team that demonstrated exemplary performance in Operation Red Coalition, an investigation into Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Iran who attempted to hire a Mexican drug dealer to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States.  The team’s dedicated service helped to foil the elaborate plan coordinated in part by members of the highest levels of the Iranian government.  From the Houston Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Christopher G. Raia and O. Robert Woloszyn, Special Agents; Kenneth S. Smith, Intelligence Analyst; and Patricia Swagerty, Forensic Accountant.  From the Detroit Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Matthew Aken, Special Agent.  From the Washington Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Thatcher P. Mohajerin, Assistant Special Agent in Charge.  From the Security Division of the FBI, recipients include: Luis G. Ortiz, Supervisory Special Agent.  From the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI, recipients include: April Yufeng Qian and Liane K. Roach, Intelligence Analysts.  From the Baghdad Attaché for the International Operations Division of the FBI, recipients include: James F. Walsh Jr., Supervisory Special Agent.  From the Office of the General Counsel of the FBI, recipients include: John B. O’Keefe, General Attorney.  From the Houston Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), recipients include: James R. Thornton and Nathaniel C. Fountain, Special Agents.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, recipients include: Edward Y. Kim and Glen A. Kopp, Assistant U.S. Attorneys.

Also awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service is Dean C. Sovolos, Special Agent in the New York

Field Office of the FBI. Special Agent Sovolos is nominated for his role as a program manager on the New York Field Office Counterterrorism squad for the United Kingdom (UK) portfolio.  The UK is widely deemed to be one of the most important international partners in fighting terrorism, and the United States’ relationship with the UK serves as a model for other European nations.  Moreover, Special Agent Sovolos has worked to disrupt terrorist cells and enhance the FBI’s relationship with the UK.  He manages a caseload of more than 15 investigations and has advanced matters of significance to the United States.
The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service also goes to the team responsible for ensuring that the department sustained its clean financial audit opinion.  This opinion matters as it demonstrates to the American taxpayers that the department’s finances associated with a $28 billion budget are sound.  In the face of shrinking resources and avenues to conduct audit reviews and evaluate internal controls, the team was able to design and deploy many cost saving initiatives that did not jeopardize the outcome of the audit.  From the Quality Control and Compliance Group of the Financial Staff in the Justice Management Division, recipients include: Stephanie A. Irby, Assistant Director; Yolanda Little, Deputy Assistant Director; Vu C. Truong, Supervisory Computer Specialist; and Lauren M. Webster, Accountant.  From the Financial Statements Group of the Finance Staff of the Justice Management Division, recipients include: Valerie D. Grant, Assistant Director; David M. Bethea, Deputy Assistant Director; and Jerri N. Jones, Accountant.

The Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement recognizes outstanding professional achievements by law enforcement officers of the Department of Justice.  Two awards are presented this year. 
The Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement is presented to the team that investigated organized drug crime in Florida and had a far reaching impact, from Miami Dade and Broward Counties to Colombia, Mexico, Amsterdam, Spain and Greece.  Due to the highly competent nature of their undercover investigations, several drug “kingpins,” operating abroad to complicate prosecutorial efforts, were foiled and their operations crippled, preventing thousands of kilograms of cocaine and other drugs from becoming available.  From the Miami Field Division of the DEA, recipients include: Daniel G. Escobar, Group Supervisor; and Scott G. Meisel, Christopher C. Goumenis, Victoria J. Metker, Kirk L. Johnson, and Kristine E. Kibble, Special Agents.  From the North Miami Beach Police Department, recipients include: William Beauparlant, Sergeant, and Sergio Diaz, Task Force Agent.  From the North Bay Village Police Department, recipients include: John Costa, Task Force Agent.  From the Coconut Creek Police Department, recipients include: Kevin Vernetti, Sergeant.

Another Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement is presented to John Jaehnig, Senior Inspector of the U.S. Marshals Service’s Investigative Operations Division, for going above and beyond the call of duty to bring justice to those wanted for the kidnapping and murder of two witnesses in a shooting trial.  After leads began to diminish, Senior Inspector Jaehnig’s investigative efforts narrowed down the search for the two kidnapped women and he ultimately developed information which led authorities to a Detroit city park on March 28, 2012, where the young ladies’ remains were recovered.  His investigative measures also led to an additional suspect who had been hired to commit these crimes. His efforts resulted in the conviction of all five defendants involved.

The Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service in Indian Country recognizes extraordinary efforts by department employees who demonstrate the department’s commitment to fighting crime in Indian Country.  This award is being presented to a team of dedicated department attorneys and staff who fought to combat violence against Native American women.  Due to their exceptional work, tribes will be able to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence in Indian Country for the first time in decades.  This system-wide change in Indian Country will hold accountable all perpetrators of domestic and dating violence against women regardless of race or tribal affiliation.

