Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Major International Hacker Pleads Guilty For Massive Attack on U.S. Retail and Banking Networks

29 Dec 2009 22:04 Africa/Lagos

Major International Hacker Pleads Guilty For Massive Attack on U.S. Retail and Banking Networks

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Albert Gonzalez, 28, of Miami, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to hack into computer networks supporting major American retail and financial organizations, and to steal data relating to tens of millions of credit and debit cards, announced Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Milagros Ortiz and Director of the U.S. Secret Service Mark Sullivan.

Gonzalez, aka "segvec," "soupnazi" and "j4guar17," pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to the payment card networks operated by, among others, Heartland Payment Systems, a New Jersey-based card processor; 7-Eleven, a Texas-based nationwide convenience store chain; and Hannaford Brothers Co. Inc., a Maine-based supermarket chain. The plea was entered in federal court in Boston before U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock. The case is one of the largest data breaches ever investigated and prosecuted in the United States.

According to information contained in the plea agreement, Gonzalez leased or otherwise controlled several servers, or "hacking platforms," and gave access to these servers to other hackers, knowing that they would use them to store malicious software, or "malware," and launch attacks against corporate victims. Malware used against several of the corporate victims was also found on a server controlled by Gonzalez. Gonzalez tested malware by running multiple anti-virus programs in an attempt to ascertain if the programs detected the malware. According to information in the plea agreement, it was foreseeable to Gonzalez that his co-conspirators would use malware to steal tens of millions of credit and debit card numbers, affecting more than 250 financial institutions. Gonzalez was indicted in New Jersey in August 2009 for this criminal conduct.

Based on the terms of the plea agreement, Gonzalez will not seek a prison term under 17 years and the government will not seek a prison term of more than 25 years. Gonzalez pleaded guilty in September 2009 in Boston to 19 counts of conspiracy, computer fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft relating to hacks into numerous major U.S. retailers including TJX Companies, BJ's Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble and Sports Authority. Gonzalez was indicted for those offenses in August 2008 in the District of Massachusetts. Gonzalez also pleaded guilty in September 2009 in Boston to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud relating to hacks into the Dave & Buster's restaurant chain, which were the subject of a May 2008 indictment in the Eastern District of New York.

As part of the plea agreement with the government, the New Jersey case was transferred to the District of Massachusetts for plea and sentencing. According to the terms of the New Jersey plea agreement, the parties agree that Gonzalez' sentence in the New Jersey case should run concurrently with the sentence imposed in the Boston and New York cases. Gonzalez remains in federal custody. Sentencing in the Boston and New York cases is currently scheduled for March 18, 2010, in Boston. Sentencing in the New Jersey case is scheduled for March 19, 2010.

"The Department of Justice will not allow computer hackers to rob consumers of their privacy and erode the public's confidence in the security of the marketplace," said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. "Criminals like Albert Gonzalez who operate in the shadows will be caught, exposed and held to account. Indeed, with timely reporting of data breaches and high-tech investigations, even the most sophisticated hacking rings can be uncovered and dismantled, as our prosecutors and agents demonstrated in this case."

"Commercial hackers like Gonzalez believe they are immune from detection and prosecution as they lurk in the shadows of the Internet," said U.S. Attorney Fishman of the District of New Jersey. "But time and again they are caught, prosecuted and sentenced to lengthy federal prison terms. Other hackers should sit up and take notice."

"The conviction of Mr. Gonzalez, and the unraveling of one of the most complex and large scale identity theft cases in history, should serve as a reminder to hacker organizations, that the Department of Justice will vigorously investigate and prosecute cybercrimes, regardless of their sophistication and global reach. Mr. Gonzalez's conviction is the result of unprecedented coordination across agency and geographical lines, and I want to commend the investigators and prosecutors who have worked tirelessly to bring this case to fruition," said U.S. Attorney Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts.

"Today's plea proves that although cyber criminals can threaten our nation's financial sector, the Secret Service and its many partners around the world will pursue and prosecute them," said U.S. Secret Service Director Sullivan. "Time and again, cooperation and advanced methodologies have allowed us to focus our resources in order to detect and prevent these types of crimes, wherever they originate."

The New Jersey case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erez Liebermann and Seth Kosto of the District of New Jersey, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Heymann and Donald Cabell of the District of Massachusetts, and Senior Counsel Kimberly Kiefer Peretti of the Criminal Division's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. All of these cases are being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

CONTACT: U.S. Department of Justice, +1-202-514-2008, TDD

Web Site:

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Delta Air Lines Issues Statement on Northwest Flight 253

26 Dec 2009 01:54 Africa/Lagos

Delta Air Lines Issues Statement on Northwest Flight 253

ATLANTA, Dec. 25 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) today issued a statement regarding the incident onboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 bound for Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport from Amsterdam.

"Upon approach to Detroit, a passenger caused a disturbance onboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The passenger was subdued immediately and the crew requested that law enforcement meet the flight upon arrival. The flight, operated by Northwest using an Airbus 330-300 aircraft with 278 passengers onboard, landed safely. The passenger was taken into custody and questioned by law enforcement authorities. Delta is cooperating fully with authorities and additional questions should be directed to law enforcement officials who are leading the investigation."

Source: Delta Air Lines

CONTACT: Corporate Communications, Delta Air Lines, +1-404-715-2554

Web Site: Delta Air Lines

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Barack Obama Praises US Senate for Historic Health Reform Bill

Millions of Americans could not have asked for a better Christmas present than the historic passage of the Health Reform Bill by the US Senate on Thursday December 24, 2009.

