Monthly Archives: August 2013

Premier Foods, LLC Announces The Recall Of Products Sold At Williams-Sonoma For Undeclared Allergens

Premier Foods, LLC of Santa Fe Springs, CA is voluntarily recalling four flavored sauces due to the failure to declare the following allergens on the product labels: milk, soy, and/or wheat. The products were sold at Williams-Sonoma. People who have allergies to milk, soy, and/or wheat run the risk of serious or life-threatening reactions if they consume products containing these ingredients. 

Secretary Kerry Statement on Syria

President Obama has spent many days now consulting with Congress and talking with leaders around the world about the situation in Syria. And last night, the President asked all of us on his national security team to consult with the leaders of Congress as well, including the leadership of the Congressional national security committees. And he asked us to consult about what we know regarding the horrific chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs last week. I will tell you that as someone who has spent nearly three decades in the United States Congress, I know that that consultation is the right way for a president to approach a decision of when and how and if to use military force. And it’s important to ask the tough questions and get the tough answers before taking action, not just afterwards.

And I believe, as President Obama does, that it is also important to discuss this directly with the American people. That’s our responsibility, to talk with the citizens who have entrusted all of us in the Administration and the Congress with the responsibility for their security. That’s why this morning’s release of our government’s unclassified estimate of what took place in Syria is so important. Its findings are as clear as they are compelling. I’m not asking you to take my word for it. Read for yourself, everyone, those listening. All of you, read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources, evidence that is already publicly available, and read for yourselves the verdict reached by our intelligence community about the chemical weapons attack the Assad regime inflicted on the opposition and on opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods in the Damascus suburbs on the early morning of August 21st.

Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and re-reviewed information regarding this attack, and I will tell you it has done so more than mindful of the Iraq experience. We will not repeat that moment. Accordingly, we have taken unprecedented steps to declassify and make facts available to people who can judge for themselves. But still, in order to protect sources and methods, some of what we know will only be released to members of Congress, the representatives of the American people. That means that some things we do know we can’t talk about publicly.

So what do we really know that we can talk about? Well, we know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year and has used them on a smaller scale, but still it has used them against its own people, including not very far from where last Wednesday’s attack happened. We know that the regime was specifically determined to rid the Damascus suburbs of the opposition, and it was frustrated that it hadn’t succeeded in doing so.

We know that for three days before the attack the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons personnel were on the ground in the area making preparations. And we know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons. We know that these were specific instructions. We know where the rockets were launched from and at what time. We know where they landed and when. We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods.

And we know, as does the world, that just 90 minutes later all hell broke loose in the social media. With our own eyes we have seen the thousands of reports from 11 separate sites in the Damascus suburbs. All of them show and report victims with breathing difficulties, people twitching with spasms, coughing, rapid heartbeats, foaming at the mouth, unconsciousness and death.

And we know it was ordinary Syrian citizens who reported all of these horrors. And just as important, we know what the doctors and the nurses who treated them didn’t report – not a scratch, not a shrapnel wound, not a cut, not a gunshot wound. We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood. Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home, we saw rows of children lying side by side sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad’s gas and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate.

The United States Government now knows that at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children. Even the first responders, the doctors, nurses, and medics who tried to save them, they became victims themselves. We saw them gasping for air, terrified that their own lives were in danger.

This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. This is what Assad did to his own people.

We also know many disturbing details about the aftermath. We know that a senior regime official who knew about the attack confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime, reviewed the impact, and actually was afraid that they would be discovered. We know this.

And we know what they did next. I personally called the Foreign Minister of Syria and I said to him, “If, as you say, your nation has nothing to hide, then let the United Nations in immediately and give the inspectors the unfettered access so they have the opportunity to tell your story.” Instead, for four days they shelled the neighborhood in order to destroy evidence, bombarding block after block at a rate four times higher than they had over the previous 10 days. And when the UN inspectors finally gained access, that access, as we now know, was restricted and controlled.

In all of these things that I have listed, in all of these things that we know, all of them, the American intelligence community has high confidence, high confidence. This is common sense. This is evidence. These are facts.

So the primary question is really no longer: What do we know? The question is: What are we – we collectively – what are we in the world going to do about it?

As previous storms in history have gathered, when unspeakable crimes were within our power to stop them, we have been warned against the temptations of looking the other way. History is full of leaders who have warned against inaction, indifference, and especially against silence when it mattered most. Our choices then in history had great consequences and our choice today has great consequences. It matters that nearly a hundred years ago, in direct response to the utter horror and inhumanity of World War I, that the civilized world agreed that chemical weapons should never be used again.

That was the world’s resolve then, and that began nearly a century of effort to create a clear redline for the international community. It matters today that we are working as an international community to rid the world of the worst weapons. That’s why we signed agreements like the START Treaty, the New START Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, which more than 180 countries, including Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, have signed on to.

It matters to our security and the security of our allies. It matters to Israel. It matters to our close friends Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon – all of whom live just a stiff breeze away from Damascus. It matters to all of them where the Syrian chemical weapons are. And if unchecked, they can cause even greater death and destruction to those friends. And it matters deeply to the credibility and the future interests of the United States of America and our allies.

It matters because a lot of other countries, whose polices challenges these international norms, are watching. They are watching. They want to see whether the United States and our friends mean what we say. It is directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the United States when it says something. They are watching to see if Syria can get away with it, because then maybe they too can put the world at greater risk.

And make no mistake, in an increasingly complicated world of sectarian and religious extremist violence, what we choose to do or not do matters in real ways to our own security. Some cite the risk of doing things, but we need to ask, what is the risk of doing nothing?

It matters because if we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.

This matters also beyond the limits of Syria’s borders. It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons attacks, will now feel emboldened, in the absence of action, to obtain nuclear weapons. It is about Hezbollah, and North Korea, and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons’ current or future use, or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?

So our concern is not just about some far off land oceans away. That’s not what this is about. Our concern with the cause of the defenseless people of Syria is about choices that will directly affect our role in the world and our interests in the world. It is also profoundly about who we are. We are the United States of America. We are the country that has tried, not always successfully, but always tried to honor a set of universal values around which we have organized our lives and our aspirations. This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of international community, against the norm of the international community, this matters to us. And it matters to who we are. And it matters to leadership and to our credibility in the world. My friends, it matters here if nothing is done. It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens.

America should feel confident and gratified that we are not alone in our condemnation, and we are not alone in our will to do something about it and to act. The world is speaking out, and many friends stand ready to respond. The Arab League pledged, quote, “to hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for this crime.” The Organization for Islamic Cooperation condemned the regime and said we needed, quote, “to hold the Syrian Government legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime.” Turkey said there is no doubt that the regime is responsible. Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime, quote, “committed this vile action, and it is an outrage to use weapons that the community has banned for the last 90 years in all international conventions.” The Australian Prime Minister said he didn’t want history to record that we were, quote, “a party to turning such a blind eye.”

So now that we know what we know, the question we must all be asking is: What will we do? Let me emphasize – President Obama, we in the United States, we believe in the United Nations. And we have great respect for the brave inspectors who endured regime gunfire and obstructions to their investigation. But as Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General, has said again and again, the UN investigation will not affirm who used these chemical weapons. That is not the mandate of the UN investigation. They will only affirm whether such weapons were used. By the definition of their own mandate, the UN can’t tell us anything that we haven’t shared with you this afternoon or that we don’t already know. And because of the guaranteed Russian obstructionism of any action through the UN Security Council, the UN cannot galvanize the world to act as it should.

So let me be clear. We will continue talking to the Congress, talking to our allies, and most importantly, talking to the American people. President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines based on our values and our interests.
Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency. These things we do know.

We also know that we have a President who does what he says that he will do. And he has said very clearly that whatever decision he makes in Syria, it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq, or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open-ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway. The President has been clear: Any action that he might decide to take will be a limited and tailored response to ensure that a despot’s brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable. And ultimately, ultimately, we are committed – we remain committed, we believe it’s the primary objective – is to have a diplomatic process that can resolve this through negotiation, because we know there is no ultimate military solution. It has to be political. It has to happen at the negotiating table, and we are deeply committed to getting there.

So that is what we know. That’s what the leaders of Congress now know. And that’s what the American people need to know. And that is at the core of the decisions that must now be made for the security of our country and for the promise of a planet where the world’s most heinous weapons must never again be used against the world’s most vulnerable people.

Thank you very much.

More Resources:

– Cross posted from whitehouse.gov

U.S. Assessment of the Government of Syria’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

<p>The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence &ndash; but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community&rsquo;s analysis of what took place.</p><p><strong>Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21</strong></p><p>A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.</p><p>A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.</p><p>We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime&rsquo;s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.</p><p><u><strong>Background</strong></u>:</p><p><span style=”font-size: 12px”>The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents.</span></p><p><span style=”font-size: 12px”>Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to ensure security and loyalty. The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) &ndash; which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense &ndash; manages Syria&rsquo;s chemical weapons program. </span></p><p>We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.</p><p>The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery attack like the one that occurred on August 21.</p><p>We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.</p><p>The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime&rsquo;s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.</p><p><u><strong>Preparation</strong></u>:</p><p>We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel &ndash; including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC &ndash; were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.</p><p>Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of &lsquo;Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.</p><p><u><strong>The Attack</strong></u>:</p><p>Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred &ndash; including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, &lsquo;Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu&rsquo;addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.</p><p>Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.</p><p>Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events &ndash; characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers &ndash; were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.</p><p>We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.</p><p>We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.</p><p>We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.</p><p>To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government&rsquo;s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21.As indicated, there is additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being provided to Congress and international partners.</p><p><strong><a href=”/sites/default/files/docs/2013-08-30_map_accompanying_usg_assessment_on_syria.pdf”>Syria: Damascus Areas of Influence and Areas Reportedly Affected by 21 August Chemical Attack</a></strong></p>

– Cross posted on whitehouse.gov

Celebrating Education’s Place in Civil Rights

Fifty years after the March on Washington, President Barack Obama and dozens of other dignitaries paid tribute on Wednesday to Martin Luther King Jr., and those who participated in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it does not bend on its own,” Obama said in an echo of King’s words.

NTIA Awards Additional SLIGP Grants to Assist FirstNet Planning

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
August 30, 2013

News Media Contact: 
NTIA, Office of Public Affairs,
(202) 482-7002,
press@ntia.doc.gov

 

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) this week awarded grants under the State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) to the following states to help in planning for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet):

  • Alaska – $2 million
  • Idaho – $1.4 million
  • Montana -$1.8 million
  • Nevada – $1.9 million
  • Pennsylvania -$3.9 million
  • Tennessee – $2.3 million
  • U.S. Virgin Islands – $515,628
  • Utah – $1.7 million

All the recipients are required to provide a matching contribution of at least 20 percent. Additional grants will be awarded on a rolling basis.

 

More information on the SLIGP grant program can be found here: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/sligp/program_information

NCCAM Research Blog: New Initiatives To Address Pain and Other Symptoms in Military and Veteran Communities

Two winters ago, I was skiing at a local ski area and became intrigued by an activity I saw there. Two groups—Wounded Warrior Project and Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation—were on the mountain that day. They sponsor programs to help wounded service members find ways, through adaptive sports, to ease back into active lives.

NEPA and NHPA: A Handbook for Integrating NEPA and Section 106

NEPA and NHPA: A Handbook for Integrating NEPA and Section 106

Date: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 12:00pm EDT

Speaker: Kelly Fanizzo, program analyst and attorney advisor with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP)

Abstract: This presentation will focus on NEPA and NHPA: A Handbook for Integrating NEPA and Section 106 (pdf), published jointly by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the White House Council on Environmental Quality in March 2013. The new handbook provides advice to Federal agencies, applicants, project sponsors, and consultants on how to take advantage of existing regulatory provisions to align the NEPA process and the NHPA Section 106 review process. Federal agencies have independent statutory obligations under NEPA and NHPA. For many projects, agencies can use the procedures and documentation required by NEPA to comply with NHPA Section 106, instead of undertaking a separate process. The handbook explains how to align NEPA and NHPA Section 106 processes for maximum efficiency and public input, and provides a series of roadmaps for coordination of the two statutes.

Note: This seminar is sponsored by the International Section of the NOAA General Counsel Office.

Remote access via webinar will be available.