From the Office of the Associate Attorney General, recipients include: Samuel Hirsch, Deputy Associate Attorney General.  From the Office of Violence Against Women, recipients include: Virginia S. Davis, Deputy Director for Policy Development and Communication; Lorraine P. Edmo, Deputy Director for Tribal Affairs; and Jennifer E. Kaplan, Supervisory Attorney-Advisor.  From the Appellate Staff of the Criminal Division, recipients include: Richard A. Friedman, Appellate Attorney.  From the Office of Legal Education in the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, recipients include: Leslie A. Hagen, National Indian Country Training Coordinator.  From the Office of the Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Justice Programs, recipients include: Eugenia Tyner-Dawson, Senior Advisor for Tribal Affairs.  From the Office of Public Affairs, recipients include: Wyn Hornbuckle, Public Affairs Specialist.  From the Office of Tribal Justice, recipients include: Tracy S. Toulou, Director, and Gaye L. Tenoso, Deputy Director.  From the Office of Legislative Affairs, recipients include: Rita Aguilar, Attorney-Advisor (former).  From the Office of Legal Counsel, recipients include: Zachary Price, Attorney-Advisor (former).
The Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Management recognizes outstanding administrative or managerial achievements that have significantly improved operations and productivity, or reduced costs.

John Ely, a Management and Program Analyst in the Office of Security and Technology of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is awarded the Attorney General's Award for Excellence in Management for his outstanding work and research into new security technologies, as applied in the correctional environment.  His dedication in researching and implementing these new technologies has led to increased safety and protection of staff, inmates and the public.  Ely's skill in fostering partnerships with law enforcement experts, technologists, and equipment manufacturers has benefitted the department and federal prisons, ensuring that they remain on the forefront of any developments and advancements in correctional security and employee safety.

The Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Information Technology recognizes outstanding achievements in applying information technology to improve operations and productivity, reduce or avoid costs and solve problems.  This award is presented to one team this year. 
The team awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Information Technology led the adoption of a next generation case management system for the FBI.  In late 2010, when the Information Technology Branch Sentinel Agile Team assumed responsibility for the new system, it had minimal workflow capability.  Upon their successful efforts, the system was fully implemented in July of 2012 and became the FBI’s case management system of record.  Due to their dedicated service to the FBI, the system reduces the time it takes to serialize a case and dramatically shortens the time necessary to share information between field offices, agents and intelligence analysts.  With the critical nature and complexity of today’s threats, this new management system enables the FBI to coordinate case information across the globe and is one of the most sweeping technological contributions to its mission in the agency’s history.

From the Denver Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Nathan Burrows and Dorian Deligeorges, Special Agents.  From the Las Vegas Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Scott M. Baugher, Special Agent.  From the Charlotte Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Ronald L. Godfrey, Special Agent.  From the Los Angeles Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Nathaniel Le, Supervisory Special Agent.  From the Sacramento Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Tiffany Kelley Martin, Special Agent.  From the Directorate of Intelligence, recipients include: Debra McDougall, Supervisory Intelligence Analyst.  From the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI, recipients include: Timothy P. Bell, Supervisory Special Agent.  From the Information Technology Services Division of the FBI, recipients include: Michael J. Malinowski, Assistant Section Chief.  From the Information Technology Management Division of the FBI, recipients include: Caryl T. Tallon, Unit Chief, and Robert T. Blake, Special Assistant.  From the Information Technology Engineering Division of the FBI, recipients include: Erich Wiederhold, Supervisory Special Agent; Kevin Matthew Tunks, Supervisory Information Technology Specialist; and Susan Dawn High and Michael R. Kenney, Information Technology Specialists.

The Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Furthering the Interests of U.S. National Security recognizes outstanding achievements and contributions towards protecting U.S. national security.  Two awards are presented this year.

The Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Furthering the Interests of U.S. National Security is presented to the team that successfully convicted Mahamud Said Omar, after a nearly five-year investigation into men traveling from Minneapolis to Somalia to join the foreign terrorist organization al-Shabaab.  This dedicated team of attorneys and agents crippled this recruitment program and convicted eight defendants responsible for its administration.  Their efforts also resulted in cooperation from several witnesses, which provided the United States with a significant window into the activities of al-Shabaab’s leadership and the foreign fighters under their direction.

            From the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division (NSD), recipients include: William M. Narus, Trial Attorney.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, recipients include: LeeAnn K. Bell, Charles J. Kovats, Jr. and John F. Docherty, Assistant U.S. Attorneys; and W. Anders Folk, Assistant U.S. Attorney (retired).  From the Minneapolis Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Earl Kent Wilson, Supervisory Special Agent; and Michael N. Cannizzaro Jr., Karie A. Gibson, Jeffrey T. Moniz, Patrick M. Rielly, Harry M. Samit, Kiann Vandenover and Scott L. Zimmerman, Special Agents.  From the U.S. Department of the Army, recipients include: Corrine M. Tullos, Special Agent.  From the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, recipients include: Bradley A. Otremba, Task Force Officer and Investigator.