The primary purpose of H.R.3200 - America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 is:
"To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes."

It was a triumphant Christmas Eve for President Barack Obama who praised the US Senate for passing the bill and asked for more cooperation and support to enable him sign the reform into law.

The folllowing is the copy of President Barack Obama's letter on the good news.

Michael Chima --

Although it's Christmas Eve, I wanted to share some exciting news: The Senate just passed a historic health reform bill.

In all the back and forth, it's easy to lose sight of what this incredible breakthrough really means. But consider this: This Christmas, there are millions of Americans without health insurance who risk losing everything if they get sick.

There are mothers and fathers who wonder how they'll provide for their children because an illness has wiped out their savings. There are small business owners who worry that they'll have to lay off a long-time employee because the cost of insurance is rapidly rising.

If we finish the job, all this can change. We will have beaten back the special interests who have for so long perpetuated the status quo. We will have enacted the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important health reform since Medicare in the 1960s.

In Decembers to come, millions more will have access to affordable coverage. Parents will have the security and stability of knowing their insurance can't be revoked at a moment's notice. And the skyrocketing costs plaguing our small businesses will be brought under control.

When you make calls, write letters, organize, this is the change you're making -- a better life for your family and for men and women in every state.

There is still more to do before I can sign reform into law -- a last round of negotiations and final votes in the Senate and the House -- and I'm counting on your help every step of the way. But for now, I hope that as you celebrate this holiday season, you remember that the work you are doing is making our union more perfect, one step at a time. For that, I am grateful to you.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays,

President Barack Obama

P.S. -- Organizing for America supporters are signing a note of appreciation to all the senators who have worked so hard to make this possible. I hope you'll join them:


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Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Christmas: First Lady Michelle Obama Reads the Holiday Classic

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

'Twas the Night before Christmas: A video of the holiday classic being read by First Lady Michelle Obama is available at for children and families around the country and world. Children's National has hosted every First Lady since Mrs. Truman. Children's National Medical Center is a national and international destination for children needing specialty medical care, and is located just four miles from the White House. Photo credit: Rick Rinehard. (PRNewsFoto/Children's National Medical Center) WASHINGTON, DC UNITED STATES

24 Dec 2009 05:28 Africa/Lagos

'Twas the Night Before Christmas: First Lady Michelle Obama Reads the Holiday Classic

Children's National Posts Favorite Story on Its Site

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- First Lady Michelle Obama read the holiday classic 'Twas the Night before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore, during her holiday visit to Children's National Medical Center. A video of the classic story being read by the nation's First Lady is available on the Children's National website, so children and families around the country and world can share the special holiday visit.

(Photo: )

First Lady Michele Obama, with daughters Malia and Sasha, along with dog Bo, visited patients and staff at Children's National Medical Center on Tuesday, December 22.

As part of her visit on Tuesday, Mrs. Obama and her daughters read stories to children staying at the hospital who were brought down to the hospital atrium for the annual event.

"It's been a longstanding tradition for First Ladies to visit the nation's children's hospital. We are pleased that Mrs. Obama and her daughters brought such joy to our patients and staff," said Jacqueline D. Bowens, Executive Vice President and Chief Government and External Affairs Officer at Children's National.

The tradition of First Ladies visiting Children's National goes back to First Lady Bess Truman. Children's National Medical Center is located less than four miles from the White House.

About Children's National Medical Center

Children's National Medical Center, located in Washington, DC, is a proven leader in the development of innovative new treatments for childhood illness and injury. Children's has been serving the nation's children for more than 135 years. Children's National is proudly ranked among the best pediatric hospitals in America by US News & World Report and the Leapfrog Group. For more information, visit

AP Archive:
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PRN Photo Desk,
Source: Children's National Medical Center

CONTACT: Emily Dammeyer or Paula Darte, +1-202-476-4500

Web Site: hhtp://

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The National Press Club Condemns Terrorist Attack on Peshwar Press Club

23 Dec 2009 18:24 Africa/Lagos

The National Press Club Condemns Terrorist Attack on Peshwar Press Club

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A suicide bomber on Tuesday detonated explosives at the gates of the Peshwar Press Club, killing a guard, the Club's accountant and a bystander and wounding at least 20 others. The Club in this northwest Pakistan city had received a series of threats in the month leading up to the suicide attack. The following is a statement by Donna Leinwand, President of the National Press Club:


"The targeting of journalists who strive merely to report the truth to the public is unacceptable," National Press Club President Donna Leinwand says. "We grieve along with Pakistani journalists for the lives lost. We know that our colleagues in Pakistan will continue to uphold the best principles of our profession even in the face of threats and violence. We commend them for their commitment to journalism."

Founded in 1908, the National Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Among it's more than 3,500 members are representatives of nearly every major news organization. On the web at

AP Archive:
PRN Photo Desk
Source: National Press Club

CONTACT: Donna Leinwand of the National Press Club, +1-703-899-8779

Web Site: National Press Club

The Worst Scandal of 2009: Big Money in Politics

23 Dec 2009 16:30 Africa/Lagos

The Worst Scandal of 2009: Big Money in Politics

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by Common Cause and Public Campaign:

What was the biggest scandal of 2009?

Blagojevich trying to sell a Senate seat? Senators, governors, and their mistresses? Allegations that lobbyists were lining up defense earmarks in exchange for straw donations?

No, the biggest scandal of 2009 was that the entire pay-to-play system that dominates Washington and occupies Congress' time and attention sidetracked bold policies.

