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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

EPA OUTLINES GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE MANAGEMENT OF STORMWATER RUNOFF

FROM:  U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Stormwater runoff is a major cause of water pollution in urban areas.  When rain falls in undeveloped areas, the water is absorbed and filtered by soil and plants.  When rain falls on our roofs, streets, and parking lots, however, the water cannot soak into the ground.  In most urban areas, stormwater is drained through engineered collection systems and discharged into nearby waterbodies.  The stormwater carries trash, bacteria, heavy metals, and other pollutants from the urban landscape, degrading the quality of the receiving waters.  Higher flows can also cause erosion and flooding in urban streams, damaging habitat, property, and infrastructure.  

Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier urban environments.  At the scale of a city or county, green infrastructure refers to the patchwork of natural areas that provides habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water. At the scale of a neighborhood or site, green infrastructure refers to stormwater management systems that mimic nature by soaking up and storing water.

Here we review the range of green infrastructure elements that can be woven throughout a watershed, from the smaller scale elements that can be integrated into sites to the larger scale elements that span entire watersheds.

Downspout disconnection refers to the rerouting of rooftop drainage pipes to drain rainwater to rain barrels, cisterns, or permeable areas instead of the storm sewer.  Downspout disconnection stores stormwater and/or allows stormwater to infiltrate into the soil.  This simple practice may have particularly great benefits in cities with combined sewer systems.

Rainwater harvesting systems collect and store rainfall for later use. When designed appropriately, rainwater harvesting systems slow and reduce runoff and provide a source of water. These systems may be particularly attractive in arid regions, where they can reduce demands on increasingly limited water supplies.
Rain gardens (also known as bioretention or bioinfiltration cells) are shallow, vegetated basins that collect and absorb runoff from rooftops, sidewalks, and streets.  Rain gardens mimic natural hydrology by infiltrating and evapotranspiring runoff.  Rain gardens are versatile features that can be installed in almost any unpaved space.

Planter boxes are urban rain gardens with vertical walls and open or closed bottoms that collect and absorb runoff from sidewalks, parking lots, and streets. Planter boxes are ideal for space-limited sites in dense urban areas and as a streetscaping element.

Bioswales are vegetated, mulched, or xeriscaped channels that provide treatment and retention as they move stormwater from one place to another.  Vegetated swales slow, infiltrate, and filter stormwater flows. As linear features, vegetated swales are particularly suitable along streets and parking lots.
Permeable pavements are paved surfaces that infiltrate, treat, and/or store rainwater where it falls.  Permeable pavements may be constructed from pervious concrete, porous asphalt, permeable interlocking pavers, and several other materials.  These pavements are particularly cost effective where land values are high and where flooding or icing is a problem.

Green streets and alleys integrate green infrastructure elements into the street and/or alley design design to store, infiltrate, and evapotranspire stormwater.  Permeable pavement, bioswales, planter boxes, and trees are among the many green infrastructure features that may be woven into street or alley design.
Many of the green infrastructure elements described above can be seamlessly integrated into parking lot designs. Permeable pavements can be installed in sections of a lot and rain gardens and bioswales can be included in medians and along a parking lot perimeter. Benefits include urban heat island mitigation and a more walkable built environment.

Green roofs are covered with growing media and vegetation that enable rainfall infiltration and evapotranspiration of stored water. Green roofs are particularly cost effective in dense urban areas where land values are high and on large industrial or office buildings where stormwater management costs may be high.


Monday, December 30, 2013

U.S.-RUSSIA BILATERAL PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION REPORT TO THE PRESIDENTS

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
2013 U.S. - Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Annual Report to the Presidents
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 27, 2013

As coordinators of the U.S. – Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission (BPC), Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today welcomed the submission of the 2013 U.S. – Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Annual Report.

The report includes updates from each of the BPC’s 21 working groups.

The many achievements of the Commission this year included increased ties between universities and innovative regions, a robust partnership aboard the International Space Station, shared expertise in disaster preparedness, joint nuclear and energy research agreements and projects, partnerships on environmental issues such as legacy waste sites, collaboration in the public health sector, bilateral trade missions, and the modernization of the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center in the United States for continued, 24-hour contact with its counterpart at the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The BPC was established in 2009 to enhance wide-ranging cooperation between the United States and Russia.

Since its creation, the Commission has embraced a whole-of-government approach to strengthen practical cooperation on a range of issues, including: arms control and international security, fostering closer defense ties, increasing bilateral trade and investment opportunities, countering terrorism and narcotics trafficking, promoting advances in science, technology, health and energy, and enhancing people-to-people and cultural ties between our societies.

More than 60 U.S. and Russian government agencies support the work of the Commission, producing concrete results for the mutual benefit of both our countries.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

LABOR DEPARTMENT AWARDS $3 MILLION TO HELP YOUTH IN UGANDA

FROM:  U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT 
$3M awarded to World Education by US Labor Department for a youth initiative in Uganda

WASHINGTON —The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs today announced the award of a $3 million cooperative agreement to World Education to implement a project that addresses exploitative labor among youth under the age of 18 in Uganda. The project will provide training to youth to help them develop marketable skills and serve as civic leaders in their communities.

“With the youngest population in the world, Africa faces the acute challenge of providing its young people with opportunities for decent work," said Deputy Undersecretary of Labor for International Affairs Carol Pier. "This project aims to equip youth with the skills and resources they need to escape poverty and exploitative child labor and become leaders in their communities.”

The project will provide youth with formal education and training in entrepreneurship and agribusiness.  It will also support and encourage them to take on leadership roles within their communities. For families, the project will help them improve their livelihoods through skills training and income-generating opportunities. The project is intended to serve as a pilot initiative that could be replicated in other African countries.

Young African Leaders Initiative, which is focused on investing in the next generation of African leaders and strengthening partnerships between the United States and Africa.

Since 1995, ILAB projects have rescued approximately 1.7 million children from exploitative child labor. The Labor Department has funded 275 such projects implemented by more than 65 organizations in 93 countries. ILAB currently oversees more than $245 million of active programming to combat the worst forms of child labor.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A New Years Resolution

A New Years Resolution

FTC APPROVES METHOD TO GET PARENTS' CONSENT FOR CHILDREN TO ACCESS ONLINE SERVICES

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 

The Federal Trade Commission has approved a new method for companies to get parents’ consent for their children to access online services covered by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule.

Based on an application submitted by Imperium, Inc., the Commission has approved the use of knowledge-based authentication as a method to verify that the person providing consent for a child to use an online service is in fact the child’s parent.

Under the COPPA Rule, online sites and services directed at children must obtain permission from a child’s parents before collecting personal information from that child. The rule lays out a number of acceptable methods for gaining parental consent, but also includes a provision allowing interested parties to submit new verifiable parental consent methods to the Commission for approval.

Knowledge-based identification is a way to verify the identity of a user by asking a series of challenge questions, typically that rely on so-called “out-of-wallet” information; that is, information that cannot be determined by looking at an individual’s wallet and are difficult for someone other than the individual to answer. This authentication method has been used by financial institutions and credit bureaus for a number of years, and has been acknowledged by the Commission and other government agencies as effective for that purpose.

The Commission’s letter to Imperium approves knowledge-based authentication as an acceptable method of obtaining verifiable parental consent, as long as the specific process uses dynamic, multiple-choice questions with enough options to ensure that the chances of a child guessing the correct answers is low and the questions used are of sufficient difficulty that it would be difficult for a child in the household to figure out the answers.

The Commission vote to issue the letter and accept knowledge-based authentication as an acceptable verifiable parental consent method was 4-0.      

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Wish Everyone a Happy Holiday Season | The White House

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Wish Everyone a Happy Holiday Season | The White House

ESA SHOWS "A VERY SPECIAL RUDOLF"

A very special Rudolf

SERVING OVERSEAS DURING THE HOLIDAYS

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Thousands of U.S. Personnel Serve Overseas During the Holidays
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2013 – For many American service members, the holidays are just another work day.

In a news conference last week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey reminded Americans that their military is deployed worldwide, performing missions that keep their fellow citizens safe.
In his last news conference of 2013, Dempsey pointed out that, in addition to service members in combat zones, about 250,000 men and women in uniform are deployed overseas during this holiday period.