Another team receiving the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Furthering the Interests of U.S. National Security is a team that investigated and prosecuted Khalid Ali Aldawsari, who attempted to construct a powerful improvised explosive device to target high profile locations, including the residence of a former President of the United States.  With extensive coordination and technical expertise, Aldawsari was convicted after a jury trial and sentenced to life in prison for his actions.
From the Counterterrorism Section of the NSD, recipients include: David P. Cora, Trial Attorney, and Pamela J. Hall, Legal Administrative Specialist.  From the Office of Intelligence of the NSD, recipients include: Robert J. Lloyd, Supervisory Attorney-Advisor, and Charles E. Luftig, Attorney-Advisor.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, recipients include: Linda C. Groves and Denise Williams, Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorneys; Jeffrey R. Haag and Matthew Kacsmaryk, Assistant U.S. Attorneys; and Clyde Richard Baker, Assistant U.S. Attorney (retired).  From the Dallas Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Kevin L. Gentry, Kathryn A. Hughes, Michael N. Orndorff and Loretta Smitherman, Special Agents.  From the Laboratory Division of the FBI, recipients include: W. Mark Whitworth, Supervisory Special Agent, and Robert F. Mothershead II, Supervisory Chemist.  From the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI, recipients include: R. David Collins, Unit Chief, and Michael Bonsiewich, Intelligence Analyst.  From the Office of the General Counsel of the FBI, recipients include: Sunjeet Singh Randhawa, General Attorney.

The Attorney General’s Award for Equal Employment Opportunity is the department’s highest award for performance in support of the Equal Employment Opportunity Program.  This year’s recipient is a team of department staff who provided an exceptional Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) program in the Richmond Field Office of the FBI that worked towards achieving diversity and inclusion in the FBI.  Each member of this program team volunteered and commendably balanced their full-time jobs with the additional EEO program duties.  In 2012, the EEO committee acknowledged every federally recognized observance with educational events meant to inspire communication and raise awareness of cultural differences amongst employees.  This feat is remarkable considering the field office operates without a budget for EEO programming and all costs for the events were borne through the generosity of employees and committee members.  From the Richmond Field Office of the FBI, recipients include: Antoinette L. Allen, Administrative Officer; Christopher A. Thurston, Operational Support Technician; Hannah Bradley Gray, Intelligence Analyst; Freddie Hornedo, Information Technology Specialist; and Tijwana L. Simmons, Secretary.

The Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Legal Support in the Paralegal Category goes to the Land Acquisition Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s (ENRD) Betty R. Wilson, Supervisory Paralegal Specialist.  For almost 40 years, Wilson has been an integral part of every federal eminent domain case brought on behalf of the United States.  Without her tireless work and dedication, the ENRD Land Acquisition Section would not have been as successful in accomplishing critical land acquisitions, such as the Border Fence Initiative, vital military training, environmental preservation and development of the Flight 93 National Memorial.

The Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Administrative Support recognizes outstanding performance in administrative or managerial support by an administrative employee or secretary. This year, the award goes to four recipients, two in the Administrative category and two in the Secretarial category. The Administrative category awardees include, Mary Sipe, Security Specialist for the Security and Emergency Planning Staff of the Justice Management Division; and Donna Gale Wright, Administrative Officer in the Memphis Regional Office of the U.S. Trustee Program. The Secretarial category awardees include: Estelle Brown, Secretary in the National Courts Section of the Commercial Litigation Section of the Civil Division; and Shanedda L. Bogan, Staff Assistant in the Office of the Assistant Attorney General for the ENRD.

The Claudia J. Flynn Award for Professional Responsibility recognizes a Department of Justice attorney who has made significant contributions in the area of professional responsibility by successfully handling a sensitive and challenging professional responsibility issue in an exemplary fashion and/or leading efforts to ensure that department attorneys carry out their duties in accordance with the rules of professional conduct. This year, the award goes to Robin C. Ashton, Counsel in the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). Ashton is awarded for her tireless and dedicated efforts to ensure that department attorneys and agents maintain and are held accountable to the highest standards of professional responsibility. Through skillful and creative management, she has enabled OPR to reduce its backlogged investigations and inquiries while producing thorough, well-reasoned reports of its investigations.
The Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Service in Freedom of Information Act Administration recognizes exceptional dedication and effort to the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.  This year’s recipient is Varudhini Chilakamarri, Trial Attorney in the Federal Programs Branch of the Civil Division.  In less than one year, Chilakmarri has provided exceptional dedication to the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and has effected significant institutional changes that have fostered more coordinated, timely, and accurate responses to FOIA requesters.  The policies she has enacted have ensured that department leadership offices are well-informed about the department’s FOIA requests and has improved the Office of Information Policy’s ability to facilitate coordination between components where needed.

The Attorney General’s Award for Fraud Prevention recognizes exceptional dedication and effort to prevent, investigate, and prosecute fraud, white-collar crimes, and official corruption.  Awards are presented to two teams this year.