One year after President Obama was swept into office on a ticket of change, a wall of big money from the health interests, banks, and Big Oil thwarted, slowed, or deep-sixed legislation in Washington. Special interests were on track to spend $3.3 billion to shape policy outcomes, according to a recent story in Politico. Despite the voters' mandate for change, the underlying problem of Washington - what author and Washington Post reporter Robert Kaiser calls "too damn much money" - remained unaltered and in many ways, more powerful than ever before.

The bottom line is that America will not see the significant change that a majority of people are demanding until we change the way we pay for political campaigns by getting special interests out of the business of paying for our elections.

"Yes we can" has been blocked by "no you don't."

Here are some facts to consider:

-- The health care debate is a perfect example of all that is wrong.
Everyone agrees health care must be made more affordable, and that
more people need coverage. But with the health care industry spending
more than $1 million a day this year to lobby for their bottom line,
and contributing more than $200 million to candidates for Congress in
the 2008 election cycle and first nine months of 2009, it's not a
surprise that reform proposals were watered down.
-- At the beginning of December, the U.S. House passed legislation to
reform the financial regulatory industry. The vote came fifteen months
after the collapse of the financial sector and the $700 billion
bailout of Wall Street banks. Reform of Wall Street shouldn't have
been so hard -- these firms exploited a weak regulatory regime to
wreak havoc on our economy -- but throughout 2009, financial, real
estate, and insurance interests poured $85 million in campaign
contributions into Washington, D.C. They succeeded at watering down
sections of the House bill, and have declared all out war on the
Senate bill.
-- As the climate change conference in Copenhagen comes to a close,
President Barack Obama's hands were tied not just by China and India's
unwillingness to negotiate far-reaching agreements. He was also hemmed
in by the politics of passing climate legislation through the U.S.
Senate - and the stranglehold that Big Oil and coal companies have
over our elected officials. The energy sector has contributed more
than $4.5 million to Senators just this year - an off-election year.
Senators like Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) have declared that any action on
climate change in the Senate faces an uncertain future. Inhofe has
received more than $1.2 million in contributions from oil and gas
interests during his career.

The swamp of special interest money is rising in Washington and Congress needs a way out.

The Solution: The Fair Elections Now Act

One year later, it's become clear that change doesn't come simply with the election of a new president or new members of Congress. To dramatically change the way Washington works we need to change the way campaigns are financed in this country.

It's time for the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752, H.R. 1826), legislation that would sever the ties between big money campaign contributors and members of Congress. With Fair Elections, candidates would be able to run a competitive race for congressional office with a blend of small dollar donations and limited public funds. Sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), this voluntary system would put people in office unencumbered by special interest influence. In addition to Rep. Larson, the House bill has the broad bipartisan and cross-caucus support of 124 members.

There have been a lot of political scandals and intrigue in Washington this year, but the worst of them all is the sordid impact of money in our political process. The scandal is what is legally permitted day in, day out, in Washington, D.C. It is time to change the system and pass the Fair Election Now Act.

Learn more at

Source: Common Cause and Public Campaign

CONTACT: Adam Smith of Public Campaign, +1-202-997-8929,

Web Site:

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Health Care Reform Debate

Photo Credit: Activerain.Com

21 Dec 2009 20:48 Africa/Lagos

AMA Announces Support for Passage of Senate Health Reform Bill

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Medical Association (AMA) today announced its support for passage of the amended Senate health system reform bill (H.R. 3590). Passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by the Senate will bring our nation close to the finish line on health system reform.


Better health care for all Americans

"All Americans deserve affordable, high-quality health coverage so they can get the medical care they need - and this bill advances many of our priority issues for achieving the vision of a health system that works for patients and physicians," said AMA President-elect Cecil B. Wilson, M.D.

The Senate bill includes a number of key benefits for meaningful reform. It will improve choice and access to affordable health insurance coverage and eliminate denials based on pre-existing conditions. The bill will increase coverage for preventive and wellness care that can lead to better disease prevention and management, and further the development of comparative effectiveness research that can help patients and physicians make informed treatment decisions. "Lifetime limits on health coverage will be a thing of the past - as will higher premiums based on medical conditions or gender," said Dr. Wilson. "These are important benefits for those who have insurance now - and those who want it but have been unable to get it."

"The AMA communicated closely with the Senate about items it supported and items of concern in the prior version of the Senate bill," said Dr. Wilson. "We are pleased that the manager's amendment addresses several issues of concern to AMA. It increases payments to primary care physicians and general surgeons in underserved areas while no longer cutting payments to other physicians. It eliminates the tax on physician services for cosmetic surgery and drops the proposed physician enrollment fee for Medicare."

While important improvements have been made to the bill, there is still work to be done, and AMA will continue its advocacy on behalf of patients and physicians through the conference process. Important issues that need to be resolved in the House-Senate conference committee include the creation of a Medicare payment board, quality improvement and Medicare data release initiatives. Separate action is needed early next year to permanently repeal the current Medicare physician payment formula to provide a stable payment system to preserve access to care for America's seniors, baby boomers and military families.

"The AMA will stay engaged in the process to ensure that the final bill that goes to President Obama for his signature will improve the health care system for patients and physicians," said Dr. Wilson.