“I wish their families a peaceful and calm and happy holiday season, as their loved ones are forward-deployed all over the world, doing what the nation asks them to do,” Dempsey said.

And where are they based this holiday season?

There are roughly 39,500 U.S. service members in Afghanistan, down from 66,000 at the beginning of 2013. The mission in Afghanistan has changed this past year, with Afghan security forces taking the lead throughout the country. American, NATO and partner forces are training and mentoring Afghan units. They are also providing logistics and air support, maintenance and intelligence assets. This does not mean the job is safe. The International Security Assistance Force announced a service member in Regional Command-East was killed over the weekend.
In South Sudan, 45 Americans are deployed to provide security for the embassy in the capital city of Juba.

There are about 28,000 American service members in South Korea standing watch on the demilitarized zone -- often called the last Cold War frontier. Another 39,000 Americans are based in Japan, providing security for that critical ally.
There are roughly 43,000 Americans in Germany, 11,000 in Great Britain, 11,000 in Italy and 1,000 in Belgium. The number of American service members in Europe has dropped significantly from the mid-1980s, when 350,000 U.S. troops were based in West Germany alone.

Thousands of sailors and Marines are afloat this holiday season, patrolling the sea lanes to ensure they are open and safe. They represent the U.S. commitment to global security.

In Africa, about 2,500 Americans are based in Djibouti, while others are performing training missions in other nations of the world’s second largest continent.

In the U.S. Southern Command area of operations, about 5,500 U.S. service members are working with allies and partners throughout Central and South America.

But it is not just those service members deployed overseas who work on the holiday. Thousands of airmen will man the consoles in the missile fields of the American West. Others will watch the skies for threats, while still others will be ready to respond to these threats.

Thousands of service members will care for brothers and sisters who are wounded or sick this holiday season. Others will provide services for the families of those deployed.

And wherever there are military personnel, there are DOD civilians and civilian contractors working right alongside them. Thousands of civilians will spend their holidays manning their duty stations to provide needed support for America’s best.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

NASA'S EARTH OBSERVATORY: Ozone’s Long Path to Recovery

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=82596&src=eoa-iotd

"PRESIDENT OBAMA HONORS OUTSTANDING EARLY-CAREER SCIENTISTS"

FROM:  THE WHITE HOUSE 
President Obama Honors Outstanding Early-Career Scientists

President Obama today named 102 researchers as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.  The winners will receive their awards at a Washington, DC, ceremony in the coming year.

“The impressive achievements of these early-stage scientists and engineers are promising indicators of even greater successes ahead,” President Obama said. “We are grateful for their commitment to generating the scientific and technical advancements that will ensure America’s global leadership for many years to come.”

The Presidential Early Career Awards embody the high priority the Obama Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the Nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges, and contribute to the American economy. The recipients are employed or funded by the following departments and agencies: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Intelligence Community, which join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions.

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

This year’s recipients are:

Department of Agriculture

Dr. Steven Cannon, Iowa State University

Dr. Isis Mullarky, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Dr. Justin Runyon, U.S. Forest Service

Department of Commerce

Dr. Gretchen Campbell, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Dr. Adam Clark, University of Oklahoma

Dr. Alan Haynie, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Dr. R. Joseph Kline, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Dr. Ana Rey, National Institute of Standards and Technology and University of Colorado at Boulder

Dr. Scott Weaver, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Department of Defense

Dr. Jennifer Dionne, Stanford University

Dr. Mohamed El-Naggar, University of Southern California

Dr. Gregory Fuchs, Cornell University

Dr. Kristen Grauman, University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Mona Jarrahi, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Mr. Lane Martin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Yael Niv, Princeton University

Dr. Derek Paley, University of Maryland

Dr. Greg Pitz, Air Force Research Laboratory

Dr. Ronald Polcawich, U.S. Army Research Laboratory

Dr. Rodney Priestley, Princeton University

Dr. Jeremy Robinson, Naval Research Laboratory

Dr. Onome Scott-Emuakpor, Air Force Research Laboratory

Dr. Ramon van Handel, Princeton University

Dr. David Weld, University of California at Santa Barbara

Dr. Yongjie Zhang, Carnegie Mellon University

Department of Education

Dr. Jeffrey Karpicke, Purdue University*

Dr. Young-Suk Kim, Florida State University

Department of Energy

Dr. Brian Anderson, West Virginia University

Dr. Theodore Betley, Harvard University

Dr. Matthew Brake, Sandia National Laboratories

Mr. Adrian Chavez, Sandia National Laboratories

Dr. Gary Douberly, University of Georgia

Dr. Mattan Erez, University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Sean Hartnoll, Stanford University

Dr. Daniel Kasen, University of California at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Dr. Meimei Li, Argonne National Laboratory

Dr. Miguel Morales, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Dr. Jennifer Reed, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Dr. Seth Root, Sandia National Laboratories

Dr. Adam Weber, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Department of Health and Human Services

Dr. Debra Auguste, City College of New York

Dr. Jessica Belser, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dr. Jeremy Clark, University of Washington

Dr. Andreea Creanga, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dr. Damien Fair, Oregon Health and Science University

Dr. Thomas Fazzio, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Dr. Jessica Gill, National Institutes of Health

Dr. Andrew Goodman, Yale University School of Medicine

Dr. Aron Hall, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dr. Xue Han, Boston University

Dr. Susan Harbison, National Institutes of Health

Dr. Richard Ho, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Dr. Shingo Kajimura, University of California at San Francisco

Dr. Young Kim, Yale University School of Medicine

Dr. Todd Macfarlan, National Institutes of Health

Dr. Gaby Maimon, Rockefeller University

Dr. Sandra McAllister, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Quyen Nguyen, University of California at San Diego

Dr. Sallie Permar, Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Katherine Radek, Loyola University Chicago

Dr. Katherine Rauen, University of California at San Francisco

Dr. Ida Spruill, Medical University of South Carolina

Dr. Andrew Yoo, Washington University School of Medicine

Department of Interior

Dr. Anna Chalfoun, U.S. Geological Survey

Dr. Gavin Hayes, U.S. Geological Survey

Dr. Burke Minsley, U.S. Geological Survey

Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Karunesh Ganguly, San Francisco VA Medical Center

Dr. Brian Head, VA San Diego Healthcare System

Dr. Katherine Iverson, VA Boston Healthcare System

Dr. Hardeep Singh, Houston VA Medical Center

Environmental Protection Agency

Dr. Steven Purucker, Environmental Protection Agency

Intelligence Community

Dr. Joeanna Arthur, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Dr. Lucy Cohan, Central Intelligence Agency

Mr. Justin Jacobs, National Security Agency

Dr. Steven Jaslar, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Dr. Daniel Stick, Sandia National Laboratories

Dr. Charles Tahan, National Security Agency

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Dr. Joshua Alwood, NASA Ames Research Center

Dr. Douglas Hoffmann, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and California Institute of Technology

Dr. Randall McEntaffer, University of Iowa

Dr. Tamlin Pavelsky, University of North Carolina

Dr. Patrick Taylor, NASA Langley Research Center

National Science Foundation

Dr. Theodor Agapie, California Institute of Technology

Dr. Javier Arce-Nazario, University of Puerto Rico at Cayey

Dr. Sarah Bergbreiter, University of Maryland at College Park

Dr. Moises Carreon, University of Louisville

Dr. Sigrid Close, Stanford University

Dr. Raffaella De Vita, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Dr. Abigail Doyle, Princeton University

Dr. Daniel Goldman, Georgia Institute of Technology

Dr. Joel Griffitts, Brigham Young University

Dr. Samantha Hansen, University of Alabama

Dr. Rouslan Krechetnikov, University of California at Santa Barbara

Dr. Tamara Moore, University of Minnesota

Dr. Daniela Oliveira, Bowdoin College

Dr. Jonathan Pillow, University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Benjamin Recht, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Dr. David Savitt, University of Arizona

Dr. Noah Snavely, Cornell University

Dr. Junqiao Wu, University of California at Berkeley

Dr. Ahmet Yildiz, University of California at Berkeley

Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Rossman Irwin III, National Air and Space Museum

*Jeffrey Karpicke was nominated by both the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation

Monday, December 23, 2013

U.S. Department of Education Announces Awards to Seven States to Continue Efforts to Turn Around Their Lowest-Performing Schools

U.S. Department of Education Announces Awards to Seven States to Continue Efforts to Turn Around Their Lowest-Performing Schools

Islands of the Four Mountains

FROM:  NASA
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=82588&src=eoa-iotd

SEC ISSUES REPORT TO CONGRESS ON DISCLOSURE RULES FOR PUBLIC COMPANIES

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 

The Securities and Exchange Commission issued a staff report to Congress on its disclosure rules for U.S. public companies, as part of agency’s ongoing efforts to modernize and simplify disclosure requirements and reduce compliance costs for emerging growth companies.

The report, mandated by Congress in the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, offers an overview of the SEC’s Regulation S-K that governs public company disclosure, as well as the staff’s preliminary conclusions and recommendations.

“This report provides a framework for disclosure reform,” said SEC Chair Mary Jo White.  “As a next step, I have directed the staff to develop specific recommendations for updating the rules that dictate what a company must disclose in its filings.  We will seek input from companies about how we can make our disclosure rules work better for them and will solicit the views of investors about what type of information they want and how it can be best presented. The ultimate objective is for the Commission to improve the disclosure regime for both companies and investors.”  

“Updating our rules is only one step – albeit an important one – in improving company disclosures,” said Keith F. Higgins, Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance.  “For their part, companies should examine how they can improve the quality and effectiveness of their disclosures and how our rules can be improved to facilitate clear and effective communications to investors.  Better disclosure benefits everyone in the marketplace, and we plan to work with companies and investors to achieve this common goal.”    

As part of this effort, the SEC’s Office of the Chief Accountant will coordinate with the Financial Accounting Standards Board to identify ways to improve the effectiveness of disclosures in corporate financial statements and to minimize duplication with other existing disclosure requirements.

Chair White added, “I look forward to working with the staff and market participants as we continue to refine the disclosure system to provide investors with the information they need to make informed investment and voting decisions.”

MAN SENTENCED ON ODOMETER TAMPERING CHARGES

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Friday, December 20, 2013

North Carolina Man Sentenced on Odometer Tampering Charges

Francis Marimo was sentenced today in connection with an odometer tampering scheme, the Justice Department announced.  Marimo was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Louise Wood Flanagan in New Bern, N.C., to serve 18 months in prison and one year of supervised release.  Marimo also was ordered to pay $190,845 in restitution.

“Used car shoppers rely on mileage readings to judge both the value and safety of vehicles they might purchase,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “Tampering with a vehicle’s odometer in order to swindle a would-be buyer is a federal crime that will be prosecuted.”

In June, Marimo pleaded guilty to two counts of odometer tampering.  According to the Information filed in the case, from 2008 through 2012, Marimo purchased used vehicles primarily through online advertisements, then replaced the existing odometers with odometers showing lower mileages.  Marimo sold these vehicles to consumers in the Raleigh, N.C., area while representing the low mileages on the replacement odometers as accurate.  Mileage for one of the vehicles described in the Information was “rolled back” more than 100,000 miles.  As part of a plea agreement, Marimo agreed that his conduct had caused between $120,000 and $200,000 in losses to consumers.

“The importance of accurate mileage readings on used car odometers cannot be overstated,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Thomas G. Walker.  “This case demonstrates our determination to protect the consumer from this type of fraud.”

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation investigated this case.  The case was prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Consumer Protection Branch.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

MSHA SAYS INSPECTORS ISSUED 174 CITATIONS DURING COAL MINE INSPECTIONS IN NOVEMBER

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR 

MSHA announces results of October and November impact inspections
ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced that federal inspectors issued 174 citations, 11 orders and two safeguards during special impact inspections conducted at 12 coal mines in November. In October, MSHA conducted impact inspections at six coal mines and three metal and nonmetal mines, where inspectors issued 120 citations and 10 orders. Impact inspections were curtailed during part of October due to the government shutdown.

The monthly inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns.

On Nov. 21, MSHA conducted an impact inspection at Maple Coal Co.'s Maple Eagle No. 1 Mine in Fayette County, W.Va. Inspectors traveled belt lines, inspected mobile and stationary equipment, and evaluated section ventilation and roof control. They issued 36 citations and six orders; it was the eighth impact inspection at this mine.

During the inspection, enforcement personnel observed a 20-foot crack in the mine roof at a belt feeder where miners regularly travel. Inspectors also found an area of loose roof strata 60 feet long and up to 8 feet wide where miners were at risk of being struck by falling rock. MSHA issued a 104(d)(1) withdrawal order for violating the approved roof control plan and failing to install needed roof supports. The operator was also cited for a loose coal rib approximately 24 feet long that was cracked and separating from the solid wall. These hazards had the potential to cause catastrophic injuries or fatalities to miners.

Maple Eagle No.1 Mine was issued three 104(d)(1) withdrawal orders for violating the approved ventilation plan. The operator did not properly construct or complete several overcasts (enclosed airways used to maintain ventilation) in several entries. The operator also failed to maintain intake airways clear of combustible materials, and had let water accumulate in one of the entries. The mine operator was cited for failing to identify and correct in its preshift inspection hazards that were obvious, extensive and had existed for several shifts.
While monitoring the mine's communication system, MSHA detected and cited the mine operator for providing advance notice.

Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 687 impact inspections and issued 11,427 citations, 1,052 orders and 48 safeguards.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Island in the Ring of Fire

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=82607&src=eoa-iotd

Weekly Address: Working Together on Behalf of the American People | The White House

Weekly Address: Working Together on Behalf of the American People | The White House

MAN CHARGED FOR PROVIDING SUPPORT TO TERRORIST GROUPS IN INDIA AND PAKISTAN

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Reno Man Charged with Conspiring to Provide Material Support to Terrorism Groups in India and Pakistan

A Reno, Nev. man has been charged with providing material support to terrorism groups in India and Pakistan in order to intimidate the Indian government and to harm persons that were not supporting their cause, announced John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada, and Laura A. Bucheit, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI for Nevada.

“A thorough investigation and cooperation among agencies led to these charges,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden.  “Investigating and prosecuting matters of national security is the top priority of the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Balwinder Singh, aka Jhajj, aka, Happy, aka Possi, aka Baljit Singh, 39, of Reno, is charged in an indictment with one count of conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim persons in a foreign country, one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, one count of making a false statement on an immigration document, two counts of use of an immigration document procured by fraud, and one count of unlawful production of an identification document.   Singh was arrested on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, in Reno, and is scheduled to appear before a U.S. Magistrate Judge on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, for an initial appearance and arraignment.

 “After an extensive investigation, the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) of Northern Nevada has disrupted an individual’s involvement in facilitation activities in support of a foreign terrorist organization, targeting an ally of the United States,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Bucheit. “We will continue to work with our international partners to prevent acts of terrorism on U.S. soil or, as in this case, on that of an ally. This investigation demonstrates the importance of law enforcement coordination and collaboration here and around the world.”

According to the indictment, Singh was a citizen of India who fled to the United States and claimed asylum.  Singh lived in the United States where he eventually obtained a permanent resident card from the United States.  The indictment alleges that Singh is a member of two terrorist organizations, Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), whose members aim to establish an independent Sikh state in part of the Punjab region of India known as Khalistan. These groups engage in bombings, kidnappings and murders in India to intimidate and compel the Indian government to create the state of Khalistan.  These groups also target for assassination persons they consider traitors to the Sikh religion and government officials who they consider responsible for atrocities against the Sikhs.

The indictment alleges that the object of the conspiracy was to advance the goals of BKI and KZF by raising money and obtaining weapons to support acts of terrorism in India.  It is alleged that the conspiracy began on a date unknown but no later than Nov. 30, 1997.  It is alleged that Singh used a false identity and obtained false identification documents in the United States so that he could travel back to India without being apprehended by the Indian authorities.  It is alleged that Singh communicated with other coconspirators by telephone while he was in the United States to discuss acts of terrorism to be carried out in India.  It is alleged that Singh sent money from Reno, Nev., to co-conspirators in India for the purchase of weapons that would be provided to members of the BKI and KZF to support acts of terrorism in India. It is alleged that Singh traveled from the United States to Pakistan, India, and other countries to meet with coconspirators to assist in the planning of terrorism in India, and that Singh provided advice to coconspirators about how to carry out acts of terrorism.