An award is presented to the team that spearheaded an investigation into a local law enforcement entity that was engaging in a high volume of anti-money laundering operations without required federal oversight.  As a result, this team facilitated the department’s recovery of approximately $1.2 million in Equitable Sharing Program funds from that law enforcement entity.  From the Investigations Division of the Miami Field Office of the Office of the Inspector General, recipients include Matthew L. McCloskey, Special Agent.  From the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Division, recipients include: Gene Patton, Assistant Deputy Chief.

Also receiving the Attorney General’s Award for Fraud Prevention is the team leading efforts to prosecute tax refund fraud committed through identity theft, which victimizes unsuspecting, law-abiding citizens and steals billions of dollars from the government. This team brought great expertise and energy to the prosecution of individuals and groups who commit these crimes by pushing for long prison sentences that serve as a strong deterrent for would-be future offenders.  From the Southern Region of the Criminal Enforcement Section of the Tax Division, recipients include: Larry J. Wszalek, Assistant Chief; and Michael C. Boteler, Charles M. Edgar Jr., Justin K. Gelfand, and Jason H. Poole, Trial Attorneys.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama, recipients include: Todd A. Brown, Assistant U.S. Attorney.

The Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Community Partnerships for Public Safety recognizes outstanding achievement in the development and support of community partnerships designed to address public safety within a community.  The award recognizes the significant contributions of citizens and organizations that have assisted the department in the accomplishment of these programs.  This year’s award is to a team of individuals responsible for a collaborative effort to reduce youth violence in New York City.  This team founded the Saturday Night Lights program led by the Juvenile Justice and Reentry Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.  The partnership of this program with local law enforcement and social service agencies helps reduce youth violence and increase high school graduation rates of students in Manhattan, N.Y.

From the New York Field Division of the DEA, recipients include: Wilbert L. Plummer, Associate Special Agent in Charge, and Michael Abraham Jr., Special Agent.  From the New York County District Attorney’s Office, recipients include: Cyrus R. Vance Jr., District Attorney; Chauncey Parker, Executive Assistant District Attorney for Crime Prevention Strategies; Estelle Strykers, Director; and Joselinne Minaya, Supervisor.  From the Community Affairs Bureau of the New York City Police Department, recipients include: Philip Banks, Chief, and Kevin O’Connor, Assistant Commissioner for Juvenile Justice.  From the New York City Housing Authority, recipients include: John Rhea, Commissioner.  From Pro Hoops Inc., recipients include: Ross Burns, Director.  From AllStarr Volleyball, recipients include: Reilly Starr, Managing Director.  From the Police Athletic League, recipients include: Alana Sweeny, Executive Director.  From the Henry Street Settlement, recipients include: Greg Rideout, Deputy Program Officer for Youth Services and Workforce Development.  From the Supportive Children Advocacy Network, recipients include: Lew Zuchman, Executive Director.  From Children’s Village, recipients include: Tonyna McGhee, Assistant Vice President and Director.

The Cubby Dorsey Award for Outstanding Contributions by a Wage Grade System Employee recognizes extraordinary performance and contributions by wage grade system employees, including laborers, mechanics and skilled craft workers.  One award is presented this year to Anthony Thomas Naumoff, Maintenance Mechanic Supervisor, in the Facilities and Logistics Services Division of the FBI.  Naumoff is awarded for his responsibility to all around-the-clock mission critical facility operations at the FBI’s headquarters building.  When a potentially devastating leak threatened the operations of critical infrastructure, Naumoff quickly solved the issue and prevented a major failure of communications that would have threatened the FBI’s day-to-day mission.

The Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Contributions by a New Employee recognizes exceptional performance and notable accomplishments towards the department’s mission by an employee with fewer than five years of federal career service.  Recipients include: Colleen Melody, Trial Attorney for the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division; James M. Crotty, Intelligence Research Specialist in the Intelligence Division of the DEA; Timothy C. Perry, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California; and Ashley Lauren Hall, Victim Specialist in the New Haven Field Office of the FBI.

The John Marshall Awards are the Department of Justice’s highest awards offered to attorneys, for contributions and excellence in specialized areas of legal performance.  Thirteen awards in nine categories are presented this year.

The John Marshall Award for Trial of Litigation is presented to attorneys from the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin for their extraordinary work to secure justice in United States v. Cates, a matter involving the sexual assault of a victim by an individual using his enforcement authority as a Milwaukee police officer.  Seizing on the defendant’s inconsistent statements, the team of attorneys established that the victim had been truthful about the event.  After a hotly contested trial, the jury convicted the defendant for raping the victim, and sentenced him to serve 24 years in prison.  From the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, recipients include: Saeed Mody, Trial Attorney.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, recipients include: Mel S. Johnson, Assistant U.S. Attorney.

