This morning I joined Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to discuss our nation’s ongoing response to the H1N1 flu pandemic.
H1N1 may have retreated from the headlines, but it is still very much a focus for our three Departments and for the White House. One area, in particular, that is getting our full attention is making sure that schools across the country have clear guidance about how to reduce the spread of the H1N1 virus as school begins this fall.
There are 55 million students and 7 million educators in 130,000 public and private schools nationwide. This is a significant part of our population. As any parent or teacher knows, the flu can spread quickly in schools. It is important that we take common-sense steps to reduce exposure to this virus.
For this reason, today we released guidance developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that will provide local officials and educators with a set of tools to make informed decisions about how to decrease exposure to the flu while limiting the disruption of day-to-day learning. We encourage schools to consult with other local leaders, including health officials, when making these decisions.
Of course, the decision to close a school is one of the most challenging for any community. When schools are closed, parents must either take leave from work or find child-care. At the same time, we know that in some cases school closures may reduce the numbers of people who are exposed and become ill.
As long as the H1N1 severity remains at the current level, our recommended response at this time is for schools to stay open, stay clean, and to send sick students and staff home.
Specifically, this means that ill students and staff should be separated and given protective gear such as a mask until they can leave the school. Frequent hand washing and coughing and sneezing etiquette remain essential. Schools should be routinely cleaned to prevent the spread of germs. Students and teachers who are most susceptible to illness, should seek medical care immediately if they get flu-like symptoms.
The key is remaining flexible in our response to this situation so that we can adapt quickly as the situation changes. I encourage you to visit www.flu.gov for more information and to stay informed as flu season approaches. Thank you for doing your part to be prepared and to help reduce the spread of H1N1.
The Obama administration announced plans Thursday to restructure the nation's much-criticized immigration detention system by strengthening federal oversight and seeking to standardize conditions in a 32,000-bed system now scattered throughout 350 local jails, state prisons and contract facilities.
John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said his goal within three to five years is to hold noncriminal immigrants in a smaller number of less prison-like settings. Those facilities would meet federal guidelines ensuring access to pro bono legal counsel, medical care and grievance proceedings, he said.
"We need a system that is open, transparent and accountable," Morton said. "With these reforms, ICE will move away from our present decentralized jail approach to a system that is wholly designed for and based on civil detention needs and the needs of the people we detain."
The new approach comes after a massive detention buildup under President George W. Bush, an increase that civil liberties and immigrant advocacy groups say led to systemic abuse. Starting after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and accelerating as Washington took a get-tough approach to illegal immigration, ICE's detention system more than tripled in size. It now houses nearly 400,000 immigration violators a year.
From the Associated Press, on the updated hurricane outlook:
The Atlantic hurricane season will be less active than originally predicted, government forecasters said Thursday after the first two months of the half-year stretch passed without any named storms developing.
Updating its May outlook, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said a warmer weather pattern called an El Nino over the Pacific Ocean was acting as a damper to tropical storms in the Caribbean and neighboring Atlantic.
But forecasters at NOAA's National Hurricane Center warned people to remain vigilant because the peak period for hurricanes runs from this month through October. The overall season lasts from June through November.
From the Baltimore Sun, on crab canneries no longer in a pinch:
Maryland seafood processors, desperately short of hands to pick crabmeat, are rushing to apply for visas for foreign workers after the federal Department of Homeland Security declared Thursday that 25,000 seasonal immigration permits have gone unclaimed for this year.
The unexpected discovery that some of the annual allocation of 66,000 seasonal worker visas were still available was a welcome relief for the operators of Eastern Shore crab "picking houses," some of which had remained shuttered when the season started in the spring because they could not find enough help.
Even in a region with nearly double-digit unemployment, the crab companies remain reliant on migrant labor from abroad because so few local residents are willing to take the messy, repetitive jobs.
Recent employment drives have been unsuccessful, leaving employers to wait for federal relief.
"This is great news, just huge," said Jack Brooks, president of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, and co-owner of J.M. Clayton Co., a Cambridge picking house that has been operating with less than half its normal staff. He and others say the federal announcement came in the nick of time to save the state's seafood industry from the brink of economic calamity.
From the Wall Street Journal, on yesterday's denial of service attacks:
Multiple Internet sites, including popular hangouts Twitter and Facebook, were temporarily disrupted Thursday after they were struck by apparently coordinated computer attacks.
Users were unable to access Twitter's Web site for about two hours starting around 9 a.m. EDT. Around the same time, Facebook users saw delays logging in or using the social network.
Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. were working together with Google Inc. to investigate what happened, according to a person familiar with the matter. Another person familiar with the attack said it may have been targeted at a single Russian activist blogger with accounts across the impacted services.