Link to AMA letter to Senate: l

About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association helps doctors help patients by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional and public health issues. Working together, the AMA's quarter of a million physician and medical student members are playing an active role in shaping the future of medicine. For more information on the AMA, please visit Follow AMA on Twitter at

Source: American Medical Association

CONTACT: Brenda Craine, +1-202-789-7447, or
Katherine Hatwell, +1-202-789-7419,, both of
the American Medical Association

The House Health Care Bill: Read It

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Monday, December 21, 2009

FRC Asks - 'Is There No Democratic Senator Who Cares About Life?'

21 Dec 2009 07:49 Africa/Lagos

FRC Asks - 'Is There No Democratic Senator Who Cares About Life?'

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Early this morning, the U.S. Senate voted for cloture on the manager's amendment which includes abortion language that would force the federal government to pay premiums for private health plans that will cover any or all abortions while doing nothing to protect individual conscience rights. Beyond the issue of abortion, the legislation has a myriad of other problems including increasing taxes on families while singling out and penalizing married couples through an increase in the payroll tax. Cuts to Medicare and the expansion of the federal role in personal health care decisions will inevitably lead to rationing of care for patients.

(Logo: )

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins had this to say about the legislation:

"While true health care reform is needed, this legislation does nothing to alleviate the problems facing American families. Under this bill, families face an increasing tax burden that will be used to further devalue human life. A federal government run health care system will create a nationwide abortion network funded by government dollars resulting in the greatest abortion expansion since Roe v. Wade.

"The Senate's cloture vote reflects the whole process leading up to it - ugly, partisan and dangerous. This legislation was drafted by a handful of people, supported by only one political party and will negatively affect every single American citizen.

"What is most disappointing is that while some Democrats in the House of Representatives put the sanctity of human life first and foremost, not one Senator from the Democratic Party could be bothered to stand up for mothers and their unborn children.

"Senators Ben Nelson (D-Nebr.) and Robert Casey (D-Penn.) gave mere lip service to protect the most innocent among us by placing their stamp of approval on government funding for abortion coverage in direct conflict with longstanding policy. I ask them to reverse course in any future votes to move this deadly bill forward."

AP Archive:
PRN Photo Desk,
Source: Family Research Council

CONTACT: J.P. Duffy of Family Research Council, +1-202-679-6800

Web Site:

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United States Transfers 12 Guantanamo Bay Detainees to Afghanistan, Yemen and the Somaliland Region

20 Dec 2009 16:02 Africa/Lagos

United States Transfers 12 Guantanamo Bay Detainees to Afghanistan, Yemen and the Somaliland Region

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Justice today announced that 12 detainees have been transferred from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to Afghanistan, Yemen and the Somaliland region.

As directed by the President's Jan. 22, 2009 Executive Order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of each of these cases. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including potential threat, mitigation measures and the likelihood of success in habeas litigation, the detainees were approved for transfer. In accordance with Congressionally-mandated reporting requirements, the Administration informed Congress of its intent to transfer the detainees at least 15 days before their transfer.

Over the weekend, four Afghan detainees, Abdul Hafiz, Sharifullah, Mohamed Rahim and Mohammed Hashim, were transferred to the Government of Afghanistan. In addition, two Somali detainees, Mohammed Soliman Barre and Ismael Arale, were transferred to regional authorities in Somaliland. Finally, six Yemeni detainees, Jamal Muhammad Alawi Mari, Farouq Ali Ahmed, Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi, Muhammaed Yasir Ahmed Taher, Fayad Yahya Ahmed al Rami and Riyad Atiq Ali Abdu al Haf, were transferred to the Government of Yemen.

These transfers were carried out under individual arrangements between the United States and relevant foreign authorities to ensure the transfers took place under appropriate security measures. Consultations with foreign authorities regarding these individuals will continue.

Since 2002, more than 560 detainees have departed Guantanamo Bay for other destinations, including Albania, Algeria, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belgium, Bermuda, Chad, Denmark, Egypt, France, Hungary Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Palau, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom and Yemen.


Source: U.S. Department of Justice

CONTACT: U.S. Department of Justice, +1-202-514-2007, TDD

Web Site:

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Clinton Tells House Committee the Call for Additional Troops in Afghanistan is Necessary

3 Dec 2009 01:05 Africa/Lagos

Secretary of State Clinton Tells House Committee the Call for Additional Troops in Afghanistan is Necessary and Will Also Result in an Increase in Civilian Forces in the Region

DATELINE CITY: 02 December, 2009 / Washington, D.C.

FORMAT: Soundbites

STORY SUMMARY: Remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on "U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan."

RESOURCES: Video, hard copy requests, contact information and more available at se-committee-the-call-for-additional-troops-in-afghanistan-is-necessary-and-wi ll-also-result-in-an-increase-in-civilian-forces-in-the-region


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Soundbite (1)

Summary: Secretary Clinton said President Obama's call for additional troops is a difficult but necessary decision.

IN: "Simply put, among a range of difficult choices, we believe this is the best way to protect our nation now and in the future. The extremists we are fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan have attacked us and our allies before. If we allow them access to the very same safe havens they used before 2001, they will have a greater capacity to regroup and attack again. They could drag an entire region into chaos. Our civilian and military leaders in Afghanistan have reported that the situation is serious and worsening, and we agree." OUT (:37)

Soundbite (2)

Summary: Secretary Clinton says US is committed to work with Afghanistan and Pakistan to stabilize the region.

IN: "We will work with the Afghan and Pakistani governments to eliminate safe havens for those plotting attacks against us, our allies, and our interests. We will help to stabilize a region that is fundamental to our national security. And we will develop long-term, sustainable relationships with both Afghanistan and Pakistan, so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. The duration of our military presence may be limited, but our civilian commitment must continue even as our troops will begin to come home. Now, accomplishing this mission and ensuring the safety of the American people will not be easy. It will mean sending more civilians, more troops, and more assistance to Afghanistan, and significantly expanding our civilian efforts in Pakistan." OUT (:49)

Soundbite (3)

Summary: Secretary Clinton remarks that civilian commitment will increase to support and work with additional troops and continue after the troops have gone.

IN: "A timeframe for transition will provide a sense of urgency in working with the Afghan Government, but it should be clear to everyone that the United States, our allies, and our partners will have an enduring commitment, a civilian commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our resolve in this fight is reflected in the substantial new increase in troops, but also in the significant civilian surge that will also accompany it.

The civilian effort is bearing fruit. Civilian experts and advisors are helping to craft policy inside government ministries, providing development assistance in the field, and when our marines went into Nawa province this last July, we had civilians on the ground with them to coordinate assistance the very next day. As our operations progress, our civ-mil coordination will grow even stronger. We are on track to triple the number of civilian positions to 974 by early in January. On average, each of these civilians leverages 10 partners ranging from locally employed staff to experts with U.S.-funded NGOs." OUT (01:08)

Soundbite (4)

Summary: Secretary Clinton says the U.S. will work to develop long-term relationships with both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

IN: "We will be delivering high-impact economic assistance and bolstering the agricultural sector. We will be helping to support an Afghan-led effort to open the door to those Taliban who renounce al-Qaida, abandon violence, and want to reintegrate into society." OUT (:16)

TRT: 3:56

VIDEO PROVIDED BY: U.S. Department of State


CONTACT: Ken Richards, +1-202-647-6251,

/PRNewswire -- Dec. 2/

Source: U.S. Department of State

Web Site:

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Derek Jeter Named 2009 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year

Derek Jeter is the 2009 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. (PRNewsFoto/Sports Illustrated) NEW YORK, NY UNITED STATES

30 Nov 2009 16:53 Africa/Lagos

Derek Jeter Named 2009 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year

NEW YORK, Nov. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Sports Illustrated Group Editor Terry McDonell announced today that Derek Jeter is the 2009 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. Jeter is the first New York Yankee to receive this award. Previous winners include Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. The 2009 SI Sportsman of the Year issue hits newsstands Wednesday, December 2. The issue marks the 11th cover appearance for Jeter.

(Photo: )

Since 1954 the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year has been presented annually to the person who excelled in athletic performance and demonstrated great character. "Over all the years SI editors have used the same language to define the award," said McDonell. "It is not for the victory alone that he (or she) is honored; rather, it is for the quality of his effort and the manner of his striving.' And that defines Derek Jeter."

"While having a Hall of Fame career and under a brilliant spotlight, Derek conducts himself with class and a selfless demeanor that allows not only his teammates but also his sport and his community to flourish," McDonell continued. "It was his leadership both on and off the field that drove the Yankees to the world championship, and his Turn 2 Foundation is one of the most efficient and effective foundations of its kind. It is an honor to include Derek Jeter in the Sportsman fraternity."

Jeter's selection caps another outstanding season for the 35-year-old team captain and future Hall of Famer. In 2009 he batted .334 while leading the Yankees to their fifth World Series title in his 14 full seasons, their first since 2000 and their major league record 27th. On September 11, Jeter got his 2,722 hit, breaking Lou Gehrig's 70-year-old franchise record. Jeter now has 2,747. In 2009, Jeter led the American League by reaching base 289 times, finished second in the league in hits (212), third in batting average and on-base percentage (.406), fourth in runs (107), and eighth in stolen bases (30). He was named an All-Star for the 10th time, including the sixth time as a starter, while winning his fourth AL Silver Slugger as the best hitting shortstop in the league, and his fourth Gold Glove as the league's top defensive shortstop.

In 14 postseason games Jeter lived up to his reputation as a clutch player, batting .344 with a .432 on-base percentage, three home runs and six RBIs. He batted .407 in the World Series to help lead the Yankees to a six-game victory against the defending world champion Philadelphia Phillies. During the Series Jeter was named the American League recipient of the Hank Aaron Award, given to the best hitter in each league as voted on by the fans, and the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who best displays skill on the field while giving back to the community off it.

Jeter will be honored at a ceremony in Manhattan on December 1 along with SI Kids' SportsKid of the Year, Austin McCarthy. Sponsors for the Sportsman of the Year event include Ford, Gillette, Liberty Mutual and Verizon.

Jeter is the 10th baseball honoree and only the third in the last 34 years. Others players named Sportsman after great World Series-winning performances include Johnny Podres ('55), Sandy Koufax ('65), Tom Seaver ('69), Pete Rose ('75), Willie Stargell (along with Terry Bradshaw ['79]), Orel Hershiser ('88), Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson ('01) and the Boston Red Sox ('04).

For additional information, please visit

About Sports Illustrated

SI is a multimedia sports brand that takes the consumer into the heart and soul of sports. The SI franchise is anchored by Sports Illustrated, the most respected voice in sports journalism which reaches a weekly audience of nearly 21 million adults, and, the magazine's 24/7 sports news website that delivers more than 150 original stories to its users each week. The SI franchise also includes Sports Illustrated Kids (, a monthly magazine targeted to kids age 8 and up; Golf Magazine and;, a social networking and sports-news aggregation platform; SI Presents, the magazine's specialty publishing division; as well as SI Books, SI Pictures, SI Productions, SI Digital and SI Events. Founded in 1954, SI is a division of Time Inc., the world's leading magazine publishing company and a subsidiary of Time Warner.

AP Archive:
AP PhotoExpress Network: PRN2
PRN Photo Desk,
Source: Sports Illustrated

CONTACT: Emily O'Brien, +1-212-522-8473, Emily_O', or
Ryan Watson, +1-212-522-7644,

Web Site:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

U.S. Crude Oil Production in 2009 Poised To Show Biggest Jump in Almost 40 Years: Platts Analysis

27 Nov 2009 15:02 Africa/Lagos

U.S. Crude Oil Production in 2009 Poised To Show Biggest Jump in Almost 40 Years: Platts Analysis

NEW YORK, Nov. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Platts - United States crude oil production for 2009 is on target to have its biggest one-year jump since 1970, according to a Platts analysis of industry data.

With U.S. oil production averaging 5.268 million barrels per day (b/d) through October, the gain in U.S. output will be the most since the country produced 9.637-million b/d in 1970, which turned out to be the peak year of U.S. crude output, according to Platts' analysis of data published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). If that 5.268 million b/d figure holds through December, this year would show a 6.4% boost from the 4.95 million b/d average of 2008 and rank as the best U.S. oil production year since 2004, when output averaged 5.419 million b/d.

For comparison, in the 40 years since U.S. oil production peaked annual output has jumped only eight times. Seven of those increases were minimal; only in 1978 was there a jump of significant magnitude, an increase of 5.6%, to 8.7 million b/d.

Last year's hurricane curtailments distorted the production numbers somewhat for the 2008 comparison, given that 183,000 b/d of Gulf of Mexico output was still offline at the end of that year. However, 2009 is still expected to post increases of 3% and 4% from the relatively storm-free years of 2006 and 2007, respectively.

Projections from the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) indicate that the primary driver for this year's U.S. oil production resurgence is actually just getting started. That driver is the Gulf of Mexico, where operators have begun launching a group of new fields, fulfilling what has been a decade-long focus on unlocking the promise of deepwater exploration there.

In its reporting, Platts concluded that with the jump in the Gulf of Mexico, combined with the emergence of two other new oil-production trends, it appears the U.S. has a chance of at least maintaining oil output in the range of five million to six million b/d for some years to come. "We see it above five million barrels per day for the next 10 years or so," Platts quoted Peter Jackson, senior director for IHS CERA, as saying. "There is still a tremendous amount of exploration potential in the U.S. and that plateau could be sustained."

The Gulf posted its biggest oil production year in 2002 with 1.556 million b/d, but only 61% of that total came from deepwater. In contrast, this year the MMS projects oil output of 1.213 million b/d with 76% from deepwater as the Gulf ramps toward an expected new oil production record of 1.635 million b/d by 2011.

Besides growth in the Gulf, those other trends involve further development of the Bakken Shale oil play in North Dakota and success by a group of operators now training their onshore exploration sights toward new oil targets at the expense of natural gas.

The development of the Bakken into a robust, new oil province is well under way, according to data from EIA. Bakken oil output has already elevated North Dakota into fifth place among U.S. states for oil production with average daily output of 202,000 b/d at the end of 2008. But that number already appears to be old, even though is was 50% more than 2007 figures. For example, in June of this year, production in North Dakota had climbed to 215,000 b/d.

As for companies shifting their strategies, that group includes large Houston independent and Bakken pioneer EOG Resources, which has set a goal of shifting from a 70% gas production share to a 50:50 oil and gas mix by 2011 with a comprehensive review of additional potential North American shale oil targets.

This rise in output has helped the U.S. reduce its net imports -- defined as imports less exports, both crude and petroleum products -- by a substantial amount. While there are many factors that go into the United States' net import figure, the decline has been striking, according to EIA data.

For the final three months of 2008, net imports - reported weekly by EIA -- were never less than 10.5 million b/d, and were as high as 12.68 million b/d. This year, the EIA is reporting that net imports in the first week of October were 10.1 million b/d, have not been higher since, and have been as low as 8.84 million b/d.

And while the drop in U.S. consumption can be seen as accounting for much of that decline, the U.S. also has put more than 140 million barrels of crude oil and products into inventory since the beginning of October 2008, something made possible in part by the rise in crude oil output.

For more information on crude oil, visit the Platts website.

About Platts: Platts, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP) , is a leading global provider of energy and commodities information. With a century of business experience, Platts serves customers across more than 150 countries. An independent provider, Platts serves the oil, natural gas, electricity, emissions, nuclear power, coal, petrochemical, shipping, and metals markets from 17 offices worldwide. Platts' real-time news, pricing, analytical services and conferences help markets operate with transparency and efficiency. Traders, risk managers, analysts, and industry leaders depend upon Platts to help them make better trading and investment decisions. Additional information is available at

About The McGraw-Hill Companies: Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE:MHP) is a leading global information services provider meeting worldwide needs in the financial services, education and business information markets through leading brands such as Standard & Poor's, McGraw-Hill Education, Platts, Capital IQ, J.D. Power and Associates, McGraw-Hill Construction and Aviation Week. The Corporation has more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Sales in 2008 were $6.4 billion. Additional information is available at

Source: Platts

CONTACT: Kathleen Tanzy of Platts, +1-212-904-2860,; or Asia, Casey Yew, +65 653 06552, or Europe,
Shiona Ramage, +44 207 1766153, both for Platts

Web Site:

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Monday, November 16, 2009

9/11 Families Want Guantánamo Detainees Prosecuted In Federal Court

9/11 Families Want Guantánamo Detainees Prosecuted In Federal Court

New ACLU Video Features 9/11 Families Asking For True Justice

NEW YORK, November 13, 2009 /PRNewswire/ — A new video released by the American Civil Liberties Union this week features family members of 9/11 victims calling for federal trials of terrorism suspects. The families were interviewed before the Obama administration announced today that certain Guantánamo detainees will be transferred to the U.S. for trial in federal court. The administration also said other detainees will be tried in the illegitimate military commissions.