The John Marshall Award for Trial of Litigation is also presented to a team of attorneys from the Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of Texas and the District of Columbia for the successful prosecution of Allen Stanford, a perpetrator of one of the largest white collar crimes in history.  The tenacity and skill of this team of attorneys directly led to a 110-year prison conviction for devastating the lives of over 30,000 victims in a fraudulent scheme that cost the perpetrator’s investors more than $7 billion in losses.  Over the course of two hard-fought jury trials, this team’s work ethic and meticulous attention to detail proved successful in finding justice for these victims.  From the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division, recipients include: Jeffrey A. Goldberg and William J. Stellmach, Deputy Chiefs, and Andrew H. Warren, Trial Attorney.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, recipients include: Jason S. Varnado, Senior Litigation Counsel; Kristine E. Rollinson, Assistant U.S. Attorney; and Gregg J. Costa, Assistant U.S. Attorney (former).  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, recipients include: Kondi Kleinman, Assistant U.S. Attorney and former Trial Attorney for the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.
The John Marshall Award for Participation in Litigation was awarded to members of the team that successfully negotiated the consent decree that will lead to the reform of the New Orleans Police Department after months of intense negotiation and a long history of civil rights violations within the NOPD.  The team worked for nearly three years to address the problems within the NOPD, resulting in a consent decree that was the broadest ever entered by the department to correct a police pattern or practice authority.  These efforts worked to ensure that law enforcement agencies respect the civil rights of all individuals.  From the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, recipients include: Roy L. Austin, Deputy Assistant Attorney General.  From the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division, recipients include: Christy E. Lopez and Shaheena A. Simons, Deputy Chiefs; and Emily A. Gunston, Corey M. Sanders and Jude J. Volek, Trial Attorneys.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee, recipients include: Stephen C. Parker, Assistant U.S. Attorney.

Another John Marshall Award for Participation in Litigation is awarded to an attorney from the department’s Office of International Affairs, Mary D. Rodriguez.  In little more than a decade, Rodriguez has transformed the United States?­ extradition relationship with Mexico from a hit-or-miss effort in which a mere dozen fugitives were extradited in 2000, to a record 115 fugitives in 2012 returned to the United States to face trial in federal and state courts.  In those years, which ultimately saw the extradition of nearly 800 defendants to the United States, Ms. Rodriguez, tackled every challenge, secured landmark decisions in the Mexican Supreme Court, and met every setback with greater determination to succeed.  In each case she used her experience as a federal prosecutor, as well as her deep knowledge of Mexican law and political structures, to solve legal problems and overcome bureaucratic inertia to capitalize on the law enforcement cooperation that emerged in Mexico.

The John Marshall Award for Support of Litigation is presented to the Deputy Chief of the Capital Case Section of the Criminal Division, Gwynn “Charlie” Kinsey, for his exceptional contributions to pursuing capital punishment in the most significant violent crime cases handled by department prosecutors.  With more than 22 years of experience in capital matters, his holistic approach to providing guidance to federal prosecutors requires extraordinary commitment and persistence.  While being asked over the past two years to significantly increase the amount of litigation-related guidance he provides to federal prosecutors, Kinsey also continues to shoulder his policy and protocol review responsibilities on behalf of the department.  His work has substantially contributed to the strong partnership between the Criminal Division and the United States Attorney’s Offices, and the result of this collaboration has been the successful prosecution of numerous significant violent crime cases.

The John Marshall Award for Support of Litigation is also presented to Michael K. Baker, Georgia Garthwaite, Michael J. Krainak and Erika B. Kranz, Trial Attorneys in the Land Acquisition Section of the ENRD.  This team of attorneys is awarded for their devotion to acquiring land for critical military training, including of approximately 2,560 acres within the El Centro Naval Air Facility for training use.  After months of extensive discovery, motion practice, and expert witness preparation, the landowners agreed to an almost unprecedented settlement whereby they accepted only $300,000 more than the United States?­ initial deposit, and nearly 85 percent less than their own final valuation.  The landowners originally valued the property and mining interests at several hundred million dollars and then settled at $1.5 million based on the hard work, dedication and successful investigation and negotiation by these award recipients.  During these times of significant financial concerns, the nominees played a vital role in ensuring the Navy obtained property needed for military training, while also saving the government millions of dollars.

The John Marshall Award for the Handling of Appeals is presented to Alexander P. Robbins, a Trial Attorney in the Criminal Appeals and Tax Enforcement Policy Section of the Tax Division.  Robbins is awarded for his extraordinary service to the department for representing the government on tax matters before the Supreme Court and other appellate and district courts.  He has handled the most difficult tax matters for the department, including successfully advancing the application of the required records doctrine to grand jury subpoenas issued in international tax cases.

