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No Agenda Episode 465 - Skimp Layer

By Adam Curry. Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 1:55 PM.

Skimp Layer

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By Adam Curry. Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 1:56 PM.

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Credits

By Adam Curry. Posted Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 1:56 PM.

Skimp Layer

Executive Producers:, Sir Jonathan Allen, Anonymous1, Anonymous2, Dame Janice Kang

Associate Executive Producers: Sir James Briscoe, Eric Braley, Eric Finkenbiner, Sir Andrew Soos, Sir Barry Hanna

465 Club Members: Anonymous1, Anonymous2

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Knighthoods: Jonathan Allen, Andrew Soos, Kevin Payne

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Two Obamas

ITM-NET Notes

1957 2 innagurations

Dwight Eisenhower

Doubles of Eisenhower as supreme commander during the war.

Blue Laws in that time - No parties appropriate

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_law

Mass and RI have blue laws

Bullying

1st bisexual congresswoman elected in Arizona '' Video Stuff Ain't Right

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Tue, 27 Nov 2012 16:18

November 27, 2012 ~~Kyrsten Sinema elected in Arizona. I'm sorry, but that name sounds like a porn star, doesn't it?~~

1st bisexual congresswoman elected.

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Obama Nation

FACT SHEET: The White House Homeland Security Partnership Council

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Source: White House.gov Press Office Feed

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 18:05

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 27, 2012

''Just as no nation can wall itself off from the world, no one nation'--no matter how large, no matter how powerful'--can meet these challenges alone. Nor can governments alone. Today's threats demand new partnerships across sectors and across societies'--creative collaborations to achieve what no one can accomplish alone. In short, we need a new spirit of global partnership.'' -- President Barack Obama, September 22, 2009

Executive Order 13629: The President established the White House Homeland Security Partnership Council on October 26, 2012 to maximize the Federal Government's ability to develop local partnerships in the United States to support homeland security priorities. The Council will provide advice and information to the White House and Federal departments and agencies in support of the development of homeland security partnerships.

Why an Executive Order? Executive Orders have been used for a number of different goals, such as setting foreign policy, protecting infrastructure and trade, and recovering from domestic disasters. Broadly speaking, Presidential orders give focus and energy to efforts they address, and Executive Order 13629 reinforces the importance of partnership and collaboration in achieving homeland security objectives.

Existing Efforts: The Council represents a new, across-government mechanism for tapping into local partnership expertise from a variety of Federal agencies and highlights the importance of partnerships as a tool for achieving objectives. The Council will not direct or coordinate Federal Government partnership activities, nor will it direct, supersede, or command any Federal, state, or local official. This Council is an advisory body and will operate strictly within the mission and function outlined in Executive Order 13629. Nothing in this Executive Order will affect the authority granted by law to any executive department or agency.

Council: This Council is different from other Federal advisory bodies and information sharing entities in that it draws upon field-based Federal employees from across the United States who are recognized for their expertise in building robust partnerships. The Council will provide an opportunity to recognize individuals who already have excelled in building partnerships, raise the visibility of their efforts and the model of partnership building, and establish a forum to share best practices. By focusing on efforts and expertise outside Washington, D.C., the establishment of the Council will provide new perspectives to support homeland security priorities.

Local Networks: The best partnerships often are conceived and created in local communities. By serving as a local network of Federal Government partnership specialists, the members of the Council will help capture best practices and insights that are not always visible to Washington, D.C. It will assist the Federal Government in learning from these partnerships, replicating successes across the country, and taking partnerships to scale. Council members will constitute a national network of partnership experts who can exchange ideas, build upon their expertise, and create new innovative partnerships.

National Leadership: The Federal Government has established a community of interest on homeland security partnerships at the national level through a White House-led Interagency Policy Committee, which is responsible for developing national policy for homeland security partnerships and enabling departments and agencies to more effectively build cross-sector collaboration.

San Francisco Approves 220 Square Foot Micro-Apartments

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Tue, 27 Nov 2012 15:48

Faced with a housing shortage and skyrocketing rents, last week the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved legislation that would allow up to 375 micro-apartments. The apartments can be as small as 220 square feet, house a maximum of two people, and must include a separate bathroom (the kitchen can be part of the main living area). They are expected to rent for $1,300 to $1,500 per month (a San Francisco studio apartment currently costs about $2,000). The apartment in the photo above is a 285 square foot unit at Smartspace in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood.

photo by Alex Washburn/Wired

Jamie Foxx Gives ''Honor to God and Our Lord and Savior Barack Obama'' (Video) | MRCTV

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Mon, 26 Nov 2012 15:43

MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them -- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.

MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 325 South Patrick Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.

Copyright (C) 2012, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.

Buffett on Morale | MRCTV

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Tue, 27 Nov 2012 17:50

MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them -- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.

MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 325 South Patrick Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.

Copyright (C) 2012, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.

Don't Forget, You're Here Forever: Cutter Says Obama's Mandate is for People to ''Enter and Stay in the Middle Class''

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Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 18:34

MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them -- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.

MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 325 South Patrick Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.

Copyright (C) 2012, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.

Employers Want Highly-Trained Workers At Manual Labor Wages

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Source: Crooks and Liars

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 03:29

You may wonder if it was always this way, that it was the job of the taxpayers to provide job-ready employees for the sainted job creators. Let me tell you a little story.

Way back during the reign of King Ronald, the king was giving speeches about how necessary it was for public schools to concentrate on delivering job-ready graduates instead of filling their heads with all that music and arts nonsense. And lo, it came to pass. Local school districts bought all kinds of business equipment so the king's wish could be fulfilled.

Let me translate. There was a massive transfer of wealth at the taxpayers' expense so the schools could provide the same training that businesses used to pay for, back when they still invested in their workers. I don't remember anyone questioning this at the time. It was all: Go, team! America's future!

But I was just old enough to remember when it was different, and I wondered why no one objected. When a company would interview you (to see if you were smart enough to do the job) and offer you a position, for which they would train you. Even for jobs like computer programming!

But during Reagan, it got twisted all around and turned into one big shell game. Not only were you supposed to present yourself as already trained, you had to guess which jobs would have openings! Now, every time there's a recession, we're told there's a "skills mismatch" and that Americans have to train "for the jobs of the future." (No one ever seems to accurately predict what those jobs might be.)

And here's the other hole in this philosophy: Not everyone is smart enough to do a high-skilled job. So those people should curl up in the corner and die the slow death of starvation wages? Uh, I don't think so.

Paul Krugman on the alleged skills shortage:

Kudos to Adam Davidson for some much-needed mythbusting about the supposed skills shortage holding the US economy back. Whenever you see some business person quoted complaining about how he or she can't find workers with the necessary skills, ask what wage they're offering. Almost always, it turns out that what said business person really wants is highly (and expensively) educated workers at a manual-labor wage. No wonder they come up short.

And this dovetails perfectly with one of the key arguments against the claim that much of our unemployment is ''structural'', due to a mismatch between skills and labor demand.

If that were true, you should see soaring wages for those workers who do have the right skills; in fact, with rare exceptions you don't.

So what you really want to ask is why American businesses don't feel that it's worth their while to pay enough to attract the workers they say they need.

Um, because our political system is so badly distorted that working people have no real champions? And that employers are so greedy, they're cutting off their noses to spite their faces?

Cyber War$

Bad Bengahzi Actors

Death sentences for seven over anti-Islam video

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Source: euronews

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 18:53

Seven Egyptian Christians have been sentenced to death in their absence by a court in Cairo, for taking part in an anti-Islam video that prompted violent protests throughout the world.

The crude video, made privately in California, denigrated the Prophet Mohammed.

Cast members have previously said they were duped into thinking it was an adventure drama.

Among the condemned was Nakoula Bassely Nakoula who is currently serving a one year jail term in Los Angeles for probation violations arising from his part in the video.

There were anti-US protests and attacks on western embassies throughout the Muslim world in September.

The judge in Cairo said: ''The seven accused were convicted of insulting the Islamic religion through participating in, producing and offering a film that insults Islam and its prophet.''

More about:Cinema, Egypt, Islam, TrialCopyright (C) 2012 euronews

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Collins: Rice ''Played Political Role" During "Contentious Election''

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Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 18:34

Senator Susan Collins criticized Ambassador Susan Rice's handling of the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi after meeting with Ambassador Rice today. Collins stated that she believes Rice carried political water for the administration during the presidential election.

Joe Klein - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Mon, 26 Nov 2012 15:40

Joe Klein (born September 7, 1946) is a longtime Washington, D.C. and New York journalist and columnist. He is the political columnist for Time magazine and is known for his novel Primary Colors, an anonymously written roman clef portraying Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign. Klein is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a former Guggenheim Fellow. In April 2006, he published Politics Lost, a book on what he calls the "pollster-consultant industrial complex". He has also written articles and book reviews for The New Republic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, LIFE and Rolling Stone.

[edit]Early life and careerKlein is the son of Miriam (n(C)e Warshauer) and Malcolm Klein. His maternal grandfather was professional musician Frank Warshauer.[1]

Klein graduated from the Hackley School and the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in American civilization. In 1969, Klein began reporting for the Essex County Newspapers, and The Peabody Times in Peabody, Massachusetts In 1972, he reported for Boston's WGBH, and until 1974 he was also the news editor for The Real Paper in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was a contributing editor for Rolling Stone from 1975 to 1980, and Washington bureau chief from 1975 to 1977.[2] He became friends with actor-director Tom Laughlin after interviewing him for Rolling Stone and appeared briefly as a reporter in Laughlin's 1977 film Billy Jack Goes to Washington.

Klein published Woody Guthrie: A Life in 1980 and Payback: Five Marines After Vietnam in 1984. He was a political columnist for New York from 1987 to 1992 where he won the Peter Kihss Award for reporting on the 1989 race for Mayor of New York. In May 1992 he joined Newsweek and wrote the column "Public Lives", which won a National Headliner Award in 1994. Newsweek also won a National Magazine Award for their coverage of Bill Clinton's 1992 victory. From 1992 to 1996 he was also a consultant for CBS News, providing commentary.[2]

[edit]Primary ColorsIn January 1996, Klein anonymously published the novel Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics, based on the 1992 Democratic presidential primary. The book spent nine weeks as number one on the New York Times bestseller list, with its author listed as "Anonymous". Several people, including former Clinton speechwriter David Kusnet and, later, Vassar professor Donald Foster correctly identified Klein as the novel's author, based on a literary analysis of the book and Klein's previous writing. Klein denied writing the book and publicly condemned Foster.[3][4] Klein denied authorship again in Newsweek, speculating that another writer wrote it. Washington Post Style editor David von Drehle, in an interview, asked Klein if he was willing to stake his journalistic credibility on his denial, to which Klein agreed.[5] On July 17, 1996, Klein admitted that the speculation had been correct.[6]

[edit]Later careerIn December 1996, he joined The New Yorker to write the "Letter from Washington" column. In 2000 he published The Running Mate, a sequel of sorts to Primary Colors. In March 2002 Klein published The Natural: Bill Clinton's Misunderstood Presidency, an account of Clinton's two terms in office.[2]

In January 2003, he joined Time to write a column called "In the Arena" on national and international affairs. It appears in Time's upfront "Notebook" section and has been criticized for its reporting about then Minority LeaderNancy Pelosi and the Democratic opposition to warrantless wiretapping. The column has been the source of several retractions by Time.

Klein is a regular blogger on time.com's Swampland blog. In November 2007, Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald wrote about factual errors in a Klein story about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Klein reported that the Democratic version of the FISA bill "would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court" and that it therefore "would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans."[7]Time later published a comment: "In the original version of this story, Joe Klein wrote that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would allow a court review of individual foreign surveillance targets. Republicans believe the bill can be interpreted that way, but Democrats don't." Greenwald noted that the text of the legislation does not require court review of individual targets, and that Time's response disregards this fact.[8][9] Klein's response was, "I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who's right."[10]

Later, Greenwald reported that Time "refused the requests of two sitting members of Congress ... to correct Klein's false statements in Time itself".[11] Greenwald has reported that Senator Russ Feingold has been informed by Time that his letter rebutting Klein will be published in a forthcoming issue.[12][13]

In October 2012, Klein was criticized by Glenn Greenwald for revealing on MSNBC's Morning Joe program his advocacy of U.S. drone strikes resulting in the death and mutilation of young children. Klein stated that the bottom line in the end was to ask "whose 4-year-olds get killed? What we're doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror."[14]

[edit]Political viewsIn The Natural, his book about the Clinton presidency, Klein gave a mixed assessment of Clinton's time in office. In the book, he wrote: "the conventions of journalism prevent me from fitting too neatly into one political niche (although as a columnist for the New Yorker and Newsweek my predilections are obvious)".[15] Klein's depiction of the Clinton presidency also gave a detailed examination of the moderate Democratic positions espoused by the Democratic Leadership Council, as well as third way politics generally, of which Klein was highly complimentary.

In 2008, Klein caused controversy with comments on the motivations of neoconservatives, when he said:

''The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives '' people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary '' plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.[16]''American foreign policy scholar Max Boot and the Anti-Defamation League National Director, Abraham Foxman,[17] were among the critics of Klein's views. Klein is also frequently criticized by Bob Somerby, a media commentator.[18]

In May 2009 he invited further controversy when he was quoted in an article in Politico.com, wherein he stated that the reasoning and ideas of prominent conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer were of limited value because of Krauthammer's wheelchair use:

"There's something tragic about him... His work would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he's writing about."[19]

Klein has been criticized by several conservative publications for accusing Fox News host Glenn Beck, Republican Senator Tom Coburn and former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin of sedition.[20][21][22][23][24]

In January 2011, during an appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources, Klein criticized the mainstream media for not handling complex issues properly, singling out MSNBC host Ed Schultz:

''I was on Ed Schultz's show to discuss Afghanistan. I was just back from there. It is the most complicated issue imaginable. And the guy writes down on a piece of paper "Get Out Now" and holds it up in front of the screen. That's so stupid and it's so unworthy... it's one of the reasons why people hold [pundits] in lower regard than they do lawyers.[25][26]''In March 2008, Klein aroused controversy after making what many saw as an anti-Catholic remark: "I do believe there's something weird a few of our colleagues have [against Hillary Clinton]," he said. "They tend to be Roman Catholics, actually. People like Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, Maureen Dowd." He later apologized. Others, such as media critic Bob Somerby, defended Klein's comment as accurate.[27]

[edit]Personal lifeKlein lives with his wife, daughter Sophie and son Teddy, in New Rochelle, New York, and is also the father of two adult sons, Chris and Terry.

[edit]External links[edit]See also[edit]References^http://www.brightstarcare.com/acworth/2012/06/06/the-long-goodbye/^ abcTime Magazine Biography, Accessed November 2007^"Don Foster enlightens readers with 'Author Unknown'". CNN. December 6, 2000. http://archives.cnn.com/2000/books/news/12/06/foster.anonymous/. Retrieved May 6, 2010.^Mullan, John (January 12, 2008). "The great unknown". The Guardian (London). http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,,2239268,00.html. Retrieved May 6, 2010.^The Media's True Colors, Tod Lindberg, The Weekly Standard, July 29, 1996^Columnist's Mea Culpa: I'm Anonymous, Doreen Carvajal, The New York Times, July 18, 1996^Glenn Greenwald - Political Blogs and Opinions - Salon^Klein, Joe (2007-11-21). "The Tone-Deaf Democrats". Time. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1686509,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-15.^Singel, Ryan (November 27, 2007). "Time Correction of Wiretap Story Needs Own Correction". Wired. http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/11/time-correction.html. Retrieved 2007-12-15.^Time Blog, Kliens Admission in response to controversy, Accessed November 2007^Greenwald, Glenn (December 4, 2007). "Time magazine refused to publish responses to Klein's false smears". Salon. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/12/04/time/index.html. Retrieved 2007-12-04.^Glenn Greenwald - Political Blogs and Opinions - Salon^Time, Feingold letter published on December 6, 2007.^Greenwald, Glenn (10-23-2012). "Joe Klein's sociopathic defense of drone killings of children". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/23/klein-drones-morning-joe. Retrieved 9 November 2012.^The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton by J.Klien, Broadway Publishing, 2003^Surge Protection, Time Blog, June 24, 2008^ADL Letter to Joe Klein, Senior Writer, Time Magazine, Abraham Foxman, Anti-Defamation League^Same Old Klein, The Daily Howler, October 20, 2008^Politico.com^Times Joe Klein Beck Palin committing sedition against us, Real Clear Politics Video, Real Clear Politics, April 19, 2010^Joe Klein: Yes, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are 'seditious' Politico, April 19, 2010^Coburn Heartburn, Time, December 21, 2009^DHS secretary Joe Klein spots more insurrectionists National Review Online, April 19, 2010^Joe Klein the howling beast on the borderline separating speech from sedition Reason, April 19, 2010^Huffingtonpost.com^Youtube.com^Dailyhowler.comPersondataNameKlein, JoeAlternative namesShort descriptionAmerican journalistDate of birth1946-09-07Place of birthDate of deathPlace of death

Shut Up Slave!

France launches Twitter probe in racism test case

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Source: bertb news feed

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 18:52

A Blackberry user in Quimper, France, clicks on the icon for the Twitter microblogging site. French police have opened a criminal investigation into a raft of anti-Semitic messages posted on Twitter in a case that could test the microblogging site's refusal to mediate content.

AFP - French police have opened a criminal investigation into a raft of anti-Semitic messages posted on Twitter in a case that could test the microblogging site's refusal to mediate content.

The move follows a complaint lodged last month by an anti-racism organisation that numerous messages posted on the site had breached French law prohibiting incitement to racial hatred.

The police probe, which is still in a preliminary phase, will focus on one specific message with a view to pressing charges punishable by up to a year in prison, judicial sources said.

France's Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) has been pressing Twitter to exercise tighter control of what appears on its site following a wave of anti-Semitic messages posted under the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew).

Examples included "#agoodjew is a dead Jew" and other offensive tweets were subsequently posted under #unjuifmort (#adeadjew).

The UEJF on Tuesday began a legal action aimed at forcing Twitter to identify the authors of some of the posts. A hearing on the application has been scheduled for January 8.

Twitter has refused to comment on the row, re-directing enquiries to its terms of service which state that it does not mediate content but may suspend accounts deemed to be producing illegal content.

In October, the site suspended the account of a neo-Nazi group in Germany following a request from the govermment in Berlin. It was the first time Twitter had acted on a request of that nature from a government.

Obama's memo on ''insider threats''

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Mon, 26 Nov 2012 17:17

Directs agency and department heads to establish a program to deter, detect, and mitigate actions by employees who may represent a threat to national securityOn the day before Thanksgiving, Barack Hussein Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum, or an unofficial directive to the heads of departments and agencies under the executive branch. This Presidential Memorandum, the text of which is only 183 words, directs agency and department heads to establish a program ''to deter, detect, and mitigate actions by employees who may represent a threat to national security.''

Much like all of Obama's other directives, Executive Orders and findings, there is a disturbing level of ambiguity contained within this memorandum. One could correctly state that the obvious intent of this directive is to stop government employees from leaking classified information that would endanger the safety and security of our nation. While true, there appears to be a deliberate lack of specificity concerning the exact elements that constitute such an ''insider threat.''

There is, however, a more important aspect to this memorandum that will be undoubtedly missed by many who report on it. It is reflected by a word that appears toward the end of the directive and should be considered the ''key'' to understanding the intent and action of Barack Hussein Obama. The word is ''centrally,'' and when it is considered in the context of Obama's agenda we've seen being implemented over the last four years, it is chilling.

The key to understanding this memorandum is to understand that we are witnessing the greatest consolidation of power and control under the Executive branch of the government in recent U.S. history. This consolidation of power makes it possible for a select number of highly political ''czars'' and appointed officials to observe, control and report on the activities of people within their various departments to the Executive branch. This process creates a closed system of surveillance that cannot be easily penetrated by other branches of our government.

Accordingly, it becomes a self-policing network that has the ability to silence critics and individuals opposing a particular agenda or activity, even if such dissent is lawful. Taken to its extreme, it gives Barack Hussein Obama the ability to redefine what constitutes a threat to the government, including treason. It's no longer about the rule of law and one's allegiance to the United States. It's now about allegiance to the agenda of the Executive branch, assured by active surveillance of government employees by Obama's hand-picked appointees.

This memorandum quietly inserts yet another plank in the framework for absolute control by Barack Hussein Obama. It is he, not laws enacted by congress or the workings of the judicial branch, who will now determine who and what constitutes an ''insider threat.'' The mechanisms for reporting such threats are now in place, and actual or perceived threats to our government are to be identified and reported on by the very people he appointed to key government positions. It is the very essence of ''Big Brother'' within the government itself.

Everyone needs to wake up and understand exactly what's happening not only in the U.S., but across the world. We are witnessing the consolidation of power that historically precedes a war for absolute control.

Copyright (C) Douglas HagmannDouglas J. Hagmann and his son, Joe Hagmann host The Hagmann & Hagmann Report, a live Internet radio program broadcast each weeknight from 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET.

Douglas Hagmann, founder & director of the Northeast Intelligence Network, and a multi-state licensed private investigative agency. Doug began using his investigative skills and training to fight terrorism and increase public awareness through his website.

Doug can be reached at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Older articles by Doug Hagmann

War on White Dudes

NBC's Todd Laments House GOP Having 'All White Men' as Committee Chairs

Link to Article

Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 18:38

Taking a gratuitous shot at Republicans at the end of his Wednesday MSNBC show, The Daily Rundown, NBC political director Chuck Todd insisted on making this declaration: "By the way, though, all of the committee chairs in the House Republican conference....All white men....Picture of the party's potential problems."

Chris Matthews Outrageously Links Unhappy Conservatives to Hitler

Link to Article

Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 03:30

MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them -- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.

MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 325 South Patrick Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.

Copyright (C) 2012, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.

House GOP Will Have 19 White Men as Committee Chairs in Next Congress

Link to Article

Source: Crooks and Liars

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 06:12

As Rachel Maddow noted in the segment above, "This is what you can clip and save for the next time someone in the beltway tells you how seriously the Republican party is taking its diversity problem this year."

House GOP Committee Chairs Will All Be White Men In Next Congress:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced who will chair all of the major House committees in the next Congress. And it turns out they all have something in common besides party affiliation: they're all white men.

There isn't a single woman or minority included in the mix of 19 House committee chairs announced Tuesday -- a stark reality for a party desperate to appeal to women and minorities after both groups overwhelmingly rejected Republicans just weeks ago in the presidential election. The one female committee chair that House Republicans currently have, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), is stepping down because her term is up. While there are still two lower-tier House committees awaiting a chair assignment -- the Ethics Committee and House Administration -- neither committee has any women or minority members.

At least one Senate Democrat was quick to point out that something is missing from the Republican lineup.

"Disappointed to see House committee chairmanships in the 113th Congress will not include a single woman. -PM," tweeted Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who included a link to Boehner's press release announcing the chair posts.

A House Republican leadership aide declined to comment on the lack of diversity in the party's committee leadership. The aide noted, though, that GOP leaders just put four women in party leadership. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash) is the new House Republican Conference Chair, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas) is conference vice chair, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) is conference secretary, and Rep.-elect Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) will represent freshman members in party leadership. Read on...

War on Straight Dudes

Germany to ban bestiality under animal welfare law | World news

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Source: Dave Winer's linkblog feed

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 06:25

Ilse Aigner, the German agriculture minister, is reversing a 1969 decision to legalise zoophilia. Photograph: Gon Alo Silva/Demotix/Corbis

Germany is to introduce a ban on bestiality with a revision of animal welfare law that will reverse a decision in 1969 to legalise zoophilia.

Animal rights groups have called for the practice to be recognised as animal defilement and rape, using dramatic photographs of animals being cruelly treated by humans for sexual purposes to put pressure on the German government.

Zoophiles, or those who practise bestiality, argue that they treat animals as equals and never force them to do anything against their will.

"We are going to take legal action to fight this," said Michael Kiok, chairman of the pressure group Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Information (Zeta), which has about 100 members. "Central to the beliefs of zoophiles is that we don't do anything that the animal doesn't want. We do not treat them cruelly. An animal is quite capable of showing precisely what it wants and does not want. When I look at my dog I know immediately what it wants. Animals are much easier to understand than women," he said.

The centre-right government of Angela Merkel, which has shaped the law change, said key to the new legislation was recognising that sex with humans was "inappropriate" for animals. According to Hans-Michael Goldmann, chairman of the parliamentary agricultural committee which will discuss the law on Wednesday before a final vote in the Bundestag on 14 December, animals should not be used "for personal sexual activities or made available to third parties for sexual activities '... thereby forcing them to behave in ways that are inappropriate to their species".

Animal rights' campaigners welcomed the ban, but said it was being used to divert attention from more widespread and pressing animal rights issues. "We welcome the new amendment (to the law) to ban sodomy," said Thomas Schr¶der, president of the German Animal Welfare Association (DTSB). "But this achievement in the animal welfare struggle cannot be used as an excuse to conceal other urgent animal rights questions".

Agriculture minister Ilse Aigner was said to have introduced the amendment to appease animal rights campaigners angry that more is not being done to tackle perceived animal rights abuses in the agricultural industry. Campaigners wants bans on cutting off piglets' tails, and the castration of piglets and branding of horses without anaesthesia. In the end Aigner has affected a change only on the issue of castration, but not until 2018, when the practice will only be allowed to be carried out under local anaesthetic.

Kiok, 52, a university librarian from M¼nster, southern Germany, who lives with his 8½-year-old Alsatian called Cessie in what he calls a relationship, said zoophiles had been "put on the sacrificial altar of a lazy compromise". Estimating there are about100,000 active zoophiles in Germany, he said the group remained deeply misunderstood. "We don't have anything to do with people who abuse animals," he said. "We only want what's best for the animal. "It cannot be that the mutually gratifying sexual contact between human and animal is forbidden because it's unfavourable to the species, but the abuse of animals in the agricultural industry continues."

He said he had received death threats from campaigners who were threatening to remove his dog. The protesters posted on Facebook that they had the addresses of 800 zoophiles and would campaign to have their pets taken from them.

Koik said he had been through years of therapy and despair due to his zoophilia, only discovering on the internet the "huge number of zoophiles, especially in the US," he said. "It was a relief to feel I wasn't a monster as I'd heard for much of my life," he said.

Remarks at the 20th Anniversary of GLIFAA

Link to Article

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 06:29

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all, very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (Laughter.) Thank you, all. Thank you.Yeah, that's good. (Laughter.) Wow. Well, welcome to the Ben Franklin Room. (Laughter.) And congratulations on your 20th anniversary. I am so pleased to be here and to have this chance to join this celebration. Ken, thank you for your kind words and your efforts here to make this day possible. I am extremely pleased that Cheryl Mills, my friend as well as Chief of Staff and Counselor is here, so that those of you who may not have met her or even seen her, given how shy and retiring she is '' (laughter) '' can express your appreciation to her for her tireless efforts.

I'm delighted that Deputy Secretary Tom Nides is here. Tom, who some of you know, who you've had a chance to work with him, has been just an extraordinary deputy. Also let me recognize USAID Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg. He's been an unyielding advocate for the LGBT community at USAID. We also have a number of ambassadors and deputy chiefs of mission, both past and present, some of whom have literally traveled from the other side of the world to be here. David, I'm talking about you. And we have Michael Guest with us, our country's first out ambassador to be confirmed by the Senate and someone who's remained an outspoken champion for LGBT rights, despite having to endure countless attacks and threats. Michael, why don't you stand up so that you can be recognized? (Applause.)

Also let me thank the GLIFAA board and members. I just had a chance to meet the board and former presidents. I don't think I've ever been in a room with so many former presidents. (Laughter.) The last count was maybe five. (Laughter.) But it's really due to their leadership over 20 years that GLIFAA has reached this milestone, and it will be up to all of you and those who come after you to keep the work going for the next 20 and the 20 after that.

Now, it wasn't really that long ago since this organization was created, but in many ways it was a completely different world. As we heard, in 1992 you could be fired for being gay. Just think about all of the exceptional public servants, the brilliant strategists, the linguists, the experts fired for no reason other than their sexual orientation. Think of what our country lost because we were unable to take advantage of their hard work, expertise, and experience. And the policy forced people to make terrible choices, to hide who they were from friends and colleagues, to lie or mislead, to give up their dreams of serving their country altogether.

That began to change, in part because of the brave employees here at State, who decided that it was time for the bigotry, the ignorance, the lying, and discrimination to end. The LGBT community deserve the same chance as anyone else to serve. And indeed, as we all know, many had for many years, just without acknowledgment of who they were. So enough was enough, and that's how GLIFAA was formed. And thank goodness it was.

We've come a long way since then, and we have seen milestones along that journey over the last 20 years. I remember that I think on my husband's first day in office back in '93, he announced that gays and lesbians working in the Federal Government would receive equal treatment under the Civil Service Reform Act. Two years later, Secretary Warren Christopher made clear those rules would be enforced within the halls of the State Department when he issued a statement that explicitly prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Now over the past four years, we've built on those and other steps to really acknowledge and welcome LGBT people into the State Department family and other agencies. We've extended benefits to same-sex domestic partners of State and USAID employees, Foreign Service officers, personal service contractors, third country nationals at missions overseas. We've institutionalized these changes by creating a classification for same-sex domestic partners in the Foreign Affairs manual. We've also made it clear in our Equal Opportunity Employment statement that the Department doesn't discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression.

We've helped to make it easier for transgender Americans to change the gender listed on their passports, because our mission is not only to protect the rights and dignity of our colleagues, but also of the American people we serve.

And we've taken this message all over the world, including the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where we worked to pass the first ever UN resolution affirming the human rights of LGBT people.

Now, together we have worked to make something very simple and right come true. Our people should not have to choose between serving the country they love and sharing a life with the people they love. And I want to say a few words about why this work is so important.

Now, leaders of all kinds will stand in front of audiences like this and tell you that our most important asset is our people. And of course, that's especially true in diplomacy, where we try to be very diplomatic all the time. But what our success truly depends on is our ability to forge strong relationships and relate to people of all backgrounds. And what that means for me, as your Secretary, is that creating an LGBT-welcoming workplace is not just the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing to do.

In part, that's because the nature of diplomacy has changed, and we should and need to keep up. Today we expect our diplomats to build relationships not just with their counterparts in foreign governments, but with people from every continent and every walk of life. And in order to do that, we need a diplomatic corps that is as diverse as the world we work in.

It's also smart because it makes us better advocates for the values that we hold dear. Because when anyone is persecuted anywhere, and that includes when LGBT people are persecuted or kept from fully participating in their societies, they suffer, but so do we. We're not only robbed of their talents and ideas, we are diminished, because our commitment to the human rights of all people has to be a continuing obligation and mission of everyone who serves in the Government of the United States. So this is a mission that I gladly assume. We have to set the example and we have to live up to our own values.

And finally, we are simply more effective when we create an environment that encourages people to bring their whole selves to work, when they don't have to hide a core part of who they are, when we recognize and reward people for the quality of their work instead of dismissing their contributions because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

So really, I'm here today to say thank you to all of you. Thank you for your courage and resolve, for your willingness to keep going despite the obstacles '' and for many of you, there were and are many. Thank you for pushing your government to do what you know was right, not just for yourselves but for all who come after you.