The companies traced the problem to what the computer industry calls "denial-of-service" attacks, which are designed to make sites inaccessible by overwhelming them with a flood of traffic. Though such attacks are fairly routine, simultaneous action against multiple consumer Internet companies is rare.
9:16 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano, Secretary Sebelius, Secretary Duncan and CDC Director Tom Frieden will participate in a news conference about new H1N1 School Guidance
Health and Human Services Headquarters
200 INDEPENDENCE ST. SW
10:00 AM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will preside at the Change of Watch where Vice Admiral David Pekoske will relieve Vice Admiral Vivean Crea as the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard
Coast Guard TISCOM
7323 Telegraph Road,
2:00 PM EDT
ICE Special Agent in Charge Bruce Foucart will participate in a media availability announcing arrests pursuant to an ICE-led Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) case
Bristol County District Attorney’s Office
888 Purchase Street
New Bedford, Mass.
A 24-year-old Canadian woman is facing a federal charge after she was allegedly arrested near the border in Whatcom County with 577 pounds of marijuana.
A U.S. Border Patrol unit stopped Brandine Phillips in a pickup truck as she was about to turn onto Highway 542 near Maple Falls early Tuesday morning. Charging papers say the marijuana was packed in 12 hockey bags.
According to the documents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had been tailing Phillips for days, and watched her drive from the Nooksack River Casino up a remote, one-lane, dead-end road toward the Canadian border. The ICE agents began following her again at a distance after she drove back down the road, and that's when the Border Patrol unit intervened and pulled her over.
From the Washington Post, on more funding for anti-terror teams for the Washington, D.C. Metro system:
The federal government will pay almost $10 million for the Metro Transit Police to put 20 officers on five anti-terrorism teams, Metro officials announced Wednesday.
The department has a Special Response Team, said spokeswoman Cathy Asato, but the force has not had specific teams focused on counterterrorism. A Department of Homeland Security transit grant program will provide the money to create them.
"They're going to recruit from within to form these anti-terror teams," Asato said, "then we'll recruit 20 new officers to fill their spots."
The 420-member force will increase by almost 5 percent as a result of the hires. Metro said that the four-person units will increase law enforcement visibility in stations and that the teams would increase random patrols of Metro facilities and vehicles, respond more quickly to suspicious packages and gather intelligence that might be shared with federal law enforcement officials.
11:30 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano and Senator Landrieu will participate in a media availability
Russell Senate Office Building, Room 428A
11:00 AM EDT
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton will announce major reforms to ICE’s immigration detention system during a media teleconference
Potomac Center North
500 12th St. SW
1:00 PM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Vice Commandant Admiral Vivean Crea will participate in a panel discussion on women in military service and the legacy of WWII Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARs)
Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 2nd Street SW
1:30 PM EDT
DHS Office of Health Affairs (OHA) Chief Veterinarian Thomas McGinn will deliver remarks about agriculture and veterinary preparedness at the Foreign Animal and Emerging Disease training course
The University of Tennessee
600 Henley Street
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The Homeland Security Department has reorganized how it oversees cybersecurity.
Department Secretary Janet Napolitano says as DHS grew up over the past six years, cybersecurity was spread throughout the agency. She says this was a common issue across the government not just within DHS.
But now under Phil Reitinger, the deputy undersecretary of the National Protections Program Directorate, DHS's structure has improved.
"If the question is who at DHS do you call, it's going to be Phil or someone who works for him," says Napolitano Tuesday during a cybersecurity conference sponsored by the Secret Service and DHS in Washington.
"One thing we have done is to take cyber and elevate its prominence within the department and concentrate all key personnel decisions and the like about cyber under one person, Phil, who reports to an undersecretary, who reports directly to me. So you have a command and control structure that elevates cyber within all of the many threats DHS has to deal with."
From the Associated Press, on a new intelligence center at Selfridge:
The federal government is building an intelligence gathering center designed to help detect smuggling, terrorism and other crime across the long and liquid Great Lakes border between the U.S. and Canada, authorities said Tuesday.
The $30 million Operational Integration Center at Selfridge Air National Guard Base is the first center of its kind on the northern border and is expected to open next May. It will analyze and act on aircraft video, border camera images and other information from several federal, state and local agencies.
Officials say the center eventually should incorporate data from satellites, unmanned aircraft and other sources, and provide real-time information from across the entire Great Lakes border.
The base is in Macomb County's Harrison Township, 20 miles northeast of Detroit.