"It is of utmost importance to me that those who were responsible for the attacks of 9/11 face a court," says Adele Welty in the ACLU video. Her son was a New York firefighter killed at the World Trade Center.

"It's very important to me that we get the right people," says John Leinung, whose stepson was killed while working in the Twin Towers. "That the right people are punished or held to account for what happened on 9/11."

Pat Perry, whose son was a police offer killed on 9/11, says she would rather see the Guantánamo detainees who have been held without charge "appear in open court where we can all sift out what we feel is really the truth and the judges can make a decision based on our Constitution."

These 9/11 family members all say they agree that holding detainees without charge in Guantánamo is a betrayal of American values and they look forward to true justice being served in federal court.

"My son gave his life to save those trapped in the Twin Towers," Welty says, "and it does not honor him that we violate our Constitution in retaliation for what happened on September 11."

Press Contact:
Rachel Myers
(212) 549-2689
(212) 549-2666

New Survey: Americans Plan to Spend Less on Holidays but Remain Generous Despite Recession

16 Nov 2009 14:00 Africa/Lagos

New Survey: Americans Plan to Spend Less on Holidays but Remain Generous Despite Recession



SEATTLE, Nov. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The faltering U.S. economy will again force many U.S. adults to cut back on holiday gift spending this year but according to a new study, three out of four Americans (76%) would prefer to receive a meaningful gift that would help someone else instead of a traditional holiday gift like clothing or electronics. And according to the new study commissioned by World Vision, an international relief and development organization, an overwhelming majority (95%), say the nation's focus over the holidays ought to be on helping children. Most Americans also say once the economy improves, they'll increase their donations to charities. According to the poll, conducted by Harris Interactive, almost three out of four (74%) say they'll increase their charitable giving once the economy improves.


More than nine out of ten (95 percent) agree that it is especially important to help children during the holiday season.

More than three out of four U.S. adults (76 percent) would prefer to receive a meaningful gift that would help someone else instead of a traditional holiday gift like clothing or electronics.

As a result of the current economic climate, almost six out of ten adults (57 percent) will spend less money on holiday presents this year. In 2008, seven out of ten (71 percent) said they would spend less on holiday gifts.

Almost three out of four (74 percent) plan to increase their charitable giving once the economy improves.

"The declines we see from 2008 reflect the realities of the challenging non-profit climate, with less charitable giving at a time when the need has increased for so many," says Justin Greeves, Senior Vice President, Business Leader, Public Affairs & Policy Research at Harris Interactive. "However, even in these difficult times, an overwhelming majority of Americans still want to help others in need and would rather receive a gift that would help another instead of receiving a traditional gift for themselves. That finding reveals our charitable culture at work. The declines we see in this survey mirror the climate overall. In June 2009, Giving USA reported a 5.7% drop in giving overall in 2008, the largest drop in five decades," says Greeves. "I'm surprised it's not a lot lower than that."

This is the second year World Vision has commissioned Harris Interactive to report on how charitable giving would be affected by the recession. Last year, World Vision also reported that U.S. adults planned to cut back on holiday gift spending. That study also concluded that many U.S. adults (49%) would be more likely to give a "charitable gift" as a holiday present. Both studies are available to media.

"This research shows that people are still very anxious about the economy but clearly concerned about children," says Devin Hermanson, World Vision's Gift Catalog Senior Director. "They want to help, but feel they should wait until the economy turns around. The Gift Catalog is a great solution since it allows them to have a life-changing impact for very little money.

And this year, we'll be able to truly show how powerful that impact can be through our Spirit of Christmas Tour. We'll be traveling literally around the world to videotape children and their families who have benefited from gifts from the Gift Catalog such as goats, water, and malaria prevention." The tour leaves New York November 22nd, returning in five weeks.

"A gift given from the Gift Catalog significantly improves the life of a child or family in need by providing tools and opportunities to overcome extreme poverty while at the same time honoring your friends and loved ones," says Hermanson. For each World Vision gift, the giver can make the purchase in the name of a friend, family member, or business associate. World Vision then sends special cards to those individuals, describing the gifts and their impact. In the following year, the gift itself or intervention reaches the child or family in need.

Last year alone, World Vision's Gift Catalog raised $25 million and provided assistance to more than 500,000 people around the world.

World Vision launched the Gift Catalog in 1996. And while a goat ($75) may be World Vision's number one seller, there are more than 100 gifts (many under $35) to choose from.

To order: Or call toll-free (888) 511-6511. All items are tax-deductible.

About World Vision

World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty. We serve the world's poor, regardless of a person's religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, visit

Source: World Vision U.S.