I want to mention one person in particular who was a key part of this fight, Tom Gallagher. I met Tom earlier. Where is Tom? There you are, Tom. Tom joined the Foreign Service in 1965 and in the early 1970s he risked his career when he came out and became the first openly gay Foreign Service officer. He served in the face of criticism and threats, but that did not stop him from serving. I wanted to take this moment just to recognize him, but also to put into context what this journey has meant for people of Tom's and my vintage, because I don't want any of you who are a lot younger ever to take for granted what it took for people like Tom Gallagher to pave the way for all of you. It's not a moment for us to be nostalgic. It is a moment for us to remember and to know that all of the employees who sacrificed their right to be who they were were really defending your rights and the rights and freedoms of others at home and abroad.

And I want to say a special word about why we are working so hard to protect the rights of LGBT people around the world. And Dan Baer, who works on this along with Mike Posner and Maria Otero, have been great champions of standing up for the rights of LGBT communities and individuals.

We have come such a long way in the United States. Tom Gallagher is living proof of that. And think about what it now means to be a member of a community in this country that is finally being recognized and accepted far beyond what anyone could have imagined just 20 years ago. And remind yourself, as I do every day, what it must be like for a young boy or a young girl in some other part of the world who could literally be killed, and often has been and still will be, who will be shunned, who will be put in danger every day of his or her life.

And so when I gave that speech in Geneva and said that we were going to make this a priority of American foreign policy, I didn't see it as something special, something that was added on to everything else we do, but something that was integral to who we are and what we stand for. And so those who serve today in the State Department have a new challenge to do everything you can at State and AID and the other foreign affairs agencies to help keep widening that circle of opportunity and acceptance for all those millions of men and women who may never know your name or mine, but who because of our work together will live lives of not only greater safety but integrity.

So this is not the end of the story. There's always more we can do to live our values and tap the talents of our people. It's going to be an ongoing task for future Secretaries of State and Administrators at AID and for people at every level of our government. So even as we celebrate 20 years with Ben Franklin looking down at us, I want you to leave this celebration thinking about what more each and every one of you can do '' those who are currently serving in our government, those who have served in the past, and those who I hope will decide to serve '' to make not only the agencies of our government but our world more just and free for all people.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Armageddon

The Scariest Chart Of The Quarter: Student Debt Bubble Officially Pops As 90+ Day Delinquency Rate Goes Parabolic | ZeroHedge

Link to Article

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 16:52

We have already discussed the student loan bubble, and its popping previously, most extensively in this article. Today, we get the Q3 consumer credit breakdown update courtesy of the NY Fed's quarterly credit breakdown. And it is quite ghastly. As of September 30, Federal (not total, just Federal) rose to a gargantuan $956 billion, an increase of $42 billion in the quarter - the biggest quarterly update since 2006.

But this is no surprise to anyone who read our latest piece on the topic. What also shouldn't be a surprise, at least to our readers who read about it here first, but what will stun the general public are the two charts below, the first of which shows the amount of 90+ day student loan delinquencies, and the second shows the amount of newly delinquent 30+ day student loan balances. The charts speak for themselves.

This is how the Fed described this "anomaly":

Outstanding student loan debt now stands at $956 billion, an increase of $42 billion since last quarter. However, of the $42 billion, $23 billion is new debt while the remaining $19 billion is attributed to previously defaulted student loans that have been updated on credit reports this quarter. As a result, the percent of student loan balances 90+ days delinquent increased to 11 percent this quarter.

oh and this from footnote 2:

As explained in a Liberty Street Economics blog post, these delinquency rates for student loans are likely to understate actual delinquency rates because almost half of these loans are currently in deferment, in grace periods or in forbearance and therefore temporarily not in the repayment cycle. This implies that among loans in the repayment cycle delinquency rates are roughly twice as high.

We'll let readers calculate on their own what a surge in 90+ day delinquency from 9% to 11% (or as footnote 2 explains: 22%) in one quarter on $1 trillion in student debt means. For those confused, read all about it in this September article: "The Next Subprime Crisis Is Here: Over $120 Billion In Federal Student Loans In Default" which predicted just this.

* * *

And so it's official: Pop goes the student loan bubble, as just confirmed by the Fed.

Luckily student debt is dischargeable in bankruptcy. Oh wait. It isn't.

Source: Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, Household Credit Excel Source

Average:Your rating: NoneAverage: 4.9(65 votes)

Drone Nation

Drone Pilots May Need Distractions

Link to Article

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 15:58

Distractions can be lethal while driving, but they may help when flying drones, researchers say.Operating a drone such as the Predator may seem like playing a video game, involving a joystick to steer the unmanned aerial vehicle and firing missiles at targets seen on computer screens via a camera on the UAV. However, such adrenaline-charged moments are much rarer in real life than in video games. Drone operators, many of them seasoned fighter pilots, typically spend most of their shift just watching and waiting while automated systems keep the droid running. A shift for the operator of a Predator can involve up to 12 hours of such boredom.

"You might park a UAV over a house, waiting for someone to come in or come out, and that's where the boredom comes in," said researcher Missy Cummings, a systems engineer at MIT. "It turns out it's a much bigger problem in any system where a human is effectively baby-sitting the automation."

Such mind-numbing work can impair performance by making it difficult for an operator to leap into action when intervention is necessary. Cummings and her colleagues have been looking for ways to keep drone operators alert during tedious downtimes.

[Military Test: Drones Could Refuel Themselves Mid-Air]

"We need to accept that we're automating the world more and more, and a side effect of this increased automation is that people are going to be bored monitoring those systems," Cummings said. "But we still need smart people to monitor those systems when they fail; we need smart people to intervene when complex systems go wrong."

The researchers have found that most pilots operating a UAV simulation are less bored and perform better when they have some distractions, such as checking their cellphones, reading a book, or getting up to snack.

"We should think about sterile environments, workplaces where we tell people they can't play 'Angry Birds' on their iPhones during really dull and boring moments. When we're enforcing sterile environments, we're almost setting people up to fail," Cummings told LiveScience.

The scientists enrolled 30 volunteers to interact with a UAV simulation in four-hour shifts. Participants each had to monitor the activity of four drones and create "search tasks," or locations UAVs had to investigate. Once a UAV identified a target, volunteers labeled it hostile or friendly based on a color-coded system. The participants ordered UAVs to fire on hostile targets, destroying them and earning points in the simulation. The volunteers were videotaped to see when they were paying attention.

The volunteer who scored the highest during the experiment also was the one who paid the most attention. "She's the person we'd like to clone for a boring, low-workload environment," Cummings said.

However, the volunteers with the next-highest scores performed nearly as well even though they were distracted 30 percent of the time.

"We get bombarded in the news with studies that distractions are bad. Certainly for real-time control tasks such as driving, we're all in agreement, distractions are bad," Cummings said. "However, one of my issues are things like the Federal Aviation Administration's recent decision to fire an air traffic controller for watching movies at 2 a.m. to stay awake while waiting for something to happen. We want to think about how to keep people who work in low-task-load environments engaged so that when something does happen, they can respond appropriately."

While their simulation required human input only 5 percent of the time, the researchers discovered that most of the volunteer operators tried to work 11 percent of the time, showing they wanted more to do to keep from getting bored. This suggests that distractions or busywork once in a while may be good for productivity, by keeping operators engaged when they might otherwise lose focus.

"We know that pilots aren't always looking out the window, and we know that people don't always pay attention in whatever they're doing," Cummings said. "The question is, can you get people to pay attention enough, at the right time, to keep the system performing at a high degree?"

Personality may be another key to concentrating on drone work. Personality surveys of the volunteers ranked them in five categories '-- extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience '-- and found that conscientiousness was a common trait among top performers.

Such conscientiousness may be a two-edged sword. Conscientious people may perform well in environments with relatively light workloads such as UAV operation, but they may hesitate when the time comes to fire a weapon.

"You could have a Catch-22," Cummings said. "If you're high on conscientiousness, you might be good to watch a nuclear reactor, but whether these same people would be effective in such military settings is unclear."

The researchers are continuing experiments to see what conditions might best keep boredom at bay. For instance, regular gentle reminders might help people keep alert. The scientists also are looking into the best length for shifts and the best time of day to hold them.

"We need people who can monitor these systems and intervene, but that might not be very often," Cummings said.

The research might have larger implications, such as for operating automated vehicles like the Google Driverless Car.

"People are already bored when they're driving, and they're going to be really bored when automation drives the car," Cummings said.

The scientists detailed their findings Nov. 14. Their research will appear in the journal Interacting with Computers.

This story was provided by TechNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow TechNewsDaily on Twitter @TechNewsDaily. We're also on Facebook & Google+.7 Next Generation UAVsTen Military Aircraft that Never Made it Past the Test Phase10 Technologies Poised to Transform our World Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Growth in China's Drone Program Called 'Alarming'

Link to Article

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 14:59

HONG KONG '-- At China's biennial air show in Zhuhai this month, an imposing fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles was on display '-- drones bearing a striking resemblance to the American aircraft that have proved so deadly in attacks on insurgents in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Israel, Britain and the United States have pretty much had a corner on the global drone market, but the recent Chinese air show and a Pentagon report have exploded that notion.

''In a worrisome trend, China has ramped up research in recent years faster than any other country,'' said the unclassified analysis published in July by the Defense Science Board. ''It displayed its first unmanned system model at the Zhuhai air show five years ago, and now every major manufacturer for the Chinese military has a research center devoted to unmanned systems.''

The report, which said ''the military significance of China's move into unmanned systems is alarming,'' suggested that China could ''easily match or outpace U.S. spending on unmanned systems, rapidly close the technology gaps and become a formidable global competitor in unmanned systems.''

Two Chinese models on display at the Zhuhai show '-- the CH-4 and the Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl '-- appeared to be clones of the Reaper and Predator drones that are fixtures in the U.S. arsenal. A larger drone, the Xianglong, or Soaring Dragon, is a long-range, high-altitude model that would seem to be a cousin of the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Huang Wei, the director of the CH-4 program at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, told the state-run newspaper Global Times that his lightweight drone can carry cameras, ground-searching radar, missiles and smart bombs.

''As the Americans say,'' Mr. Huang said, ''the U.A.V. is fit for missions that are dirty, dangerous and dull.''

The paper reported that the drone's range of 3,500 kilometers, or about 2,200 miles, made it ''ideal to conduct surveillance missions'' over a small group of islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. The islets are claimed by Beijing, Tokyo and Taipei.

My colleague Scott Shane, in an article on drone warfare last year, posed a few of the tough questions about the spread and use of drone warfare:

If China, for instance, sends killer drones into Kazakhstan to hunt minority Uighur Muslims it accuses of plotting terrorism, what will the United States say? What if India uses remotely controlled craft to hit terrorism suspects in Kashmir, or Russia sends drones after militants in the Caucasus? American officials who protest will likely find their own example thrown back at them.

''The problem is that we're creating an international norm'' '-- asserting the right to strike preemptively against those we suspect of planning attacks, argues Dennis M. Gormley, a senior research fellow at the University of Pittsburgh and author of ''Missile Contagion,'' who has called for tougher export controls on American drone technology. ''The copycatting is what I worry about most.''

The qualities that have made lethal drones so attractive to the Obama administration for counterterrorism appeal to many countries and, conceivably, to terrorist groups: a capacity for leisurely surveillance and precise strikes, modest cost, and most important, no danger to the operator, who may sit in safety thousands of miles from the target.

Dozens of countries have bought or built their own unmanned aircraft, primarily for surveillance, but as Scott points out, ''adding missiles or bombs is hardly a technical challenge.''

There were no drone flights or demonstrations reported this year at Zhuhai, although the Global Times suggested that 20 red stars and 15 rocket outlines painted on the fuselage of a Pterodactyl indicated 20 airborne missions and 15 missile firings.

And a Japanese military plane recently took photos of a drone circling some Chinese naval vessels on a training exercise near Okinawa. The Pentagon believes the drone had been deployed from one of the Chinese ships.

There was no sign this year of Anjian, or the Dark Sword, part of a rumored new generation of Chinese stealth drones. The Pentagon study said the Anjian ''represents the aspirations of the Chinese to design something even the Western powers don't have '-- a supersonic drone capable of air-to-air combat as well as ground strikes.''

Defense News reported recently from Zhuhai that there was a change in tone in how the Chinese were marketing their drones. At the show in 2010, videos and publicity material showed unmanned aircraft attacking American naval vessels, ''swarming over aircraft carrier battle groups like angry bees,'' Defense News said. This year, however, ''a stealthy Blue Shark'' drone was shown attacking a Russian carrier.

In March, China announced an 11.2 percent increase in military spending. Its navy has held blue-water trials of the country's first and only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a refitted Soviet-era castoff. And the official Xinhua news agency reported Sunday that a Chinese-made J-15 jet fighter had successfully taken off and landed on the carrier, as Edward Wong reported from Beijing.

Michael Schiffer, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said last summer that Beijing's broad and rapid military buildup is ''potentially destabilizing'' in the Pacific, as my colleague Elisabeth Bumiller reported. That buildup was detailed in this Pentagon report.

''Mr. Schiffer said that no single development led him to describe China's arms buildup as 'potentially destabilizing,' although Pentagon officials had increasingly said they were concerned about China's military intentions in the Pacific,'' Elisabeth wrote. ''Instead, he said, he used the phrase because of China's lack of transparency and its trends in military prowess.''

That prowess would seem to include drones.

''The scope and speed of unmanned-aircraft development in China is a wake-up call that has both industrial and military implications,'' said the report by the Defense Science Board. ''U.S. exports of unmanned systems are highly constrained. China, with no such constraints, has made U.A.V.s a new focus of military exports.''

The analysis recommended that U.S. military planners and the Defense Intelligence Agency should ''aggressively'' incorporate drones and drone warfare into their war games, simulations and exercises.

Push to step up domestic use of drones - SFGate

Link to Article

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 17:55

Washington -- Are unmanned aircraft, known to have difficulty avoiding collisions, safe to use in America's crowded airspace? And would their widespread use for surveillance result in unconstitutional invasions of privacy?

Experts say neither question has been answered satisfactorily. Yet the federal government is rushing to open America's skies to tens of thousands of the drones - pushed to do so by a law championed by manufacturers of the unmanned aircraft.

The drone makers have sought congressional help to speed their entry into a domestic market valued in the billions. The 60-member House of Representatives' "drone caucus" - officially, the House Unmanned Systems Caucus - has helped push that agenda. And over the past four years, caucus members have drawn nearly $8 million in drone-related campaign contributions, an investigation by Hearst Newspapers and the Center for Responsive Politics shows.

Flood of applicationsThe Federal Aviation Administration has been flooded with applications from police departments, universities, private corporations and even the celebrity gossip site TMZ, all seeking to use drones that range from devices the size of a hummingbird to full-size aircraft like those used by the U.S. military to target al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Domestic use of drones began with limited aerial patrols of the nation's borders by Customs and Border Patrol authorities. But the industry and its allies pushed for more, leading to passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, signed into law Feb. 14. The law requires the FAA to fully integrate the unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, into national airspace by September 2015.

"These timelines are very aggressive," said Heidi Williams, a vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, one of the stakeholders taking part in a working group put together by the FAA to help develop a regulatory plan. "These issues are very complex, and we have a long way to go."

Many potential uses for unmanned aircraft, which are cheaper to operate than piloted planes or helicopters, have been identified. Among them: monitoring pipelines and power lines, finding lost hikers, surveying crops, and assessing environmental threats and damage from natural disasters. The FAA has predicted that 30,000 drones could be flying in the United States in less than 20 years, sharing space with commercial, military and general aviation.

Major safety issueAn FAA official, who spoke on background, said "one of the main safety issues" with drones is lack of ability to "sense and avoid other aircraft."

A September report by the Government Accountability Office identified the same concern: "Obstacles include the inability ... to sense and avoid other airborne objects in a manner similar to manned aircraft."

In addition, the GAO report said, "Concerns about national security, privacy and interference with Global Positioning System signals have not been resolved."

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told a conference on drones earlier this year in Las Vegas that the agency is making progress working through the issues. FAA is working with "collision avoidance experts" from the Defense Department, NASA and private firms to determine what standards and requirements should be set.

Who gets the moneyHouse members from California, Texas, Virginia and New York on the bipartisan "drone caucus" received the lion's share of the funds channeled to lawmakers from dozens of firms that are members of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Hearst and CRP found.

Eleven "drone caucus" lawmakers from California, where many aviation firms are located, received more than $2.4 million from manufacturers during the 2012 and 2010 election cycles, according to CRP tabulation of Federal Election Commission reports.

Eight Texas House members in the caucus received more than $746,000. And five caucus members from New York got more than $400,000 from companies connected to the business of unmanned vehicles. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said drone manufacturers contribute just as other interest groups do.

"We get contributions from media PACs, from teachers, from doctors and from a whole lot of companies that produce drones," Cuellar said.

The House "drone caucus" was established three years ago. Senate lawmakers followed suit this fall.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., co-chairman of the fledgling Senate "drone caucus," said the caucus would help frame future legislation because the use of drones "carries great potential - and great risk."

Purpose of 'drone caucus'Cuellar also said the purpose of the House caucus is to educate other members on the need for and uses of drones for public safety, border enforcement, search-and-rescue and commercial uses. The global market for drones is expected to double in the next decade, from $6.6 billion to $11.4 billion, and could top $2.4 billion in the United States alone, said Philip Finnegan, director of corporate analysis with the Teal Group, an independent research group that studies the industry.

Growth in UAS technology and operations is encouraged by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI, which represents drone and systems manufacturers.

AUVSI firms have been far more generous to Republicans than Democrats when it comes to campaign donations. According to CRP analysis, GOP drone caucus members received 74 percent of the group's donations.

In the House, the top recipient was Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He received $833,650 in drone-related campaign contributions.

McKeon and Cuellar are co-chairmen of the caucus.

Other California Republicans - Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Vista (San Diego County); Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands (San Bernardino County); Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine (San Diego County); and Ken Calvert, R-Corona (Riverside County) - each received more than $200,000 from drone firms.

CRP's analysis also showed that companies with drone aircraft currently used by the military, but with potential civilian applications, were among the largest donors to caucus members.

The largest donorsThose firms include BAE Systems, which makes the Mantis and Taranis drones; Boeing Co., maker of the hydrogen-fueled Phantom Eye; Honeywell International, RQ-16 T-Hawk; Lockheed Martin, RQ-170 Sentinel; Raytheon Co., Cobra; and General Atomics, Predator.

Some lawmakers remain skeptical. Along with civil rights advocates, they worry about government eavesdropping, surveillance photography and other potential privacy violations.

"The drones are coming," Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, shouted from the House floor as he warned of encroachment by government into the rights of citizens.

A North Dakota court upheld the arrest of a Lakota, N.D., farmer by a police SWAT team using information from a Customs and Border Protection Predator drone over the U.S.-Canadian border.

The June 2011 incident began when several cows found their way to Rodney Bossart's 3,000-acre farm. He claimed ownership of the wayward bovines and allegedly brandished firearms at law enforcement officials.

During the ensuing standoff, a SWAT team received surveillance information from Customs and Border Protection, gathered from a high-flying Predator drone. That information was used to locate and arrest the farmer.

The Bossart case was apparently the first use of national security surveillance to aid the arrest of a U.S. citizen on nonterror-related charges. More such cases should be expected, said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Based on current trends, technology development, law enforcement interest, political and industry pressure, and the lack of legal safeguards - it is clear that drones pose a looming threat to Americans' privacy," Stanley said.

The Fourth Amendment governs when, where and how the government can gather information on an individual, including whether officials need a search warrant before acting. Courts have given the greatest protection to people when they're in the privacy of their homes. For instance, in a 2001 Supreme Court case, the justices nixed the Interior Department's use of thermal imaging to detect heat patterns coming from the home of someone suspected of growing marijuana indoors using lamps, saying it was an illegal search and required a warrant.

Reining in drone useOutside a home's walls, though, privacy rights decrease. Courts blessed an arrest after a flyover by police revealed marijuana growing in someone's back yard.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Tenn., have crafted legislation to put a tight rein on drone use.

Privacy advocates note that not just the police, but individuals and commercial enterprises will be using the devices. TMZ's application for a permit is an illustration. Paparazzi are already using small drones on the Riviera to shoot photos of celebrities in otherwise hard-to-access areas. TMZ "does not have a permit" yet, FAA officials said last week.

Texas' Poe has offered another bill, which would ban private citizens from using drones to spy on other citizens and strictly limit law enforcement use of drones. "The Constitution limits eavesdropping, snooping and spying on American citizens," Poe said.

Gary Martin is a staff writer with the Hearst Washington Bureau, and Viveca Novak is editorial and communications director with the Center for Responsive Politics.

Pilotless aircraft: This is your ground pilot speaking | The Economist

Link to Article

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 16:31

WITHIN the next few weeks a twin-engined Jetstream will take off from Warton Aerodrome in Lancashire, England, and head north towards Scotland. Like any other flight, the small commuter airliner will respond to instructions from air-traffic controllers, navigate a path and take care to avoid other aircraft. But the pilot flying the aircraft will not be in the cockpit: he will have his feet firmly on the ground in a control room back at Warton.

Pilotless aircraft are now widely used by the armed forces, but those drones fly only in restricted airspace and conflict zones. The Jetstream mission is part of a project to develop the technologies and procedures that will allow large commercial aircraft to operate routinely and safely without pilots in the same skies as manned civilian flights.

Fasten your seat belts

To reassure those of a nervous disposition, the test flights do not carry passengers and pilots remain in the cockpit just in case things go wrong. In that way they are similar to Google's trials of driverless cars, which have drivers inside them to take over if necessary while on public roads. Yet unmanned commercial aircraft are likely to enter service before people can buy autonomous cars. Modern aircraft are already perfectly capable of automatically taking off, flying to a destination and landing. These tests are trying to establish whether they can do those things safely without a pilot in the cockpit and at the same time comply with the rules of the air.

Progress is being made, a conference in London heard this week. It was organised by the Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment (ASTRAEA), the group staging the British test flights. This £62m ($99m) programme, backed by the British government, involves seven European aerospace companies: AOS, BAE Systems, Cassidian, Cobham, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce and Thales.

It is potentially a huge new market. America's aviation regulators have been asked by Congress to integrate unmanned aircraft into the air-traffic control system as early as 2015. Some small drones are already used in commercial applications, such as aerial photography, but in most countries they are confined to flying within sight of their ground pilot, much like radio-controlled model aircraft. Bigger aircraft would be capable of flying farther and doing a lot more things.

Pilotless aircraft could carry out many jobs at a lower cost than manned aircraft and helicopters'--tasks such as traffic monitoring, border patrols, police surveillance and checking power lines. They could also operate in conditions that are dangerous for pilots, including monitoring forest fires or nuclear-power accidents. And they could fly extended missions for search and rescue, environmental monitoring or even provide temporary airborne Wi-Fi and mobile-phone services. Some analysts think the global civilian market for unmanned aircraft and services could be worth more than $50 billion by 2020.

Whatever happens, pilots will still have a role in aviation, although not necessarily in the cockpit. ''As far as the eye can see there will always be a pilot in command of an aircraft,'' says Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal, the director of ASTRAEA. But that pilot may be on the ground and he may be looking after more than one unmanned aircraft at the same time.

Commercial flights carrying freight and express parcels might one day also lose their on-board pilots. But would even the most penny-pinching cut-price airline be able to sell tickets to passengers on flights that have an empty cockpit? More realistically, those flights might have just one pilot in the future. Technology has already relieved the flight deck of a number of jobs. Many early large aircraft had a crew of five: two pilots, a flight engineer, a navigator and a radio operator. First the radio operator went, then the navigator, and by the time the jet era was well under way in the 1970s flight engineers began to disappear too. Next it could be the co-pilot, replaced by the autonomous flight systems now being developed.

The flight over Scotland will test how well air-traffic controllers can communicate with the ground pilot through the aircraft. The project is also exploring ways to make the radio and satellite links secure and reliable. But engineers still have to prepare for the eventuality that the link breaks; the aircraft then has to have enough autonomy to operate safely until communications are restored or it can land using its own guidance systems.

Unmanned aircraft will, therefore, need a ''sense and avoid'' capability. This can be provided by transponders that bleep the aircraft's presence (and, in the case of advanced systems, its course, altitude and speed) to other aeroplanes and air-traffic controllers. But not all manned aircraft have such kit. Some light aircraft and gliders operating at low altitudes in clear weather are not required to have even radios, let alone transponders or radar. Which is why pilots keep their eyes peeled when such traffic might be about.

ASTRAEA's Jetstream, therefore, also uses video cameras to allow the ground pilot to look around outside the cockpit. Image-recognition software can warn of other aircraft. This is being tested against different backgrounds, such as a cluttered landscape or a hazy sky.

In other trials, different aircraft are being flown in the vicinity of the Jetstream, and some of them will be flown deliberately towards it on a potential collision course, to see if these ''intruding'' aircraft can be recognised by the automated systems and the appropriate avoiding action taken. These flights are taking place in an area cleared of other aircraft over the Irish Sea. ''The results to date suggest you can do sense-and-avoid as well as a human,'' says Mr Dopping-Hepenstal.

A pilotless plane must also be able to act autonomously in an emergency. In the event of an engine failure, for instance, it could use its navigational map to locate a suitable area to put down. But what if this was an open field that happened to be in use for, say, a fair? A forward-looking video camera might show a ground pilot that. But if communications were lost the aircraft would rely on image-recognition software and an infra-red camera to detect the heat given off by people and machines and so decide to try to land elsewhere.

The ASTRAEA researchers are carrying out a lot of their work using flight simulators and air-traffic-control data. But eventually they will still have to prove that their systems can work in the real world'--even during emergency landings. In order to satisfy risk-averse aviation regulators, the researchers are working with Britain's Civil Aviation Authority to certify a virtual pilotless aircraft for use in civil airspace. The intention is not to certify an actual aircraft, but for both sides to learn what will be required to do so.

Some of the technologies being developed are also likely to find their way into manned aircraft as a backup for pilots, and possibly for cars too. Systems that provide automatic braking and motorway-lane control, for instance, already feature in many types of car. These features take cars some of the way towards autonomy. But driverless cars, like pilotless planes, will have to fit in with existing infrastructure and regulations, not least insurance liability, before they can take off.

NWO

Daily Press Briefing - Chiner Passport

Link to Article

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 03:34

12:54 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Monday. I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving and a little bit of a rest. We are back. I have nothing at the top. Let's go to what's on your minds.

QUESTION:Can you tell us, following your statement on Egypt the other day, what, if anything, you've heard from the Egyptians to ease your concerns and what the U.S. position is currently on the situation?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are following the unfolding political situation in Egypt very closely. The Secretary had a phone call with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr this morning, not only to inquire about that situation but also to talk about the follow-up on Gaza. She took that opportunity to reiterate some of the points that you saw in our statement, that we want to see the constitutional process move forward in a way that does not overly concentrate power in one set of hands, that ensures that rule of law, checks and balances, protection of the rights of all groups in Egypt are upheld, et cetera.

Our understanding from the Egyptian side is that there are now discussions ongoing among a number of the stakeholders, that President Morsi is conducting consultations with various groups, including with the judiciary. We had called for that in our statement, and the Secretary underscored that, the importance of settling these disputes in a democratic manner. So we look forward to seeing the outcome of that.

QUESTION: Can you say if your concerns have been at all eased by what the Secretary heard from the Foreign Minister?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we had wanted to see this issue settled through democratic discussion among the various stakeholders in Egypt. Discussions are clearly being held. We await the results of those.

QUESTION: Okay. But I guess, were you concerned that that wouldn't happen and that this might deteriorate into a '' just a permanent power grab? And if those were your fears, have they been eased?

MS. NULAND: We were concerned, not only that there would be concerns out there, we were concerned that there would be violence, that there were competing demonstrations, et cetera. So the fact that the right people are talking to each other is a good step, but obviously we want to see this issue resolved in a way that meets the standards and principles that we've been supporting all the way through, since the Egyptian revolution began.

Please.

QUESTION: Do you regard President Morsi's decree as non-democratic?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think our statement speaks for our view on this and the various concerns that we had.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, it's a simple question, though. Is it '' did it '' do you regard it as non-democratic? I mean, it was a decree issued by a president who operates without a legislature and who was, essentially, putting his actions above review by the courts. So is that non-democratic, in your point of view?

MS. NULAND: Again, we were very clear in the statement that we issued that we want to ensure that, as this governance situation goes forward, that the rights of all Egyptians are protected, that there is a balance of power, that there are checks and balances in the system. As you know, they are operating in a very unclear political environment now, as they try to get a constitution drafted, approved, put forward to referendum. So there are a number of things at play, but our enduring principles on which our support is based haven't changed through any of this.

QUESTION: And when --

MS. NULAND: Said.

QUESTION: Just one --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- one small thing, sorry, Said. When was the conversation with the Foreign Minister?

MS. NULAND: This morning.

QUESTION: This morning?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Victoria, on that (inaudible), you mentioned the rule of law, checks and balances. And on the other hand, Morsi claims that this is temporary. In the absence of any kind of mechanism to ensure that it can be temporary, what is suggested for Morsi? What '' when you talk with him, what do you tell him on this whole point?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, as I said, we underscore the principles that we want to see undergird the conversation that they are having. He has made clear, and part of the decree was to give the constituent assembly more time to come up with a constitution. So when he says it's temporary, our understanding is it's temporary, until there is a constitution that can be approved. But the concern was that there were various issues that were not well represented in the way he went forward with this.

QUESTION: Do you have enough to take him at his word when he says temporary?

MS. NULAND: Again, Said, what is important to us is that these issues be settled through dialogue, that these issues be settled democratically. We are encouraged that the various important stakeholders in Egypt are now talking to each other, that President Morsi is consulting on the way forward, but we're not going to prejudge where that's going to go.

QUESTION: And finally, do you consider Morsi to be quite the opportunist who has taken advantage of, let's say, the Gaza success '' he considers it to be a success with the Secretary of State going there '' to go ahead and implement these things?

MS. NULAND: I can't speak for the timing of these decisions. I can say that, whereas the Secretary and President Morsi did discuss the importance of getting to a constitution that protected the rights of all Egyptians, that had checks and balances, we did not have any forewarning of this decree, including when she was there.

Please, Margaret.

QUESTION: Toria, have the events of the past few days complicated U.S. support for unlocking that emergency cash that was promised by the President some time ago and U.S. support for the IMF loan that was arranged pre this change in constitutional power?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have been strong supporters of Egypt and the IMF coming to an agreement that would support increasing economic reforms in Egypt to get them on a stable footing and then would provide them with some funding, so we were pleased to see that they've come to an agreement there. We've also been clear with the Congress that we think that the support in the form of economic support funds that we've pledged to Egypt should go forward. But obviously, I think everybody's watching now that this current set of issues has a democratic resolution.

QUESTION: So it has complicated it? Is it fair to say that?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think everybody is watching how this goes forward. All of the support that we provide for Egypt, whether it's political support, economic support, has been in support of an Egypt that is becoming increasingly democratic, that will have a constitution that protects all of these rights. So that's the trajectory that we want to see Egypt on, so we need to see how this latest round gets resolved.

Anne.

QUESTION: In that vein, you've talked about how they're in an uncertain period and that a lot of the things that Morsi announced the other day were described as temporary. It seems to me that he's basically saying, ''Trust me; it'll work out the good way.'' And this money and U.S. support would be contingent on that. At heart, do you trust him that it'll come out the good way?

MS. NULAND: Again, as I said at the beginning, and as I've been saying for the last 10 minutes, these moves raised concerns not only in Egypt, they raised concerns in the international community about the way forward here. We are pleased to see that there now are conversations going on about how to move forward, that the various stakeholders in this conversation are being consulted. So it is a very murky, uncertain period in terms of the legal and constitutional underpinnings, which makes it all the more important that the process proceed on the basis of democratic dialogue and consultation.

Please, Michel.

QUESTION: Toria, has the Secretary learned about this decision when she was in Cairo last Wednesday?

MS. NULAND: No, she did not. She heard about it when everybody else heard about it, when it was announced publicly.

QUESTION: On the other part of the phone call that didn't involve this '' these changes, one, did '' has '' did she make any other calls related to Gaza and the ceasefire? And then '' well, actually, let's say one is: What did they discuss about the ceasefire, she and the Egyptian Foreign Minister? And then two, did '' has she made any additional '' any other calls except to the Egyptians on the ceasefire?

MS. NULAND: She spoke to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday. That was more of a readout on her own visit because they had been together in Israel, but then they had split ways, and about follow-up also following her conversation with President Abbas.

With regard to the Gaza situation, as you know, there was a commitment to the ceasefire and then there was a commitment that conversations would begin some 24 hours later on some of the underlying issues. So obviously, she was eager to touch base on that and get a sense from the Egyptian side of how that is going. Our sense is that discussions are ongoing, that the sides are talking, and we will see what comes of that as well.

QUESTION: And when you say our sense is that, that's the sense that she got --

MS. NULAND: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: -- from the Foreign Minister?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Toria --

MS. NULAND: Said.

QUESTION: -- I just wanted to follow up on Margaret's point on the IMF loan '' $6 billion worth, I think '' is there a mechanism to make them contingent or make them conditional on this temporary thing having an actual window, an actual timetable?

MS. NULAND: Well, the IMF makes a recommendation to the Board. The Board then has to meet and decide. I think we're in that in-between stage. Again, I think we're all watching how the situation evolves in Egypt.

QUESTION: But could you explain to us or clarify that this actually can be done? Could we say we will give you these loans provided that you do one, two, three?

MS. NULAND: I think I'm going to send you to the IMF on political conditionality.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. NULAND: In general, IMF conditionality is economically based and is part of a package that is pre-negotiated with the government before it comes forward to the Board.

QUESTION: Yes, please. You mentioned few times the word watching, we are watching. Is it a status of wait and see what will happen, or you are trying to put some kind of, not condition, at least guidelines to what may take place? Because the concern there is that at a certain point, as before, security will be better deal to have it '' security deal then to have a democracy in Egypt?

MS. NULAND: I think we've been very clear in our public statements and in our private statements about the Egypt that we support, of the trajectory for Egypt that we think is best for the region, best for our relationship, and we were not shy about making those points very clearly in the statement that we released '' I think it was on Wednesday or whenever it was, might've been Friday '' and in the private conversations that we've had with Egyptians.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: When you were asked the question about the IMF loan and U.S. '' potential U.S. support for that in the Board, you said we're in this in-between period between when the staff makes a recommendation and when the Board makes a decision on it. As you well know, the United States has the largest and, effectively, a blocking share on the Board. And your response was, ''I think we're all watching how this unfolds.'' Which suggests to me that you are hinting at the possibility that your support is partially contingent on your support for that IMF loan in the Board is partially contingent on how the political situation unfolds.

MS. NULAND: I would not leap to any conclusions about that. We have been very supportive all the way through of Egypt and the IMF coming to agreement. They have now come to agreement. We think that Egypt needs IMF support. It also needs to be on the reform path that it and the IMF have now agreed to.

With regard to U.S. ESF, as we made clear, we support clearing this through the Congress, but the Congress is also watching democratic developments in Egypt. So it's on this basis that I think all of us want to see the consultations that are ongoing now on a way forward among President Morsi, various other constituencies in Egypt, including the judiciary, go forward in a way that is peaceful, that is democratic, and that reassures everybody about the democratic trajectory that Egypt is on.

QUESTION: So U.S. support for the IMF '' U.S. support in the board for the IMF loan is in no way contingent on the resolution of the political disagreements in Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Arshad, I don't want to prefigure how this is going to come forward to the board, nor do I want to make any definitive statements of '' beyond what I've already said about what we're expecting in Egypt.

Please. You are '' who do you represent, please?

QUESTION: I'm (inaudible), Al-Ahram newspaper, Al-Ahram, the Egyptian newspaper. Have you discussed the unfolding crisis with the opposition figures in Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Our Ambassador, Anne Patterson, has been in contact with all of the different political groups and factions in Egypt. She's also been trying to get a sense from folks about a way forward here, and been supportive of all of the basic principles that we have been underscoring from the beginning. So yes, we've been in consultation with everybody on the Egyptian side.

QUESTION: Change subject?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, please.

QUESTION:The Palestinian Authority will present this week its bid for Palestine to become a UN nonmember observer state. Do you also oppose this step '' how will you oppose it in the General Assembly?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know the '' we've obviously been very clear that we do not think that this step is going to bring the Palestinian people any closer to a state, that we think it is a mistake, that we oppose it, that we will oppose it. The Secretary was very clear with President Abbas when she was in Ramallah last week that our position on this has not changed, and we are continuing to make that clear, not only directly to President Abbas and the Palestinians, but also to all of our UN partners as well.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary discussed this issue with the Israelis when she was in Tel Aviv?

MS. NULAND: Obviously, it was one of the subjects that we discussed when the Secretary was in Egypt. It was in Ramallah '' Jerusalem. Let me try a third place. Yeah, Jerusalem.

QUESTION: Some reports say that you actually warned Israel against taking the retaliatory steps against the Palestinian Authority if they go to the United Nation. Could you clarify that for us? Is that true?

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to get into any of the details of our conversation on this, either with the Palestinians or with the Israelis or with any others, other than to say that we continue to try to dissuade the Palestinians from taking this action. We think it's going to be complicating and potentially a step backwards in terms of the larger goal, which is a negotiated solution.

QUESTION: There have been calls, as a result of the Gaza fighting, that it is really time to put the Palestinian issue back on the front burner. There have been calls by Mr. Hague, the Foreign Minister of England, and others saying that you can only take the lead. Will such a step actually sort of push you forward toward this issue, or sort of take you back from this issue?

MS. NULAND: I think we've said all the way along that our concern is that this is complicating, that it makes the process of restarting the negotiations potentially harder. And this is among the arguments that we are using in trying to dissuade the Palestinians from this step, that it's potentially complicating.

QUESTION: So you are not likely to push forward in the next few months for '' to restart the negotiation as a result of Palestinian ungratefulness and action at the UN?

MS. NULAND: Again, this doesn't aid that process at all. Beyond that, I'm not going to predict the future here, Said.

QUESTION: Are there any potential ramifications to the Palestinians seeking nonmember observer status? And as you're well aware with UNESCO and potentially other UN organizations, actively seeking membership can trigger a cut-off. Does that have any influence here on U.S. funding for the UN?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, there's no legislative impact that is triggered in the same way that there was with regard to UNESCO. However, as you know, we also have money pending in the Congress for the Palestinian Authority, money that they need to support their regular endeavors and to support administration of the territories. So, obviously, if they take this step, it's going to complicate the way the Congress looks at the Palestinians, and it's going to make all of that harder as well.

QUESTION: Would you oppose its disbursement?

MS. NULAND: We have made clear that we think the money should go forward in the interest of the Palestinian people, regardless of whether their leaders make bad decisions. That said, there are folks in Congress who are watching this extremely closely, and we have said to the Palestinians that they should not count on favorable response from the Congress if they go forward with this.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: The Israeli newspaper Maariv claims that both the Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman are quite dissatisfied with the lack of your pressure on the Palestinians to prevent them from going to the United Nations. Do you agree with that assessment?

MS. NULAND: Well, I hadn't seen that, but the Secretary just had a meeting, just flew from Asia to Jerusalem and Ramallah to discuss this issue, among others. So I would, obviously, reject the notion that we're not paying enough attention.

QUESTION: Do you feel that perhaps Mr. Abbas is a bit panicky, seeing that Gaza came '' I mean, Hamas came on top in this Gaza fight, and he's losing control, and perhaps losing the last vestiges of any two state possibility, and that's why he's (inaudible) to the UN?

MS. NULAND: I can't speak to his motives. I think that's a question better directed at him, Said.

QUESTION: And your (inaudible) diplomacy on this extends beyond just telling the Palestinians not to go ahead with it? And by that, I mean: Are you telling other members of the UN that you're planning to vote against this, and they should too, and this '' and here are the reasons why? Or have you basically just resigned yourself to the fact that this vote is going to end up very much like the numbers in the Cuba embargo vote, where you're going to be in a minority of about three or four who are opposed?

MS. NULAND: I think it's fair to say that this issue has come up in the Secretary's diplomacy with virtually every leader she's seen over the last month, making clear --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: -- that we think this is a mistake, that we oppose that it, that we will oppose it in the GA, and we encourage others to look hard at the negative implications for the peace process.

QUESTION: Okay. And based on that, do you think anyone has been swayed?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not going to predict the future in the General Assembly --

QUESTION: Can --

MS. NULAND: -- but we're making clear our views.

QUESTION: Okay. So can I predict something, then?

MS. NULAND: You're welcome to make any predictions you want, but --

QUESTION: And let's come back. I mean, how about this --

MS. NULAND: -- last I looked, Matt, I think this was our briefing, not your briefing, but that's okay.

QUESTION: Do you think you're going to win? Do you think '' in other words, do you think that the Palestinians will not succeed in their bid at the UN?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not going to predict how this is going to go. Our view here is to '' our point here is to make our view very clear before decisions are made.

QUESTION: Can you say if your '' if the talking points have been written for the day after, where you express real disappointment with the General Assembly for voting overwhelmingly to support Palestinian recognition? Have they already been written, or are you really holding on to some slim hope that they're going to lose?

MS. NULAND: Again, we are continuing to make the point in advance of this move that we think it's the wrong move.

Said. Said. Said.

QUESTION: Matt did not ask you about the future. He asked you about the past. He asked you if anyone had been dissuaded. So it was not a question about the future.

MS. NULAND: Said.

QUESTION: There are 193 members that are voting on this issue and it's 50 plus one '' or half plus one '' so the Palestinians need 98, and they claim that they have a lot more than that. So what is your plan for the day after? Just to follow on Matt's point.

MS. NULAND: Again, we are not on the day after. We'll talk about the day after if and when there is a day after. I'm going to talk about where we are today, today.

Margaret.

QUESTION: Does that mean that on other issues that you don't '' that you do not get ready for foregone conclusions when they are already foregone? You don't prepare for --

MS. NULAND: We are always ready for all contingencies in this Department. Margaret, was there more? Yeah?

QUESTION: The Palestinian leadership's supposed to be arriving in the U.S. within the next two days.

QUESTION: Tomorrow.

QUESTION: Are there any plans for anyone in this building to meet with Abu Mazen or to meet with the Prime Minister?

MS. NULAND: I would expect that if we have senior Palestinians here, we will have a chance to meet with them.

Jill.

QUESTION: And that wouldn't be contingent on the UN vote, right? I mean, they would '' even if they went ahead, regardless of the outcome at the UN, you wouldn't say, ''No, I'm sorry. You went ahead with this, so we can't meet with you.''

MS. NULAND: Again, you're putting me into all kinds of sequences that haven't happened here yet. But when we have senior Palestinians in the United States, we generally tend to meet with them. But I'm not going to predict exactly who and when and where and what.

Jill.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I missed the top of the briefing, I'm very sorry, but --

MS. NULAND: Let's do it again.

QUESTION: I'd love to. Then I'd know what's going on. One question I do have about this story that American troops might be asked '' that additional troops might be sent into Sinai. Have you not gotten into that?

MS. NULAND: I have nothing on that.

QUESTION: Okay. You know that they've --

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything on a request from the Egyptians. I don't have anything on consideration of that. If we do, I'll come back to you, Jill. But I don't have anything on that.

QUESTION: Would that originate with the Egyptians, or would it originate with the United States that would say, ''Can we do this? Do you need help?''

MS. NULAND: Well, in general, we obviously work hand-in-glove with the Egyptians on security in Sinai. I do not have any indications at the moment that additional help has been requested. But if that changes, we'll let you know.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Victoria?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: Let's go to Michel and then back to Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can we go back to the Palestinian bid to the UN? President Abbas has said that if the bid was successful, he would begin negotiations with Israel the next day. Don't you think that the recognition will help the resuming the negotiation?

MS. NULAND: Again, we've made clear that we think that this move will be counterproductive with the environment for negotiations. It's going to be harder to get Israel back to the table if this goes forward. They've been very, very clear about that. That is '' those are among the reasons why we think this is a bad, shortsighted move. It doesn't change the situation on the ground for the Palestinians. It doesn't bring them any closer to a state. It just makes it harder to get back to the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Hold on. Wait a second. For '' you seem to suggest that it is the Israelis who are not going back to the '' you said they would '' if they'd '' if the Palestinians did this, it would make it hard or make it more difficult for '' to get the Israelis back to the table.

MS. NULAND: It's going to set back prospects for restarting talks with Israel.

QUESTION: But in fact, isn't it the Israelis '' isn't it the Palestinians who are holding out on talks at the moment? It's not the '' the Israelis have they're ready to sit down at any point.

MS. NULAND: Again, and that dynamic could change if this goes forward.

QUESTION: But '' and you don't buy the argument that this would give the Palestinians a better negotiating hand? So it's purely in their self-interest, in their interest that you don't '' you think that any recognition that they might get at the UN does not help their cause, despite the fact that it would be '' give them '' it would give them some additional negotiating leverage?

MS. NULAND: We don't think it gives them any additional negotiating leverage vis-a-vis the Israelis. On the contrary, it could make it harder.

QUESTION: The Secretary's involvement '' direct involvement, and success in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas generated a great deal of interest and hope. Shouldn't she sort of push forward and take, actually, advantage of this new feeling to push forward for the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations to start again? I mean, directly become '' sort of take the bull by the horns, so to speak?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, you know where we are in time and space here, Said. We have an Israeli election in January. We have, obviously, an American aspiration to be helpful to these two parties to try to come back to the table. If there are steps taken between now and when that might be possible but make it harder, then we can't do more for the parties than they want to do for themselves.

QUESTION: Yeah, but a great many a diplomatic feat occurred actually in this kind of period. I mean, we can go back to the year 2000 where President Clinton himself, when he proposed his 10-points, which were that close to achieving.

MS. NULAND: I think I've said now about seven times that we don't want any steps taken that will make the possibility of getting these parties back to the table harder. This is one such potential step.

Please.

QUESTION: But what would change, in fact? The Palestinians are already observers at the UN, through the PLO. So --

MS. NULAND: You mean what changes in terms of their --

QUESTION: Their status.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. I'm --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Palestinian Authority --

MS. NULAND: I'm going to send you to our folks at the UN for all of the technical differences here or for even why this might be something that folks would seek.

Dana?

QUESTION: Well, wait a second. If you can't explain how this is any different than what it currently is, how are you '' how can you be so convinced that it's the wrong thing to do?

MS. NULAND: I'm just not going to get into all those details from the podium here.

Dana.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION:Congo?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION:Given the deteriorating humanitarian situation, could you detail what the diplomacy has been?

MS. NULAND: Thank you for that. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson is currently in the region. He is joined there by his UK and his French counterparts. They have met with President Museveni. They are meeting with other regional leaders in an effort to promote a peaceful, sustainable resolution to the conflict. They're going to be going on later today. They were in Kinshasa today; they're going on to Kigali. And they will obviously also be in the DRC. They're going to meet with presidents in all countries and with other senior officials. The goals remains the goal that we outlined last Tuesday or Wednesday. We want to see a ceasefire. We want to see a pullback to July lines. We want to see a sustainable process of negotiation and discussion of the status of the eastern Congo with all the stakeholders '' Museveni, Kagame, and Kabila '' leading this process together along the lines of the joint communique that they issued on November 21st and the ICGLR's November 24th call for where to take this. So Assistant Secretary Carson out there working this very hard this week.

QUESTION: Are you in support of changing the mandate of the UN mission (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: I don't think we're there yet. We're at the stage of trying to figure out among the regional leaders what it's going to take. But clearly, MONUSCO was not able to do what it was mandated to do. So I think among the things we need to understand better is how this relatively modest group of rebels was able to grab and hold territory, so '' and what might be needed in terms of security and stabilization going forward.

QUESTION: So given that we give roughly $400 million to MONUSCO or one of the major supporters of the American taxpayer dollars, is there a concern that our '' that the dollars that we're spending are not being used properly?

MS. NULAND: Well, certainly, there's a concern that we're going to need an effective security force there, that that may require adjustments to the way we're moving forward, but I just don't want to predict where we're going to go with this, but you're not wrong that we are a major supporter of MONUSCO and it needs to be able to be effective in securing populations, which is not currently the case.

Please.

QUESTION: Hi. I'm (inaudible). I'm here for Jo and Nicolas, Agence France Presse. Just on that issue, still on Congo, there's a perception among many people of Human Rights Watch, the UN experts, some diplomats I've spoken to privately, that the U.S. is dragging its feet about blaming Rwanda directly for supporting the M23. Do you think it's not the case or do you think it's not helpful to say it so publicly?

MS. NULAND: Again, we've been very clear that we do want to see all outside support for M23 for any of these groups come to an end. That's among the ''

QUESTION: Where is that outside support coming from?

MS. NULAND: Again, that's among the issues that's being discussed in this diplomacy that we're conducting this week. So I'm going to let Assistant Secretary Carson take that forward, and then we'll go from there, and we'll have a better sense when he finishes.

QUESTION: Sorry. A quick follow-up on that, but Kagame didn't even go to the '' Kagame wasn't even presence in the talks over the course of the weekend. I mean, are there specific conversations that you're having with Rwanda and Kagame to get Rwanda more engaged?

MS. NULAND: Yes. Assistant Secretary Carson will certainly see him, so that's part of the plan.

QUESTION: Didn't you take some step '' public step against Rwanda in terms of arms sales a couple weeks or months ago?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, we did.

QUESTION: And has that been rescinded?

MS. NULAND: No. I mean, that's still ''

QUESTION: So you have called the Rwandans out?

MS. NULAND: We had ''

QUESTION: I mean, that was over M23.

MS. NULAND: -- suspended some of our support over M23 some time ago, yeah.

QUESTION: And that still exists?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So are you saying that right now you don't want to call the Rwandans out? Because you have done it in the past publicly.

MS. NULAND: We have done it in the past.

QUESTION: Is there some reason not to do it right now?

MS. NULAND: There is no reason to do anything other than to call on anybody who might be funding any of these guys to stop doing it and to say that we are active now in the region seeing each of these leaders and trying to get them to work together.

QUESTION: Who else do you think is funding them, though '' is funding M23? You said that we're calling on any outside groups. What other outside groups does the United States suspect of funding besides Rwanda?

MS. NULAND: There are many options for outside funding for this kind of stuff. That said, we have been clear about our concerns about neighboring states.

Let's '' here please. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On North Korea.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION:It is reported North Korea seems to be ready to fire long-range missiles soon. Do you have any information on that?

MS. NULAND: We don't have anything new at the moment. We've seen the same rumblings and press reportings that you've seen. We would just take this opportunity to again remind the DPRK that in April of this year, there was a presidential statement from the UN Security Council which demanded that the DPRK not proceed with any further launches using ballistic missile technology. But I don't have anything specific to ''

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any intelligence information on '' or ''

MS. NULAND: Intelligence that I would share from the podium? I don't think so. (Laughter.) Good effort, though.

QUESTION: I think there was a report recently about the Japanese stopping some kind of a shipment of aluminum, potentially dual use, headed from North Korea to Burma. Have you seen this report?

MS. NULAND: We saw the '' it was a single report in a Japanese newspaper. We have not been able to confirm that report, nor have we been able to confirm that we've been notified by the Japanese as the report asserts. So let me see if I can get anymore for you on that overnight.

QUESTION: Can I just ask, when you say that you're not able to '' does that mean that '' are you '' have you exhausted your question-asking?

MS. NULAND: No, no.

QUESTION: So you're not 100 percent sure that it's not correct?

MS. NULAND: There is nobody in this building who has any information about it. The issue came up after our folks in Japan had gone to sleep, so we're just going to confirm out there before I get too definitive here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Okay? Please.

QUESTION:On China, there's a video just released recently on the Chinese military has successfully landed its '' a fighter jet on its first aircraft carrier. Is there a concern that this would increase the tension in South China Sea and East Sea and other disputed seas?

MS. NULAND: Was there a question in there?

QUESTION: Yeah. Is there a concern?

MS. NULAND: Obviously we continue to monitor all Chinese military developments very carefully. This is another in the category of our regular requests that China be as transparent as it can about its military capabilities and intentions, and we regularly encourage China both privately and publicly to use its military capabilities, including this new aircraft carrier, in a manner that is conducive to maintaining peace and security and stability in the Asia Pacific region.

QUESTION: Well, just '' new passport --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) or more transparent?

MS. NULAND: More transparent than it has been.

QUESTION: China's new passport has triggered measure of diplomatic disputes in the neighboring area. Because in the new passport they include a map and images from South China Sea, and also the scenery is from Taiwan, which triggered complaints from Vietnamese Government, Philippines Government, India Government, and Taiwanese Government. I wonder, for example, if a Chinese citizen who is holding a new passport coming into U.S. customs, and usually they would get a stamp from U.S. customs, is that an endorsement of the China's claim, sovereignty claim. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Just say yes. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: No. It is not an endorsement. (Laughter.) Thank you, though, Arshad, for the opportunity there.

Our position, as you know, on the South China Sea remains that these issues need to be negotiated among the stakeholders, among ASEAN and China. And a picture in a passport doesn't change that.

QUESTION: Well --

QUESTION: Otherwise, the importance of solving this crisis, the importance of solving the disputes, was United States disappointed that a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea was not reached during the latest East Asia Summit?

MS. NULAND: I think as the President said when he was there, as others said in the context of the meetings in Cambodia, we are encouraged that informal dialogue has restarted. As you know, for some time there were no real conversations. And we want to see this continue to build and accelerate into a real negotiation about how to settle these issues over the longer term.

QUESTION: Also, talk about the aircraft carrier, if this landmark development would encourage you to improve the navy capability of your allies in Asia?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we've made clear through the various strengthening of our security support throughout the region that we will continue to support our allies as we deem necessary and to take appropriate steps. As I said, it's incumbent on China as it increases its own military investment that it be more transparent than it has been about what it's spending the money on and to make sure that its capabilities can clearly be seen as a force for peace.

QUESTION: Just back on that passport issue?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you care what China has '' what they print inside of their passports? Does this raise any concern at all with you, because is it simply their business and they can do '' they can put whatever they want in their passport?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that we '' and I looked into this a little bit and didn't get a complete sort of brief on this '' but my understanding is that we have certain basic international standards that have to be met in a passport in the way it's presented --

QUESTION: Decorations are not part of --

MS. NULAND: -- for us to honor it. And stray maps that they include aren't part of it, so --

QUESTION: Okay. And does that '' that would go for any country?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: So then, I mean, if Mexico put a new passport with a map that had Texas and New Mexico on it '' (laughter) '' that wouldn't be a problem?

MS. NULAND: Again, that's a hypothetical we're hoping not confront, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: But in terms of this, and I realize we're talking about it lightheartedly, but I mean, that would be something that I think the government would probably object to in the Mexican case. So I just want to make clear or understand: The appearance of this map in the Chinese passport doesn't really '' does it raise concerns for you or not?

MS. NULAND: As a technical legal matter, that map doesn't have any bearing on whether the passport is valid for U.S. visa issuance or for entry into the United States. There are a bunch of other issues --

QUESTION: No, I understand that. But the broader issue of whether this symbolizes a claim that you think should be worked out in negotiation, do you have any concerns about that?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not sure whether we've had a chance to have that discussion with the Chinese. Frankly, the first time this issue came to the attention of some of us was over the weekend when the passports started being rejected in various countries. So presumably, from the perspective that it is considered provocative by some of those countries, we'll have a conversation about it. But in terms of the technical issue of whether the passport is --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Quite apart from the '' and when you say that you'll have a conversation about it, that means that you'll have a conversation about it with the Chinese or you'll have a conversation about it with the countries that are refusing to accept them?

MS. NULAND: No, I would expect that we'll probably have a conversation about the fact that this is considered difficult by some of the countries.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you, when that does happen, when that conversation --

MS. NULAND: We'll come back to you, yes.

QUESTION: Yes. And --

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: No. China. Can we stay in China?

MS. NULAND: Still China, and then we'll move on.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you consider --

MS. NULAND: You guys really had too much of a rest, I think.

Lalit.

QUESTION: Do you consider this as a provocative on the behalf of China because it involves a number of neighboring countries, including India and other countries in the region?

MS. NULAND: Again, let me get a better sense of whether we've had any conversation with China about it or what the content of that might be before I go forward.

QUESTION: And also if you can consider --

MS. NULAND: Our own views on how the South China Sea issues ought to be resolved, our own position on the South China Sea issues, are not changed in any way by this.

QUESTION: And also if you can consider taking question if this such a move increases tension in the region, which you are trying to avoid for long time.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: On Europe?

QUESTION:Yeah, I have a question on Uganda, actually. There's an anti-homosexuality bill that's making its way through the legislature right there. What is the State Department's current assessment of where that bill is and if that's going to be headed toward a vote anytime soon?

MS. NULAND: Again, Assistant Secretary Carson was also in Uganda over the weekend. He had a chance to raise again our concerns about this issue, which we've been very vocal about. Our understanding is that a version of the bill has now passed a committee in Uganda. As we have regularly said, we call on the parliament in Uganda to look very carefully at this, because Uganda's own human rights council has made clear that if this were to pass, it would put the country out of compliance with its own international human rights obligations. And so Assistant Secretary Carson had a chance to make that point again and our strong opposition to this, to the president, to the parliament, and to key decision makers in Uganda.

QUESTION: And there was '' and once the bill had a provision that would institute the death penalty for homosexual acts. As far as the State Department knows, has that provision been removed or is it still in the bill?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don't know that we have actually seen the version that passed committee. They've been a little bit close hold about this, partly because there's been so much controversy in the international community. So our concern is about any criminalization of homosexuality, obviously.

QUESTION: And one last question. Some countries, Britain and Sweden, have threatened to cut foreign aid to Uganda if this bill becomes law. Is there any consideration in the U.S. Administration to cut foreign aid to Uganda if that bill becomes law?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not going to get into any hypothetical situations. Our focus now is on raising awareness of the concerns within Uganda about this bill so that we don't get to that stage.

Jill.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. NULAND: Still on --

QUESTION: Wait, wait one second. I don't understand why you wouldn't '' don't you think that would be a pretty strong point to make to the Ugandans if you think this is a bad idea that you would say, hey, you can go ahead and do this, but it's not only going to not only violate your international commitments but it's also going to jeopardize American assistance? Why would you --

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not to make --

QUESTION: That suggests --

MS. NULAND: -- prospective points from the podium here about where we might go if this bill passes. I think there is a very intense conversation going on inside Uganda about this, and the far better course of action would be for the bill not to pass.

QUESTION: And isn't that what happened a couple of years ago when the harsh bill was put up and there were active threats from not just the UK but also the United States that if this bill were to pass, aid would be cut? And that was part of why the bill was tabled, no?

MS. NULAND: Again, we're at a relatively preliminary stage here where you've had one committee pass this. There is room for those kinds of conversations. Our first focus at the moment is on getting reconsideration of this.

Marsha.

QUESTION: On this, Toria. Did Secretary Carson meet with the speaker of the parliament?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is he did see the speaker of the parliament, whether it was in a larger group or whether it was a distinct meeting that he did, yes.

QUESTION: But he '' so he made that point directly to her?

MS. NULAND: Yes, he did.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you '' do you have in your guidance there the ability to deny the reports that built up over the long weekend that the United States had denied her a visa?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we don't talk about visa issuance one way or the other, so I don't have any information about it one way or the other. But I frankly hadn't heard that there was a visa question involved in this at all.

QUESTION: There was one. And the parliament then issued its own statement which was slightly ambiguous, but it sounded like they were trying to say that, no, you guys had not denied her a visa.

MS. NULAND: I'm not aware of any visa issues. But in general, as you know, we can't talk about these things.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION:Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy, is getting ready to submit his plan '' it is called a plan '' on Thursday. Are you aware of that plan, whether it's contingent on the Geneva points or any other?

MS. NULAND: I had not heard that he was definitively coming forward with something on Thursday. I know that he's consulting with various UNSC member-states. I don't want to preempt anything that he might come forward with, but if we become aware of more information on this, we'll let you know, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. There are also reports that the rebels have taken over large swaths of areas, including military bases and some other areas outside, and that the regime is withdrawing its forces into Damascus, into Damascus. Are you aware of that, or could you share something with us on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are aware of reports that the armed opposition has seized in recent days a number of important regime facilities. This speaks, obviously, to the growing strength of the armed opposition as they continue to lay the groundwork for the fall of the Assad regime.

We would also note the regime's increasing brutality as it tries to cling to power. We've seen this just in the last few days the regime resorting to shelling a refugee camp near the Turkish border as well as some very deadly air strikes on the Dar Al-Shifa hospital right outside Aleppo. So shelling of hospitals now by the Syrian regime.

At the same time, let me take this opportunity to draw your attention to the fact that the Syrian Opposition Council meanwhile, the SOC, has formed its assistance committee now. And that assistance committee is meeting today and tomorrow in Cairo, with working-level representatives from the international community, to better hone and direct the nonlethal assistance requests that they are making and to begin to do what we had hoped they would do, which is to help all of us to have the clearest, most up-to-date sense of what is needed and to provide better channels for ensuring that it gets to the right people. So we have some representatives at that meeting. This is further to our hope that they would really begin to take on this organizing role of the international community on the political side and begin to represent the Syrian people in that way.

QUESTION: Does that bring you closer to recognizing the coalition council as a representative of Syria?

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything new to announce today. But these are the kinds of steps, both organizationally and in terms of assuming political responsibility, that we are hoping to see continue.

Still on Syria, Jill?

QUESTION:Iran, Turkey?

MS. NULAND: Anything else on Syria?

QUESTION: I have Syria.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to the reports that Russia has sent over 200 banknotes of cash to Syria over the last few months?

MS. NULAND: Two hundred physical pieces of paper, or --

QUESTION: Banknotes --

QUESTION: Tons, sorry. (Laughter.) Two hundred tons, sorry. (Laughter.) Two hundred tons of banknotes, moving currency cash.

MS. NULAND: Let me take that one and see if we have anything for you on it tomorrow.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Hey, Toria, one other one on Syria. There were '' there was a report suggesting that the Syrian Government might have been using a particular kind of SCUD missiles on civilian targets last week. Do you have anything on that?

MS. NULAND: We do have folks on the ground in Syria reporting intensive attacks on the Old City of Homs. But we don't think that what was used were SCUDs. We're not exactly sure what was used, but we're pretty sure they were not SCUDs.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. NULAND: But nonetheless, they were intensive aerial attacks.

QUESTION: Who do you have on the ground in Homs?

MS. NULAND: We have Syrian opposition figures who we're in touch with.

QUESTION: Oh, not U.S. officials.

MS. NULAND: No, no, no.

QUESTION: You said, ''We have folks on the ground.'' With just that --

MS. NULAND: ''We have contacts on the ground,'' I think I said, but --

QUESTION: And is it your understanding that those, whatever it was, was fired at civilian targets? Or do you not know?

MS. NULAND: I don't know what they fired at, but obviously civilians were caught in the crossfire.

Said.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the nature of the currency that is being exchanged. The largest U.S. currency is actually outside the United States, and much of it is in the Middle East. And it gets used for buying things in cash and so on. Does that fall under the sanctions in any way? I'm not saying that it's counterfeit. It's legal, it's a legal tender. But how does that fall under the sanctions regime?

MS. NULAND: You mean the use of dollars --

QUESTION: Of U.S. dollars, yeah. Right.

MS. NULAND: -- or the export of U.S. dollars into Syria? I don't have any background on that. Perhaps our friends at Treasury might. But if we have anything to share on that, we'll come back to you, Said.

QUESTION: Toria --

MS. NULAND: Please, yeah.

QUESTION:On the conference on Middle East Nuclear-Free Summit, Secretary General of the Arab League has said that it's regrettable the U.S. has decided to cancel the conference, because only Israel is against the conference. So what is your response? And have you got any consensus among the co-sponsors for the cancelation?

MS. NULAND: We issued a statement --

QUESTION: Yeah, I read it. Yes?

MS. NULAND: -- regretting that this wasn't able to go forward. I think we issued it on Friday.

QUESTION: Yeah. I read it, yes.

MS. NULAND: I don't think I have anything to add to what we have there, which is that our hope that conditions can come together for it in the future, but without making any firm predictions as to when.

QUESTION: Is that the darkest news hole in the world, late Friday afternoon of Thanksgiving? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, they spent --

QUESTION: It could have been 2 o'clock Thanksgiving Day.

MS. NULAND: They spent '' you mean you didn't rush up and start writing it up, Arshad?

QUESTION: I followed it. I followed it.

MS. NULAND: Excellent. Yeah, there you go.

QUESTION: You said that the conditions were not right.

MS. NULAND: The wires never sleep.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. On this one you said the conditions were not proper to hold the conference. What kind of proper conditions would you want in place?

MS. NULAND: I think we're pretty clear in the statement we issued, which went on for some five paragraphs. I'm going to send you back to that, Said.

QUESTION: Where was it supposed to be?

QUESTION: Helsinki.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: Helsinki was where the meeting --

QUESTION: But you were hosting it, or going to host it?

MS. NULAND: No, we were part of the community of nations encouraging it.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can I ask you '' just ask why it was that you guys decided to cancel it? I mean, do you '' did you have any '' you weren't the host, you weren't the organizer, you weren't -

MS. NULAND: No, no, no. It didn't go that way. We had a group of international supporters of this event who were meeting Helsinki, or they were meeting somewhere in Europe, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, to try to evaluate whether this could go forward and in what '' under what circumstances. I think we were just the first from that meeting to issue our conclusions as to the fact that we didn't think it was going to be able to go forward. But it was the consensus view of the meeting, so --

QUESTION: But '' right, okay. But in fact, you guys did not make the decision to cancel.

MS. NULAND: No, no, no.

QUESTION: It was made at the meeting. And your statement just was --

MS. NULAND: Reflecting --

QUESTION: -- you're sorry that it couldn't go through.

QUESTION: You announced it. You used the word, ''announced.''

MS. NULAND: Well, we announced the fact that we, as representatives in this group, had all come to this conclusion. There was also an announcement by the head negotiator, Laajava, on the same subject.

Jill?

QUESTION:Iran sanctions?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There are reports that Turkey has a gold-for-gas and possibly gold-for-oil --

MS. NULAND: Has a what?

QUESTION: That Turkey has a '' reportedly has a gold-for-gas and possibly gold-for-oil deal with Iran. And the question is: Does that particular arrangement '' if you know about it, or could check into it '' does that break the sanctions regime?

MS. NULAND: I hadn't seen that particular report. We will catch up on that and see if we have anything to share. But I think you know that Turkey's one of the countries that we were able to exempt from NDAA sanctions because they have been steadily cutting their dependence on Iranian crude. I can't speak to what this new prospective idea might be. If we have anything on it, we'll let you know. But that's a set of sanctions exemptions that has to be renewed every six months, so we would look at it again in that context.

QUESTION: When you take that question, Toria, can you also take the question as a general principle, whether the U.S. Government believes that barter arrangements '' which are not financial transactions, I think, as defined by the law, but I may be wrong '' but whether barter transactions do or do not violate the NDAA 1245 sanctions. Is it possible they don't?

MS. NULAND: We will look at that, obviously, but my understanding is that the law speaks to the necessity of countries decreasing their national dependence on Iranian crude. So how you pay for that would be irrelevant, right? It's the national usage of Iranian crude.

Please. Yeah.

QUESTION: What would be your reaction to the Catalan elections this weekend, where the parties asking for secession from Spain have won a big, big advantage? And to what extent that, on top of what has happened in Scotland and Belgium, may impact the transatlantic relations?

MS. NULAND: That sounds like an internal political matter for Spain, not for us to comment on.

QUESTION: Just to go back to the previous thing?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes, it talks about people reducing their consumption of Iranian crude. But the sanctions apply to non-U.S. financial institutions that deal with the Central Bank of Iran ''

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for purchasing hydrocarbons. So if you are not dealing with the Central Bank of Iran, and if you're '' it's conceivable that you could have some other entity bartering for this stuff, so maybe you're not reducing your consumption, or not enough, from your point of view, but how do you then '' who do you then sanction if nobody has directly dealt with the Central Bank, which is what the sanction is?

MS. NULAND: In case you were wondering, Arshad's become a hyper-wonk on all this stuff over the last month. I'm going to come back to you if you have anything on that particular thing, Arshad, okay?

Thanks.

QUESTION:No, wait, wait, very random ones. One, in '' you know the Colombia-FARC peace talks that are going on in Cuba.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Apparently, it has come up again, the FARC wants this guy Simon Trinidad to be released, who you '' I know that officials have '' he's being held by the Americans, by the U.S. In the past, you've said no way, we're not going to release him. Can you '' is that still the position? Has it changed?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, it has not changed.

QUESTION:And then secondly '' and this is really kind of bizarre '' there's an entertainer who goes by the name of Andrew W. K., who says that he has been named or appointed by the State Department to be a cultural ambassador to appear at some event in Bahrain. Do you know anything about this?

MS. NULAND: And here I thought we were going to get through this whole briefing without that one coming up.

QUESTION: Oh, you do? You do? Is it true? You have something?

MS. NULAND: I do have a little something on this. So we had a Bahraini entity that approached the Embassy about cosponsoring a visit by this guy, who I take it is pretty popular there in Bahrain. That was initially approved. And then when more senior management at the Embassy took a look at this, the conclusion was that this was not an appropriate use of U.S. Government funds.

QUESTION: Is that '' did '' and would they '' the government would have paid for his trip over there, had it ''

MS. NULAND: I don't know what the details of our sponsorship were to be.

QUESTION: Can you explain why it was '' was it '' I mean, his '' was it that '' it was decided that it was inappropriate to send someone over there to Bahrain to represent the United States whose hits include Party Till You Puke and things like that? (Laughter.) Is that why it was decided it was inappropriate?

MS. NULAND: Thank you for sharing that. I think --

QUESTION: Is that why?

MS. NULAND: I think the conclusion was, when they looked at the body of his work, that we didn't need to be part of this invitation. I'll leave it --

QUESTION: Got you. And just hold on. And just to make clear, it was '' the invitation was actually never extended to him?

MS. NULAND: Frankly, I don't have the details. There may have been some preliminary conversations with him, but he is not going to be going to Bahrain on the U.S. Government's dime.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Speaking of U.S. entertainers abroad, the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain is in Myanmar, Burma. He tweeted last night that his team rented mobile phones that had previously been rented by U.S. security personnel connected to the recent visits and that the text messages on them ought to have been deleted beforehand. There are references to keg parties. Anything that you're aware of on that front? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: No, but we will have our Embassy follow up on that one for sure.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thanks very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:53 p.m.)

Court clears ex Kosovan prime minister of war crimes | euronews, world news

Link to Article

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 15:26

In an historic move the United Nations General Assembly is expected to upgrade the status of Palestine on Thursday afternoon. The application in the 193-member body only needs a majority vote to change the territory from observer entity to observer state. Predictably this'...

Bank$ters

Elisse B. Walter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Tue, 27 Nov 2012 14:55

Elisse B. Walter (born April 14, 1950 in New York City[1]) a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission and was nominated on November 26, 2012 to be Chairman.[2] She was originally appointed by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and was sworn in on July 9, 2008. Under designation by President Barack Obama, she served as Acting Chairman during January 2009.[3][4]

[edit]EducationWalter attended Pembroke College at Brown University in 1967[1] and graduated from Yale University with a B.A., cum laude, in applied mathematics and received her J.D. degree, cum laude, from Harvard Law School.[3] She graduated from Herricks High School in New Hyde Park, Long Island, NY.

[edit]CareerWalter holds a Democratic seat, succeeding Annette Nazareth, who left the commission in January 2008 to work in private practice. Walter was recommended for the commissioner position by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) in 2007, along with fellow commissioner Luis A. Aguilar.[1] Her term on the commission ends June 5, 2012.[5]

Prior to her appointment as an SEC Commissioner, Ms. Walter served as Senior Executive Vice President, Regulatory Policy & Programs, for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). She held the same position at National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) before its 2007 consolidation with NYSE Member Regulation.

Ms. Walter coordinated policy issues across FINRA and oversaw a number of departments including Investment Company Regulation, Member Education and Training, Investor Education and Emerging Regulatory Issues. She also served on the Board of Directors of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

Prior to joining NASD, Ms. Walter served as the General Counsel of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Before joining the CFTC in 1994, Ms. Walter was the Deputy Director of the Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission. She served on the SEC's staff beginning in 1977, both in that Division and in the Office of the General Counsel. Before joining the SEC, Ms. Walter was an attorney with a private law firm.

Ms. Walter served on the Board of Trustees of Jewish Women International and the SEC Historical Society and is a member of the Academy of Women Achievers of the YWCA of the City of New York, according to her official biographies.[3]

[edit]SEC chairWalter is due to take the chair when her predecessor Mary Schapiro steps down December 14, 2012. Walter was "serving a five-year term that ended in June 2012, but panel members can serve an additional 18 months after their terms end, which [gave] Walter until the end of 2013 before requiring Senate confirmation to continue", according to a MarketWatch report at the time of the appointment announcement. President Obama was likely to nominate someone for a full term soon thereafter, the report said.[2]

[edit]IssuesMs. Walter has led the SEC's in-depth review of the municipal securities markets.

In August 2008 at an opening meeting of the SEC, Walter expressed her support for the implementation of International Financial Reporting Standards for U.S. companies, but cautioned that a ruling from the SEC was far from finalized. "Most important, we have to keep in mind that no one knows for certain what the future will hold," she said. "I strongly believe that we have to prepare for the alternative that the Commission will determine not to adopt, or permit the use of, IFRS for U.S. issuers.'...there are significant hurdles to overcome over the next three years in order for the Commission to determine to accept IFRS reporting from U.S. issuers."[6] Cited in Who Runs Gov.[1]

Another specific issue addressed by Ms. Walter before a Congressional subcommittee in May, 2006, was NASD's regulatory activities regarding inappropriate sales of certain investment products to members of the armed forces and NASD's financial education programs focused on military service members and their families. Of particular concern was a broker-dealer, First Command Financial Planning, Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas, which had been making inappropriate sales of products and services, including the sale of an investment product called Periodic Payment Plans or PPPs. First Command had targeted and sold more than a half-million of complicated and often extremely expensive PPPs to servicepersons. After investigation and censure, the firm was fined $12 million in December 2004. That amount included restitution, and funding for NASD Investor Education Foundation. As of 2006, First Command informed NASD that it has ceased selling PPPs.[7]

[edit]PersonalMs. Walter has been married to Ronald Alan Stern since 1974. They have two children, Jonathan Leo Walter Stern and Evan Michael Walter Stern. Evan Stern is married to Grace E. So. Ms. Walter has a sister, Abra Joy Walter, and a brother, Alan Neil Walter.

[edit]PublicationsWalter, EB, 'Regulating Broker''Dealers and Investment Advisers: Demarcation or Harmonization?', Journal of Corporation Law(2009) 35(1).^ abcd"Elisse B. Walter: Why She Matters" in Who runs Gov, a Washington Post publication. Three pages. Article last edited Mar. 08, 2011, 3:36AM by Steven P. Mitchell. Updated retrieval 2011-04-22.^ abOrol, Ronald D., "Schapiro to step down from SEC", MarketWatch, November 26, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-26.^ abcSEC Biography. Modified 1/28/09. Retrieved 2-1-09.^"Concise Directory:Commissioners". SEC webpage section. Retrieved 2011-04-22.^"Concise Directory:Commissioners". SEC webpage section. Retrieved 2011-04-22.^"Roadmap for the potential use of financial statements prepared in accordance with international financial reporting standards from U.S. issuers" Speech by Elisse B. Walter, Aug. 27, 2008.^Testimony before the Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations,United States House of Representatives, May 18, 2006.PersondataNameWalter, Elisse B.Alternative namesShort descriptionAmerican lawyerDate of birthApril 14, 1950Place of birthDate of deathPlace of death

Schapiro to Step Down from SEC Next Month; Obama Designates Walter

Link to Article

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 14:53

'‹The U.'‹S. Securities & Exchange Commission said yesterday, "After nearly four years in office, SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro today announced that she will step down on Dec. 14, 2012. Chairman Schapiro, who became chairman in the wake of the financial crisis in January 2009, strengthened, reformed, and revitalized the agency." A statement by President Obama commented, "'‹Today, the President issued the following statement on the announcement by Mary Schapiro, the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, that she will be leaving her post. The President also announced that he intends to designate Elisse Walter, a current Commissioner, as Chair upon Ms. Schapiro''‹s departure next month." While the money market mutual fund industry certainly won''‹t miss Schapiro, it''‹s unclear whether Walter will be any more kind to the cash management industry.

Schapiro commented in her statement, "It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to work with so many dedicated SEC staff who strive every day to protect investors and ensure our markets operate with integrity. Over the past four years we have brought a record number of enforcement actions, engaged in one of the busiest rulemaking periods, and gained greater authority from Congress to better fulfill our mission."

The release adds, "Chairman Schapiro is one of the longest-'‹serving SEC chairmen, having served longer than 24 of the previous 28. She was appointed by President Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009, and unanimously confirmed by the Senate. During her tenure, Chairman Schapiro worked to bolster the SEC''‹s enforcement and examination programs, among others. As a result of a series of reforms, the agency is more adept at pursing tips and complaints provided by outsiders, better able to identify wrongdoers through vastly upgraded market intelligence capabilities, and more strategic, innovative and risk-'‹focused in the way it inspects financial firms."

Among Schapiro''‹s accomplishments, the SEC refers to the 2010 Rule 2a-'‹7 amendments. A statement says that she, "Adopted widely-'‹hailed rules to enhance the resiliency of money market funds -- The SEC adopted rules to make money market funds more resilient by strengthening credit quality, liquidity and maturity standards, as well as introducing stress testing requirements and mandating new reporting of money market fund holdings. In addition, the SEC made available to investors the detailed information about a fund''‹s investments and the market-'‹based price of its portfolio known as its "'‹shadow NAV" ('‹net asset value) or mark-'‹to-'‹market valuation. The Chairman also called upon the Financial Stability Oversight Council to act to make such funds less susceptible to destabilizing runs like occurred during the credit crisis."

The SEC''‹s release adds, "'‹Chairman Schapiro previously served as a commissioner at the SEC from 1988 to 1994. She was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, reappointed by President George H.'‹W. Bush in 1989, and named Acting Chairman by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She left the SEC when President Clinton appointed her as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, where she served until 1996. She is the only person to have ever served as chairman of both the SEC and CFTC. As SEC chairman, Schapiro also serves on the Financial Stability Oversight Council, the FHFA Oversight Board, the Financial Stability Oversight Board, and the IFRS Foundation Monitoring Board."

President Obama commented in his statement, "I want to express my deep gratitude to Mary Schapiro for her steadfast leadership at the Securities and Exchange Commission. When Mary agreed to serve nearly four years ago, she was fully aware of the difficulties facing the SEC and our economy as a whole. But she accepted the challenge, and today, the SEC is stronger and our financial system is safer and better able to serve the American people -- thanks in large part to Mary''‹s hard work. I am also pleased to designate Elisse Walter as SEC Chairman after Mary''‹s departure. I''‹m confident that Elisse''‹s years of experience will serve her well in her new position, and I''‹m grateful she has agreed to help lead the agency."

ICI President & CEO Paul Schott Stevens issued the statement, "'‹SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro has led the SEC during a critical time for the agency, the financial industry and America''‹s investors. We are grateful for her dedication to strengthening protections for investors and the functioning of markets, particularly in the challenging task of implementing the Dodd-'‹Frank Act. Chairman Schapiro also brought a welcome focus to improving the management of the Commission, reorganizing, hiring needed industry expertise, and employing technology to enhance its effectiveness."

He added, "While we disagreed with Chairman Shapiro on some issues, we have immense respect for her commitment to public service and the interests of investors. We wish Chairman Schapiro well in the future. As the next SEC Chairman, SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter brings an extraordinary record of accomplishment in service to investors at both the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. We look forward to continuing to work closely with her and her fellow commissioners on a wide range of issues."

For a look at SEC Commissioner Elyse Walter''‹s speech on money fund reform early this year, see Crane Data''‹s March 20 News "'‹SEC Commissioner Walter Asks Fund Companies to Re-'‹Engage at MFIMC". She said then, "Simply put: the regulatory process is better with you as a part of it. I have always appreciated the views and involvement of the industry, and believe that your engagement is essential to reaching optimal answers to the important questions posed in securities regulation. The topic of money market funds, in particular, is just too important to let the dialogue play out through a public volley of slogans. I''‹ll say at the outset that I''‹m not here to talk about my position on the need for any further reform.... Before formulating a definitive position, my plan is to continue to discuss these critical questions with the staff, my fellow commissioners, the Chairman, members of the public, and those of you who are interested in that dialogue."

Nukes

The women living in Chernobyl's toxic wasteland - Telegraph

Link to Article

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 13:33

The government (then Soviet) declared the area that lay within an 18-mile radius uninhabitable and resettled 116,000 residents with a pension, an apartment and sketchy information about the health risks that lay ahead. In the ensuing months and years, these first resettlers were followed by a few hundred thousand more, all displaced, most from the land where they'd grown up. But Hanna, who had been forced out in the first group, did not accept that fate.

Three months after being relocated, she returned with her husband, her mother-in-law and a handful of other members of their collective farm. When government officials objected, she responded, 'Shoot us and dig the grave; otherwise we're staying.'

Hanna was among some 1,200 returnees, called 'self-settlers', most over the age of 48, who made their way back in the first few years after the accident, in defiance of the authorities' legitimate concerns. For despite the self-settlers' deep love of their ancestral homes, it's a fact that the soil, air and water here in what is now known as the Exclusion Zone, or Zone of Alienation, are among the most heavily contaminated on earth.

Today 230 or so self-settlers remain, scattered about in eerily silent villages that are ghostly but also somehow charming. About 80 per cent of the surviving self-settlers are women in their seventies and eighties, creating a unique world of babushkas, to use a Russian word that means 'grandmother' but also refers to 'old countrywomen'.

Why would the babushkas choose to live on this deadly land? Are they unaware of the risks, crazy enough to ignore them, or both? These are reasonable questions for Westerners who might stand in a grocery-shop aisle debating whether to pay the extra £2 for organic almond butter. The babushkas see their lives, and the risks they run, decidedly differently.

Nadejda Gorbachenko, 80, lives a few metres away from the barbed wire of the Exclusion Zone. She often goes through a hole in the wire to collect mushrooms and berries for her own consumption. 'When I see police, I hide in the bushes. Nobody will stop me'. Photo: RENA EFFENDI/ INSITUTE

When Reactor No 4 blew up, roughly 30 per cent of the initial fall-out hit Ukraine and parts of western Russia, and 70 per cent landed downwind in Belarus. The gamma radiation was death-dealing: some 30 first responders were incapacitated immediately and expired within weeks. But the explosion's long-term effect on the surrounding area was harder to quantify.

'Unlike the ground-zero fall-out from a nuclear bomb, which can be measured out ''circularly'' with a compass, radiation from a nuclear fire such as Chernobyl lays waste in a spotty, inconsistent manner,' explains Anna Korolevska, the scientific director of the National Chernobyl Museum. Which villages got doused? Which did not? Dosimeter readings, which indicate accumulated radiation exposure, varied wildly, and sometimes the Soviet authorities took bribes to alter them.

Nadejda Tislenko, 71. When this widow met up with the reporter and photographer she immediately called a neighbour, saying, 'Hurry, quick, come over. There's interesting people here, and they're not missionaries!' Photo: RENA EFFENDI/ INSITUTE

What is clear about nuclear contaminants (cesium, strontium, plutonium and others) is that they enter the food chain through the soil, that they spread via wind and fire and that their effects are cumulative and linked to, among other things, increases in foetal mortality and cancer.

In some cases, the contaminants stick around for thousands of years. After the accident, cows ingested grass tainted with radioactive iodine-131 (radioactive milk largely accounts for today's sky-high thyroid-cancer rates in the area). As the 'invisible enemy' enveloped the spring countryside, the babushkas may or may not have noticed that the birds fell silent and bees ceased flying, but they were alarmed when emergency workers made them dump their cows' milk.

Maria Urupa, 77, was thinking about her cow when the soldiers arrived to evacuate her village of Paryshev. 'I planned to take my cow and hide in the basement,' she says. Instead, she and her neighbours were relocated to a hurriedly constructed housing project outside Kiev, on land where many people had died in the 1930s during the Holodomor, the massive genocide-by-famine that the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin instigated in order to subjugate Ukraine and move peasant farmers on to state farming collectives or into factories.

Maria Urupa, 77, on her porch in Parishev village. When the authorities evacuated the village days after the accident, Maria's first thought was to hide in the basement with her cow. On her return to Parishev after a few months, all the animals had been killed. Photo: RENA EFFENDI/ INSITUTE

According to recent estimates, between three and-a-half million and five million Ukrainians died during this period, and many of the babushkas lost their fathers. Some almost died themselves since, during the Holodomor, starving villagers sometimes resorted to cannibalism, slaughtering one child to save the rest. Three months after moving there, Maria and her family returned to their home in the Exclusion Zone.

When I meet her, she's standing on her porch in sub-zero weather, looking healthy and stout, wearing a cotton housedress and a threadbare sweater. Maria recalls the day that Soviet troops, under orders from Stalin, marched on to the Urupa family farm.

'They took away two bulls, two pigs and all the potatoes,' Maria says. 'My father was working for the church, which was not allowed then.' When her father asked if he could keep a few potatoes, the soldiers threatened to kill him if he tried, saying, ''Your soul will fly away, and we'll wrap your guts around the telephone wire.'''

After Stalin came the Nazis, who slashed their way across Ukraine in the 1940s, raping and killing. About 10.5 million Ukrainians died during the Second World War. Having survived all that, the babushkas were not inclined to cut and run after the Chernobyl explosion created invisible threats in the air, soil and water.

Hanna, who as an infant was nearly eaten by her family during the Holodomor, says it succinctly: 'Starvation is what scares me. Not radiation.'Most of the babushkas share the belief that 'if you leave, you die'. They would rather risk exposure to radiation than the soul-crushing prospect of being separated from their homes. 'You can't take me from my mother; you can't take me from my motherland. Motherland is motherland,' says Hanna.

Maria Vitosh, 86, says, 'A pigeon flies close to his nest. I would never leave my home.' She receives a monthly government pension of 800 hryvnia (about £60). Her son lives in a neighbouring village and worked in Chernobyl for 12 years after the accident, planting trees. Photo: RENA EFFENDI/ INSITUTE

One refrain I heard often was, 'Those who left are worse off now. They are all dying of sadness. 'What sounds like faith may actually be fact. According to reports by the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Children's Fund, many of those who were relocated after the accident now suffer from anxiety, depression and disrupted social networks, the traumas of displaced people everywhere.

And these conditions seem to have health effects as real as those caused by radiation. The journalist Alexander Anisimov, who spent his career studying the self-settler community, claimed that the women who returned to their ancestral homes in the zone outlived those who left by a decade.

No health studies have been done, but anecdotal evidence suggests that most of the babushkas die of strokes rather than any obvious radiation-related illnesses, and they have dealt better with the psychological trauma. Toxic levels of strontium and cesium in the soil are real, but so are the tug of the ancestral home and the health benefits of determining one's own destiny.

East or West, pig fat or organic almond butter, few would deny that being happy helps you live longer. At first, of course, the main victims were those who were initially exposed to extreme doses of radiation. After the first responders were felled, the Soviets deployed robots to put out the fire, but radiation levels were so high the machines went berserk.

The government then sent in a phalanx of human beings, dubbed liquidators, the translation of a Russian word that can also mean 'cleaner'. Galina Konyushok, now 71, was called to duty as a liquidator almost immediately. She worked in a nearby bread factory at the time of the accident and was charged with driving to the town of Chernobyl every day to pick up wheat so the government could feed the people working the disaster.

Of course, the wheat itself was highly contaminated. Sitting today with three babushka neighbours in a kitchen bright with the reflection of the snow outside, Galina, who has thyroid cancer, looks strong and healthy. She lives in the town of Zirka, a few hundred yards outside the Exclusion Zone, whose boundary is demarcated by a chain-link and barbed-wire fence.

Although it would be a stretch to call the babushkas a sisterhood, a deep camaraderie connects these women who have spent their entire lives in the area. They help one another at slaughtering time. They visit each other's homes (on foot; they do not have cars) to play cards and gamble. 'But not for money. I keep telling them, the more you play, the more your brain works,' Galina says, laughing.

They joke about moving in together if heating-gas prices get too high (they are on fixed, modest government pensions), but emotional attachment to their homes runs too deep for that; home is the entire cosmos of the rural babushka.

They have electricity, but most villages in the zone have a single phone; nobody has running water. Those with a television might sit with needlework to watch a soap opera after the chickens are fed and the wood is chopped. When asked about the dearth of men, Galina responds, 'The men died, and the women stayed. I wish I had a husband to quarrel with!'

In a corner of Galina's house, beneath a bright window, stands the bed where her husband died 17 years ago (after making her promise never to leave their home). Galina's exquisite embroidery gives warmth and colour to the three-room house where she's lived for 52 years and raised four children.

On a small table, a dozen or so medicines, an identification card and a blood-pressure machine tell a more sombre story. An ID reading 'disabled, first group' indicates her liquidator status and her thyroid cancer. She waves away the medicines, as if to shoo off their significance, and shows me a piece of fabric embroidered with the message, 'Bring happiness and health to my motherland.'

Galina Konyushok, 71, formerly a 'liquidator' of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, now lives alone in Zirka village. She knits and makes traditional folk patterns and images of Christ on Ukranian cotton fabric. Photo: RENA EFFENDI/ INSITUTE

'I'm not afraid of anything anymore. It's difficult to be old, but I still want to live,' she says. Findings about the long-term health effects of Chernobyl are controversial and contradictory. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that more than 4,000 deaths will eventually be linked to Chernobyl, and it reports that thyroid-cancer rates have shot up in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, largely among those contaminated in the weeks immediately following the accident.

However, WHO now considers the psychological impact to be at least as detrimental as the physical. Being depressed and unmotivated, pursuing an unhealthy lifestyle and clinging to a victim mind-set, it says, has proved to be the worst fall-out for the 'Chernobylites'. Other organisations, such as Greenpeace, contend that Chernobyl is responsible for tens of thousands of illnesses and deaths, even though these cannot yet be scientifically linked to the accident.

All agree it will be generations before the consequences of Chernobyl can be fully understood. For now, the women's spirit shines amid the bleak dead zone. Flashing a glint of gold from her lone tooth, Hanna reveals she has saved another pig to slaughter.

'I only think of the good things in life,' she tells me, rolling on to the balls of her feet. 'Come back tomorrow,' she says, holding up a chunk of thick pig fat. 'We're going to party.'

All ages are correct from the time of the interviews. Holly Morris is currently making a documentary, The Babushkas of Chernobyl. A version of this article appeared in MORE magazine

Cyber War$

CrowdStrike, Inc.

Link to Article

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 02:50

Enterprise Adversary AssessmentCrowdStrike's Enterprise Adversary Assessment service helps reveal existing compromised systems while providing counterintelligence and recommendations to help prevent future targeted attacks. Through hunting operations, including host-based detection, threat-specific network analysis, and victim threat profiling, we identify the adversary and find out what they are after. As recognized experts in adversary attribution, advanced targeted attacks and threats, malware, and reverse engineering, CrowdStrike's team of professionals has provided services to a wide number of public, private, and government agencies.

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Offensive Techniques and ProceduresCrowdStrike's Strike strategies provide strategic and tactical measures for combating an adversary on your network. Through surveillance and reconnaissance, counter-espionage techniques, hostile target dismantling, and denial and deception, CrowdStrike security experts provide techniques and procedures to limit the number and severity of future attacks. We help your enterprise go on the offensive against today's most advanced adversaries.

Contact us at services@crowdstrike.com or 888-512-8906 x700 for more information today!

The Services Team is hiring!

'Six-strike' anti-piracy campaign postponed until 2013

Link to Article

Source: CNET News

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 06:32

The Center for Copyright Information -- a venture between ISPs, music labels, and film studios to crackdown on illegal downloads -- says Hurricane Sandy delayed this month's kick off.

The "six strikes" copyright enforcement plan that aims to curb illegal downloads and peer-to-peer file-sharing has been postponed until 2013.

The executive director of the Center for Copyright Information, which is in charge of the copyright warning system, announced today that because of damage from Hurricane Sandy the organization's alert system will not begin until next year.

"Due to unexpected factors largely stemming from Hurricane Sandy which have seriously affected our final testing schedules, CCI anticipates that the participating ISPs will begin sending alerts under the Copyright Alert System in the early part of 2013, rather than by the end of the year," CCI executive director Jill Lesser wrote in a blog post today.

CCI is a joint venture between Hollywood copyright holders and Internet Service Providers that was created in April. AT&T, Cablevision, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast are the participating ISP members in the venture. The goal of the organization is to educate and crack down on people downloading content protected by intellectual copyright -- including videos, games, and music.

Under graduated response, or six strikes, entertainment companies will notify a participating ISP that a customer has allegedly been pirating movies or TV shows illegally. The bandwidth provider will then send a notice intended to educate the customer about the consequences of downloading unauthorized content.

The ISP is then supposed to begin gradually ratcheting up the pressure on customers who ignore the warnings. Eventually, after six warnings, ISPs can choose to suspend service. Graduated response, however, does not include the termination of service. Customers wrongly accused can appeal to their company and can take their case to the arbitration group for review.The ISP providers were scheduled to begin sending out alerts to users by the end of the year. And leaked documents from AT&T revealed that the network provider would begin sending out warning notices today. But now, the rollout won't happen for at least another month.

"We need to be sure that all of our 'I's are dotted and 'T's crossed before any company begins sending alerts," Lesser wrote, "and we know that those who are following our progress will agree."

Agenda 21

Heaviest Snow Storm In Russia In 50 Years!

Climate change threatens French truffle: scientists

Link to Article

Source: bertb news feed

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 18:08

Black truffles from France Perigord region, 2010. Scientists said they had proof that climate change was hitting the Perigord black truffle, a delight of gourmets around the world.

AFP - Scientists said on Tuesday they had proof that climate change was hitting the Perigord black truffle, a delight of gourmets around the world.

Trufflers have long suspected that global warming is affecting Tuber melanosporum -- dubbed "the black diamond" on account of its colour and extraordinary price -- in its native habitat in southwestern France, Spain and Italy.

A century ago, French trufflers notched up a harvest that, according to legend, reached 1,000 tonnes in a year.

In the 1960s, truffle yields were still 200-300 tonnes annually.

But in recent years, they have been a meagre 25 tonnes or so, prompting retail prices to rocket to as high as 2,000 euros ($2,500) a kilo.

In a letter to the journal Nature Climate Change, Swiss scientists said they now had clear data that drier summers were to blame, as this affected the oak and hazelnut trees on which the prized fungi grows, a process known as symbiosis.

The team found that harvests in France's Perigord and in Spain's Aragon region fell at roughly the same pace from 1970-2006, and this trend was in line with an overall decline in summer rainfall.

Harvests in northern Italy's Piedmont and Umbria also retreated, but not as badly as in France and Spain, and this correlated with relatively higher levels of summer rain in those regions.

Harvesting of the black truffle, also called the Mediterranean truffle, is restricted to the months between November and February.

However, the success of the yield depends on the summer's weather, explained Ulf Buentgen and Simon Egli from the Swiss Federal Research Institute, or WSL.

Truffles thrive in wet and cold conditions and hate dryness and heat.

"Given the symbiotic fungi-host asssociation, we postulate that competition for summer soil moisture... might be a critical factor for truffle fruit body production, particularly in semi-arid environments," they said.

Their theory, they added, is borne out by research in Spain, which found that oak tree growth depends overwhelmingly on rain between May and July.

The letter suggests that the future for the black truffle may lie in Germany and Switzerland if temperatures in southern Europe climb by at least 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, as many climate simulations predict.

Forest systems north of the Alps will be slightly warmer but not drier, according to these computer models, which could make them a more suitable home for both natural and cultivated truffles.

The prediction coincides with a remarkable surge in fungi in Switzerland and Germany, including the paler but less perfumed Burgundy truffle (Tuber aestivum).

PedoBear

Third Man Accuses Ex-Elmo Of Getting Him Drunk And Molesting Him

Link to Article

Source: Radar Online

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 17:57

WENN

By Radar Staff

The hits just keep coming for puppeteer Kevin Clash, who has a third person claiming the longtime voice of Elmo had sex with him when he was underage.

A 28-year-old man has filed papers in federal court in Manhattan accusing the 52-year-old, who resigned from Sesame Street last week, of boozing him up when he was 16, before molesting him.

PHOTOS: Celebs Who Have Appeared On Sesame Street

Clash's third accuser, referred to in court docs as John Doe, claims he was 16 when he first crossed paths with a then-40-year-old Clash via a gay chat line, adding he "specifically stated his intention on the chatline was non-sexual."

The accuser said in the court docs he later visited Clash when he traveled to New York in hopes of working as a model. In court docs, the accuser claims he was still a high school student when, during a trip to Clash's Manhattan apartment, the puppeteer had sex with him.

PHOTOS: Top Celebrity Sex Scandals

The accuser said he moved to New York City two years later when he turned 18, and had an ongoing sexual relationship with Clash thereafter.

In court docs, the accuser's lawyers claim Clash "was, in secret, preying on teenage boys to satisfy his depraved sexual interests."

PHOTOS: Celebs Who Have Appeared On Sesame Street

Last week, Clash stepped down after 28 years as Elmo when a second accuser made similar claims, with the show calling his resignation "a sad day for Sesame Street."

RELATED STORIES:

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Real News

Angus T. Jones: 3 Cheers for ''Two and a Half Men'' Star For Calling Out ''Filth'' '' VIDEO

Link to Article

Source: Debbie Schlussel

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 18:55

By Debbie Schlussel

Three cheers for ''Two and a Half Men'' Star Angus T. Jones for calling out the crap he's been a part of for much of his life as a child television star.

I watch very little TV anymore, mostly because it's a time waster and a bunch of garbage. More and more Americans are following suit as TV viewership (and ownership) is declining. In adulthood, I finally understood my father's rightful attacks against TV when I was a kid and he stopped me from mindlessly, endlessly watching, limiting my TV viewing time. I was lucky that unlike so many parents, mine didn't commit malpractice by using TV as a babysitter.

''Two and a Half Men'' is one of the worst shows on broadcast TV. It's disgusting, heavily sexual, stupid, and inane. And yet it remains, sadly, one of the most successful, highly-rated shows on television. And so I applaud the show's younger star, Jones, for finally waking up about the filth he (and the rest of Hollywood) are perpetrating on America. Sadly, the damage of decades of TV garbage and defining deviancy and morality down has already taken its irreparable toll on America, and it's too late.

Still, Jones''who has become a religious Christian''deserves credit and respect for publicly calling himself out for what he's been a part of for so many years and what is basically is TV family, especially at his young age. It takes a lot of courage because he'll probably never work in Hollywood again for saying so, and he knows it. Some of the attacks against him for saying this have been worse than some of the attacks on the nutty Charlie Sheen, formerly of the same show.

''Two and a Half Men'' star Angus T. Jones is under fire for criticizing the show '-- even going so far as to call it ''filth'' '-- in an online video in which he professes his religious beliefs.

''Jake from 'Two and a Half Men' means nothing. He is a nonexistent character,'' the 19-year-old actor says of his character on the hit CBS program. ''If you watch 'Two and a Half Men,' please stop watching 'Two and a Half Men.' I'm on 'Two and a Half Men' and I don't want to be on it.''

Jones appears in the video seated next to televangelist Christopher Hudson, whose sermons appear in YouTube videos called ''The Forerunner Chronicles.''

''Please stop filling your head with filth, please. . . .'' Jones said.

Here's the full video of his appearance on the Christian Forerunner show:

Part of what Jones is upset about is his interaction with the skanky Miley Cyrus (or as we call her on this site, ''Miley Virus'') on the show. Jones plays a U.S. Army soldier who returns home and quickly falls into bed with Cyrus. Here's the video of this Shakespearian masterpiece:

Yup, utter crap. Jones is doing America a favor by calling this what it is.

War on Helium

Helium shortage grounds Mickey at Tokyo Disneyland

Link to Article

Source: bertb news feed

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 18:06

A person dressed as Mickey Mouse waves his hand from a float during a Halloween parade at the Tokyo Disneyland on September 7, 2012. Tokyo Disneyland has stopped selling helium balloons shaped like Mickey Mouse and other characters because of a worldwide shortage of the lighter-than-air gas, the park's operator said Tuesday.

AFP - Tokyo Disneyland has stopped selling helium balloons shaped like Mickey Mouse and other characters because of a worldwide shortage of the lighter-than-air gas, the park's operator said Tuesday.

The popular balloons were withdrawn from sale last week, a spokesman said, because the company was having difficulty securing a stable supply.

"Delivery of our orders cannot be fulfilled" because suppliers are finding it difficult to obtain the gas, said an official at Oriental Land Co, which operates Disneyland and the next door Disneysea park.

"There have not been a lot of inquiries from our guests. We will resume sales of balloons as soon as we can secure supplies," he said.

Helium comes from a relatively small number of natural gasfields, with the United States having long served as a major producer for Japanese customers.

The gas is mainly used as an industrial and medical coolant, particularly for MRI scanners.

The global helium shortage has been a problem among MRI manufacturers for the past few years but has become more acute over the last few months, the Nikkei newspaper said Monday.

Growing demand for the gas for use in MRIs and the IT sector, as well as difficulties at a production site in the United States, are to blame for the paucity, according to the business daily.

EUROLand

Portugal passes austerity budget

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Source: BBC News - Europe

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 18:08

27 November 2012Last updated at11:03 ETThe parliament of recession-struck Portugal has passed a budget promising another year of austerity measures.

The coalition government ensured enough discipline to muster a majority despite every opposition party voting against.

The budget, which includes the biggest tax rises in the country's recent history, was opposed by thousands of protesters surrounding the parliament.

The government wants to cut its deficit from 5% of economic output this year to 4.5% next - as required by its bailout.

Portugal's economy is projected to shrink 3% this year, after contracting 1.7% in 2011, but the government hopes the recession will moderate to a 1% decline next year.

However, some economists consider this growth forecast optimistic, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on Tuesday predicted a 1.8% contraction.

A significantly sharper recession could see the government making no inroads in its deficit, despite the austerity measures contained in its latest budget.

The government also expects unemployment to rise from 15.7% to 16.4% of the workforce over the coming year.

'Enormous' tax cutsBecause of the recession, tax revenues in the current financial year have already fallen short of government targets, necessitating the higher tax rates in the new budget.

Antonio Jose Seguro, leader of the opposition Socialist party, dubbed the tax rises a "fiscal nuclear bomb for Portugal".

The measures in the budget include:

a rise in the standard income tax rate from 24.5% to 28.5%a rise in the top rate from 46.5% to 48%, plus a special 2.5% "social solidarity" taxa lowering of the threshold for the top rate from 153,300 euros (£123,700; $198,200) to 80,000 euros (£65,000; $104,000)an additional 3.5% surcharge on all incomes in 2013The tax rises are equivalent to more than a month's wages for most Portuguese workers, and aim to increase government revenues by 30%.

Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar conceded that the tax rises were "enormous", but also called them "another determined step toward recovery".

Meanwhile, spending is also being cut by 2.7bn euros.

Last year the Socialists agreed to abstain on what was also a contentious austerity budget vote.

It was a previous Socialist government that originally turned to the eurozone and International Monetary Fund in 2011 for a bailout, under the terms of which Portugal must get its overspending back under control.

Portugal has already received 61bn euros of its total 78bn-euro bailout.

EU and IMF agree tentative deal to cut Greek debt

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Source: The Guardian World News

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 03:54

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi arrives at the EU headquarters in Brussels prior to a meeting about the eurozone crisisl Photograph: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images

European governments and the IMF sought to bury months of feuding over Greek debt levels in a tentative agreement that should see the release of up to '‚¬44bn in bailout funds needed to rescue Athens from insolvency.

But after almost 12 hours of talks for the third time in a fortnight between eurozone finance ministers, leaders of the IMF, the European central bank and the European commission struggled to reach a consensus, suggesting a lack of confidence that the effort to resurrect the Greek economy will bear fruit or that three years of European bailout policy was working.

The meeting agreed to shave projected Greek debt to allow it to level at 124% of GDP by 2020, entailing a 20% cut in Greek debt by the deadline.

With the IMF demanding a writedown of Greece's debt by its official eurozone creditors and Germany leading the resistance to such a move, declaring it illegal, the meeting agreed on a mixture of measures involving debt buybacks, lower interest rates on loans, longer maturity periods on borrowing, and ECB returns to Greece of profits on its holdings of Greek bonds.

In an increasingly arcane dispute entailing sophisticated number-crunching over recent weeks, the IMF had stuck to a bottom line of getting the Greek debt level to 120% by 2020, far below what eurozone and IMF inspectors concluded was possible.

A debt sustainability analysis last week said the debt level would be 144% without eurozone action to write much of it off.

The Europeans hoped to extend the IMF-set 2020 deadline for debt "sustainability" by two years, but Christine Lagarde, the IMF chief, stuck to the 2020 date.

While Berlin played for more time, until after next year's general election and the expiry of Greece's formal bailout schedule in 2014, the IMF has been demanding a clear, credible longer-term programme.

Greece met the terms for the bailout funds a couple of weeks ago, agreeing a budget and swingeing spending cuts. Eurozone loans of at least '‚¬31.5bn have been pending since last summer, but held up recently by arguments not between Athens and its creditors, but by disputes among the creditors.

Greece, where the eurozone's debt crisis erupted in late 2009, is the currency area's most heavily indebted country, despite a big "haircut" this year on privately-held bonds. Its economy has shrunk by nearly 25 percent in five years.

The key question remains whether Greek debt can become sustainable without eurozone governments having to write off some of the loans they have made to Athens.

A source familiar with IMF thinking said the global lender was demanding immediate measures to cut Greece's debt by 20 percentage points of GDP, with a commitment to do more to reduce the debt stock in a few years if Greece fulfils its programme.

To reduce the debt to 124% by 2020, the ministers were putting together a package of steps including a debt buyback funded by a eurozone rescue fund, reducing the interest rate on loans and returning eurozone central bank 'profits' back to Greece.

Germany and its northern European allies have so far rejected any idea of forgiving official loans to Athens.

German finance minister Wolfgang Sch¤uble told reporters that a debt cut was legally impossible if it was linked to a new guarantee of loans.

"You cannot guarantee something if you're cutting debt at the same time," he said.

BBC News - Minimum price plan to end cheap alcohol sales

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Wed, 28 Nov 2012 15:33

28 November 2012Last updated at05:34 ETBy Nick TriggleHealth correspondent, BBC NewsMinisters are proposing a minimum price of 45p a unit for the sale of alcohol in England and Wales as part of a drive to tackle problem drinking.

The Home Office has launched a 10-week consultation on the plan, arguing it will help reduce the levels of ill-health and crime related to alcohol.

It is also considering banning multi-buy promotions, such as two-for-the-price-of-one.

The 45p proposal is 5p higher than the figure suggested by ministers in March.

It comes after pressure has been mounting on the government to follow Scotland's lead, where 50p has been proposed.

The aim of a minimum price would be to alter the cost of heavily-discounted drinks sold in shops and supermarkets. It is not expected to affect the price of drinks in many pubs.

The Home Office said the consultation was targeted at "harmful drinkers and irresponsible shops".

A spokesman added: "Those who enjoy a quiet drink or two have nothing to fear from our proposals."

The 45p minimum would mean a can of strong lager could not be sold for less than £1.56 and a bottle of wine below £4.22.

Research carried out by Sheffield University for the government shows a 45p minimum would reduce the consumption of alcohol by 4.3%, leading to 2,000 fewer deaths and 66,000 hospital admissions after 10 years.

The number of crimes would drop by 24,000 a year as well, researchers suggested.

There has been evidence of some outlets selling alcohol at a loss to encourage customers through the doors, with cans of lager going for 20p and two-litre bottles of cider available for under £2.

'Pre-loading'Ministers have been particularly critical of such practices, blaming them for what has been dubbed "pre-loading", where people binge-drink before going out.

They have linked this phenomenon to the rising levels of alcohol-related violence and hospital admissions, of which there are more than a million a year.

But the idea of introducing a minimum price - first proposed at 40p in the government's alcohol strategy published in March - has been met with opposition by the industry.

The Scottish government plan, which is not due to start until April 2013, was challenged on legal grounds by the Scotch Whisky Association and the European Spirits Organisation.

Continue reading the main storyWhat's a unit?Half a pint of standard strength (4%) beer, cider or lagerA single pub measure of spirit (25ml)Half a standard 175ml glass of wineThey claimed it was up to Westminster, rather than Holyrood, to decide such an issue and they said it was also incompatible with the EU's "general principles of free trade and undistorted competition".

The legal challenges were heard in the Court of Session in Edinburgh last month and a judgement is expected before the end of the year.

Separately the European Commission is looking into the legality of the Scottish government's actions.

In Northern Ireland, consideration is also being given to minimum pricing, although no final decision has been taken yet.

Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, said: "Most major retailers believe minimum pricing and controls on promotions are unfair to most customers. They simply penalise the vast majority, who are perfectly responsible drinkers, while doing nothing to reduce irresponsible drinking.

"The government should recognise the role of personal responsibility. It should not allow interfering in the market to regulate prices and promotions to become the default approach for public health policy."

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, agreed, saying there was "no evidence" minimum alcohol pricing would be effective in tackling alcohol misuse.

Continue reading the main storyThe 45p effectOn the face of it, there seems to be little difference between the 45p minimum unit price for alcohol now being proposed and the 40p figure put forward earlier this year.

But in terms of consumption levels - and the subsequent criminal and health costs - the shift is significant.

Research by Sheffield University shows that at 45p consumption drops by 4.3% - a 75% greater effect than would be seen at 40p.

In terms of deaths over a 10-year period, the impact is nearly double. A 45p minimum will save over 2,000 lives compared to under 1,200 for 40p. The effect on crime is also two-fold.

But what the research also shows is that another 5p on the minimum price to bring it to 50p - as Scotland has done - would see a similar increase in impact, which is why campaigners have been pushing for more.

Another area of interest - and possible controversy - is the effect this will have on moderate drinkers.

The research shows a 45p minimum price also affects their buying habits, reducing consumption by 2.3%. That is greater than the reduction likely to be seen in young hazardous drinkers - the so-called binge drinkers.

But health campaigners believe a minimum price is an important step in tackling problem drinking.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, from the British Medical Association, said the changes in pricing could help to stop young people binge drinking.

She told the BBC: "Alcohol is a dose-related poison, in other words the more you drink the more harm it causes, so by reducing the amount they are drinking over the safe limit you are helping to save them.

"It isn't a small minority of the population who are drinking excessively, it's nearly a quarter. That's a huge number of people who are drinking at levels that are hazardous to their health and we really have to throw everything we can (at it) to save lives."

Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "We're paying a heavy price for alcohol misuse and setting a minimum unit price will help us on the road to changing this.

"But we cannot cut the misery caused by excessive drinking, whether it's crime or hospitalisation, through price alone.

"We need tighter controls around licensing, giving local authorities and police forces all the tools they need to get a firm grip on the way alcohol is being sold in their area. We have an opportunity to make an enormous difference to the lives of thousands of people - we must seize it."

Belgian intelligence workers outed on Facebook, LinkedIn

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Wed, 28 Nov 2012 15:46

The identities of several Belgian intelligence workers have been exposed, but it wasn't rival spies who blew their cover. The workers listed the Belgian State Security Service as their employer on Facebook and LinkedIn, the Brussels-based paper De Standaard reports. The security service hasn't confirmed if the profiles are real, and Facebook in particular requires no proof of workplace. But in interviews with De Standaard, both a Belgian senator and a security service spokesperson expressed concerns about the profiles, suggesting they might be authentic.

They wouldn't be the first. While intelligence agencies would probably prefer their employees not broadcast their jobs, many already do just that. More than 200 LinkedIn users identify themselves as Central Intelligence Agency employees, including a number of analysts, operatives, and at least one cook. (One woman, a self-identified intelligence analyst at U.S. Central Command in Florida, lists ''national security'' and ''counterterrorism'' among her skills '-- she has peer endorsements in both.) In France, a number of Facebook users claim to work for the General Directorate for External Security and list their languages, educational background and marital status publicly. Similarly, Foursquare records 500 self-reported 'check-ins' at Germany's Federal Intelligence Service by 142 users.

This could all mean very little, of course: Pranksters and low-level employees likely don't pose a security threat. But it also opens up new avenues for error, and spy agencies have been known to bungle operations online. In 2004, a CIA officer committed what Wired's Spencer Ackerman calls ''the biggest reply-all-FAIL of all time'' '-- sending a list of all the agency's Iranian operatives to a double agent, who passed the information on to Iran. Apparently spies need Internet security guidelines as much as the rest of us.

Vaccine$

AIDS

Implications of the Drug That Can Prevent 90% of HIV Infections

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Wed, 28 Nov 2012 22:47

Research in The New England Journal of Medicine has shown that Truvada has the ability to effectively prevent the spread of HIV infection. But will it?

Volunteers hold hands to mark the 25th anniversary of The AIDS Memorial Quilt and the 30 years of battling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)In April of 1984, three years after the Centers for Disease Control first announced a spate of rare, virulent infections among gay men in Los Angeles, Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler stood before a gaggle of Washington reporters and predicted that an AIDS vaccine would be soon in coming. She was hoping to quell the maelstrom of misinformation and fear that gripped the country as landlords evicted HIV-positive tenants, hemophilic children were banned from school, and San Francisco police officers donned masks and gloves while working beats in the Castro. Give it two years, Heckler assured the assembled cameras. "Yet another terrible disease is about to yield to patience, persistence, and outright genius."

Three decades later, despite a heroic and awful patience, the maladie terrible haunts us still. The statistics belie the years of effort and billions of dollars invested in the search for a cure: 1.2 million Americans live with HIV -- as many as in Uganda and Zimbabwe -- with up to 50,000 new infections in the United States each year. The gay and black communities are hardest hit, particularly in the Deep South, and at least one in five don't know their positive status. In Washington, D.C., where the 19th annual International AIDS Conference is to be held later this month, the known rate of HIV is triple what the World Health Organization considers "epidemic." You can't walk a block downtown without passing a coffee shop that offers free condoms or a bus stop ad reminding you that real men "ask for the test." But the message has been slow to gain traction.

Welcome, then, are a trio of studies in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrating that Truvada, an anti-retroviral drug already on the market, can prevent new HIV infections when taken daily. The findings, which were released in part last year and appear this week in final form, offer hope for men and women -- gay and straight -- who are at high risk for contracting HIV from their partners. "What we're looking at here is a new HIV prevention strategy, an approach that hadn't been tested before," said Jared Baeten, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Washington's School of Public Health. "By having the medication already in their blood stream and in their cells, by the time they came into contact with virus, it would block the virus from taking hold. It would block them from getting infected."

Baeten's study followed 4,700 "serodiscordant" couples -- in which one member was HIV-positive and the other negative -- in Kenya and Uganda. Previous research had shown the efficacy of Truvada in reducing the risk of the disease among men who have sex with men, and Baeten's team hoped to expand the data to heterosexual partners. In addition to receiving a daily drug -- either Truvada or a placebo -- the HIV-negative subjects received STI testing, AIDS awareness counseling, and access to condoms. At the end of the trial, men and women in the Truvada arm of the study were 75 percent less likely to contract HIV than their untreated counterparts. (That figure, while impressive, is even conservative. It included every subject who was given Truvada, regardless of whether they remembered to take it.)

Later, Baeten went back and isolated just those participants who actually took the drug, as evidenced by their blood work. Their level of protection? Ninety percent.

Bottom line, says Baeten: "Compliance with this medication is the key to it working." Missed doses may be forgiving for a day or two, but physicians aren't certain, and consider the drug safe enough -- side effects include nausea and dizziness, and in some cases a loss in bone density -- to give to otherwise healthy patients on a daily basis.

"The challenge is identifying people who are at risk who will actually take the pills as prescribed," says Dr. Timothy Mastro, of FHI 360, in North Carolina. Mastro worked on a study involving 2,100 HIV-negative women in Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa, which was closed down early after Truvada failed to protect women any better than the placebo. When researchers parsed the data, they discovered that fewer than 40 percent of the women were taking the pills given to them. The problem wasn't the drug -- it was the patients.

Mastro points out that even disappointing results offer important lessons for public health officials. In the Baeten study, which dealt with couples, the negative partner "knew that they were going to bed at night with an HIV-infected person, which was probably a great motivator to really take their pill." The women in his own study were, on average, ten years younger, not in stable relationships, and lived in rural fishing communities where HIV was rampant. They were less likely to know their partner's status, and more than ten percent had traded sex for money or gifts in the month before. Even by the end of the study, a full three-quarters of the women told researchers that they were at "no or low risk for HIV infection" despite reams of evidence to the contrary. "We have a lot more to learn about how women in these settings perceive and react to risk," Mastro says.

Here in the United States, clinicians and public health officials are buoyed by the evidence that Truvada is safe and, better yet, effective. In May, an expert panel convened by the Food and Drug Administration formally recommended that Truvada be approved for use as a prophylactic, preventative medication against HIV. (Doctors are already able to prescribe it "off-label" as such, but an annual course can cost upwards of $11,000.) The FDA will make a final ruling in September; if it agrees with the panel, Truvada will be the first drug of its kind.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of infectious diseases and allergies at the National Institutes of Health, and who was not involved with the NEJM trials, echoed the researchers' optimism -- and caution. "Biologically you know it works," he said. "But there's a big chasm between 'biologically working' and actually having people in the real world use it." Critics, including a vocal few at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, worry that a preventative drug will encourage users to engage in riskier sex -- to not use condoms, or to forgo conversations about their partner's status. "Let's be really clear," Dr. Michael Horberg, director of HIV and AIDS for Kaiser Permanente in California, told Reuters in 2011. "The use of this medication is not a license for unsafe sex and it's not a Saturday night special."

There are similar fears that Truvada will lead to drug-resistant forms of HIV if used incorrectly. "It's really going to be important that people run good quality programs," says FHI 360's Tim Mastro. "We've learned from other infectious diseases that a poor quality program is worse than no program at all. We know that from tuberculosis. If you're treating people with TB and you do a sloppy job, you'll encourage drug resistance and you won't control the disease. We can see similar things with HIV."

The concern is a real one. But at this juncture, 30 years on and still without a cure, no way forward is without risk. Truvada is a corner piece -- important but solitary -- in a very complex, yet unfinished puzzle.

What could Truvada mean for the fight against AIDS? '' USATODAY.com

Link to Article

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 14:36

By late this summer, the Food and Drug Administration could approve a widely used AIDS drug as the first pill to prevent transmission of HIV, the AIDS virus. The drug, Truvada (pronounced tru-VAH-duh), made by Gilead Sciences of Foster City, Calif., already is commonly used in combination with other drugs to treat patients with HIV infection. If approved for HIV prevention, as an FDA advisory panel recommended in May, it can be prescribed to healthy patients who are at high risk, such as partners of people who have HIV/AIDS and non-monogamous gay and bisexual men. Experts offer their thoughts on the drug.

By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

If approved for HIV prevention, Truvada can be prescribed to healthy patients who are at high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

If approved for HIV prevention, Truvada can be prescribed to healthy patients who are at high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

Q: How effective is Truvada as a prevention tool?

A: Two large clinical trials involving couples and individuals found that Truvada significantly reduced the risk of transmission of HIV from a low of 44% to more than 90%. The greatest benefit came for patients who took the medicine as directed, as confirmed by blood tests.

Q: Are there dangers associated with use of this medicine?

A: If not taken properly, drug resistance could develop. In people already infected with HIV, Truvada is always taken in combination with other anti-retroviral drugs to avoid that problem. But taken alone, there's a risk, so doctors will need to be sure patients are free of HIV when they begin preventive treatment.

Making sure anyone who is prescribed Truvada is tested first is a critical step, says Howard Jaffe, president of the Gilead Foundation, a non-profit arm of Gilead Sciences. Truvada is an important tool, he says, but it doesn't mean other prevention strategies '-- free condoms, free HIV testing, counseling and other health services '-- aren't needed. "We're lucky we have airbags in cars," he says, "but they don't make seat belts obsolete."

Q: What are the obstacles to using this widely to stop the spread of HIV?

A: Price is one. The cost of Truvada has been placed between $11,000 and $14,000 per year. Jaffe says the drug has been "deeply discounted" for government health programs and clinics for use as treatment, and the same discounts will apply for its use in prevention.

"Cost is a hurdle, no doubt about it," says Carlos del Rio, co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research and a board member at HIVMA (the HIV Medicine Association). But "I think the price will come down." And, he says, it's cheaper than treating HIV.

Cost is only the beginning, though, del Rio says. Questions remain about who will prescribe the drug and how long it should be taken. "The implementation challenges we're going to face with this new approach are not insignificant."

Q: Can it be used to reduce the spread of HIV in developing countries?

A: "That's the promise," says James Loduca of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "In the U.S., if current prevention strategies were enough, we wouldn't be seeing the spread (of HIV) we do. It's the same in other countries," he says. "I can't imagine anyone saying individuals shouldn't have access to a tool that, when used appropriately, has 90% efficacy."

But del Rio, who also chairs the Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory, has doubts. "I don't think, honestly, in the short term, this is going to have much impact in the U.S., much less globally," he says. "It's a tool, but at the current price of up to $14,000 a year per individual, it's simply not possible to think this will have an immediate impact in the epidemic globally."

Q: What has been the reaction from the AIDS community?

A: Marjorie Hill, CEO of Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City, says that overall, there is a sense of "cautious optimism and a great deal of interest in this as another option people can pursue as far as HIV prevention. The concern is about cost and access."

Loduca of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation says the FDA advisory committee's recommendation to allow Truvada to be marketed for HIV prevention is a "watershed moment" in the 30-year fight against HIV/AIDS. Despite all efforts to prevent HIV transmission, he says, the rate of new infections remains high, estimated by federal health officials at between 48,000 and 56,000 each year.

"We know this is no silver bullet, and this isn't going to be the right prevention strategy for everyone," Loduca says. "Here's what we as a community know to be true: Truvada won't end AIDS by itself. But we can't end AIDS without it."

Gilead - Investor Relations - Corporate Governance - Board of Directors

Link to Article

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 14:35

John C. Martin, PhDChairman and Chief Executive Officer, Gilead SciencesJohn C. Martin, PhDChairman and Chief Executive Officer, Gilead SciencesDr. Martin joined Gilead Sciences in 1990 and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer. He served as President and Chief Executive Officer from 1996 through May 2008. Prior to joining Gilead, Dr. Martin held several leadership positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Syntex Corporation.

Dr. Martin is a member of the Board of Directors of the California Healthcare Institute and Gen-Probe Incorporated. He also serves on the University of Southern C...

James M. DennyLead Independent Director, Gilead Sciences Board of DirectorsJames M. DennyLead Independent Director, Gilead Sciences Board of DirectorsMr. Denny joined Gilead's Board of Directors in 1996 and was appointed Lead Independent Director in May 2008. He served as Chairman from 2001 until May 2008. Previously, he was Chief Financial Officer and Vice Chair at Sears, Roebuck & Co. and held oversight responsibility for many of the company's operations and staff functions.

Mr. Denny is currently Chairman of a privately held healthcare technology company. He is a past Chairman of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Northwes...

John F. Cogan, PhDSenior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford UniversityJohn F. Cogan, PhDSenior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford UniversityDr. Cogan joined Gilead's Board of Directors in 2005. He is currently the Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Professor of Public Policy at Stanford University, where his research focuses on U.S. budget and fiscal policy, social security and healthcare.

Dr. Cogan has held a number of positions in the U.S. government, including Assistant Secretary for Policy in the U.S. Department of Labor and Associate Director and Deputy Director in the U.S. Office...

Etienne F. DavignonMinister of StateChairman, GenfinaEtienne F. DavignonMinister of StateChairman, GenfinaMr. Davignon joined Gilead's Board of Directors in 1990. He is currently Minister of State and serves as Chairman of Recticel, CMB, SN Air Holding and Genfina and as a director of Sofina. Previously, he served as Chairman of Soci(C)t(C) G(C)n(C)rale de Belgique, a diversified financial and industrial company.

Mr. Davignon has served as the European Community's (EC) Commissioner for Industry and International Markets and as the EC's Vice President for Research, Industry and Energy Policies. ...

Carla A. HillsChair and Chief Executive Officer, Hills & Company, International ConsultantsCarla A. HillsChair and Chief Executive Officer, Hills & Company, International ConsultantsMrs. Hills joined Gilead's Board of Directors in 2007. She is currently the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Hills & Company, a firm providing advice to U.S. businesses on investment, trade and risk assessment issues outside the United States.

Mrs. Hills serves on the international advisory boards of J.P. Morgan Chase, Rolls Royce and the Coca-Cola Company. She is Chair of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and Co-Chair of the Inter-American Dialogue, the Council on Fo...

Kevin E. LoftonPresident and Chief Executive Officer, Catholic Health InitiativesKevin E. LoftonPresident and Chief Executive Officer, Catholic Health InitiativesMr. Lofton joined Gilead's Board of Directors in 2009. He is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Health Initiatives, a Denver-based healthcare system operating the full continuum of services from hospitals to home health agencies throughout the nation. He previously served as Chief Executive Officer of two university hospitals, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital and Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. In 2007, Mr. Lofton served as Chairm...

John W. MadiganRetired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Tribune CompanyJohn W. MadiganRetired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Tribune CompanyMr. Madigan joined Gilead's Board of Directors in 2005. He is the retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Tribune Company, a director and former chairman of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and a director at Boise Cascade.

Mr. Madigan is also a former member of the Defense Business Board of the Department of Defense, an advisor to Madison Dearborn Partners and a director and former chairman of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He serves as a trustee of Northwestern Universi...

Gordon E. Moore, PhDRetired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Intel CorporationGordon E. Moore, PhDRetired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Intel CorporationDr. Moore joined Gilead's Board of Directors in 1996, after serving as a member of the company's Business Advisory Board from 1991 until 1996. Prior to joining Gilead's board, Dr. Moore co-founded Intel Corporation and served as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.

Dr. Moore is a former Chairman and present Life Trustee of the California Institute of Technology, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Engineering (UK). He is ...

Nicholas G. MooreRetired Global Chairman, PricewaterhouseCoopersNicholas G. MooreRetired Global Chairman, PricewaterhouseCoopersMr. Moore joined Gilead's Board of Directors in 2004. He is the retired global Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a professional services firm formed in 1998 by the merger of Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse. Prior to the merger, Mr. Moore was elected Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Coopers & Lybrand (U.S.) in 1994 and Coopers & Lybrand International in 1997.

Mr. Moore is the lead independent director of NetApp Inc. and a director of Bechtel Group, Inc., Wells Fargo, In...

Richard J. Whitley, MDDistinguished Professor, Loeb Scholar Chair in Pediatrics, Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology, Medicine, and Neurosurgery, University of Alabama at BirminghamRichard J. Whitley, MDDistinguished Professor, Loeb Scholar Chair in Pediatrics, Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology, Medicine, and Neurosurgery, University of Alabama at BirminghamDr. Whitley joined Gilead's Board of Directors in 2008. He is a Distinguished Professor, Loeb Scholar Chair in Pediatrics; Director, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases; Vice-Chair, Department of Pediatrics; Senior Scientist, Department of Gene Therapy; Senior Scientist, Cancer Research and Training Center; Associate Director for Clinical Studies, Center for AIDS Research; and Co-Director, Center for Emerging Infections and Emergency Preparedness (CEIEP) for the institution.

Gayle Edlund WilsonChair, Ralph M. Parsons FoundationGayle Edlund WilsonChair, Ralph M. Parsons FoundationMrs. Wilson joined Gilead's Board of Directors in 2001. Mrs. Wilson served as California's First Lady from 1991-1999. She is Chair of the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides grants for higher education, social impact, civic, cultural and health issues.

Mrs. Wilson is also the Chair Emeritus of the Advisory Board of the California State Summer School for Math and Science (COSMOS), a member of the Board of Trustees of the California Institute of Technolo...

Per Wold-OlsenRetired President, Human Health Intercontinental Division, Merck & Co., Inc.Per Wold-OlsenRetired President, Human Health Intercontinental Division, Merck & Co., Inc.Mr. Wold-Olsen joined Gilead's Board of Directors in 2010, after serving as the Chair of the company's Health Policy Advisory Board since 2007. From 2005 to 2006, Mr. Wold-Olsen served as President of the Human Health Intercontinental Division of Merck & Co., Inc., a leading global pharmaceutical company. From 1997 until 2005, he served as President of Human Health Europe, Middle East/Africa and Worldwide Human Health Marketing for Merck.

Mr. Wold-Olsen is currently Chairman of the...

George P. Shultz, PhDDistinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution,Stanford UniversityGeorge P. Shultz, PhDDistinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution,Stanford UniversityDr. Shultz served on Gilead's Board of Directors from 1996 until May 2006 and currently serves as Director Emeritus. Dr. Shultz is a Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a director of the Fremont Group and Accretive Health.

From 1982 until 1989, Dr. Shultz served as the U.S. Secretary of State and previously served as Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Labor and Director of the Office of Management and Budget. He was also Dean of the Graduate School of Business ...

TRUVADA.com

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Thu, 29 Nov 2012 14:31

For information about TRUVADA for a PrEP indication for adults at high risk for sexually acquired HIV-1, click here >

To learn about the REMS for TRUVADA for a PrEP indication for adults at high risk for sexually acquired HIV-1, click here >

TRUVADA to Treat HIV-1 Infection Is Taken Just Once a Day in Combination TherapyThis section of Truvada.com provides information for people who are taking, or who will be taking, Truvada® (emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) as part of their combination HIV therapy. Truvada (tru-VAH-dah) is indicated in combination with other antiretroviral agents for the treatment of HIV-1 infection in adults. Truvada combines two anti-HIV medications, Emtriva® (emtricitabine 200 mg) and Viread® (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate 300 mg), into one pill that is taken once a day with or without food.

TRUVADA is also used in HIV negative adults along with safer sex practices to reduce the risk of getting HIV-1 in men who have sex with men who are at high risk for getting infected with HIV-1 through sex, and heterosexual couples where one partner has HIV-1 and the other does not. This is called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP.

TRUVADA blocks the action of a protein that HIV needs to infect your body

TRUVADA does not cure HIV or AIDS.TRUVADA alone may not keep you from getting HIV.If you have HIV infection, you may still get other infections that happen in people with HIV like TB (tuberculosis) or fungus, while taking TRUVADA.IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION about Taking TRUVADAIf you take TRUVADA to reduce the risk of getting HIV through sex (pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP), the most important information you should know is that you:

Are completely sure you do not have HIV. Tell your healthcare provider if you have symptoms like fever, feeling tired, sweating a lot (especially at night), rash, vomiting, diarrhea, joint or muscle aches, headache, sore throat, and/or enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or groin, as these may be signs of HIV infection. You must not take TRUVADA for PrEP if you have HIV or do not know your status.TRUVADA by itself is not a complete treatment for HIV infection. If you have HIV or get HIV while taking TRUVADA, you may develop resistance which makes your infection harder to treat.Just taking TRUVADA may not keep you from getting HIV. TRUVADA does not always prevent HIV infection.You must practice safer sex at all times and do not have any kind of sex without protection.Safer sex practices include consistent use of condoms, knowing your HIV status and the HIV status of your partner(s), getting tested for other sexually transmitted infections (like syphilis), and taking action to limit contact with other body fluids are needed to help you limit exposure to the HIV virus.You must get tested regularly (at least every 3 months) or as recommended by your healthcare provider. Ask your partners to also get tested. You also should get tested for other sexually transmitted infections like syphilis and gonorrhea.If you are already taking TRUVADA to prevent HIV-1 infection, and think you were exposed to the virus and have symptoms of HIV infection, your doctor may tell you to stop taking TRUVADA until an HIV test confirms that you do not have HIV-1 infection.Take your dose of TRUVADA every day, as prescribed by your doctor, and see your healthcare provider regularly.YOU SHOULD NOT TAKE TRUVADA to prevent HIV infection if you are HIV positive or if your HIV status is not known.

Please see the accompanying Medication Guide for more information about taking TRUVADA to help reduce the risk of sexually acquired HIV.

The most serious possible side effects of TRUVADA when taken for PrEP or for treating HIV infection are:

A buildup of acid in the blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious medical emergency may occur. Symptoms of lactic acidosis include weakness, unusual muscle pain, trouble breathing, nausea, vomiting, a fast or irregular heartbeat, and/or feeling cold, dizzy, or lightheaded.Serious liver problems (hepatotoxicity), with liver enlargement (hepatomegaly), and fat in the liver (steatosis). Symptoms of liver problems include your skin or the whites of your eyes turning yellow (jaundice), dark colored urine, light colored stools, lack of appetite, nausea, and/or pain in your lower stomach area.You may be more likely to get lactic acidosis or serious liver problems if you are female, very overweight (obese), or have been taking TRUVADA or similar medicines for a long time. In some cases, these serious conditions have lead to death. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any symptoms of these conditions.If you have hepatitis B virus (HBV) and stop taking TRUVADA, your hepatitis may suddenly get worse. Your healthcare provider will monitor your condition for several months.Do not take TRUVADA if you also take: Products containing emtricitabine or tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (a/k/a/ tenofovir DF) like ATRIPLA (efavirenz/emtricitabine/tenofovir DF), COMPLERA (emtricitabine/rilpivirine/tenofovir DF), VIREAD (tenofovir DF), EMTRIVA (emtricitabine), Combivir (lamivudine/zidovudine), Epivir or Epivir-HBV (lamivudine), Epzicom (abacavir sulfate/lamivudine), or Trizivir (abacavir sulfate/lamivudine/zidovudine) because these medicines contain the same or similar active ingredients. TRUVADA should also not be used with HEPSERA (adefovir dipivoxil).

Other serious side effects include:

New or worsening kidney problems: If you have had kidney problems or take other medicines that can cause kidney problems, your healthcare provider should do regular blood tests to check your kidneys.Bone problems: Lab tests show changes in the bones of patients treated with VIREAD (tenofovir DF), a medicine in TRUVADA. Some patients have developed thinning of the bones (osteopenia), which could lead to fractures.Changes in body fat: Changes in the distribution of body fat have been seen in some people taking TRUVADA. The long term health effect of this is not known.Symptoms of inflammation: In some patients with advanced HIV-1 infection symptoms of inflammation from previous infections may occur soon after TRUVADA is started. If you notice any symptoms of infection, tell your healthcare provider right away.Common side effects include:

The most common side effects of TRUVADA when taken with other anti-HIV-1 medicines to treat HIV infection are diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, headache, fatigue, abnormal dreams, sleeping problems, rash, and depression. In clinical trials of TRUVADA taken alone for pre-exposure prophylaxis, the most common side effects reported were stomach area (abdomen) pain, headache, and decreased weight.Tell your healthcare provider if you:

Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant: It is not known if TRUVADA can harm your unborn baby, so speak to your doctor about the risk of using TRUVADA while pregnant.Are breastfeeding: Women with HIV should not breastfeed, because HIV can be passed through breast milk to the baby. Also, the components of TRUVADA can pass through breast milk, and it is not known if this will harm your baby. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way to feed your baby.Have or had liver, kidney, or bone problems, including hepatitis virus infection or if you have ever been on dialysis.Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Your healthcare provider may need to follow you more closely or adjust your therapy if you take Videx EC (didanosine), Reyataz (atazanavir sulfate), or Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) with TRUVADA.

These are not all the side effects of TRUVADA. If you have any questions about side effects, talk to your healthcare provider. Please see the full Prescribing Information and Medication Guide.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.FDA.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

HIV and AIDS Activities > Truvada approved to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted HIV in people who are not infected with the virus

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Thu, 29 Nov 2012 14:25

On July 16, 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved Truvada (a fixed dose combination of emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) to reduce the risk of HIV infection in uninfected individuals who are at high risk of HIV infection and who may engage in sexual activity with HIV-infected partners.Truvada is to be used for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in combination with safer sex practices to prevent sexually-acquired HIV infection in adults at high risk. Truvada is the first drug approved for this indication.

Truvada for PrEP is meant to be used as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention plan that includes risk reduction counseling consistent and correct condom use, regular HIV testing, and screening for and treatment of other sexually-transmitted infections. Truvada is not a substitute for safer sex practices

FDA previously approved Truvada (August, 2004) to be used in combination with other antiretroviral agents for the treatment of HIV-infected adults and children 12 years or older.

As part of PrEP, HIV-uninfected individuals who are at high risk will need to take Truvada daily to lower their chances of becoming infected with HIV should they be exposed to the virus. Again, PrEP indication means Truvada is approved for use as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy that includes other prevention methods, such as safe sex practices, risk reduction counseling, and regular HIV testing.

As a part of this action, FDA is strengthening Truvada's Boxed Warning to alert health care professionals and uninfected individuals that Truvada for PrEP must only be used by individuals who are confirmed to be HIV-negative prior to prescribing the drug and at least every three months during use to reduce the risk of development of resistant HIV-1 variants. The drug is contraindicated for PrEP in individuals with unknown or positive HIV status.

Truvada for PrEP is being approved with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). The central component of this REMS is a prescriber training and education program to assist prescribers in counseling and managing individuals who are taking or considering Truvada for PrEP. The training and education program will not restrict distribution of Truvada but will provide information about the important elements of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy, the importance of adhering to the recommended daily dosing regimen, the serious risks of taking Truvada for PrEP if already infected with the virus or becoming infected with HIV while taking Truvada for the PrEP indication.

''The REMS for Truvada for the PrEP indication is aimed at educating health care professionals and uninfected individuals to help ensure its safe use for this indication without placing an unnecessary burden on health care professionals and patients who use Truvada for treating HIV infection.

Truvada's safety and efficacy for PrEP were demonstrated in two large, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. The iPrEx trial evaluated Truvada in 2,499 HIV-negative men or transgender women who have sex with men and with evidence of high risk behavior for HIV infection, such as inconsistent or no condom use during sex with a partner of positive or unknown HIV status, a high number of sex partners, and exchange of sex for commodities. Results showed Truvada was effective in reducing the risk of HIV infection by 42 percent compared with placebo in this population. Efficacy was strongly correlated with drug adherence in this trial.

The Partners PrEP trial was conducted in 4,758 heterosexual couples where one partner was HIV-infected and the other was not (serodiscordant couples). The trial evaluated the efficacy and safety of Truvada and tenofovir versus placebo in preventing HIV infection in the uninfected male or female partner. Results showed Truvada reduced the risk of becoming infected by 75 percent compared with placebo.

No new side effects were identified in the clinical trials evaluating Truvada for the PrEP indication. The most common side effects reported with Truvada include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, headache, and weight loss. Serious adverse events in general, as well as those specifically related to kidney or bone toxicity, were uncommon.

As a condition of approval, Truvada's manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, Inc., is required to collect viral isolates from individuals who acquire HIV while taking Truvada and evaluate these isolates for the presence of resistance. Additionally, the company is required to collect data on pregnancy outcomes for women who become pregnant while taking Truvada for PrEP and to conduct a trial to evaluate levels of drug adherence and their relationship to adverse events, risk of seroconversion, and resistance development in seroconverters. Gilead has committed to provide national drug utilization data in order to better characterize individuals who utilize Truvada for a PrEP indication and to develop an adherence questionnaire that will assist prescribers in identifying individuals at risk for low compliance.

Gilead Sciences, Inc. is based in Foster City, CA.

Additional Information

Richard KleinOffice of Special Health IssuesFood and Drug Administration

Kimberly StrubleDivision of Antiviral Drug ProductsFood and Drug Administration

Secretary Clinton Delivers Remarks at the 2012 International AIDS Conference - YouTube

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Thu, 29 Nov 2012 13:44

Hillary Clinton launches blueprint for eradication of Aids | Society | guardian.co.uk

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Thu, 29 Nov 2012 13:43

Hillary Clinton told the International Aids Conference in Washington DC in July: 'We will not back off and we will not back down'. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is launching a blueprint for the eradication of Aids across the globe, which will aim to focus efforts on preventing the spread of the disease and reaching all those who need treatment.

Clinton called for the blueprint in her keynote speech at the International Aids Conference in Washington DC in July, when she pledged that the Obama administration would do whatever it took to end the HIV epidemic. "I'm here to make it absolutely clear that the US is committed and will remain committed to achieving an Aids-free generation. We will not back off and we will not back down. We will fight for the resources necessary to achieve this historic milestone," she told the 25,000-strong conference.

The blueprint has been masterminded by the US global Aids co-ordinator, ambassador Eric Goosby, who will join her at the launch on Thursday, together with the executive director of UNAids, Michel Sidib(C). It is expected to focus on four streams: saving lives, smart investments, shared responsibility, and driving results of science.

Aids campaigners say the end is in sight, with new medical tools such as drugs that keep people alive to prevent transmission of the infection. In the summer Clinton announced new funding to identify the most effective interventions, to ensure funds were spent where they would do most good. She also spoke of the need to do more for women, who are the majority of those infected, and for marginalised groups such as drug users and sex workers, who are worst affected by the epidemic.

The big question is whether the US administration is prepared to put up a substantial amount more in funding in order to finish the job.

"We're expecting the US blueprint for an Aids-free generation to be a top-level strategic document that demonstrates US political commitment to maximising the scientific know-how and tools available in order to lead us to the tipping point that will bring about an end to Aids," said Anton Ofield-Kerr, head of policy at the International HIV/Aids Alliance.

"It's essential that barriers currently impeding the HIV response such as criminalisation of vulnerable groups at most risk of the epidemic are also taken into account and we would hope that the US and the UK jointly, as the largest donors to the global HIV response, would lead the way together on this issue and put in place a joined up approach that addresses structural, behavioural and biomedical interventions. "

Adderall has unwitting NFL players testing positive for a banned substance | NJ.com

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Wed, 28 Nov 2012 15:36

Giants safety Tyler Sash isn't one for public speaking. Nerves take over. Concentration fails him. He stammers through sentences. So when his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa, decided to honor their local Super Bowl hero last March with Tyler Sash Day, he knew he would have to say a few words and confront his fear.

The solution: A prescription from his doctor for Adderall, an amphetamine used to treat attention deficit disorders that he says he had never taken before. On Saturday, March 24, Sash said, he took two pills. The next morning, before accepting a key to the city, he took two more. The effects were immediate, he said. Suddenly, he was detail-oriented and meticulous like never before. He made it through the ceremony without a hitch.

Realizing it, or not, Sash had stepped on a supercharged fault line.

By chance, the next day, the National Football League called to inform Sash he had been randomly selected for a drug test, Sash said. Sash supplied a urine sample, thinking nothing of it until a week and a half later, when a FedEx envelope arrived from the league office.

It was news the modern athlete dreads. The test had found traces of a performance-enhancing drug in his system, and he faced suspension. Adderall, a prescription drug, was the culprit, he said.

By now, this is a saga with echoes familiar across the sports plain. Sash is apparently not Lance Armstrong, who was accused of doping that stretched out over many years. Nor is he baseball's Ryan Braun, whose punishment for a positive test was ultimately overturned on a technicality.

But Sash, along with two other Giants and a growing number of NFL players who say they have tested positive for using Adderall, have been lumped in the same group '-- athletes denying wrongdoing with pleas of ignorance or insisting it was an accident or that they had been misled by a trainer or doctor.

They are met with the usual barrage of questions over substances banned by their sport: When did you take it? Why did you take it? Did you know you were taking it?

This year, the cases have multiplied.

Since last December, at least 10 players have blamed Adderall for their positive tests, including three this month alone. Among them are the Seattle Seahawks' two starting cornerbacks, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, a standout at the position.

The string of cases has raised the notion that Adderall has become a drug of fashion in the NFL. A person who serves as an adviser for several players around the league told The Star-Ledger that players use the drug during training camp and the early part of the season to help them study their team's playbook.

For many, their chances of making the team and succeeding in the ultracompetitive NFL depends largely on their capacity to learn the playbook, which can be hundreds of pages thick, densely packed with a series of diagrams that to the untrained eye resembles Rorschach tests.

The cases reflect, too, the tricky business of enforcing a drug policy that tries to distinguish between players who take the drug to gain an advantage and those who are treated with Adderall for a chronic condition.

These young athletes grew up in a time when Adderall and other prescription drugs, like Ritalin, were commonly dispensed to remedy attention deficit disorders.

Adderall's use, players and health experts say, has spiked, too, on college campuses, further embedding the notion among players that it is an acceptable drug.

Sash, a backup safety, drew a four-game suspension to start the season, costing him $120,000. His appeal to the league, arguing that he did not realize Adderall posed a problem, that it had been prescribed by a doctor and that he had taken it only those two days in the dead part of the football calendar, went nowhere, as did a personal meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Will Hill, a Giants first-year safety who began his four-game ban the day Sash was activated, also blamed Adderall for a positive test.

Among the NFL players suspended this year, only running back Andre Brown of the Giants '-- disciplined in March '-- won his appeal so far. Brown said he provided evidence to the league that he has been prescribed Adderall since high school for a clear diagnosis '-- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, otherwise known as ADHD. He said he had been allowed to use it in his first four years in the league through a so-called ''therapeutic use exemption,'' the only way a player is allowed to use a banned substance.

The NFL Players Association, confronted with the task of educating nearly 2,000 players on NFL rosters, last month circulated a memo on prescription drugs to agents and player representatives around the league.

The union's memo, part of a campaign called ''Talking Points,'' focused on Adderall and outlined the professional, financial, legal and health risks of the drug. The union asked that the memo be forwarded to players and posted in locker rooms.

The collective bargaining agreement bars the NFL from commenting on cases. But the league constantly bangs the drum on banned drugs, preaching against them at a combine for rookies each year and listing the banned drugs in its Player Policies Handbook.

In addition, the players association released a Player Planner app for smart phones and tablets that includes the prohibited list, and a poster campaign underscores the consequences of taking any substances without proper consulting. The union created a Twitter account

(@NFLPA) that posts a message on drug policies once a week. And after Colorado and Washington voters approved recreational use of marijuana, the union tweeted that the NFL's Substance Abuse Policy remains the same.

Somehow, with all that, Sash insists he never got the word about Adderall '-- not at the NCAA level where it was also banned, not at his combine in 2011, and not through the NFL's Player Policy handbook, which he admitted he didn't read.

''I'm the type of guy that does everything by the book, and if I would've known that it was illegal, I wouldn't have even done it,'' he said.

Several Giants teammates said they were also unaware Adderall was banned, even when it has been prescribed by a doctor for a proper diagnosis, and allowed only after the granting of an exemption by the league.

''There's actually a list in the treatment room on the back door,'' said Spencer Paysinger, a second-year linebacker. ''But you just look at it, it's like over a 100 words, 24-character-long words that you can't even pronounce so it's kind of like an out-of-sight, out-of-mind-type thing.''

Growing abuse

Adderall isn't a steroid that expands biceps to cartoon proportions or an elaborate concoction such as erythropoietin '-- which holds extra oxygen through the bloodstream and which Lance Armstrong was accused of using. With the generic name, ''amphetamine and dextroamphetamine,'' it stimulates the central nervous system, affecting chemicals in the brain which contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control.

Properly prescribed, the drug increases focus and alertness and is relied upon by millions of Americans as a remedy for attention-deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

Used improperly, it can also be a dangerous drug, said Louis Baxter, a former president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, who likened its possible effects to other stimulants like cocaine.

The Federal Drug Administration classifies Adderall as a Schedule II drug, meaning it is accepted for limited medical use and could lead to addiction. But its abuse has become rampant, particularly on college campuses, said Frank Greenagel, a health services counselor at Rutgers. Students fake symptoms to get a doctor's prescription or buy it from other students for recreational and academic use, he said.

Websites, a resource for information, may also spawn abuse, Baxter said.

''Everything is on the internet so people look it up and they go and they say, 'I got this symptom, I got that symptom, I can't concentrate.' And some physicians don't thoroughly evaluate the situation, and they make the diagnosis.''

Amphetamines have played a role in sports since the 1950s. It wasn't until 2006 that Major League Baseball began mandatory testing on players for amphetamines even though amphetamine use in the sport was a poorly kept secret dating back decades. Amphetamines are also banned in the NCAA, NBA, and International OlympicCommittee, among other athletic organizations.

The NFL first banned amphetamines in 1995 under the Policy and Programs on Substances of Abuse. In 2006, the NFL and the players union agreed to move amphetamines such as Adderall over to the Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances Policy.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail that the shift was made to put amphetamines in the same category with other performance-enhancing drugs, and that it brought the league in line with policies established by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

NFL players are allowed to use Adderall and other banned substances with accepted medical uses if a ''therapeutic use exemption'' is granted before treatment. In order to obtain an exemption for Adderall, a player must have a diagnosis of ADD, ADHD or narcolepsy. Exemptions are reviewed annually, and a full re-evaluation must be completed every three years.

After each of his first three seasons, Brown, the Giants running back, said he filed the proper paperwork. But after last season, he failed to do so on time.

Both the NFL and the players union declined to reveal the number of exempted players currently in the league. But in an e-mail, the union said that ''increased diagnoses of ADD/ADHD in the general public have led to a corresponding increase in prescriptions for medications to treat these disorders.''

Misunderstanding?

Tyler Sash was never diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, or narcolepsy. When his doctor prescribed him Adderall, he never filed for an exemption, not that it would have mattered without a proper diagnosis.

His teammate, Hill, from West Orange, says his situation was different, having been diagnosed with ADHD on May 5, prior to signing with the Giants. Hill, who said he took Ritalin as a child and was assigned tutors at Florida to combat his undiagnosed disorder, was unaware of the league's rules on Adderall until he attended a symposium on drugs in July after he had already been drug tested.

Hill said he went straight to Charles Way, the Giants' director of player development, to inform him he was on Adderall. Hill recalled Way told him to stop using it, but it was too late '-- he had been tested. Efforts to talk to Way were denied by the Giants.

''I never knew,'' said Hill, who emphasized he hasn't used Adderall since receiving the letter from the league in August and wasn't on any other medication as of two weeks ago.

''That was the thing. When I came in, that was brand new information. When I signed the paperwork, it didn't say, 'If you got this, go here.' ''

Hill lost his appeal, but said he would file for a future exemption. Without being allowed to take Adderall since August, Hill said he has had difficulty maintaining focus during team meetings.

Giants player representative Zak DeOssie acknowledged there was ''maybe'' a misunderstanding with younger players on the exact guidelines for Adderall because it has become so prevalent in the college communities they've come from. But he anticipates that as awareness circulates and players see the consequences, Adderall use will diminish.

''The education part of telling us what to take and what not to take is very hazy,'' said Paysinger, the linebacker. ''We're given a 50-, 60-page rulebook and a list of what to take and what not to take.''

While Sash and others claim innocence and ignorance, Adderall has given them a label as a rule-breaker, an athlete seeking performance-enhancing shortcuts. Fairly or not.''I didn't know, or I would've went about it the right way,'' Sash said. ''At the end of the day, you're responsible for what you put into your body.''

Jorge Castillo: jcastillo@starledger.com

Life in Orwell-Huxleyville: ADHD drugs reduce crime!

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Source: Dr. Jones reports

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 15:46

-- Older teens and adults with attention deficit disorder are much less likely to commit a crime while on ADHD medication, a provocative study from Sweden found.

It also showed in dramatic fashion how much more prone people with ADHD are to break the law '' four to seven times more likely than others.

The findings suggest that Ritalin, Adderall and other drugs that curb hyperactivity and boost attention remain important beyond the school-age years and that wider use of these medications in older patients might help curb crime.

"There definitely is a perception that it's a disease of childhood and you outgrow your need for medicines," said Dr. William Cooper, a pediatrics and preventive medicine professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. "We're beginning to understand that ADHD is a condition for many people that really lasts throughout their life."

He has researched ADHD but had no role in the new study, which was led by Paul Lichtenstein of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The findings were published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

About 5 percent of children in the U.S. and other Western countries have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can cause impulsive behavior and difficulty paying attention. Many youngsters are given medication to help them sit still and focus in school. Some people have symptoms into adulthood.

"It's well known that individuals with ADHD have much higher rates of criminality and drug abuse than people without ADHD," but the effect of treatment on this is not well known, Lichtenstein said.

Using Swedish national registers, researchers studied about 16,000 men and 10,000 women ages 15 and older who had been diagnosed with ADHD. The country has national health care, so information was available on all drugs prescribed.

Court and prison records were used to track convictions from 2006 through 2009 and see whether patients were taking ADHD drugs when their crimes were committed. A patient was considered to have gone off medication after six months or more with no new prescription.

For comparison purposes, researchers matched each ADHD patient with 10 similar people without the disorder from the general population.

They found:

_ About 37 percent of men with ADHD were convicted of at least one crime during that four-year period, compared with just 9 percent of men without ADHD. For women, the crime rates were 15 percent with ADHD and 2 percent without it.

_ Use of ADHD medicines reduced the likelihood of committing a crime by 32 percent in men and 41 percent in women.

The crimes were mostly burglaries or thefts. About 4,000 of more than 23,000 crimes committed were violent. ADHD medication use reduced all types of crime, Lichtenstein said.

Cooper called the results striking. "I was surprised by the magnitude of the effect of the medications and the fact that it was so consistent across all the analyses they did," such as the type of drug being used and the types of crimes committed, he said.

The Swedish Research Council, the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Wellcome Trust and other agencies paid for the research.

ADHD medicines may help people organize their lives better and reduce impulsive behavior. They also bring a patient into counseling and health care, said Philip Asherson, a professor at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London.

"It's not necessarily just the medication" that is reducing the likelihood of crime, he said.

Still, Asherson said the study should lead to wider use of the drugs: "It firmly establishes the link between ADHD and criminality and establishes that medication has an impact on that criminality."

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AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.

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Online:

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Ministry of Truth

Leveson inquiry calls for $1.53m fines in toughest press regulations in 300 years | The Australian

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Thu, 29 Nov 2012 14:52

THE British government is under pressure to impose the tightest regulation on the press in 300 years following recommendations last night to impose tough new legal costs on any publisher that does not take part in a new independent regulation system.

Inquiry chief Brian Leveson shied away from urging direct government control of the press, but urged new legislation underpinning regulation in a far-reaching shake-up which Prime Minister David Cameron will be under enormous pressure to accept.

Morning Joe on Benghazi: Klein was Right, and It's Irrelevant Because Rice Isn't Running for Mayor

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Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 16:05

Mike Brzezinski defended Joe Klein's repetition of the Obama Administration's talking points on Benghazi by stating that Klein was "on the truth." Richard Stengel of TIME stated that Republicans shouldn't ask questions about the handling of the Benghazi attack during the confirmation hearings for Ambassador Susan Rice because Rice isn't running to be Mayor of Benghazi.

Pentagon Plots To Nuke The Moon - YouTube

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Thu, 29 Nov 2012 14:50

Out There

NASA Mars Discovery Misunderstanding: Mission leader excited about entire mission, not specific discovery.

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Wed, 28 Nov 2012 16:05

Self portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, which arrived at the Red Planet on Aug. 6, 2012.

Andrew Bodrov/360Cities.net/NASA/JPL/Caltech.

Remember last week when we told you about how NASA's Curiosity rover had reportedly sent back some very interesting data from Mars in the form of a soil sample that could be, in the apparent words of one of the mission's leaders, "one for the history books"? Yeah, well, now NASA is saying that all the hype is actually just a giant misunderstanding between the scientist and the NPR reporter who interviewed him'--a mistake that was then multiplied many times over by each news outlet (again, including us) who picked up the story.

Here, let's have Mashable, which did the legwork to follow up on the original NPR report, explain (emphasis ours):

The quote heard around the world came shortly after [scientist John] Grotzinger explained that NASA had just received the initial data from Curiosity's first soil experiment using a new Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, which is capable of identifying organic compounds.

Naturally, the public assumed that this meant Curiosity had discovered a complex organic molecule. But while NASA does have the latest soil samples, the mission team tells Mashable that researchers haven't determined that particular groundbreaking discovery. ...

What Grotzinger was actually trying to convey is that Curiosity's data over her entire two-year mission will further our knowledge of Mars more than ever before, making it a historical mission.

So to recap, Grotzinger was apparently trying to express just how excited he was about the entire mission, not about any one specific discovery; it is the sum of all of Curiosity's past and future discoveries that he thinks will be historic. His particular choice of words'--"This data is gonna be one for the history books"'--however, along with the suggestion that his team was currently double- and triple-checking data it had received (something that is standard procedure) gave NPR the mistaken impression that there was something specific that NASA was eager to celebrate as a major discovery.

The original NPR report (which hadn't been corrected as of Tuesday night) made it pretty clear that the reporter doing the interview, Joe Palca, thought Grotzinger was hyping a specific result:

Grotzinger says they recently put a soil sample in SAM, and the analysis shows something remarkable. "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good," he says.

Grotzinger can see the pained look on my face as I wait, hoping he'll tell me what the heck he's found, but he's not providing any more information.