The Department of Homeland Security has several centers that gather and share law enforcement resources along the U.S.-Mexico border. But officials said Tuesday that the Michigan operation will be a big boost for the northern border, which is nearly twice as long as its southern counterpart and historically has received fewer resources despite threats such as the smuggling of drugs, people and weapons.
10 AM CDT
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Roy Rivera will participate in a media availability about human trafficking and child pornography hosted by the Children at Risk Organization
1001 East Elizabeth Street
2:30 PM EDT
Under Secretary for Management Elaine Duke will testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia on strengthening the federal acquisition workforce
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
From the Washington Post, on a new FEMA working group focused on the needs of children during a disaster:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is going to plan more broadly for children and their needs as the government prepares for disasters.
"Children are not small adults," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said Monday.
Most disaster plans are crafted around adult populations, and people with specific needs - such as children - are often an afterthought, Fugate said in an interview with The Associated Press.
A new FEMA working group will work with the congressionally mandated National Commission on Children and Disasters, created in 2007. The FEMA group will focus on specific guidance for evacuating, sheltering and relocating children; helping childcare centers, schools and child welfare programs prepare for disasters; and making disaster preparation part of the Homeland Security Department's grant programs.
The working group's findings could mean changes to the country's blueprint for disaster response, known as the National Response Framework, Fugate said.
From the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, on some new equipment at the Greater Rochester International Airport:
The federal Transportation Security Administration has started using advanced imaging technology to scan passengers at the Greater Rochester International Airport.
The new machine, a backscatter X-ray scanner, is expected to remain in Rochester for a 60-day test period, said John McCaffrey, federal security director of the Greater Rochester International Airport. When using the machine, security officials can quickly and unobtrusively screen passengers without any physical contact. The machine is being used in one of the airport's six security lanes, in place of a metal detector.
"We're very excited to have this equipment in Rochester," McCaffrey said Monday. "This is an additional layer of security that gives our officers the tools to detect threats and has privacy protections built in for the traveling public."McCaffrey said the machine reduces the need for pat-down searches for passengers with joint replacements or other medical conditions, because the machine scans for metal and nonmetal objects in a person. Use of the machine is safe for all passengers, he said.
From the Associated Press, on a terrorism drill in New York City today:
Law enforcers on boats are holding a terrorism drill south of the Verrazano Bridge.
The goal is protect the area from a potential "dirty bomb" or nuclear device.
Participants on about 17 vessels will practice checking for radioactive material.
The exercise is being held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday.
It's part of an NYPD-led initiative called Securing the Cities. The funding comes from the federal Department of Homeland Security.
8:45 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks at the U.S. Secret Service Global Cyber Security Conference
JW Marriott Hotel
1331 Pennsylvania Ave.
10:30 AM EDT
Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate will testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery about the needs of children in disasters
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Say what you will, but if the government does one thing well, it’s acronyms. Here are two new ones for you: PMF and PHF. Rather than try to explain…
PHF Haroon stood up a DHS Attaché Office at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul; PMF Marianna analyzed the 5-year funding strategy for the Department’s HQ facilities consolidation project. PHF Zac led a team to ensure interoperable communications at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, while PMF Evan served as the scientific lead for a risk assessment study group.
They represent the Department to local, state and international governments, first responders and community organizations. They manage projects and people, draft key recommendations and reports, brief the Secretary on key initiatives. They possess graduate degrees from the nation’s top colleges and universities and will soon join the ranks of civil service at DHS, leading America’s effort to protect ourselves against all shared risks.
They are part of the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) and Policy Honors Fellowship (PHF) – two programs designed to cultivate a next generation of homeland security professionals. Last week these young leaders met with senior DHS officials to discuss the Department’s future, and learned a thing or two about their bosses in the process.
“You all are leaders – you are the future of this Department,” Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute told the Fellows. She gave the Fellows some career advice, and discussed the five keys to running a successful organization:
Alice Hill, University of Virginia law school classmate and now senior counselor to the Secretary, said she wouldn’t have pegged her former study partner as a politician, but said Napolitano immediately distinguished herself by her raw intellect, photographic memory and excellent judgment.
During the two-hour discussion, Fellows also had the opportunity to hear from Under Secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate Rand Beers, and Law Enforcement Advisor to the Secretary Chuck Marino.
Jamie Corbett is a Presidential Management Fellow in the Directorate for Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security.
We're joined now by the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano. Madam Secretary, it's good to see you this morning. Thanks for being with us.
NAPOLITANO: Thank you.
ROBERTS: So, this new counterterrorism strategy, you want to involve the public to a greater degree than ever before -- how do you get the public involved in protecting this nation against the threat of terrorism?