If convicted, Singh faces up to life in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on each count.

The case is being investigated by the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in northern Nevada, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sue Fahami and Brian L. Sullivan, and Trial Attorney Mara M. Kohn of the U.S. Department of Justice Counterterrorism Section.    

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt.  The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Friday, December 20, 2013

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY'S REMARKS ON RELEASE OF MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKIY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Release of Mikhail Khodorkovskiy
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 20, 2013

We welcome the pardon and release from prison of Mikhail Khodorkovskiy. We have repeatedly expressed our concerns about due process violations and selective prosecution in Russia, including against Khodorkovskiy and his business partner Platon Lebedev, who remains in prison.

The United States strongly encourages Russia to pursue reforms that establish a transparent, independent, and reliable judicial system that upholds its commitments to human rights, the rule of law, and non-discrimination.

We welcome the amnesty approved on the 20th anniversary of Russia's constitution. The United States supports the rights of all Russians to exercise their freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and belief, regardless of their political views. These rights are enshrined in the Russian Constitution as well as in international agreements to which Russia has committed itself. They are universal values, and their protection is a fundamental responsibility of all governments.

President Obama Announces his Intent to Nominate Senator Max Baucus as Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China | The White House

President Obama Announces his Intent to Nominate Senator Max Baucus as Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China | The White House

On The Clock: Unemployment Insurance (+playlist)

Looking forward

Looking forward

Arctic Waters Keep Warming in 2013

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=82591&src=eoa-iotd

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT FILES LAWSUIT FOR DISCRIMINATION AGAINST FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Justice Department Files Fair Housing Lawsuit Against Owner and Manager of Rental Housing in New Hampshire for Discrimination Against Families with Children

The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the owner and manager of rental apartments in Jaffrey, N.H., for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against families with children.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, alleges that Bruce R. Edwards, as Trustee of the Bruce R. Edwards Revocable Trust of 2004 and in his personal capacity, engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the Fair Housing Act or denied rights protected by the Act.  According to the complaint, the defendant allegedly established and implemented a discriminatory “no children” policy for prospective tenants in a boarding house that he owned and managed.  The suit also alleges that the defendant violated the Fair Housing Act by enforcing the “no children” provision of the lease against a tenant and requiring the tenant to immediately find other housing arrangements for his daughter, who visited the boarding house on weekends.

“The Fair Housing Act protects tenants with children from facing unfair terms and conditions of rental that do not apply to tenants without children,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division.  “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of fair housing laws that ensure that tenants can secure rental housing for their families without fear of discrimination.”

“This lawsuit demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to ensuring fair and equal access to housing for all New Hampshire citizens and attempts to erect discriminatory barriers to this fundamental civil right will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney John P. Kacavas for the District of New Hampshire.

This lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by a tenant who lived in the defendant’s boarding house and had joint custody of his minor daughter.  The defendant’s lease stated that no children were allowed in the building, and the defendant made additional oral statements to the tenant that children were not permitted.  After receiving noise complaints about the tenant’s child, the defendant notified the tenant in a letter marked “Eviction Notice” that he was enforcing the “no children” provision of the lease and that the tenant had to immediately find other arrangements for his daughter on the weekends.  As a result, the tenant began taking his daughter to stay with family members, which resulted in both economic and emotional costs.  After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Justice Department.

“It’s surprising that 25 years after Congress outlawed housing discrimination against families with children, many landlords don’t know it’s illegal or don’t take the law seriously,” said Acting Assistant Secretary Bryan Greene for HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.  “HUD will continue work alongside the Department of Justice in educating people on the law and obtaining housing relief for families denied housing."

The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendant, monetary damages for those harmed by the defendant’s actions and a civil penalty.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Liftoff for ESA’s billion-star surveyor

Liftoff for ESA’s billion-star surveyor

Director's Briefing: Serious Health Threat of Antibiotic-Resistant Germs...

FORMER REPAIR CONTRACTOR RECEIVES PRISON TERM FOR ROLE IN WIRE FRAUD

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT  

FORMER CONTRACTOR OF A FLORIDA PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANY SENTENCED TO SERVE TIME IN PRISON FOR WIRE FRAUD

Scheme Affected U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Mortgage Guarantee Program

WASHINGTON —A former repair contractor of a Florida property management company was sentenced to serve time in prison for his participation in a wire fraud scheme related to housing repairs made under a contract between Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Justice announced today.

Ronald B. Hurst was sentenced by Judge Philip G. Reinhard of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Rockford to serve 24 months in prison for his role in the conspiracy.

In addition, a second former repair contractor, Bryant A. Carbonell, was sentenced by Judge Reinhard to serve six months of home confinement for his role in the conspiracy.  Hurst and Carbonell were sentenced to pay $147,825 jointly and severally in restitution to the VA.  Hurst pleaded guilty on Feb. 15, 2013, to two wire fraud counts of a 10-count indictment and Carbonell pleaded guilty on Sept. 21, 2012, to the same charges.

An indictment, originally filed in January 2012, charged Hurst, Carbonell and Ryan J. Piana with conspiring to commit bribery and wire fraud from at least January 2006 until as late as September 2007.  Hurst, Carbonell and Piana were also charged with bribery and wire fraud.  As part of the plea agreements, the United States agreed to dismiss the remaining counts against Hurst and Carbonell at the time of their sentencing.

“By paying kickbacks in exchange for contracts to companies they secretly owned or with which they were affiliated, the conspirators created the illusion of competition while illegally steering contracts to themselves,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “Today’s sentencing reaffirms the Antitrust Division’s commitment to prosecuting schemes that undermine competition in the VA Mortgage Guarantee Program.”

Hurst and Carbonell were former contractors for West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC. Piana was a former residential sales manager at Ocwen.  According to court documents, Ocwen managed foreclosed properties under contract with the VA, which guaranteed qualifying residential mortgages for veterans.  Under the contract between the VA and Ocwen, if a veteran defaulted, Ocwen completed necessary repairs and re-sold the property.  Proceeds from the re-sale of VA-acquired properties directly benefit the VA by reducing the cost of guaranteeing residential mortgages to veterans.

According to the charges, Hurst and Carbonell paid Piana to steer housing repair work to companies affiliated with Hurst and Carbonell.  Piana recruited other Ocwen employees into the scheme and paid them on behalf of himself and the other conspirators.  The department said in order to execute the scheme, the conspirators sent, or caused to be sent, various transmissions via wire communication.

This is the third case involving properties managed by Ocwen under contract with the VA. On Dec. 3, 2010, Benjamin K. Graves, also a former Ocwen employee, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Orlando, Fla., to wire fraud in connection with the VA contract.  On Jan. 25, 2012, Joshua R. Nusbaum, another former Ocwen employee, and Andrew J. Nusbaum, a former Ocwen contractor, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Orlando, Fla., to wire fraud in connection with the same VA contract.  Piana pleaded guilty to the same counts as Carbonell and Hurst on July 16, 2013, in U.S. District Court in Orlando, Fla.  Piana was sentenced on Sept. 30, 2013, to serve 24 months in prison and to pay $147,285 in restitution to the VA.

The sentence announced today resulted from a federal investigation of housing repair contracts performed under contract with the VA.  The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the Central Field Office of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigations Division, located in Hines, Ill.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gaia a son billet pour le décollage

Gaia a son billet pour le décollage

ESOC-Teams bereit für den Start der Gaia-Mission

ESOC-Teams bereit für den Start der Gaia-Mission

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY'S REMARKS TO STAFF AND FAMILIES AT U.S. EMBASSY IN MANILA, PHILIPPINES

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 

Meeting With Staff and Families of Embassy Manila


Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy Manila
Manila, Philippines
December 17, 2013


SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very, very much. Magandang gabi. (Laughter.) I’m going to let you have it. What?
AUDIENCE: Almost.
SECRETARY KERRY: Almost. Well, come here. Come here. Come here. How should I say it? (Laughter.) All right. Give me the right way.

AUDIENCE: Magandang gabi.

SECRETARY KERRY: Magandang gabi. (Applause and cheering.) So he’s not such a good teacher. (Laughter.)