While it's a little odd that NASA's communication team didn't manage to quickly quash the rumor after the original report aired, Veronica McGregor, NASA's news and social media manager for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told The Slatest late Tuesday night that they did their best to set the story straight.

The day after the story first aired, the team used Curiosity's official Twitter account to tweet: "What did I discover on Mars? That rumors spread fast online. My team considers this whole mission 'one for the history books'." That message, however, was largely lost in cyberspace over the long holiday weekend, possibly in small part because the account often strikes a somewhat whimsical tone. But McGregor told us that NASA was also sure to pass along the correct info to any media outlet that inquired about the quote in question.

As for how the original misunderstanding happened in the first place, McGregor explained:

"The short story is NPR was there when the first soil results were hitting the ground and the team was ecstatic to see data. Could they analyze that data on the fly and give an accurate result? No. In fact, they've spent a good part of two weeks sorting through the data in order to reach conclusions based on solid science."

Regardless of whether you're willing to buy into a conspiracy theory (and let's be honest, this is NASA, so some people will), it's pretty clear that anyone hoping for major news of the type originally suggested will have to keep waiting for now. Grotzinger and his team are set to discuss their latest findings on Monday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, but a NASA spokesman tells the New York Times that those findings will be "interesting" rather than "earthshaking."

A version of this post was first published on Tuesday at 6:01 p.m.

**Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

Coming Soon: A Very Bright Comet - Neatorama

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Jamie Foxx Gives ''Honor to God and Our Lord and Savior Barack Obama'' (Video) | MRCTV

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Mon, 26 Nov 2012 15:43

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Daily Press Briefing - Chiner Passport

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Tue, 27 Nov 2012 03:34

12:54 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Monday. I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving and a little bit of a rest. We are back. I have nothing at the top. Let's go to what's on your minds.

QUESTION:Can you tell us, following your statement on Egypt the other day, what, if anything, you've heard from the Egyptians to ease your concerns and what the U.S. position is currently on the situation?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are following the unfolding political situation in Egypt very closely. The Secretary had a phone call with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr this morning, not only to inquire about that situation but also to talk about the follow-up on Gaza. She took that opportunity to reiterate some of the points that you saw in our statement, that we want to see the constitutional process move forward in a way that does not overly concentrate power in one set of hands, that ensures that rule of law, checks and balances, protection of the rights of all groups in Egypt are upheld, et cetera.

Our understanding from the Egyptian side is that there are now discussions ongoing among a number of the stakeholders, that President Morsi is conducting consultations with various groups, including with the judiciary. We had called for that in our statement, and the Secretary underscored that, the importance of settling these disputes in a democratic manner. So we look forward to seeing the outcome of that.

QUESTION: Can you say if your concerns have been at all eased by what the Secretary heard from the Foreign Minister?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we had wanted to see this issue settled through democratic discussion among the various stakeholders in Egypt. Discussions are clearly being held. We await the results of those.

QUESTION: Okay. But I guess, were you concerned that that wouldn't happen and that this might deteriorate into a '' just a permanent power grab? And if those were your fears, have they been eased?

MS. NULAND: We were concerned, not only that there would be concerns out there, we were concerned that there would be violence, that there were competing demonstrations, et cetera. So the fact that the right people are talking to each other is a good step, but obviously we want to see this issue resolved in a way that meets the standards and principles that we've been supporting all the way through, since the Egyptian revolution began.

Please.

QUESTION: Do you regard President Morsi's decree as non-democratic?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think our statement speaks for our view on this and the various concerns that we had.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, it's a simple question, though. Is it '' did it '' do you regard it as non-democratic? I mean, it was a decree issued by a president who operates without a legislature and who was, essentially, putting his actions above review by the courts. So is that non-democratic, in your point of view?

MS. NULAND: Again, we were very clear in the statement that we issued that we want to ensure that, as this governance situation goes forward, that the rights of all Egyptians are protected, that there is a balance of power, that there are checks and balances in the system. As you know, they are operating in a very unclear political environment now, as they try to get a constitution drafted, approved, put forward to referendum. So there are a number of things at play, but our enduring principles on which our support is based haven't changed through any of this.

QUESTION: And when --

MS. NULAND: Said.

QUESTION: Just one --

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- one small thing, sorry, Said. When was the conversation with the Foreign Minister?

MS. NULAND: This morning.

QUESTION: This morning?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Victoria, on that (inaudible), you mentioned the rule of law, checks and balances. And on the other hand, Morsi claims that this is temporary. In the absence of any kind of mechanism to ensure that it can be temporary, what is suggested for Morsi? What '' when you talk with him, what do you tell him on this whole point?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, as I said, we underscore the principles that we want to see undergird the conversation that they are having. He has made clear, and part of the decree was to give the constituent assembly more time to come up with a constitution. So when he says it's temporary, our understanding is it's temporary, until there is a constitution that can be approved. But the concern was that there were various issues that were not well represented in the way he went forward with this.

QUESTION: Do you have enough to take him at his word when he says temporary?

MS. NULAND: Again, Said, what is important to us is that these issues be settled through dialogue, that these issues be settled democratically. We are encouraged that the various important stakeholders in Egypt are now talking to each other, that President Morsi is consulting on the way forward, but we're not going to prejudge where that's going to go.

QUESTION: And finally, do you consider Morsi to be quite the opportunist who has taken advantage of, let's say, the Gaza success '' he considers it to be a success with the Secretary of State going there '' to go ahead and implement these things?

MS. NULAND: I can't speak for the timing of these decisions. I can say that, whereas the Secretary and President Morsi did discuss the importance of getting to a constitution that protected the rights of all Egyptians, that had checks and balances, we did not have any forewarning of this decree, including when she was there.

Please, Margaret.

QUESTION: Toria, have the events of the past few days complicated U.S. support for unlocking that emergency cash that was promised by the President some time ago and U.S. support for the IMF loan that was arranged pre this change in constitutional power?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, we have been strong supporters of Egypt and the IMF coming to an agreement that would support increasing economic reforms in Egypt to get them on a stable footing and then would provide them with some funding, so we were pleased to see that they've come to an agreement there. We've also been clear with the Congress that we think that the support in the form of economic support funds that we've pledged to Egypt should go forward. But obviously, I think everybody's watching now that this current set of issues has a democratic resolution.

QUESTION: So it has complicated it? Is it fair to say that?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think everybody is watching how this goes forward. All of the support that we provide for Egypt, whether it's political support, economic support, has been in support of an Egypt that is becoming increasingly democratic, that will have a constitution that protects all of these rights. So that's the trajectory that we want to see Egypt on, so we need to see how this latest round gets resolved.

Anne.

QUESTION: In that vein, you've talked about how they're in an uncertain period and that a lot of the things that Morsi announced the other day were described as temporary. It seems to me that he's basically saying, ''Trust me; it'll work out the good way.'' And this money and U.S. support would be contingent on that. At heart, do you trust him that it'll come out the good way?

MS. NULAND: Again, as I said at the beginning, and as I've been saying for the last 10 minutes, these moves raised concerns not only in Egypt, they raised concerns in the international community about the way forward here. We are pleased to see that there now are conversations going on about how to move forward, that the various stakeholders in this conversation are being consulted. So it is a very murky, uncertain period in terms of the legal and constitutional underpinnings, which makes it all the more important that the process proceed on the basis of democratic dialogue and consultation.

Please, Michel.

QUESTION: Toria, has the Secretary learned about this decision when she was in Cairo last Wednesday?

MS. NULAND: No, she did not. She heard about it when everybody else heard about it, when it was announced publicly.

QUESTION: On the other part of the phone call that didn't involve this '' these changes, one, did '' has '' did she make any other calls related to Gaza and the ceasefire? And then '' well, actually, let's say one is: What did they discuss about the ceasefire, she and the Egyptian Foreign Minister? And then two, did '' has she made any additional '' any other calls except to the Egyptians on the ceasefire?

MS. NULAND: She spoke to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday. That was more of a readout on her own visit because they had been together in Israel, but then they had split ways, and about follow-up also following her conversation with President Abbas.

With regard to the Gaza situation, as you know, there was a commitment to the ceasefire and then there was a commitment that conversations would begin some 24 hours later on some of the underlying issues. So obviously, she was eager to touch base on that and get a sense from the Egyptian side of how that is going. Our sense is that discussions are ongoing, that the sides are talking, and we will see what comes of that as well.

QUESTION: And when you say our sense is that, that's the sense that she got --

MS. NULAND: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: -- from the Foreign Minister?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Toria --

MS. NULAND: Said.

QUESTION: -- I just wanted to follow up on Margaret's point on the IMF loan '' $6 billion worth, I think '' is there a mechanism to make them contingent or make them conditional on this temporary thing having an actual window, an actual timetable?

MS. NULAND: Well, the IMF makes a recommendation to the Board. The Board then has to meet and decide. I think we're in that in-between stage. Again, I think we're all watching how the situation evolves in Egypt.

QUESTION: But could you explain to us or clarify that this actually can be done? Could we say we will give you these loans provided that you do one, two, three?

MS. NULAND: I think I'm going to send you to the IMF on political conditionality.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. NULAND: In general, IMF conditionality is economically based and is part of a package that is pre-negotiated with the government before it comes forward to the Board.

QUESTION: Yes, please. You mentioned few times the word watching, we are watching. Is it a status of wait and see what will happen, or you are trying to put some kind of, not condition, at least guidelines to what may take place? Because the concern there is that at a certain point, as before, security will be better deal to have it '' security deal then to have a democracy in Egypt?

MS. NULAND: I think we've been very clear in our public statements and in our private statements about the Egypt that we support, of the trajectory for Egypt that we think is best for the region, best for our relationship, and we were not shy about making those points very clearly in the statement that we released '' I think it was on Wednesday or whenever it was, might've been Friday '' and in the private conversations that we've had with Egyptians.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: When you were asked the question about the IMF loan and U.S. '' potential U.S. support for that in the Board, you said we're in this in-between period between when the staff makes a recommendation and when the Board makes a decision on it. As you well know, the United States has the largest and, effectively, a blocking share on the Board. And your response was, ''I think we're all watching how this unfolds.'' Which suggests to me that you are hinting at the possibility that your support is partially contingent on your support for that IMF loan in the Board is partially contingent on how the political situation unfolds.

MS. NULAND: I would not leap to any conclusions about that. We have been very supportive all the way through of Egypt and the IMF coming to agreement. They have now come to agreement. We think that Egypt needs IMF support. It also needs to be on the reform path that it and the IMF have now agreed to.

With regard to U.S. ESF, as we made clear, we support clearing this through the Congress, but the Congress is also watching democratic developments in Egypt. So it's on this basis that I think all of us want to see the consultations that are ongoing now on a way forward among President Morsi, various other constituencies in Egypt, including the judiciary, go forward in a way that is peaceful, that is democratic, and that reassures everybody about the democratic trajectory that Egypt is on.

QUESTION: So U.S. support for the IMF '' U.S. support in the board for the IMF loan is in no way contingent on the resolution of the political disagreements in Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Arshad, I don't want to prefigure how this is going to come forward to the board, nor do I want to make any definitive statements of '' beyond what I've already said about what we're expecting in Egypt.

Please. You are '' who do you represent, please?

QUESTION: I'm (inaudible), Al-Ahram newspaper, Al-Ahram, the Egyptian newspaper. Have you discussed the unfolding crisis with the opposition figures in Egypt?

MS. NULAND: Our Ambassador, Anne Patterson, has been in contact with all of the different political groups and factions in Egypt. She's also been trying to get a sense from folks about a way forward here, and been supportive of all of the basic principles that we have been underscoring from the beginning. So yes, we've been in consultation with everybody on the Egyptian side.

QUESTION: Change subject?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, please.

QUESTION:The Palestinian Authority will present this week its bid for Palestine to become a UN nonmember observer state. Do you also oppose this step '' how will you oppose it in the General Assembly?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know the '' we've obviously been very clear that we do not think that this step is going to bring the Palestinian people any closer to a state, that we think it is a mistake, that we oppose it, that we will oppose it. The Secretary was very clear with President Abbas when she was in Ramallah last week that our position on this has not changed, and we are continuing to make that clear, not only directly to President Abbas and the Palestinians, but also to all of our UN partners as well.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary discussed this issue with the Israelis when she was in Tel Aviv?

MS. NULAND: Obviously, it was one of the subjects that we discussed when the Secretary was in Egypt. It was in Ramallah '' Jerusalem. Let me try a third place. Yeah, Jerusalem.

QUESTION: Some reports say that you actually warned Israel against taking the retaliatory steps against the Palestinian Authority if they go to the United Nation. Could you clarify that for us? Is that true?

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to get into any of the details of our conversation on this, either with the Palestinians or with the Israelis or with any others, other than to say that we continue to try to dissuade the Palestinians from taking this action. We think it's going to be complicating and potentially a step backwards in terms of the larger goal, which is a negotiated solution.

QUESTION: There have been calls, as a result of the Gaza fighting, that it is really time to put the Palestinian issue back on the front burner. There have been calls by Mr. Hague, the Foreign Minister of England, and others saying that you can only take the lead. Will such a step actually sort of push you forward toward this issue, or sort of take you back from this issue?

MS. NULAND: I think we've said all the way along that our concern is that this is complicating, that it makes the process of restarting the negotiations potentially harder. And this is among the arguments that we are using in trying to dissuade the Palestinians from this step, that it's potentially complicating.

QUESTION: So you are not likely to push forward in the next few months for '' to restart the negotiation as a result of Palestinian ungratefulness and action at the UN?

MS. NULAND: Again, this doesn't aid that process at all. Beyond that, I'm not going to predict the future here, Said.

QUESTION: Are there any potential ramifications to the Palestinians seeking nonmember observer status? And as you're well aware with UNESCO and potentially other UN organizations, actively seeking membership can trigger a cut-off. Does that have any influence here on U.S. funding for the UN?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, there's no legislative impact that is triggered in the same way that there was with regard to UNESCO. However, as you know, we also have money pending in the Congress for the Palestinian Authority, money that they need to support their regular endeavors and to support administration of the territories. So, obviously, if they take this step, it's going to complicate the way the Congress looks at the Palestinians, and it's going to make all of that harder as well.

QUESTION: Would you oppose its disbursement?

MS. NULAND: We have made clear that we think the money should go forward in the interest of the Palestinian people, regardless of whether their leaders make bad decisions. That said, there are folks in Congress who are watching this extremely closely, and we have said to the Palestinians that they should not count on favorable response from the Congress if they go forward with this.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: The Israeli newspaper Maariv claims that both the Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman are quite dissatisfied with the lack of your pressure on the Palestinians to prevent them from going to the United Nations. Do you agree with that assessment?

MS. NULAND: Well, I hadn't seen that, but the Secretary just had a meeting, just flew from Asia to Jerusalem and Ramallah to discuss this issue, among others. So I would, obviously, reject the notion that we're not paying enough attention.

QUESTION: Do you feel that perhaps Mr. Abbas is a bit panicky, seeing that Gaza came '' I mean, Hamas came on top in this Gaza fight, and he's losing control, and perhaps losing the last vestiges of any two state possibility, and that's why he's (inaudible) to the UN?

MS. NULAND: I can't speak to his motives. I think that's a question better directed at him, Said.

QUESTION: And your (inaudible) diplomacy on this extends beyond just telling the Palestinians not to go ahead with it? And by that, I mean: Are you telling other members of the UN that you're planning to vote against this, and they should too, and this '' and here are the reasons why? Or have you basically just resigned yourself to the fact that this vote is going to end up very much like the numbers in the Cuba embargo vote, where you're going to be in a minority of about three or four who are opposed?

MS. NULAND: I think it's fair to say that this issue has come up in the Secretary's diplomacy with virtually every leader she's seen over the last month, making clear --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: -- that we think this is a mistake, that we oppose that it, that we will oppose it in the GA, and we encourage others to look hard at the negative implications for the peace process.

QUESTION: Okay. And based on that, do you think anyone has been swayed?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not going to predict the future in the General Assembly --

QUESTION: Can --

MS. NULAND: -- but we're making clear our views.

QUESTION: Okay. So can I predict something, then?

MS. NULAND: You're welcome to make any predictions you want, but --

QUESTION: And let's come back. I mean, how about this --

MS. NULAND: -- last I looked, Matt, I think this was our briefing, not your briefing, but that's okay.

QUESTION: Do you think you're going to win? Do you think '' in other words, do you think that the Palestinians will not succeed in their bid at the UN?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not going to predict how this is going to go. Our view here is to '' our point here is to make our view very clear before decisions are made.

QUESTION: Can you say if your '' if the talking points have been written for the day after, where you express real disappointment with the General Assembly for voting overwhelmingly to support Palestinian recognition? Have they already been written, or are you really holding on to some slim hope that they're going to lose?

MS. NULAND: Again, we are continuing to make the point in advance of this move that we think it's the wrong move.

Said. Said. Said.

QUESTION: Matt did not ask you about the future. He asked you about the past. He asked you if anyone had been dissuaded. So it was not a question about the future.

MS. NULAND: Said.

QUESTION: There are 193 members that are voting on this issue and it's 50 plus one '' or half plus one '' so the Palestinians need 98, and they claim that they have a lot more than that. So what is your plan for the day after? Just to follow on Matt's point.

MS. NULAND: Again, we are not on the day after. We'll talk about the day after if and when there is a day after. I'm going to talk about where we are today, today.

Margaret.

QUESTION: Does that mean that on other issues that you don't '' that you do not get ready for foregone conclusions when they are already foregone? You don't prepare for --

MS. NULAND: We are always ready for all contingencies in this Department. Margaret, was there more? Yeah?

QUESTION: The Palestinian leadership's supposed to be arriving in the U.S. within the next two days.

QUESTION: Tomorrow.

QUESTION: Are there any plans for anyone in this building to meet with Abu Mazen or to meet with the Prime Minister?

MS. NULAND: I would expect that if we have senior Palestinians here, we will have a chance to meet with them.

Jill.

QUESTION: And that wouldn't be contingent on the UN vote, right? I mean, they would '' even if they went ahead, regardless of the outcome at the UN, you wouldn't say, ''No, I'm sorry. You went ahead with this, so we can't meet with you.''

MS. NULAND: Again, you're putting me into all kinds of sequences that haven't happened here yet. But when we have senior Palestinians in the United States, we generally tend to meet with them. But I'm not going to predict exactly who and when and where and what.

Jill.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I missed the top of the briefing, I'm very sorry, but --

MS. NULAND: Let's do it again.

QUESTION: I'd love to. Then I'd know what's going on. One question I do have about this story that American troops might be asked '' that additional troops might be sent into Sinai. Have you not gotten into that?

MS. NULAND: I have nothing on that.

QUESTION: Okay. You know that they've --

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything on a request from the Egyptians. I don't have anything on consideration of that. If we do, I'll come back to you, Jill. But I don't have anything on that.

QUESTION: Would that originate with the Egyptians, or would it originate with the United States that would say, ''Can we do this? Do you need help?''

MS. NULAND: Well, in general, we obviously work hand-in-glove with the Egyptians on security in Sinai. I do not have any indications at the moment that additional help has been requested. But if that changes, we'll let you know.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Victoria?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: Let's go to Michel and then back to Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can we go back to the Palestinian bid to the UN? President Abbas has said that if the bid was successful, he would begin negotiations with Israel the next day. Don't you think that the recognition will help the resuming the negotiation?

MS. NULAND: Again, we've made clear that we think that this move will be counterproductive with the environment for negotiations. It's going to be harder to get Israel back to the table if this goes forward. They've been very, very clear about that. That is '' those are among the reasons why we think this is a bad, shortsighted move. It doesn't change the situation on the ground for the Palestinians. It doesn't bring them any closer to a state. It just makes it harder to get back to the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Hold on. Wait a second. For '' you seem to suggest that it is the Israelis who are not going back to the '' you said they would '' if they'd '' if the Palestinians did this, it would make it hard or make it more difficult for '' to get the Israelis back to the table.

MS. NULAND: It's going to set back prospects for restarting talks with Israel.

QUESTION: But in fact, isn't it the Israelis '' isn't it the Palestinians who are holding out on talks at the moment? It's not the '' the Israelis have they're ready to sit down at any point.

MS. NULAND: Again, and that dynamic could change if this goes forward.

QUESTION: But '' and you don't buy the argument that this would give the Palestinians a better negotiating hand? So it's purely in their self-interest, in their interest that you don't '' you think that any recognition that they might get at the UN does not help their cause, despite the fact that it would be '' give them '' it would give them some additional negotiating leverage?

MS. NULAND: We don't think it gives them any additional negotiating leverage vis-a-vis the Israelis. On the contrary, it could make it harder.

QUESTION: The Secretary's involvement '' direct involvement, and success in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas generated a great deal of interest and hope. Shouldn't she sort of push forward and take, actually, advantage of this new feeling to push forward for the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations to start again? I mean, directly become '' sort of take the bull by the horns, so to speak?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, you know where we are in time and space here, Said. We have an Israeli election in January. We have, obviously, an American aspiration to be helpful to these two parties to try to come back to the table. If there are steps taken between now and when that might be possible but make it harder, then we can't do more for the parties than they want to do for themselves.

QUESTION: Yeah, but a great many a diplomatic feat occurred actually in this kind of period. I mean, we can go back to the year 2000 where President Clinton himself, when he proposed his 10-points, which were that close to achieving.

MS. NULAND: I think I've said now about seven times that we don't want any steps taken that will make the possibility of getting these parties back to the table harder. This is one such potential step.

Please.

QUESTION: But what would change, in fact? The Palestinians are already observers at the UN, through the PLO. So --

MS. NULAND: You mean what changes in terms of their --

QUESTION: Their status.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. I'm --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Palestinian Authority --

MS. NULAND: I'm going to send you to our folks at the UN for all of the technical differences here or for even why this might be something that folks would seek.

Dana?

QUESTION: Well, wait a second. If you can't explain how this is any different than what it currently is, how are you '' how can you be so convinced that it's the wrong thing to do?

MS. NULAND: I'm just not going to get into all those details from the podium here.

Dana.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION:Congo?

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION:Given the deteriorating humanitarian situation, could you detail what the diplomacy has been?

MS. NULAND: Thank you for that. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson is currently in the region. He is joined there by his UK and his French counterparts. They have met with President Museveni. They are meeting with other regional leaders in an effort to promote a peaceful, sustainable resolution to the conflict. They're going to be going on later today. They were in Kinshasa today; they're going on to Kigali. And they will obviously also be in the DRC. They're going to meet with presidents in all countries and with other senior officials. The goals remains the goal that we outlined last Tuesday or Wednesday. We want to see a ceasefire. We want to see a pullback to July lines. We want to see a sustainable process of negotiation and discussion of the status of the eastern Congo with all the stakeholders '' Museveni, Kagame, and Kabila '' leading this process together along the lines of the joint communique that they issued on November 21st and the ICGLR's November 24th call for where to take this. So Assistant Secretary Carson out there working this very hard this week.

QUESTION: Are you in support of changing the mandate of the UN mission (inaudible)?

MS. NULAND: I don't think we're there yet. We're at the stage of trying to figure out among the regional leaders what it's going to take. But clearly, MONUSCO was not able to do what it was mandated to do. So I think among the things we need to understand better is how this relatively modest group of rebels was able to grab and hold territory, so '' and what might be needed in terms of security and stabilization going forward.

QUESTION: So given that we give roughly $400 million to MONUSCO or one of the major supporters of the American taxpayer dollars, is there a concern that our '' that the dollars that we're spending are not being used properly?

MS. NULAND: Well, certainly, there's a concern that we're going to need an effective security force there, that that may require adjustments to the way we're moving forward, but I just don't want to predict where we're going to go with this, but you're not wrong that we are a major supporter of MONUSCO and it needs to be able to be effective in securing populations, which is not currently the case.

Please.

QUESTION: Hi. I'm (inaudible). I'm here for Jo and Nicolas, Agence France Presse. Just on that issue, still on Congo, there's a perception among many people of Human Rights Watch, the UN experts, some diplomats I've spoken to privately, that the U.S. is dragging its feet about blaming Rwanda directly for supporting the M23. Do you think it's not the case or do you think it's not helpful to say it so publicly?

MS. NULAND: Again, we've been very clear that we do want to see all outside support for M23 for any of these groups come to an end. That's among the ''

QUESTION: Where is that outside support coming from?

MS. NULAND: Again, that's among the issues that's being discussed in this diplomacy that we're conducting this week. So I'm going to let Assistant Secretary Carson take that forward, and then we'll go from there, and we'll have a better sense when he finishes.

QUESTION: Sorry. A quick follow-up on that, but Kagame didn't even go to the '' Kagame wasn't even presence in the talks over the course of the weekend. I mean, are there specific conversations that you're having with Rwanda and Kagame to get Rwanda more engaged?

MS. NULAND: Yes. Assistant Secretary Carson will certainly see him, so that's part of the plan.

QUESTION: Didn't you take some step '' public step against Rwanda in terms of arms sales a couple weeks or months ago?

MS. NULAND: Yeah, we did.

QUESTION: And has that been rescinded?

MS. NULAND: No. I mean, that's still ''

QUESTION: So you have called the Rwandans out?

MS. NULAND: We had ''

QUESTION: I mean, that was over M23.

MS. NULAND: -- suspended some of our support over M23 some time ago, yeah.

QUESTION: And that still exists?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So are you saying that right now you don't want to call the Rwandans out? Because you have done it in the past publicly.

MS. NULAND: We have done it in the past.

QUESTION: Is there some reason not to do it right now?

MS. NULAND: There is no reason to do anything other than to call on anybody who might be funding any of these guys to stop doing it and to say that we are active now in the region seeing each of these leaders and trying to get them to work together.

QUESTION: Who else do you think is funding them, though '' is funding M23? You said that we're calling on any outside groups. What other outside groups does the United States suspect of funding besides Rwanda?

MS. NULAND: There are many options for outside funding for this kind of stuff. That said, we have been clear about our concerns about neighboring states.

Let's '' here please. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On North Korea.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION:It is reported North Korea seems to be ready to fire long-range missiles soon. Do you have any information on that?

MS. NULAND: We don't have anything new at the moment. We've seen the same rumblings and press reportings that you've seen. We would just take this opportunity to again remind the DPRK that in April of this year, there was a presidential statement from the UN Security Council which demanded that the DPRK not proceed with any further launches using ballistic missile technology. But I don't have anything specific to ''

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any intelligence information on '' or ''

MS. NULAND: Intelligence that I would share from the podium? I don't think so. (Laughter.) Good effort, though.

QUESTION: I think there was a report recently about the Japanese stopping some kind of a shipment of aluminum, potentially dual use, headed from North Korea to Burma. Have you seen this report?

MS. NULAND: We saw the '' it was a single report in a Japanese newspaper. We have not been able to confirm that report, nor have we been able to confirm that we've been notified by the Japanese as the report asserts. So let me see if I can get anymore for you on that overnight.

QUESTION: Can I just ask, when you say that you're not able to '' does that mean that '' are you '' have you exhausted your question-asking?

MS. NULAND: No, no.

QUESTION: So you're not 100 percent sure that it's not correct?

MS. NULAND: There is nobody in this building who has any information about it. The issue came up after our folks in Japan had gone to sleep, so we're just going to confirm out there before I get too definitive here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Okay? Please.

QUESTION:On China, there's a video just released recently on the Chinese military has successfully landed its '' a fighter jet on its first aircraft carrier. Is there a concern that this would increase the tension in South China Sea and East Sea and other disputed seas?

MS. NULAND: Was there a question in there?

QUESTION: Yeah. Is there a concern?

MS. NULAND: Obviously we continue to monitor all Chinese military developments very carefully. This is another in the category of our regular requests that China be as transparent as it can about its military capabilities and intentions, and we regularly encourage China both privately and publicly to use its military capabilities, including this new aircraft carrier, in a manner that is conducive to maintaining peace and security and stability in the Asia Pacific region.

QUESTION: Well, just '' new passport --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) or more transparent?

MS. NULAND: More transparent than it has been.

QUESTION: China's new passport has triggered measure of diplomatic disputes in the neighboring area. Because in the new passport they include a map and images from South China Sea, and also the scenery is from Taiwan, which triggered complaints from Vietnamese Government, Philippines Government, India Government, and Taiwanese Government. I wonder, for example, if a Chinese citizen who is holding a new passport coming into U.S. customs, and usually they would get a stamp from U.S. customs, is that an endorsement of the China's claim, sovereignty claim. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Just say yes. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: No. It is not an endorsement. (Laughter.) Thank you, though, Arshad, for the opportunity there.

Our position, as you know, on the South China Sea remains that these issues need to be negotiated among the stakeholders, among ASEAN and China. And a picture in a passport doesn't change that.

QUESTION: Well --

QUESTION: Otherwise, the importance of solving this crisis, the importance of solving the disputes, was United States disappointed that a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea was not reached during the latest East Asia Summit?

MS. NULAND: I think as the President said when he was there, as others said in the context of the meetings in Cambodia, we are encouraged that informal dialogue has restarted. As you know, for some time there were no real conversations. And we want to see this continue to build and accelerate into a real negotiation about how to settle these issues over the longer term.

QUESTION: Also, talk about the aircraft carrier, if this landmark development would encourage you to improve the navy capability of your allies in Asia?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we've made clear through the various strengthening of our security support throughout the region that we will continue to support our allies as we deem necessary and to take appropriate steps. As I said, it's incumbent on China as it increases its own military investment that it be more transparent than it has been about what it's spending the money on and to make sure that its capabilities can clearly be seen as a force for peace.

QUESTION: Just back on that passport issue?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you care what China has '' what they print inside of their passports? Does this raise any concern at all with you, because is it simply their business and they can do '' they can put whatever they want in their passport?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is that we '' and I looked into this a little bit and didn't get a complete sort of brief on this '' but my understanding is that we have certain basic international standards that have to be met in a passport in the way it's presented --

QUESTION: Decorations are not part of --

MS. NULAND: -- for us to honor it. And stray maps that they include aren't part of it, so --

QUESTION: Okay. And does that '' that would go for any country?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: So then, I mean, if Mexico put a new passport with a map that had Texas and New Mexico on it '' (laughter) '' that wouldn't be a problem?

MS. NULAND: Again, that's a hypothetical we're hoping not confront, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: But in terms of this, and I realize we're talking about it lightheartedly, but I mean, that would be something that I think the government would probably object to in the Mexican case. So I just want to make clear or understand: The appearance of this map in the Chinese passport doesn't really '' does it raise concerns for you or not?

MS. NULAND: As a technical legal matter, that map doesn't have any bearing on whether the passport is valid for U.S. visa issuance or for entry into the United States. There are a bunch of other issues --

QUESTION: No, I understand that. But the broader issue of whether this symbolizes a claim that you think should be worked out in negotiation, do you have any concerns about that?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not sure whether we've had a chance to have that discussion with the Chinese. Frankly, the first time this issue came to the attention of some of us was over the weekend when the passports started being rejected in various countries. So presumably, from the perspective that it is considered provocative by some of those countries, we'll have a conversation about it. But in terms of the technical issue of whether the passport is --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Quite apart from the '' and when you say that you'll have a conversation about it, that means that you'll have a conversation about it with the Chinese or you'll have a conversation about it with the countries that are refusing to accept them?

MS. NULAND: No, I would expect that we'll probably have a conversation about the fact that this is considered difficult by some of the countries.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you, when that does happen, when that conversation --

MS. NULAND: We'll come back to you, yes.

QUESTION: Yes. And --

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: No. China. Can we stay in China?