This year’s John Marshall Award for Providing Legal Advice is presented to a team of attorneys for their outstanding work in developing the department’s tribal eagle feathers enforcement policy.  This team created the first-ever formal department policy statement addressing the ability of members of federally-recognized Indian tribes to possess or use eagle feathers.  The awardees coordinated and worked closely with tribal groups to balance the interest of tribes with the enforcement interests of the department and wildlife laws.  From the Office of the Assistant Attorney General for the ENRD, recipients include: Ethan G. Shenkman, Deputy Assistant Attorney General.  From the Indian Resource Section of the ENRD, recipients include: S. Craig Alexander, Chief.  From the Law and Policy Section of ENRD, recipients include: Karen M. Wardzinksi, Chief; Amber Blaha, Assistant Chief; and Stacy R. Stoller, Trial Attorney.  From the Environmental Crimes Section of the ENRD, recipients include: Stacy H. Mitchell, Chief, and Elinor Colbourn, Assistant Chief.  From the Office of Tribal Justice, recipients include: Christopher Brent Chaney, Deputy Director (former).

The John Marshall Award for Preparation or Handling of Legislation is awarded to Nathan A. Forrester, an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel.  In his role as editor of published Office of Legal Counsel opinions, he is clearing away the publication backlog.  In addition, his self-initiated work in compiling, analyzing, and producing a volume of OLC opinions from 1934-1977 is making an important historic contribution.   Forrester deftly and fairly supervises the other Attorney-Advisers in the Office who look to his example and wisdom for guidance in their own work.  Despite a massive workload, his work is always of the highest quality and his love of the Constitution  and its history makes him a model of government lawyering.

The John Marshall Award for Asset Forfeiture is presented to Daniel H. Claman, Assistant Deputy Chief for the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Division.  Claman is nominated for his exemplary work in implementing the Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative and using civil forfeiture actions to recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption.  He is a leader in the forfeiture of foreign corruption, and in the return of those ill-gotten gains to the victims of these crimes.
The John Marshall Award for Alternative Dispute Resolution recipient is L. Misha Preheim, Senior Trial Counsel in the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division, for his work in resolving the disputes of military personnel who were challenging the Department of Defense’s decision to award only one-half separation pay upon their discharge from the military pursuant to the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.  Preheim spearheaded the drive to resolve this case and brokered a framework that provided for payment to a large number of former service members who, without Preheim’s efforts, were likely to wait a substantial period of time for relief through the courts or military review boards.

The John Marshall Interagency Cooperation in Support of Litigation Award goes to Luke B. Marsh, Chief Trial Attorney for the Division of Enforcement at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, for his work in addressing schemes to manipulate LIBOR interest rates.  Marsh is nominated for his exceptional assistance to the department in the high-profile investigations and prosecutions of individuals, multi-national banks and other financial institutions engaged in wide-ranging and complex schemes to manipulate LIBOR and other benchmark interest rates affecting trillions of dollars of loans, mortgages and complex financial products worldwide.  He has been one of the lead prosecutors on this matter from the inception of the investigations, and was responsible for investigating more than 20 banks and hundreds of individuals involved in the scheme.

Also awarded the John Marshall Interagency Cooperation in Support of Litigation Award is a team of attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico for their exemplary partnership in supporting the district’s violent crime reduction initiative.  This team is responsible for prosecuting more than 500 individuals as part of an effort to target violent criminals and halt the surging murder rate in Puerto Rico.  From November 2011 until December 2012, the team achieved an almost perfect conviction rate, and the targeted areas of San Juan, Bayamon, Caguas, Carolina and Ponce have seen a combined decrease in the number of homicides of 25 percent, amounting to 150 fewer murders when compared to the murder rate in 2011.  From the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, recipients include: Victor O. Acevedo, Max Perez-Bouret, Amanda C. Soto, Maria L. Montanez and Kelly Zenón, Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys.


STATE DEPARTMENT PRESS STATEMENT ON INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 16 Days of Activism


Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 25, 2013


Each November 25, we reaffirm a global commitment to the elimination of violence against women and renew our collective pledge to the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence.

This fight is deeply personal to me. As a prosecutor, I saw firsthand the ravages of violence against women. As a proud father of two daughters, and as a husband to a strong woman who has invested so much of her public passion towards improving the lives of women, I know the difference it makes when women and girls have the opportunity to pursue their full potential and live free of violence. By contrast, gender-based violence not only undermines human rights, but poses significant obstacles to public health, economic and social development, and long lasting peace. It ruptures families. It breeds poverty and instability, and it can prevent women and girls, and their entire communities, from realizing their full potential.

We know we have much work to do. Despite all the collective international outrage, gender-based violence continues with impunity, and on a harrowing scale. Gender-based violence remains an epidemic of global proportions that cuts across every social and economic class, ethnicity, race, religion, and education level. In fact, nearly one-third of women worldwide have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. That is an unacceptable statistic and must be a wake-up call.

The United States has made addressing gender-based violence a priority domestically and abroad. As evidenced by the first U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, the first National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and new commitments to prevent and respond to gender-based violence starting at the onset of humanitarian emergencies, we are working comprehensively to improve prevention, protection, and prosecution measures to address this global scourge.

This day is a time to reaffirm our determination to turn words into action, and we commit to doing our part to make the world free from brutal acts that deprive our fellow citizens of a life of equality and human dignity.