Anyway, it is wonderful to be here in this historic Embassy. And thank you all for the privilege of sharing a few thoughts with all of you being here.

First of all, you are very blessed to have one of the best in the entire Foreign Service. This guy has worked on so many different initiatives. He’s been in Latin America; he’s been in Bosnia, the Bosnia team – of the Dayton Accords. He’s worked with Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott. He has been the bureau chief of INR, as you know – intelligence and research. And you’ve got the right person for this moment out here. He’s a professional, and I’m delighted that he’s representing our country as ambassador. And you’re lucky to have him. Anyway, thank you. (Applause.)
And Brian Goldbeck – it’s hard to see him. Somewhere he’s here. I met him as I came in. Brian (inaudible).

PARTICIPANT: He’s back here somewhere.

SECRETARY KERRY: Brian’s hiding back there, but he shouldn’t be hiding, because as all of you know, his leadership was essential during the period of the typhoon response, and Ben Hemingway and Amy Reardon, the DART team, the extraordinary work that all of you did.
There are so many people I want to run through all of the names but the Citizen Service piece – everything we did was actually stunning, linking people to aid, getting aid, finding the $45 million, rapidly getting it out there. Where’s Colonel Wylie? Is he here somewhere? No, not here. Well, obviously the job that JUSMAG did in terms of operations and coordination, flying so many people from Tacloban and bringing them up to Manila and everything – it’s really an extraordinary story.

I know you guys have a huge tradition here, the sort of one team, one mission concept. But you gave that more meaning than almost any embassy in the entire world. And every one of you should applaud everybody else here, because it’s an extraordinary story. Thank you for doing what you do. (Applause.)

I understand we’ve got a few very special people here. Cesar Buensuceso has worked in HR 30 years. Cesar, I gather is here. Not here. Well, tell him we did him a shout-out and – (laughter) – his absence was noticed. (Laughter.)

How about Lourdes Apolinario? No, she’s not here? She’s also – she’s served 34 years. She knows better than to be here. Excelsa Espiritu. Excelsa. Is Excelsa here? Likewise, they’ve all worked so long they’ve earned the privilege to going home early. (Laughter.)

Well, will you thank them for me? Because honestly, for all of you who are local hires – and we have over 1,000 of them here – we cannot do what we do without you. And everybody is so grateful. There are almost 400, about 350 to 400 folks, here who are direct hires and some of them are Civil Service and some are Foreign Service officers, some political appointees and some third nationals. But we are hugely grateful to all of you from the Philippines who make it possible for us to know what we’re doing and to put the right face on America. So every one of us join in saying thank you to you for the job you do. (Applause.)

I’m going to be very quick, because I want to have a chance to shake some hands and take a few photos as we run out of here. But let me just tell you what a great, great privilege it is for me to be back here. I had always had this thing in my mind about the Philippines because my grandfather’s cousin was a governor-general here back in 1909, 1912. And so he came back with all this beautiful mahogany wood and narra wood – (laughter) – unbelievable baskets and different things, and we grew up with these things, looking at them, and we admired them. And I would say, wow, that’s an amazing place, I want to go.

And when I became a senator, the first place I went to, not so much because of that but because I had heard so many stories about what was happening in terms of political repression and the Marcos regime and abuse and so forth that I wanted to come here. And I spent five hours with Ferdinand Marcos in the Malacanang Palace and was convinced after that conversation that the United States needed to change its policy.

And so the first amendment I ever passed as a young senator was about the Philippines, and we changed our foreign aid program to make it conditional. And Marcos got kind of angry at me, but figured he was going to show this young whippersnapper senator who was boss, and he called a snap election in order to re-legitimize himself.

Well, NAMFREL and lot of dedicated people here in the Philippines had a different idea, and they created a network of poll watching and accountability and transparency. So when that election took place, we knew what was happening with the voting. We weren’t able to prove it until 13 courageous women walked out of the polling counting computer center, took refuge in the church, and I went and met with them at the cathedral, and they stood up and told their story of how they were putting legitimate vote counts that gave Cory Aquino the victory into the computers but coming out on the tote board was completely fictitious numbers worked towards Marcos.

We blew the lid off of the fraudulent election and within weeks Ronald Reagan pulled the rug out from under him, sent his top aide over here, top senator, friend, Paul Laxalt delivered the message and Marcos was gone. That shows you what you can do. That’s called accountability, democracy, people power. That’s what it was called.

So as I come here now, we’re at this (inaudible) in terms of American foreign policy and the world we’re living in. There are huge challenges all around the planet. And every country is in play, in a sense, because there are too many places where there’s failed governments or failing governments or near-failed states, or failed states. And we need to prove successes. We need to show that we can respond to people’s needs. In this incredible economic transformation that’s taking place, an awful lot of people making a lot of money and an awful lot of people being left behind. And what we’re going to need to do is even that out and work at this as we create our trade agreements, as we work at the governance issues, as we bring healthcare, and build capacity in countries.

That’s the challenge of American foreign policy today, and each and every one of you should be really excited about being on the cutting edge of this global transformation taking place. There are a lot of folks I know that I run into – when I ran for president, went around the country, I’d meet a lot of people who hated their jobs, and you knew they got up in the morning and the only reason they went to work was to survive and pay the bills, but not because they loved their work. This work we all have the privilege of really loving, because we can make a difference in the lives of other people and meet people and be ambassadors – every single one of us – for our nation and for our values. And those of you who are Filipino who share those values, share those affections, you can be part of that journey, because it’s yours as much as ours.
So I want to thank all of you for being part of this. Thank you for choosing to do what you do. And I look forward over the next three years – unless I screw up royally – (laughter) – to continuing to work with all of you to help make this happen. Thank you all, and God bless. (Applause.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

LANL News: Nearly $2 million pledged during Los Alamos National Laboratory’s 2014 employee giving campaign

LANL News: Nearly $2 million pledged during Los Alamos National Laboratory’s 2014 employee giving campaign

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

Practice Holiday Food Safety

Practice Holiday Food Safety

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAGEL'S STATEMENT ON SAME-SEX BENEFITS

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Statement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Same-Sex Benefits

On Oct. 31, I called on the chief of the National Guard Bureau to work with several states to fully implement Department of Defense policy by providing DoD identification cards to all eligible military spouses, regardless of sexual orientation.  Following consultations between the National Guard Bureau and the adjutants general of the states, all eligible service members, dependents and retirees - including same-sex spouses - are now able to obtain ID cards in every state. All military spouses and families sacrifice on behalf of our country.  They deserve our respect and the benefits they are entitled to under the law.  All of DoD is committed to pursuing equal opportunities for all who serve this nation, and I will continue to work to ensure our men and women in uniform as well as their families have full and equal access to the benefits they deserve.

Monday, December 16, 2013

This Land Is Your Land - Woody Guthrie - Lyrics - SyllableSync

Colorado Firm Recalls Meat and Poultry Products That Were Produced Under Insanitary Conditions

Colorado Firm Recalls Meat and Poultry Products That Were Produced Under Insanitary Conditions

Press Release: CDC looks back at 2013 health challenges, ahead to 2014 health worries

Press Release: CDC looks back at 2013 health challenges, ahead to 2014 health worries

First Lady Michelle Obama Reads "The Night Before Christmas" | The White House

First Lady Michelle Obama Reads "The Night Before Christmas" | The White House

VA ANNOUNCES EXPANDED BENEFITS FOR TBI

FROM:  U.S. VETERANS ADMINISTRATION 
VA to Expand Benefits for Traumatic Brain Injury
Adds Five Illnesses Related to Service-Connected TBI
WASHINGTON – Some Veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who are diagnosed with any of five other ailments will have an easier path to receive additional disability pay under new regulations developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The new regulation, which takes effect 30 days from today, impacts some Veterans living with TBI who also have Parkinson’s disease, certain types of dementia, depression, unprovoked seizures or certain diseases of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.

“We decide Veterans’ disability claims based on the best science available,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “As scientific knowledge advances, VA will expand its programs to ensure Veterans receive the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”

This regulation stems from a report of the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine (IOM) regarding the association between TBI and the five diagnosable illnesses.  The IOM report, Gulf War and Health, Volume 7:  Long-Term Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury, found “sufficient evidence” to link moderate or severe levels of TBI with the five ailments.

The new regulations, printed in the Federal Register, say that if certain Veterans with service-connected TBI also have one of the five illnesses, then the second illness will also be considered as service connected for the calculation of VA disability compensation.

Eligibility for expanded benefits will depend upon the severity of the TBI and the time between the injury causing the TBI and the onset of the second illness.  However, Veterans can still file a claim to establish direct service-connection for these ailments even if they do not meet the time and severity standards in the new regulation.

Veterans who have questions or who wish to file new disability claims may use the eBenefits website, available at www.eBenefits.va.gov/ebenefits.

Servicemembers who are within 180 days of discharge may also file a pre-discharge claim for TBI online through the VA-DoD eBenefits portal at www.eBenefits.va.gov/ebenefits.

The published final rule will be available Dec. 17 at http://www.regulations.gov.

U.S. Department of Education Awards Nearly $50,000 Grant to Danvers High School to Restore Safe School Environment

U.S. Department of Education Awards Nearly $50,000 Grant to Danvers High School to Restore Safe School Environment

Immagine EO della Settimana: La Catena dei Monti Flinders

Immagine EO della Settimana: La Catena dei Monti Flinders

SHRIMPER PLEADS GUILTY TO SHOOTING A DOLPHIN

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Alabama Shrimper Convicted for Shooting Dolphin

An Alabama man pleaded guilty in a federal court in Gulfport, Miss., to knowingly shooting a dolphin, the Justice Department announced.
Brent Buchanan, 38, of Bayou La Batre, Ala., pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of knowingly taking a protected marine mammal, a federal crime under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.   In court documents, Buchanan admitted to knowingly shooting a dolphin with a shotgun while shrimping in the Mississippi Sound in July or August 2012.

A sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 24, 2014.   The maximum penalty is one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, and a $25 special assessment.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act is a federal law which makes it illegal to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or to attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, any marine mammal in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States.   The Act protects all species of dolphins, as well as other marine mammals such as whales and seals.

The case was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine, the Alabama Marine Police, and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resource Division.   The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi and the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

NOAA Office of Law Enforcement is actively investigating a number of other possible dolphin shootings along the northern Gulf Coast since 2012.   Anyone possessing information relating to such an incident is requested to contact NOAA Office of Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964 or a state wildlife law enforcement agency.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

STATE DEPARTMENT RELEASES SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY'S INTERVIEW WITH ABC NEWS

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Interview With Martha Raddatz of ABC's This Week
Interview
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
December 15, 2013

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I want to get right to reports out of North Korea that the young leader, Kim Jong-un, has executed his uncle, his mentor, one of the most powerful people in North Korea. What does this tell you about the danger coming from North Korea?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it tells us a lot about, first of all, how ruthless and reckless he is. And it also tells us a lot about how insecure he is, to a certain degree. It tells us a significant amount about the instability internally of the regime, with the numbers of executions. This is not the first execution. There have been a significant number of executions taking place over the last months, which we’re aware of. And most importantly, it underscores the importance for all of us of finding a way forward with North Korea in order to denuclearize the peninsula. It’s an ominous sign of the instability and of the danger that does exist.

QUESTION: Well, what does it tell you about him? We know so little about him.

SECRETARY KERRY: We don’t know. I mean, North Korea remains relatively opaque. It is not easy, but we do have insights. And the insights that we have tell us that he is spontaneous, erratic, still worried about his place in the power structure, and maneuvering to eliminate any potential kind of adversary or competitor and does so, obviously, ruthlessly. I mean, you saw the pictures of his uncle being arrested in front of everybody at this meeting.

QUESTION: And this was so public.

SECRETARY KERRY: I mean, it really reminded me of a video that we saw of Saddam Hussein doing the same thing, having people plucked out of an audience, with people sitting there sweating, and nobody daring to move or do anything. This is the nature of this ruthless, horrendous dictatorship and of his insecurities.

And I think we need to factor that into the urgency of getting China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, all of us to stay on the same page and to put as much effort into the denuclearization as possible. To have a nuclear weapon potentially in the hands of somebody like Kim Jong-un just becomes even more unacceptable.

QUESTION: I want to move to the other headline, which is out of Iran, and Robert Levinson, the FBI agent who was reportedly working with the CIA in Iran, disappeared seven year ago. His family has confirmed to ABC News that he did have ties to the CIA. I know you’re not going to confirm anything like that, but I want to tell you what his family said. They say that the U.S. Government has abandoned and betrayed him and is getting lip service from the Obama Administration on their efforts for his release. Has there been any real progress?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there hasn’t been progress in the sense that we don’t have him back. But to suggest that we’ve abandoned him or anybody has abandoned him is simply incorrect and not helpful. The fact is that I have personally raised the issue, not only at the highest level that I have been involved with, but also through other intermediaries. So we don’t have any meeting with anybody who has something to do with Iran or an approach to Iran where we don’t talk to them about how might be able to find to find not just Levinson, but we have two other Americans that we’re deeply concerned about.

QUESTION: Do you have any --

SECRETARY KERRY: And we’re looking for proof of life. We’re working on several processes that I’m not free to talk about, but there are a number of different channels that are being worked, and they’re being worked aggressively.

QUESTION: Do you believe the Iranian Government is responsible for his disappearance?

SECRETARY KERRY: I think the Iranian Government – I can’t tell you what happened or how the sequence was, but I think the Iranian Government has the ability to help us here, and we hope they will.

QUESTION: The major news out of Syria this week: the U.S. has suspended nonlethal aid because Islamist rebels took over a warehouse.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah.

QUESTION: How did that happen?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it happened because there’s a certain amount of infighting taking place within the opposition. And this is the nature of the beast that has been unleashed by Bashar al-Assad, who probably is feeding some of it himself because he likes to try to play the part that he is the better alternative to these extremists. So there are some indicators that he’s even fueling some of that.

The problem is you have some radical Islamic elements there.

QUESTION: So what’s the next move?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there isn’t more – the moderate opposition has been united up until recently, and we believe they still can be united. We are aiming towards the Geneva II conference, which will take place in January – in the latter part of January. We are committed to try to bring people together, a strong representation of the opposition, together with the Assad regime representatives and with maybe 30 or so other countries and all try to work in the same direction, which is to get a political settlement out of Syria.

QUESTION: When can you start the nonlethal aid back again to those moderate…

SECRETARY KERRY: I think very quickly.

QUESTION: What are you waiting for?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we’ve already had, we’ve already had some proffers to have the warehouse protected and other kinds of things. But I think people want to be careful, have the meetings that we need to have, and make certain we can proceed forward thoughtfully. Nobody wants to just fill the warehouse up again and have it taken over again. That doesn’t make sense. So we need to make sure where we’re going.

But look, this is complicated. This isn’t easy. A year ago, before the President started to focus on this and figuratively had to accelerate the efforts to get a political solution, nothing was happening except fighting and killing. And a year ago, chemical weapons were being used and under the control of the Assad regime. Now, through our diplomatic efforts, we are moving towards a peace conference, difficult as it is --

QUESTION: And you really think that’s going to happen next month?

SECRETARY KERRY: We’re committed to going. The Russians are committed to going. Countries are committed to going.

QUESTION: John McCain says: The moderate opposition groups are losing. As a result, extremists are filling the void, and entire sections of Syria, stretching deep into Iraq, are now effectively safe havens for al-Qaida. True?

SECRETARY KERRY: There’s some truth – yeah, it’s absolutely true. Al-Qaida has greater clout there than it had before, and it’s an increasing threat. And it’s a threat we’re going to have to confront.

But John also understands that the members of Congress, with whom he serves, were not willing to put additional money in in order to fund overtly and put money into the opposition significantly.

QUESTION: Let’s turn to the war we are still in, and that is in Afghanistan. And there’s very little progress it appears with Hamid Karzai, the president who does not want to sign this security agreement that would allow U.S. forces to remain beyond 2014, making it clear that’s what the U.S. wants, to allow troops to stay beyond 2014.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the U.S. wants success in Afghanistan. And success means having an Afghan arms force that has the ability to sustain itself and provide security to the people of Afghanistan so they can continue on the road to developing their society, their institutions, their healthcare system, their education, and other things that are happening today. When America went into Afghanistan, Martha, there were about 900,000 kids in school. They were all boys. Today there are about 7 or 8 million children in school, and almost 40 percent of them are girls. So there’s a huge transformation taking place, and we want to try to hold onto that.

QUESTION: And this – if we don’t leave those troops there, can you guarantee that young women can still go to school there?

SECRETARY KERRY: No. Absolutely not. You can’t guarantee anything, I think. If American forces were not there, I think there would be serious challenges with respect to Afghanistan’s security. But – here’s the but – I believe that Hamid Karzai, either he or his successor will sign this. Now I think he needs to sign it.

QUESTION: His successor? So it’s okay for a successor --

SECRETARY KERRY: I said they will. No, no, no. I said either he or they will, but he needs to sign it.

QUESTION: By when? Give me a date.

SECRETARY KERRY: We negotiated – let me just finish – we negotiated an agreement. That wasn’t in place, by the way, a year ago. Now we have an agreement that’s been negotiated, and he has said to me personally, as recently as a day ago, reiterated through his minister, that the language is fine. So we are very close to the ability to move forward. And I believe it will be signed and I hope it’ll be signed as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Is there a cutoff date, where you have to say we can’t do it, we can’t leave troops there?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there is a cutoff date, but I’m not going to get into cutoff dates. I think what’s important to understand is --

QUESTION: First it was October, then it was going to have to be by January.

SECRETARY KERRY: No. This needs to be signed as soon as possible. And I think he understands that.

QUESTION: How long do you want troops to stay there?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s up to the President of the United States and it’s up to the process on the ground. But the President has already said we are prepared to be there for a number of years going forward in a very different role, a very diminished role of training, advising, and equipping the Afghans. We will not be in combat. America will not be engaged in combat.

QUESTION: But counterterrorism troops, you want there as well.

SECRETARY KERRY: It’s a very different. We will be doing counterterrorism. That is correct.

QUESTION: That’s combat.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it is – not automatically, not directly. It can be intel gathering. It can be providing information to the Afghans that they act on. And in some cases, it might wind up being kinetic by American forces. But the point is, it’s not day-to-day combat against the Taliban on behalf of the Afghan people. It’s counterterrorism to fight against terrorists – al-Qaida, and Haqqani Network, others – who are threatening American assets and America itself.

QUESTION: You’ve put so much effort in your first year into Mideast peace. You’ve got the parties talking, but has there been any real concrete progress on the really tough issues?

SECRETARY KERRY: Yes. Actually, there has been. But we’ve agreed not to be talking about what we’re doing, because it just creates great expectations, it creates pressure, it creates opposition in some cases. If this conflict was easy, Martha, this would have been done years ago. It’s confounded presidents and secretaries of state for 30 or 40 years. And it’s complicated.

QUESTION: And you feel this time its different?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I think we’re in a different moment now. And hopefully the leaders will seize this moment and at least move the balls forward somewhat.

QUESTION: We’re sitting in Ho Chi Minh City. You’re a Vietnam War veteran and an anti-war activist after the Vietnam War. How much of your world view comes from your time spent here?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, obviously, some of it Martha. But one thing I’m very careful – very, very careful – not to do is see everything through the lens of Vietnam. That would be a huge mistake. And it’s informative, but it doesn’t imprison me. It doesn’t dominate me.

QUESTION: Thanks very much, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.

Dry Ice Moves on Mars

VA OFFICIAL OUTLINES PROGRESS ON VA BACKLOG BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS 
VA Progress on Claims Backlog Highlighted during Congressional Testimony
December 11, 2013
A Says Claims Backlog Down 36 Percent since March

WASHINGTON – At a hearing today before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Under Secretary for Benefits, Allison A. Hickey, outlined progress made by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) in reducing the backlog of Veterans’ disability compensation and pension claims by 36 percent since March -- attributing the success to the combined impact of VBA's transformation initiatives and increased employee productivity.
“We know there is much more work to be done to reach our goal of eliminating the disability claims backlog in 2015,” said Hickey.  “But I’m encouraged that the improved tools and processes we’ve put in place so far are having a real impact so that we may better serve our nation’s Veterans, their survivors and their families.”

In her testimony, Under Secretary Hickey detailed the elements of VBA’s transformation plan, which includes re-training and reorganizing its workforce, streamlining business processes, and building and implementing new technology solutions. With each transformation milestone, said Hickey, VBA is successfully moving away from a paper-bound, manual process to improve benefits delivery to Veterans, their families, and survivors through paperless claims processing.  She also noted that if full funding is received, mandatory overtime for VBA claims processors, which helped bring down the backlog this year, will continue for much of 2014.

Key accomplishments highlighted in the testimony included:
Decreasing the pending inventory of claims by 22 percent;
Decreasing the number of claims in the backlog (those pending over 125 days) by 36 percent;
Increasing claim-level accuracy from approximately 83 percent in 2011 to 90 percent today;
Increasing medical issue-level accuracy to approximately 97 percent today;
Completed processing of 99.9 percent of all claims that were pending over two years;
Completed processing of 97 percent of all claims that were pending over one year through the end of October;
Converting over 360 million images of paper claims documents into a digital format for electronic processing; and Establishing over 3.2 million Veteran, Servicemember and family member accounts in eBenefits, the joint Defense Department/VA web portal for accessing and tracking VA benefits.

Also, VA’s web-based, paperless electronic claims processing solution, the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), was successfully deployed to all 56 of VA’s regional benefits offices across the country, six months ahead of schedule. VBMS has also been fielded to the Appeals Management Center, the Records Management Center, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, VA’s National Call Center, and all VA Medical Centers. Currently, about 75 percent of the VBA’s claims inventory is in digital form for electronic processing in VBMS – a percentage that is growing daily. In December, VBMS will continue to add new features and capability.

During her testimony, Hickey thanked the committee members for their support, noting that VA will rely on their continued support for resourcing the information technology and automation advancements needed to meet the Department’s goal of eliminating the backlog in 2015.  In fiscal year 2013 alone, VA provided over $59 billion in compensation benefits to four million Veterans and survivors, and over $5 billion in pension benefits to more than 515,000 Veterans and survivors.
For Veterans and separating Servicemembers who are planning to file a disability claim, VA urges them to do so by filing Fully Developed Claims (FDCs) electronically through eBenefits.  Veterans and separating Servicemembers who need help filing their claims can contact  their local veteran service organization for assistance.

Under current law, Veterans filing initial disability compensation claims as FDCs now through Aug. 5, 2015, may be eligible for up to one year of retroactive benefits.   Registered eBenefits users with a Premium account can file a claim online, track the status, and access a variety of other benefits, including pension, education, health care, home loan eligibility, and vocational rehabilitation and employment programs.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Healthy conversations

Healthy conversations

Weekly Address: Marking the One-Year Anniversary of the Tragic Shooting ...

Weekly Address: Marking the One-Year Anniversary of the Tragic Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut | The White House

Weekly Address: Marking the One-Year Anniversary of the Tragic Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut | The White House

FORMER MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELOR PLEADS GUILTY FOR ROLE IN $63 MILLION HEALTH CARE FRAUD

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Therapist Pleads Guilty in Miami for His Role in $63 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

A former licensed mental health counselor at the defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN) pleaded guilty today in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for his role in a $63 million health care fraud scheme.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations Miami Office made the announcement.

Ruben Busquets, 50, of Miami, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.   He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 20, 2014.

According to court records, Busquets was employed as a licensed therapist at HCSN, a mental health facility that purported to provide Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) services.   A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness.   HCSN of Florida (HCSN-FL) operated community mental health centers at two locations.   Court records indicate that Busquets was aware that HCSN-FL personnel were routinely fabricating patient medical records.  Many of these medical records were created weeks or months after the patients were admitted to HCSN-FL for purported PHP treatment and were utilized to support false and fraudulent billing to government sponsored health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Florida Medicaid.  During his employment at HCSN-FL, Busquets and his co-conspirators signed fabricated PHP therapy notes and other medical records used to support false claims to government-sponsored health care programs.

According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported mental health services.