MS. NULAND: Still China, and then we'll move on.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you consider --

MS. NULAND: You guys really had too much of a rest, I think.

Lalit.

QUESTION: Do you consider this as a provocative on the behalf of China because it involves a number of neighboring countries, including India and other countries in the region?

MS. NULAND: Again, let me get a better sense of whether we've had any conversation with China about it or what the content of that might be before I go forward.

QUESTION: And also if you can consider --

MS. NULAND: Our own views on how the South China Sea issues ought to be resolved, our own position on the South China Sea issues, are not changed in any way by this.

QUESTION: And also if you can consider taking question if this such a move increases tension in the region, which you are trying to avoid for long time.

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: On Europe?

QUESTION:Yeah, I have a question on Uganda, actually. There's an anti-homosexuality bill that's making its way through the legislature right there. What is the State Department's current assessment of where that bill is and if that's going to be headed toward a vote anytime soon?

MS. NULAND: Again, Assistant Secretary Carson was also in Uganda over the weekend. He had a chance to raise again our concerns about this issue, which we've been very vocal about. Our understanding is that a version of the bill has now passed a committee in Uganda. As we have regularly said, we call on the parliament in Uganda to look very carefully at this, because Uganda's own human rights council has made clear that if this were to pass, it would put the country out of compliance with its own international human rights obligations. And so Assistant Secretary Carson had a chance to make that point again and our strong opposition to this, to the president, to the parliament, and to key decision makers in Uganda.

QUESTION: And there was '' and once the bill had a provision that would institute the death penalty for homosexual acts. As far as the State Department knows, has that provision been removed or is it still in the bill?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don't know that we have actually seen the version that passed committee. They've been a little bit close hold about this, partly because there's been so much controversy in the international community. So our concern is about any criminalization of homosexuality, obviously.

QUESTION: And one last question. Some countries, Britain and Sweden, have threatened to cut foreign aid to Uganda if this bill becomes law. Is there any consideration in the U.S. Administration to cut foreign aid to Uganda if that bill becomes law?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not going to get into any hypothetical situations. Our focus now is on raising awareness of the concerns within Uganda about this bill so that we don't get to that stage.

Jill.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. NULAND: Still on --

QUESTION: Wait, wait one second. I don't understand why you wouldn't '' don't you think that would be a pretty strong point to make to the Ugandans if you think this is a bad idea that you would say, hey, you can go ahead and do this, but it's not only going to not only violate your international commitments but it's also going to jeopardize American assistance? Why would you --

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not to make --

QUESTION: That suggests --

MS. NULAND: -- prospective points from the podium here about where we might go if this bill passes. I think there is a very intense conversation going on inside Uganda about this, and the far better course of action would be for the bill not to pass.

QUESTION: And isn't that what happened a couple of years ago when the harsh bill was put up and there were active threats from not just the UK but also the United States that if this bill were to pass, aid would be cut? And that was part of why the bill was tabled, no?

MS. NULAND: Again, we're at a relatively preliminary stage here where you've had one committee pass this. There is room for those kinds of conversations. Our first focus at the moment is on getting reconsideration of this.

Marsha.

QUESTION: On this, Toria. Did Secretary Carson meet with the speaker of the parliament?

MS. NULAND: My understanding is he did see the speaker of the parliament, whether it was in a larger group or whether it was a distinct meeting that he did, yes.

QUESTION: But he '' so he made that point directly to her?

MS. NULAND: Yes, he did.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you '' do you have in your guidance there the ability to deny the reports that built up over the long weekend that the United States had denied her a visa?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we don't talk about visa issuance one way or the other, so I don't have any information about it one way or the other. But I frankly hadn't heard that there was a visa question involved in this at all.

QUESTION: There was one. And the parliament then issued its own statement which was slightly ambiguous, but it sounded like they were trying to say that, no, you guys had not denied her a visa.

MS. NULAND: I'm not aware of any visa issues. But in general, as you know, we can't talk about these things.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION:Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations envoy, is getting ready to submit his plan '' it is called a plan '' on Thursday. Are you aware of that plan, whether it's contingent on the Geneva points or any other?

MS. NULAND: I had not heard that he was definitively coming forward with something on Thursday. I know that he's consulting with various UNSC member-states. I don't want to preempt anything that he might come forward with, but if we become aware of more information on this, we'll let you know, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. There are also reports that the rebels have taken over large swaths of areas, including military bases and some other areas outside, and that the regime is withdrawing its forces into Damascus, into Damascus. Are you aware of that, or could you share something with us on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are aware of reports that the armed opposition has seized in recent days a number of important regime facilities. This speaks, obviously, to the growing strength of the armed opposition as they continue to lay the groundwork for the fall of the Assad regime.

We would also note the regime's increasing brutality as it tries to cling to power. We've seen this just in the last few days the regime resorting to shelling a refugee camp near the Turkish border as well as some very deadly air strikes on the Dar Al-Shifa hospital right outside Aleppo. So shelling of hospitals now by the Syrian regime.

At the same time, let me take this opportunity to draw your attention to the fact that the Syrian Opposition Council meanwhile, the SOC, has formed its assistance committee now. And that assistance committee is meeting today and tomorrow in Cairo, with working-level representatives from the international community, to better hone and direct the nonlethal assistance requests that they are making and to begin to do what we had hoped they would do, which is to help all of us to have the clearest, most up-to-date sense of what is needed and to provide better channels for ensuring that it gets to the right people. So we have some representatives at that meeting. This is further to our hope that they would really begin to take on this organizing role of the international community on the political side and begin to represent the Syrian people in that way.

QUESTION: Does that bring you closer to recognizing the coalition council as a representative of Syria?

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything new to announce today. But these are the kinds of steps, both organizationally and in terms of assuming political responsibility, that we are hoping to see continue.

Still on Syria, Jill?

QUESTION:Iran, Turkey?

MS. NULAND: Anything else on Syria?

QUESTION: I have Syria.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to the reports that Russia has sent over 200 banknotes of cash to Syria over the last few months?

MS. NULAND: Two hundred physical pieces of paper, or --

QUESTION: Banknotes --

QUESTION: Tons, sorry. (Laughter.) Two hundred tons, sorry. (Laughter.) Two hundred tons of banknotes, moving currency cash.

MS. NULAND: Let me take that one and see if we have anything for you on it tomorrow.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Hey, Toria, one other one on Syria. There were '' there was a report suggesting that the Syrian Government might have been using a particular kind of SCUD missiles on civilian targets last week. Do you have anything on that?

MS. NULAND: We do have folks on the ground in Syria reporting intensive attacks on the Old City of Homs. But we don't think that what was used were SCUDs. We're not exactly sure what was used, but we're pretty sure they were not SCUDs.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. NULAND: But nonetheless, they were intensive aerial attacks.

QUESTION: Who do you have on the ground in Homs?

MS. NULAND: We have Syrian opposition figures who we're in touch with.

QUESTION: Oh, not U.S. officials.

MS. NULAND: No, no, no.

QUESTION: You said, ''We have folks on the ground.'' With just that --

MS. NULAND: ''We have contacts on the ground,'' I think I said, but --

QUESTION: And is it your understanding that those, whatever it was, was fired at civilian targets? Or do you not know?

MS. NULAND: I don't know what they fired at, but obviously civilians were caught in the crossfire.

Said.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the nature of the currency that is being exchanged. The largest U.S. currency is actually outside the United States, and much of it is in the Middle East. And it gets used for buying things in cash and so on. Does that fall under the sanctions in any way? I'm not saying that it's counterfeit. It's legal, it's a legal tender. But how does that fall under the sanctions regime?

MS. NULAND: You mean the use of dollars --

QUESTION: Of U.S. dollars, yeah. Right.

MS. NULAND: -- or the export of U.S. dollars into Syria? I don't have any background on that. Perhaps our friends at Treasury might. But if we have anything to share on that, we'll come back to you, Said.

QUESTION: Toria --

MS. NULAND: Please, yeah.

QUESTION:On the conference on Middle East Nuclear-Free Summit, Secretary General of the Arab League has said that it's regrettable the U.S. has decided to cancel the conference, because only Israel is against the conference. So what is your response? And have you got any consensus among the co-sponsors for the cancelation?

MS. NULAND: We issued a statement --

QUESTION: Yeah, I read it. Yes?

MS. NULAND: -- regretting that this wasn't able to go forward. I think we issued it on Friday.

QUESTION: Yeah. I read it, yes.

MS. NULAND: I don't think I have anything to add to what we have there, which is that our hope that conditions can come together for it in the future, but without making any firm predictions as to when.

QUESTION: Is that the darkest news hole in the world, late Friday afternoon of Thanksgiving? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, they spent --

QUESTION: It could have been 2 o'clock Thanksgiving Day.

MS. NULAND: They spent '' you mean you didn't rush up and start writing it up, Arshad?

QUESTION: I followed it. I followed it.

MS. NULAND: Excellent. Yeah, there you go.

QUESTION: You said that the conditions were not right.

MS. NULAND: The wires never sleep.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. On this one you said the conditions were not proper to hold the conference. What kind of proper conditions would you want in place?

MS. NULAND: I think we're pretty clear in the statement we issued, which went on for some five paragraphs. I'm going to send you back to that, Said.

QUESTION: Where was it supposed to be?

QUESTION: Helsinki.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: Helsinki was where the meeting --

QUESTION: But you were hosting it, or going to host it?

MS. NULAND: No, we were part of the community of nations encouraging it.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can I ask you '' just ask why it was that you guys decided to cancel it? I mean, do you '' did you have any '' you weren't the host, you weren't the organizer, you weren't -

MS. NULAND: No, no, no. It didn't go that way. We had a group of international supporters of this event who were meeting Helsinki, or they were meeting somewhere in Europe, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, to try to evaluate whether this could go forward and in what '' under what circumstances. I think we were just the first from that meeting to issue our conclusions as to the fact that we didn't think it was going to be able to go forward. But it was the consensus view of the meeting, so --

QUESTION: But '' right, okay. But in fact, you guys did not make the decision to cancel.

MS. NULAND: No, no, no.

QUESTION: It was made at the meeting. And your statement just was --

MS. NULAND: Reflecting --

QUESTION: -- you're sorry that it couldn't go through.

QUESTION: You announced it. You used the word, ''announced.''

MS. NULAND: Well, we announced the fact that we, as representatives in this group, had all come to this conclusion. There was also an announcement by the head negotiator, Laajava, on the same subject.

Jill?

QUESTION:Iran sanctions?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There are reports that Turkey has a gold-for-gas and possibly gold-for-oil --

MS. NULAND: Has a what?

QUESTION: That Turkey has a '' reportedly has a gold-for-gas and possibly gold-for-oil deal with Iran. And the question is: Does that particular arrangement '' if you know about it, or could check into it '' does that break the sanctions regime?

MS. NULAND: I hadn't seen that particular report. We will catch up on that and see if we have anything to share. But I think you know that Turkey's one of the countries that we were able to exempt from NDAA sanctions because they have been steadily cutting their dependence on Iranian crude. I can't speak to what this new prospective idea might be. If we have anything on it, we'll let you know. But that's a set of sanctions exemptions that has to be renewed every six months, so we would look at it again in that context.

QUESTION: When you take that question, Toria, can you also take the question as a general principle, whether the U.S. Government believes that barter arrangements '' which are not financial transactions, I think, as defined by the law, but I may be wrong '' but whether barter transactions do or do not violate the NDAA 1245 sanctions. Is it possible they don't?

MS. NULAND: We will look at that, obviously, but my understanding is that the law speaks to the necessity of countries decreasing their national dependence on Iranian crude. So how you pay for that would be irrelevant, right? It's the national usage of Iranian crude.

Please. Yeah.

QUESTION: What would be your reaction to the Catalan elections this weekend, where the parties asking for secession from Spain have won a big, big advantage? And to what extent that, on top of what has happened in Scotland and Belgium, may impact the transatlantic relations?

MS. NULAND: That sounds like an internal political matter for Spain, not for us to comment on.

QUESTION: Just to go back to the previous thing?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yes, it talks about people reducing their consumption of Iranian crude. But the sanctions apply to non-U.S. financial institutions that deal with the Central Bank of Iran ''

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for purchasing hydrocarbons. So if you are not dealing with the Central Bank of Iran, and if you're '' it's conceivable that you could have some other entity bartering for this stuff, so maybe you're not reducing your consumption, or not enough, from your point of view, but how do you then '' who do you then sanction if nobody has directly dealt with the Central Bank, which is what the sanction is?

MS. NULAND: In case you were wondering, Arshad's become a hyper-wonk on all this stuff over the last month. I'm going to come back to you if you have anything on that particular thing, Arshad, okay?

Thanks.

QUESTION:No, wait, wait, very random ones. One, in '' you know the Colombia-FARC peace talks that are going on in Cuba.

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: Apparently, it has come up again, the FARC wants this guy Simon Trinidad to be released, who you '' I know that officials have '' he's being held by the Americans, by the U.S. In the past, you've said no way, we're not going to release him. Can you '' is that still the position? Has it changed?

MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, it has not changed.

QUESTION:And then secondly '' and this is really kind of bizarre '' there's an entertainer who goes by the name of Andrew W. K., who says that he has been named or appointed by the State Department to be a cultural ambassador to appear at some event in Bahrain. Do you know anything about this?

MS. NULAND: And here I thought we were going to get through this whole briefing without that one coming up.

QUESTION: Oh, you do? You do? Is it true? You have something?

MS. NULAND: I do have a little something on this. So we had a Bahraini entity that approached the Embassy about cosponsoring a visit by this guy, who I take it is pretty popular there in Bahrain. That was initially approved. And then when more senior management at the Embassy took a look at this, the conclusion was that this was not an appropriate use of U.S. Government funds.

QUESTION: Is that '' did '' and would they '' the government would have paid for his trip over there, had it ''

MS. NULAND: I don't know what the details of our sponsorship were to be.

QUESTION: Can you explain why it was '' was it '' I mean, his '' was it that '' it was decided that it was inappropriate to send someone over there to Bahrain to represent the United States whose hits include Party Till You Puke and things like that? (Laughter.) Is that why it was decided it was inappropriate?

MS. NULAND: Thank you for sharing that. I think --

QUESTION: Is that why?

MS. NULAND: I think the conclusion was, when they looked at the body of his work, that we didn't need to be part of this invitation. I'll leave it --

QUESTION: Got you. And just hold on. And just to make clear, it was '' the invitation was actually never extended to him?

MS. NULAND: Frankly, I don't have the details. There may have been some preliminary conversations with him, but he is not going to be going to Bahrain on the U.S. Government's dime.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Speaking of U.S. entertainers abroad, the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain is in Myanmar, Burma. He tweeted last night that his team rented mobile phones that had previously been rented by U.S. security personnel connected to the recent visits and that the text messages on them ought to have been deleted beforehand. There are references to keg parties. Anything that you're aware of on that front? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: No, but we will have our Embassy follow up on that one for sure.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. NULAND: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thanks very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:53 p.m.)

Death sentences for seven over anti-Islam video

Link to Article

Source: euronews

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 18:53

Seven Egyptian Christians have been sentenced to death in their absence by a court in Cairo, for taking part in an anti-Islam video that prompted violent protests throughout the world.

The crude video, made privately in California, denigrated the Prophet Mohammed.

Cast members have previously said they were duped into thinking it was an adventure drama.

Among the condemned was Nakoula Bassely Nakoula who is currently serving a one year jail term in Los Angeles for probation violations arising from his part in the video.

There were anti-US protests and attacks on western embassies throughout the Muslim world in September.

The judge in Cairo said: ''The seven accused were convicted of insulting the Islamic religion through participating in, producing and offering a film that insults Islam and its prophet.''

More about:Cinema, Egypt, Islam, TrialCopyright (C) 2012 euronews

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Angus T. Jones: 3 Cheers for ''Two and a Half Men'' Star For Calling Out ''Filth'' '' VIDEO

Link to Article

Source: Debbie Schlussel

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 18:55

By Debbie Schlussel

Three cheers for ''Two and a Half Men'' Star Angus T. Jones for calling out the crap he's been a part of for much of his life as a child television star.

I watch very little TV anymore, mostly because it's a time waster and a bunch of garbage. More and more Americans are following suit as TV viewership (and ownership) is declining. In adulthood, I finally understood my father's rightful attacks against TV when I was a kid and he stopped me from mindlessly, endlessly watching, limiting my TV viewing time. I was lucky that unlike so many parents, mine didn't commit malpractice by using TV as a babysitter.

''Two and a Half Men'' is one of the worst shows on broadcast TV. It's disgusting, heavily sexual, stupid, and inane. And yet it remains, sadly, one of the most successful, highly-rated shows on television. And so I applaud the show's younger star, Jones, for finally waking up about the filth he (and the rest of Hollywood) are perpetrating on America. Sadly, the damage of decades of TV garbage and defining deviancy and morality down has already taken its irreparable toll on America, and it's too late.

Still, Jones''who has become a religious Christian''deserves credit and respect for publicly calling himself out for what he's been a part of for so many years and what is basically is TV family, especially at his young age. It takes a lot of courage because he'll probably never work in Hollywood again for saying so, and he knows it. Some of the attacks against him for saying this have been worse than some of the attacks on the nutty Charlie Sheen, formerly of the same show.

''Two and a Half Men'' star Angus T. Jones is under fire for criticizing the show '-- even going so far as to call it ''filth'' '-- in an online video in which he professes his religious beliefs.

''Jake from 'Two and a Half Men' means nothing. He is a nonexistent character,'' the 19-year-old actor says of his character on the hit CBS program. ''If you watch 'Two and a Half Men,' please stop watching 'Two and a Half Men.' I'm on 'Two and a Half Men' and I don't want to be on it.''

Jones appears in the video seated next to televangelist Christopher Hudson, whose sermons appear in YouTube videos called ''The Forerunner Chronicles.''

''Please stop filling your head with filth, please. . . .'' Jones said.

Here's the full video of his appearance on the Christian Forerunner show:

Part of what Jones is upset about is his interaction with the skanky Miley Cyrus (or as we call her on this site, ''Miley Virus'') on the show. Jones plays a U.S. Army soldier who returns home and quickly falls into bed with Cyrus. Here's the video of this Shakespearian masterpiece:

Yup, utter crap. Jones is doing America a favor by calling this what it is.

1st bisexual congresswoman elected in Arizona '' Video Stuff Ain't Right

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Tue, 27 Nov 2012 16:18

November 27, 2012 ~~Kyrsten Sinema elected in Arizona. I'm sorry, but that name sounds like a porn star, doesn't it?~~

1st bisexual congresswoman elected.

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NBC's Todd Laments House GOP Having 'All White Men' as Committee Chairs

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Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 18:38

Taking a gratuitous shot at Republicans at the end of his Wednesday MSNBC show, The Daily Rundown, NBC political director Chuck Todd insisted on making this declaration: "By the way, though, all of the committee chairs in the House Republican conference....All white men....Picture of the party's potential problems."

Don't Forget, You're Here Forever: Cutter Says Obama's Mandate is for People to ''Enter and Stay in the Middle Class''

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Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 18:34

MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them -- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.

MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 325 South Patrick Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.

Copyright (C) 2012, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.

Collins: Rice ''Played Political Role" During "Contentious Election''

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Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 18:34

Senator Susan Collins criticized Ambassador Susan Rice's handling of the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi after meeting with Ambassador Rice today. Collins stated that she believes Rice carried political water for the administration during the presidential election.

Buffett on Morale | MRCTV

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Tue, 27 Nov 2012 17:50

MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them -- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.

MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 325 South Patrick Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.

Copyright (C) 2012, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.

Chris Matthews Outrageously Links Unhappy Conservatives to Hitler

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Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 03:30

MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them -- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.

MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 325 South Patrick Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.

Copyright (C) 2012, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.

Morning Joe on Benghazi: Klein was Right, and It's Irrelevant Because Rice Isn't Running for Mayor

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Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 16:05

Mike Brzezinski defended Joe Klein's repetition of the Obama Administration's talking points on Benghazi by stating that Klein was "on the truth." Richard Stengel of TIME stated that Republicans shouldn't ask questions about the handling of the Benghazi attack during the confirmation hearings for Ambassador Susan Rice because Rice isn't running to be Mayor of Benghazi.

House GOP Will Have 19 White Men as Committee Chairs in Next Congress

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Source: Crooks and Liars

Thu, 29 Nov 2012 06:12

As Rachel Maddow noted in the segment above, "This is what you can clip and save for the next time someone in the beltway tells you how seriously the Republican party is taking its diversity problem this year."

House GOP Committee Chairs Will All Be White Men In Next Congress:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced who will chair all of the major House committees in the next Congress. And it turns out they all have something in common besides party affiliation: they're all white men.

There isn't a single woman or minority included in the mix of 19 House committee chairs announced Tuesday -- a stark reality for a party desperate to appeal to women and minorities after both groups overwhelmingly rejected Republicans just weeks ago in the presidential election. The one female committee chair that House Republicans currently have, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), is stepping down because her term is up. While there are still two lower-tier House committees awaiting a chair assignment -- the Ethics Committee and House Administration -- neither committee has any women or minority members.

At least one Senate Democrat was quick to point out that something is missing from the Republican lineup.

"Disappointed to see House committee chairmanships in the 113th Congress will not include a single woman. -PM," tweeted Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who included a link to Boehner's press release announcing the chair posts.

A House Republican leadership aide declined to comment on the lack of diversity in the party's committee leadership. The aide noted, though, that GOP leaders just put four women in party leadership. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash) is the new House Republican Conference Chair, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas) is conference vice chair, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) is conference secretary, and Rep.-elect Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) will represent freshman members in party leadership. Read on...

Employers Want Highly-Trained Workers At Manual Labor Wages

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Source: Crooks and Liars

Tue, 27 Nov 2012 03:29

You may wonder if it was always this way, that it was the job of the taxpayers to provide job-ready employees for the sainted job creators. Let me tell you a little story.

Way back during the reign of King Ronald, the king was giving speeches about how necessary it was for public schools to concentrate on delivering job-ready graduates instead of filling their heads with all that music and arts nonsense. And lo, it came to pass. Local school districts bought all kinds of business equipment so the king's wish could be fulfilled.

Let me translate. There was a massive transfer of wealth at the taxpayers' expense so the schools could provide the same training that businesses used to pay for, back when they still invested in their workers. I don't remember anyone questioning this at the time. It was all: Go, team! America's future!

But I was just old enough to remember when it was different, and I wondered why no one objected. When a company would interview you (to see if you were smart enough to do the job) and offer you a position, for which they would train you. Even for jobs like computer programming!

But during Reagan, it got twisted all around and turned into one big shell game. Not only were you supposed to present yourself as already trained, you had to guess which jobs would have openings! Now, every time there's a recession, we're told there's a "skills mismatch" and that Americans have to train "for the jobs of the future." (No one ever seems to accurately predict what those jobs might be.)

And here's the other hole in this philosophy: Not everyone is smart enough to do a high-skilled job. So those people should curl up in the corner and die the slow death of starvation wages? Uh, I don't think so.

Paul Krugman on the alleged skills shortage:

Kudos to Adam Davidson for some much-needed mythbusting about the supposed skills shortage holding the US economy back. Whenever you see some business person quoted complaining about how he or she can't find workers with the necessary skills, ask what wage they're offering. Almost always, it turns out that what said business person really wants is highly (and expensively) educated workers at a manual-labor wage. No wonder they come up short.

And this dovetails perfectly with one of the key arguments against the claim that much of our unemployment is ''structural'', due to a mismatch between skills and labor demand.

If that were true, you should see soaring wages for those workers who do have the right skills; in fact, with rare exceptions you don't.

So what you really want to ask is why American businesses don't feel that it's worth their while to pay enough to attract the workers they say they need.

Um, because our political system is so badly distorted that working people have no real champions? And that employers are so greedy, they're cutting off their noses to spite their faces?

Court clears ex Kosovan prime minister of war crimes | euronews, world news

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Thu, 29 Nov 2012 15:26

In an historic move the United Nations General Assembly is expected to upgrade the status of Palestine on Thursday afternoon. The application in the 193-member body only needs a majority vote to change the territory from observer entity to observer state. Predictably this'...

Heaviest Snow Storm In Russia In 50 Years!

Pentagon Plots To Nuke The Moon - YouTube

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Thu, 29 Nov 2012 14:50

Secretary Clinton Delivers Remarks at the 2012 International AIDS Conference - YouTube

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Thu, 29 Nov 2012 13:44

Remarks at the 20th Anniversary of GLIFAA

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Thu, 29 Nov 2012 06:29

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all, very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (Laughter.) Thank you, all. Thank you.Yeah, that's good. (Laughter.) Wow. Well, welcome to the Ben Franklin Room. (Laughter.) And congratulations on your 20th anniversary. I am so pleased to be here and to have this chance to join this celebration. Ken, thank you for your kind words and your efforts here to make this day possible. I am extremely pleased that Cheryl Mills, my friend as well as Chief of Staff and Counselor is here, so that those of you who may not have met her or even seen her, given how shy and retiring she is '' (laughter) '' can express your appreciation to her for her tireless efforts.

I'm delighted that Deputy Secretary Tom Nides is here. Tom, who some of you know, who you've had a chance to work with him, has been just an extraordinary deputy. Also let me recognize USAID Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg. He's been an unyielding advocate for the LGBT community at USAID. We also have a number of ambassadors and deputy chiefs of mission, both past and present, some of whom have literally traveled from the other side of the world to be here. David, I'm talking about you. And we have Michael Guest with us, our country's first out ambassador to be confirmed by the Senate and someone who's remained an outspoken champion for LGBT rights, despite having to endure countless attacks and threats. Michael, why don't you stand up so that you can be recognized? (Applause.)

Also let me thank the GLIFAA board and members. I just had a chance to meet the board and former presidents. I don't think I've ever been in a room with so many former presidents. (Laughter.) The last count was maybe five. (Laughter.) But it's really due to their leadership over 20 years that GLIFAA has reached this milestone, and it will be up to all of you and those who come after you to keep the work going for the next 20 and the 20 after that.

Now, it wasn't really that long ago since this organization was created, but in many ways it was a completely different world. As we heard, in 1992 you could be fired for being gay. Just think about all of the exceptional public servants, the brilliant strategists, the linguists, the experts fired for no reason other than their sexual orientation. Think of what our country lost because we were unable to take advantage of their hard work, expertise, and experience. And the policy forced people to make terrible choices, to hide who they were from friends and colleagues, to lie or mislead, to give up their dreams of serving their country altogether.

That began to change, in part because of the brave employees here at State, who decided that it was time for the bigotry, the ignorance, the lying, and discrimination to end. The LGBT community deserve the same chance as anyone else to serve. And indeed, as we all know, many had for many years, just without acknowledgment of who they were. So enough was enough, and that's how GLIFAA was formed. And thank goodness it was.

We've come a long way since then, and we have seen milestones along that journey over the last 20 years. I remember that I think on my husband's first day in office back in '93, he announced that gays and lesbians working in the Federal Government would receive equal treatment under the Civil Service Reform Act. Two years later, Secretary Warren Christopher made clear those rules would be enforced within the halls of the State Department when he issued a statement that explicitly prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Now over the past four years, we've built on those and other steps to really acknowledge and welcome LGBT people into the State Department family and other agencies. We've extended benefits to same-sex domestic partners of State and USAID employees, Foreign Service officers, personal service contractors, third country nationals at missions overseas. We've institutionalized these changes by creating a classification for same-sex domestic partners in the Foreign Affairs manual. We've also made it clear in our Equal Opportunity Employment statement that the Department doesn't discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression.

We've helped to make it easier for transgender Americans to change the gender listed on their passports, because our mission is not only to protect the rights and dignity of our colleagues, but also of the American people we serve.

And we've taken this message all over the world, including the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where we worked to pass the first ever UN resolution affirming the human rights of LGBT people.

Now, together we have worked to make something very simple and right come true. Our people should not have to choose between serving the country they love and sharing a life with the people they love. And I want to say a few words about why this work is so important.

Now, leaders of all kinds will stand in front of audiences like this and tell you that our most important asset is our people. And of course, that's especially true in diplomacy, where we try to be very diplomatic all the time. But what our success truly depends on is our ability to forge strong relationships and relate to people of all backgrounds. And what that means for me, as your Secretary, is that creating an LGBT-welcoming workplace is not just the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing to do.

In part, that's because the nature of diplomacy has changed, and we should and need to keep up. Today we expect our diplomats to build relationships not just with their counterparts in foreign governments, but with people from every continent and every walk of life. And in order to do that, we need a diplomatic corps that is as diverse as the world we work in.

It's also smart because it makes us better advocates for the values that we hold dear. Because when anyone is persecuted anywhere, and that includes when LGBT people are persecuted or kept from fully participating in their societies, they suffer, but so do we. We're not only robbed of their talents and ideas, we are diminished, because our commitment to the human rights of all people has to be a continuing obligation and mission of everyone who serves in the Government of the United States. So this is a mission that I gladly assume. We have to set the example and we have to live up to our own values.

And finally, we are simply more effective when we create an environment that encourages people to bring their whole selves to work, when they don't have to hide a core part of who they are, when we recognize and reward people for the quality of their work instead of dismissing their contributions because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

So really, I'm here today to say thank you to all of you. Thank you for your courage and resolve, for your willingness to keep going despite the obstacles '' and for many of you, there were and are many. Thank you for pushing your government to do what you know was right, not just for yourselves but for all who come after you.

I want to mention one person in particular who was a key part of this fight, Tom Gallagher. I met Tom earlier. Where is Tom? There you are, Tom. Tom joined the Foreign Service in 1965 and in the early 1970s he risked his career when he came out and became the first openly gay Foreign Service officer. He served in the face of criticism and threats, but that did not stop him from serving. I wanted to take this moment just to recognize him, but also to put into context what this journey has meant for people of Tom's and my vintage, because I don't want any of you who are a lot younger ever to take for granted what it took for people like Tom Gallagher to pave the way for all of you. It's not a moment for us to be nostalgic. It is a moment for us to remember and to know that all of the employees who sacrificed their right to be who they were were really defending your rights and the rights and freedoms of others at home and abroad.

And I want to say a special word about why we are working so hard to protect the rights of LGBT people around the world. And Dan Baer, who works on this along with Mike Posner and Maria Otero, have been great champions of standing up for the rights of LGBT communities and individuals.

We have come such a long way in the United States. Tom Gallagher is living proof of that. And think about what it now means to be a member of a community in this country that is finally being recognized and accepted far beyond what anyone could have imagined just 20 years ago. And remind yourself, as I do every day, what it must be like for a young boy or a young girl in some other part of the world who could literally be killed, and often has been and still will be, who will be shunned, who will be put in danger every day of his or her life.

And so when I gave that speech in Geneva and said that we were going to make this a priority of American foreign policy, I didn't see it as something special, something that was added on to everything else we do, but something that was integral to who we are and what we stand for. And so those who serve today in the State Department have a new challenge to do everything you can at State and AID and the other foreign affairs agencies to help keep widening that circle of opportunity and acceptance for all those millions of men and women who may never know your name or mine, but who because of our work together will live lives of not only greater safety but integrity.

So this is not the end of the story. There's always more we can do to live our values and tap the talents of our people. It's going to be an ongoing task for future Secretaries of State and Administrators at AID and for people at every level of our government. So even as we celebrate 20 years with Ben Franklin looking down at us, I want you to leave this celebration thinking about what more each and every one of you can do '' those who are currently serving in our government, those who have served in the past, and those who I hope will decide to serve '' to make not only the agencies of our government but our world more just and free for all people.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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