Monday, November 25, 2013

National Prevention Strategy Quarterly Update from the Office of the Surgeon General

National Prevention Strategy Quarterly Update from the Office of the Surgeon General

The First Lady, Elmo, and Rosita Partner to Encourage Healthy Food Choices for Kids | The White House

The First Lady, Elmo, and Rosita Partner to Encourage Healthy Food Choices for Kids | The White House

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

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

Republic of Suriname's National Day


Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 25, 2013


On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of the Republic of Suriname as you celebrate 38 years of independence on November 25.
The United States and Suriname share common interests in protecting the environment, preserving our cultural heritage, and celebrating the rich diversity of our nations’ citizens.
The participation of a Suriname–South Dakota National Guard Color Guard in this year’s national day festivities underscores the ties of friendship between the people of Suriname and the United States.

As you mark this jubilee and celebrate the accomplishments of the Surinamese people, I send best wishes for a bright and prosperous future.

LANL News: Advance in bottle scanning could enhance airport security and benefit passengers

LANL News: Advance in bottle scanning could enhance airport security and benefit passengers

Week in Images

Week in Images

VA SAYS VETERANS' HOMELESSNESS DECREASED 24% SINCE 2010

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS 
VA and HUD Announce Twenty-Four Percent Reduction in Veterans’ Homelessness since 2010

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that a new national report shows a 24 percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans since 2010.

The report also showed an 8 percent reduction between January 2012 and January 2013. The decline keeps the Obama administration on track to meet the goal of ending Veterans’ homelessness in 2015.

“We are on the right track in the fight to end homelessness among Veterans.  While this trend is encouraging news, we know that there is more work to do,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “As President Obama said, we’re not going to rest until every Veteran who has fought for America has a home in America.  The results in the latest report are a credit to the effort given by our dedicated staff, and our federal, state, and community partners who are committed to ending Veterans’ homelessness.”

“We’re making real and significant progress to reduce homelessness in this country and now is not the time to retreat from doing what we know works,” said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.  “If we’re going to end homelessness as we know it, we need a continued bipartisan commitment from Congress to break the cycle trapping our most vulnerable citizens, especially our Veterans, between living in a shelter or a life on the streets.  I understand these are tough budget times but these are proven strategies that are making a real difference.  We simply can’t balance our budget on the backs of those living on the margins.”

The 2013 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, prepared by HUD, estimates there were 57,849 homeless Veterans on a single night in January in the United States, an 8 percent decline since 2012 and a 24 percent decline since 2010.
VA has made ending Veterans’ homelessness by the end of 2015 a top priority, undertaking an unprecedented campaign to dramatically increase awareness of VA services for homeless Veterans and Veterans at risk of becoming homeless.  While the number of homeless people in the United States dropped by 4 percent since 2012, according to the 2013 report, Veterans’ homelessness has shown a more robust decline.  During a period of prolonged economic recovery, the Obama Administration has been able to reduce the number of homeless Veterans by 24 percent, breaking previous patterns of increased homelessness during difficult economies.

Earlier this year, HUD and VA also announced the award of nearly $70 million of HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing grants to further assist in addressing the issue of Veterans’ homelessness.  The program 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 the joint HUD-VA program.

One of the tools VA uses in its systematic approach to prevent and end Veterans’ homelessness is the Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant program.  In July, VA announced the award of nearly $300 million in grants to 319 community agencies to help approximately 120,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families.

More recently, VA has announced $8.8 million in grants for 164 projects to acquire vans for homeless providers and to rehabilitate housing, plus $4.9 million in grants for 25 community-based projects to enhance services for Veterans.
The grants promote housing stability among homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families.  The grants can have an immediate impact, helping lift Veterans out of homelessness or providing aid in emergencies that put Veterans and their families at risk of homelessness.


NSF COMMUNITY COLLEGE PROGRAMS TRAIN FUTURE BIOTECH WORKERS

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION 

Building it big in Texas: Community college program trains biotech workforce
A multi-faceted training program funded by the National Science Foundation prepares students from a variety of backgrounds for careers in biotechnology
November 20, 2013

Biotechnology companies such as Genentech, Ambion and Life Technologies rely on specially trained workers to keep their research and development (R&D) labs and their manufacturing processes running smoothly. Biotechnicians may grow cells for use in drug development, analyze DNA or monitor biofuel production. The unique equipment and techniques used in the biotech field has often required companies to provide on-the-job training to new employees.

However, an innovative center at the City College of San Francisco in California called Bio-Link has created a network of community college partners throughout the country that tailor their biotechnician training programs to the needs of local biotech industry. Students successfully completing these two-year programs can walk into a job ready to perform essential techniques and operate state-of-the-art equipment.

This approach is key to the success of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, now in its 20th year. The program funds community colleges, giving them a leadership role in strengthening the skills of STEM technicians. The community colleges work in partnership with universities, secondary schools, business and industry and government agencies to design and carry out model workforce development initiatives in fields as diverse as cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing and aerospace, in addition to biotechnology.