This case is being investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.   This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina of the Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion.   In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Friday, December 13, 2013

West Wing Week 12/13/13 or, "Madiba, Farewell" | The White House

West Wing Week 12/13/13 or, "Madiba, Farewell" | The White House

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT NEWSLETTER ON FORGING PARTNERSHIPS TO PREVENT CONFLICT

http://www.state.gov/j/cso/releases/other/2013/218715.htm

Galileo achieves its first airborne tracking

Galileo achieves its first airborne tracking

12/12/13: White House Press Briefing | The White House

12/12/13: White House Press Briefing | The White House

ESA-Teams startklar für Mondlandung

ESA-Teams startklar für Mondlandung

FDA GIVES APPROVAL FOR GENERIC VERSIONS OF CYMBALTA

FROM:  U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION 
FDA NEWS RELEASE
 For Immediate Release: Dec. 11, 2013
FDA approves first generic versions of antidepressant drug Cymbalta

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved the first generic versions of Cymbalta (duloxetine delayed-release capsules), a prescription medicine used to treat depression and other conditions.

Aurobindo Pharma Ltd., Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd., Lupin Ltd., Sun Pharma Global FZE, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, and Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd. have received FDA approval to market duloxetine in various strengths.

“Health care professionals and consumers can be assured that these FDA-approved generic drugs have met our rigorous standards,” said Kathleen Uhl, M.D., acting director of the Office of Generic Drugs in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Generic drugs offer greater access to health care for many people.”

Depression is characterized by symptoms that interfere with a person's ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Episodes of depression often recur throughout a person's lifetime. Signs and symptoms of depression include: depressed mood, loss of interest in usual activities, significant change in weight or appetite, insomnia or excessive sleeping (hypersomnia), restlessness/pacing (psychomotor agitation), increased fatigue, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, slowed thinking or impaired concentration, and suicide attempts or thoughts of suicide.

Duloxetine and other antidepressant drugs have a boxed warning describing the increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior during initial treatment in children, adolescents, and young adults ages 18 to 24. The warning also says data do not show this increased risk in those older than 24 years and that patients ages 65 and older who take antidepressants have a decreased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior.

The warning says depression and other serious psychiatric disorders themselves are the most important causes of suicide and that close monitoring of patients starting these medications is necessary. Duloxetine must be dispensed with a patient medication guide that describes important information about the drug’s uses and risks.

Common adverse reactions reported by people taking Cymbalta include nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness, fatigue, decreased appetite, increased sweating, and dizziness.

Generic prescription drugs approved by the FDA have the same high quality and strength as brand-name drugs. Generic prescription drug manufacturing and packaging sites must pass the same quality standards as those of brand-name drugs.

Information about the availability of generic duloxetine can be obtained from the manufacturers.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY CONGRATULATES HONDURAN PRESIDENT HERNANDEZ ON HIS ELECTION

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Honduras Elections
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 12, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I extend my warm congratulations to Juan Orlando Hernandez on his election as President of the Republic of Honduras.

The Honduran people turned out in record numbers to vote on November 24, and we commend the Honduran Government for ensuring that the election process was generally transparent, peaceful, and reflected the will of the Honduran people.

Honduras’ newly elected leaders have committed to address the country’s most pressing challenges, including promoting fiscal stability and economic growth, combating poverty, and guaranteeing security, justice, and human rights for all Hondurans.

The United States will continue its support for these efforts and looks forward to deepening our cooperation throughout the region.

Ask The White House: Immigration Reform | The White House

Ask The White House: Immigration Reform | The White House

Réveil du satellite Rosetta dans moins de 45 jours

Réveil du satellite Rosetta dans moins de 45 jours

STOPPING THE DISTRIBUTION OF DRUG-MAKING CHEMICALS FROM ASIA

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Clamping Down on Diversion of Drug-Making Chemicals in Asia
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 2, 2013

At the “Precursor Control in Asia: Addressing the Challenges” meeting in Thailand, on December 2, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Carol Perez addressed more than 100 technical experts and policymakers from around the world, calling for action to reduce the diversion of legal chemicals to the manufacture of illegal drugs. Perez pressed for more effective utilization of international control mechanisms already in place and called for greater attention to the illegal diversion of acetic anhydride, a chemical used in the manufacture of heroin.

Asia is the principal producer of many of the chemicals used by drug traffickers in and outside the region for manufacturing heroin and methamphetamine. Opiate abuse is a long-standing problem in Asia, and methamphetamine and amphetamine-type stimulants pose new and fast-growing threats. The delegates will discuss ways to improve the usage of existing information-sharing tools and other forms of law enforcement cooperation to combat the activities of organized crime organizations involved in the production of these dangerous illicit drugs.

The conference was organized by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) with support from the United States.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

Smog Shrouds Eastern China

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=82535&src=eoa-iotd

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

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
On the Occasion of the Republic of Kenya's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 11, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Kenya as you celebrate your Golden Jubilee on December 12.

Jamhuri Day is a testament to the strength of the Kenyan people. The United States applauds Kenya for holding a peaceful national election this year and for implementing its new constitution.

The devastating Nairobi airport fire and the tragic terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall tested the nation’s strength, but Kenyans united in the face of adversity to overcome these challenges with courage and resolve.

The United States and Kenya have been friends for half a century. We celebrate all that we have accomplished together, and we remain committed to working with Kenya to meet the challenges and seize the common possibilities that lie ahead.

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY'S STATEMENT ON MAIDAN SQUARE PROTEST IN UKRAINE

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
12/10/2013 10:32 PM EST
Statement on Events in Ukraine
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 10, 2013

The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv's Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity. This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy.

Last week in Brussels and Moldova, I underscored publicly the importance of all sides avoiding violence and called on President Yanukovych to fulfill the aspirations of the Ukranian people. We put the government on notice about our concern.

As Vice President Biden made clear to President Yanukovych during their phone call yesterday, respect for democractic principles, including freedom of assembly, is fundamental to the United States' approach to Ukraine. This is a universal value not just an American one. For weeks, we have called on President Yanukovych and his government to listen to the voices of his people who want peace, justice and a European future. Instead, Ukraine's leaders appear tonight to have made a very different choice.

We call for utmost restraint. Human life must be protected. Ukrainian authorities bear full responsibility for the security of the Ukrainian people.

As church bells ring tonight amidst the smoke in the streets of Kyiv, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better.

Antarctica’s ice loss on the rise

Antarctica’s ice loss on the rise

ALABAMA RESIDENT PLEADS GUILTY IN RACIAL CROSS BURNING CASE

FROM:  U.S.  JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Monday, December 9, 2013

Alabama Man Pleads Guilty for His Role in Racially Motivated Cross Burning
Thomas Windell Smith, 24, of Dothan, Ala., turned himself in and pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, to one count of conspiring to violate housing rights, the Justice Department announced today.  The information charging Smith was unsealed today.  The charge relates to his participation in a cross burning at the entrance to an African-American community in Ozark, Ala., on May 8, 2009, with a former KKK leader who was arrested and charged with a five-count indictment on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013.

During his plea, Smith admitted that he and a co-conspirator agreed to burn a cross together in order to intimidate the neighborhood’s African-American residents.  Using materials from around his home, the co-conspirator constructed a wooden cross about six feet tall and wrapped cloth around the cross.  The co-conspirator loaded the cross into Smith’s truck, and, with Smith driving while the co-conspirator provided directions, the two men transported the cross to a predominantly African-American residential neighborhood.  They unloaded the cross at the entrance to the community, where the co-conspirator poured fuel on the cross, stood it up in view of several houses and set it on fire.

“The defendant’s crime illustrates the damage hate crimes can do to entire communities, making people feel unsafe in their own homes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division.  “We’d like to think these offenses are a thing of the past, but the reality is that they happen here in the 21st century.  The Justice Department is committed to stamping them out.”

“This defendant not only committed a federal crime, but committed a contemptible action of hate,” said U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr.  “Citizens in the Middle District of Alabama should not and will not tolerate such actions.  I hope this prosecution sends a clear message that these hateful demonstrations will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Smith faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the Dale County Sheriff’s Office and the Ozark Police Department.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerusha T. Adams of the Middle District of Alabama and Trial Attorney Chiraag Bains of the department’s Civil Rights Division.