CONTACT: John Yeager of World Vision, +1-253-815-2356, +1-425-765-9845,

Web Site:

NOTE TO EDITORS: Devin Hermanson - World Vision (holiday gift giving expert) and Justin Greeves - Harris Interactive are available for interviews. Contact John Yeager World Vision Media Relations 425-765-9845 (cell). Additional media contacts: Gardi Wilks (Central US), 708-434-5006; Laura Blank (Eastern US),, 617-945-7548; Myrna Gutierrez (Los Angeles & Southern California),, 323-377-2432; John Yeager (Seattle & Western US),, 253-815-2356 (work), 425-765-9856 (cell). The poll was conducted by telephone on behalf of World Vision, an international Christian relief and development organization, among 1,001 U.S. adults (ages 18 +) Oct 29th - Nov 1st, 2009. For complete methodology, including weighing variables - please contact John Yeager.

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Mr. President, Do Not Let Obama's Dream Die in Your Hands

Mr. President, Do Not Let Obama's Dream Die in Your Hands

Dear President Barack Obama,

On the eve of your visit to China, we urge you to take a firm stand on human rights issues to reaffirm to the world the core values of the United States of America and its dedication to those values.

Dear Mr. President, you challenged Americans to enact a change, and Americans have responded and sent you to the White House to be the catalyst of change. You took the message of change to Europe, and Europeans have responded and reengaged with the leader of the free world.

We now challenge you: Will you bring change to the US policy toward China, a policy of economic engagement that has tainted our nation's image for the past twenty years, or will you maintain the status quo?

The United States' engagement with China originally donned a pretext of helping to improve China's human rights. Over time, however, its true motive and consequence has emerged: with the passing of one so-called opportunity after another to improve human rights in China, including the granting of PNTR to China, the admission of China into the WTO, and the Beijing Olympics, more and more Chinese people have fallen victim to the Chinese regime's human rights abuses. As such, this policy has turned into our nation's worst example of hypocrisy, and the complete lack of acknowledgement of and accountability for its failure also makes it our worst example of irresponsible politics.

At the same time the US has been losing its moral standing. The former Soviet bloc was far more powerful then than China is now, and it took thirty-eight years for the Berlin Wall to fall. The US was never weak or vulnerable during the Cold War, and was a source of inspiration and hope for people in Eastern Europe. Now the US is not only increasingly timid about mentioning human rights to China, it is on its knees supplicating China to buy its debt. Internationally, the US has helped to fund the Chinese regime to become a new anti-human rights ringleader and has to face it on multiple continents. Domestically, we are suffering the consequences of our own deeds: We ignored China's suppression of workers' unions, and we lose our jobs to China's slave laborers who work under unsafe conditions; we ignore China's persecution of Christians and Falun Gong practitioners who merely want their right to conscience, and we receive unconscionable toxic products from China.

Most alarmingly, we are losing sight of our real national interest - our American values. Had Abraham Lincoln not been so dedicated to the founding principles of America, had he instead carried on a policy of economic engagement with the South, rationalizing that the profit would somehow trickle down in the form of greater freedom for the slaves, that would be equivalent to today's China policy, and there would be no President Obama. Today, our founding principles and values have eroded to the point where we have accepted a China policy based on greed rather than principle for the past twenty years.

Mr. President, in those twenty years how many of China's Obamas have been locked up and lynched in jail? How many of China's Obamas have been exiled to the US and cannot go back home to pursue their dreams? Over the globe, how many Obamas have suffered under various regimes that remain in power only because of the support of the Chinese regime?

Mr. President, we take it to heart when you claim Lincoln as your role model, so we ask you to carry on Abraham Lincoln's legacy to give people in China and around the world the opportunity to see their Obama's dream to come true.

Please do not let Obama's dream die in your hands.

~ From The Conscience Foundation
Contact: 619-280-3112

Please Sign the Petition to the President:

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Fort Hood Massacre

6 Nov 2009 21:12 Africa/Lagos

Secondary PTSD a Possible Factor for Fort Hood Shooter

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- "Our hearts go out to the families of the soldiers and civilians who were killed or wounded by the senseless violence that took place at Fort Hood today," said National Veterans Foundation President and Founder Shad Meshad.

Shad Meshad has 38 years of experience treating sufferers of PTSD. In his practice, he has seen counselors who treat people with traumatic stress develop Compassion Fatigue, or Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and with it the psychological symptoms of someone who has been through combat.

Said Meshad, "We do not have all the information on Nidal Malik Hasan and his motives. But if he was treating soldiers with post-traumatic stress who were returning from combat in Iraq, and then faced deployment to the very place all this trauma was being experienced by his patients, it might have been enough, combined with other stressors, to cause the kind of psychotic break that could explain such horrific violence."

Meshad is one of the nation's leading experts on PTSD and Compassion Fatigue. He provides training to DOD and VA staff, on caring for their counselors who develop secondary traumatic stress.

"Being around someone with PTSD is like being around second-hand smoke," Meshad said. "It adversely affects your health. We have to be concerned about caregivers for soldiers returning from combat, and their families. I have been talking about a potential backlash of violence for years. You cannot expect to send our soldiers into extended, multiple combat deployments, and that not affect them or the people they are connected to, back at home. All signs indicate that the incidence of violent crimes, suicide, domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse by Veterans from the current wars are on the rise."

See for the story a recent, groundbreaking court decision for Veterans with PTSD, in which Meshad was involved as a defense consultant.

Shad Meshad has been working with Veterans since 1971. He was a Medical Service Officer during the Vietnam War, where he counseled soldiers who suffered from psychological and emotional problems resulting from their experiences in combat, including what would later become known as PTSD. The NVF is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to bettering the lives of veterans and their families.

Source: National Veterans Foundation

CONTACT: Shad Meshad, President and Founder of National Veterans
Foundation, 1-888-777-4443,

Web Site:

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