Starting from scratch

Bio-Link first received funding from NSF in 1998 to create a structure to enhance and expand biotechnology technician programs throughout the nation. Principal investigator Elaine Johnson and her colleagues reached out to every community college in the country to find out whether they had a biotech program or were interested in starting one.

Although Texas's Austin Community College (ACC) didn't have a program, "We knew someone was in Austin with strong leadership skills and we could see a future in Texas for biotech," says Johnson, who sought input from her network to find the right person to develop the Texas program. That person was Linnea Fletcher.  Fletcher started the biotechnology department at ACC and in 1999 became a key partner in the Bio-Link network.

The program offers a range of degrees and certificates for students from high school to college and beyond. Through a series of strategic partnerships with local biotech companies, school districts, the Texas state government and national biotech consortia, Fletcher has built a dynamic program that addresses student and teacher development as well as industry needs.

Because the education structure in Texas encourages collaboration, "Linnea is in a state where she can make a difference both locally and nationally," says Johnson, who notes that the foundation Fletcher laid "continues to be very important for all of us."

Fletcher's task at the outset was to develop a program that would become a model biotech training program. Initially, she designed and implemented a professional development program for high school teachers. With few resources to buy equipment, Fletcher ran some of the courses out of a friend's lab at the University of Texas at night. But grants from both NSF and the Texas Education Agency allowed her to enlist the help of area teachers and expand the program.

Together this group formed an advisory committee made up of academic and industry representatives that reviewed the course curriculum and made suggestions for keeping it current. They also initiated a summer institute so that undergraduates working toward education degrees could connect with novice and veteran teachers to improve both teaching and laboratory skills.

These original program components remain integral to ACC's biotech program, which now offers an associate's degree in biotechnology, a post-baccalaureate degree for students with bachelor's or advanced degrees and a certificate in biomanufacturing. Next fall, Fletcher will add an entry-level certificate that high school students can earn. Over the past 10 years, about 225 students have graduated from the program and roughly 10,000 students have taken the high school advanced biotech course.

Strengthening the workforce

As the ACC biotech program has grown, Fletcher has cultivated her relationships with local industry representatives as well as school districts. Through these connections, she has created a vibrant internship program that complements classroom and laboratory learning.

"This is a wonderful gateway into working with a company," says Michael Douglas, executive director of the Texas Life-Sciences Collaboration Center. He notes that companies benefit, too, because the internship offers an opportunity to see the students in action. In the three years since ACC Biotech began offering internships, all 20 of the students who participated were hired.

A skilled biotech workforce also becomes a drawing card for the state as it tries to recruit businesses from other geographic areas. Douglas says that recently a company from California committed to relocating in the Austin area because of the readily available pool of trained biotechnicians.

Two years ago, to expand its role within the business community, ACC Biotech established a contract research organization (CRO). Local companies can take advantage of ACC's specialized equipment and faculty expertise to fulfill their R&D needs.

"This is a win-win situation for everyone," says Sulatha Dawarakanath who directs the effort. With increased exposure among local firms, Dawarakanath says the CRO "has taken off." The CRO also offers students an additional opportunity for hands-on experience and interaction with industry.

Expanding the network

The ever-growing community of practice spawned by the ACC program allowed Fletcher to reach out to the state's six other community colleges. All of the biotech programs now follow the same skill standards and assessments and share curricula and equipment through their own network.

The next step is to "make these community colleges hubs for mentoring high school teachers," Fletcher says. Through a Texas Higher Education Coordinating grant, Fletcher and her colleagues are developing a Biotech Mentoring Network for that purpose. The mentoring component is crucial because three years ago, the state changed the status of the introduction to biotechnology course from an elective to one of the core courses students can take for science credit.

In the ACC mentor model, new teachers are paired with two mentors: One who has just finished the professional development program and a second who is several years removed from the training program. During the three-year collaboration the teachers share equipment, approaches to teaching and ways to master biotech lab techniques.

One teacher who has worked closely with the ACC program since its start is Jennifer Lazare. Now an ACC adjunct faculty member, Lazare first connected with the biotech program through a summer institute while in graduate school. For the last decade she's taught a dual-credit, advanced biotech course at Anderson High School in Austin.

Recently, with a Texas Education Agency grant Lazare and Angela Wheeler, a former high school teacher and now adjunct in the ACC Biotech program, developed an online Advanced Biotechnology Teacher certification system. The site provides training information as well as biotech lesson plans and other resources to teachers around the state. Lazare points out that her ACC connections provide access to many resources that enhance her approach to teaching, such as workshops, conferences and curriculum development opportunities.

Making a difference

Developing a robust, local biotech workforce has helped make the ACC Biotech program a highly regarded program. But Fletcher also likes to consider how the program makes a difference in her students' lives.

"For many of them, this is more than just biotech. You see that you can make a real difference in their lives and that you're giving them more than just a job. That's what gives you energy."

-- Susan Reiss, National Science Foundation