NAPOLITANO: Well, one way is being on shows like this one and just saying, "Look, we want to make the country safe, keep the country safe, every individual has a role." Cities, counties, towns, they all have a role -- all of the federal government, of course, is involved, and then, even our international partners. So, it's a multilayer strategy for how to get at this problem.
ROBERTS: You know, if you ride the subway here in New York City, and I do quite often, you see signs all over the place that say, "See something, say something," you know, everybody has to participate. But many people might wonder, you know, will this become a case of, you know, neighbors reporting on neighbors, spying on neighbors? And how do you prevent, you know, an increase of suspicion, particularly across ethnic and religious lines?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I think you're right to point out that there's a balance to be struck. But what we're asking people to do is when they see something unusual, a package left unattended on a subway platform -- we've had incidents even during my short tenure as secretary where an individual seeing a gun being passed in an airport that had been screened that would have gotten onboard but for that passenger sounding the alert. Those are the kinds of things that individuals can help us with.
1:30 PM EDT
Assistant Secretary David Heyman will participate in a blogger roundtable at the NAC to discuss the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review
Nebraska Avenue Complex
3801 Massachusetts Ave NW
3 PM EDT
Management Directorate Acting Chief Procurement Officer Rick Gunderson will testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security about eliminating wasteful contractor bonuses
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged Americans on Wednesday to join a "collective fight against terrorism" that combines the efforts of individuals, companies and local, state and foreign governments.
Answering critics who have accused the Obama administration of downplaying the risk of terrorist attacks, Napolitano said the threat has not abated and outlined an approach that emphasizes burden-sharing as federal spending and political support for post-Sept. 11 security measures wane.
"I am sometimes asked if I think complacency is a threat. I believe the short answer is 'yes,' " Napolitano said, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York before visiting the World Trade Center site destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"But I think a better question is this: Has the U.S. government done everything it can to educate and engage the American people? The answer is 'no,' " she said.
In what aides called a major counter-terrorism policy address, Napolitano noted that American hotels were targeted in bombings this month in Jakarta, six Americans were among 164 people killed in a commando-style assault in Mumbai in November and three Americans were among 54 killed in a Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September.
To confront a terrorism threat that "is even more decentralized, more networked and more adaptive," she said, counter-terrorism efforts also need to exploit the values of "networks." For example, the nation needs better technology, training and linkages to share information with 780,000 local law enforcement agents, Napolitano said, promising to strengthen 70 state-run intelligence "fusion centers" that began under the Bush administration.
And from the New York Times:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called Wednesday for closer collaboration with foreign partners, more intensive cooperation between the federal government and local law enforcement officials, and greater involvement by civilians in watching for and responding to terrorist threats.
"For too long, we've treated the public as a liability to be protected rather than as an asset in our nation's collective security," Ms. Napolitano said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "This approach, unfortunately, has allowed confusion, anxiety and fear to linger."
Ms. Napolitano, whose visit to New York included her first trip to ground zero, seemed intent in her speech on a shift of tone from that of the Bush administration, which critics say too often appeared to exaggerate threats and sow fear. But she unveiled no specific new initiatives in this regard.
She did say she had traveled 30,000 miles in just the last few weeks - "from Islamabad to Seattle" - while brokering international security agreements.
And she emphasized the importance of facilities, called intelligence fusion centers, that have been set up nationwide to improve communications between the local officials most likely to see the first signs of suspicious activity - like a flight school student showing interest in learning to take off but not to land a plane - and state and federal officials.
8 AM EDT
CS&C Division Director Brenda Oldfield will speak at the 2009 Society for Science and the Public Fellows Institute.
St. Regis Hotel
923 16th and K Streets, NW
10 AM CDT
CBP Office of Air and Marine will accept its first UH-60M helicopter and mark the occasion in a ceremony with the Army.
Redstone Army Airfield
Gate 8 Visitor Entrance, near intersection of Goss and Patton Road
10 AM EDT
TSA Public Affairs Manager Jon Allen will participate in a media availability announcing a 60-day test of next generation imaging technology equipment at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
12 PM EDT
NPPD Deputy Under Secretary Philip Reitinger will deliver a keynote address on the importance of cyber security for states at the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) Annual Meeting.
InterContinental Harbor Court Hotel
550 Light Street
1 PM EDT
CS&C Director of Software Assurance Joe Jarzombek will speak at the Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board (ISPAB)
The George Washington University
Cafritz Conference Center
800 21st St NW
2:30 PM EDT
DHS Office of Management (MGMT) Under Secretary Elaine Duke will testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia
342 Dirksen Office Building
3:30 PM PDT
CS&C Director of the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) Mischel Kwon will participate in a panel discussion at the Black Hat conference.
3570 Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV