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July 10, 2009
10:05 am
Morning Roundup for July 10th, 2009 - Featured News and Public Events

From The New York Times, on the H1N1 Summit:

The Obama administration warned Americans on Thursday to be ready for an aggressive return of the swine flu virus in the fall, announcing plans to begin vaccinations in October and offering states and hospitals money to help them prepare.

"The potential for a significant outbreak in the fall is looming," President Obama said by telephone link from Italy to the White House's H1N1 Influenza Preparedness Summit, held at the National Institutes of Health.

With good planning, "we may end up averting a crisis," Mr. Obama said. "That's our fervent hope."

The summit meeting was jointly led by the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius; the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano; and the secretary of education, Arne Duncan. It gathered health and school officials from across the country and took questions by video link from the governors of several states, most of whom wanted to know who would pay for preparations like the vaccination drive.


From the Associated Press, on the best part of waking up:

Customs agents discovered an extra ingredient in a shipment of Colombian coffee: nearly a half-ton of cocaine.

U.S. Customs officer Troy Simon said Thursday it was his agency's biggest cocaine find at the Port of New Orleans since more than two tons turned up in a transformer shipment about 10 years ago.

He said officers opened the shipping container Monday after a gamma-ray scan showed squarish shapes on top of the rounded burlap bags of coffee beans.

They turned out to be 15 duffel bags.U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Virginia Dabbs says they held 400 packages of cocaine weighing a total of 994 pounds.


Public Events
2:30 PM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will participate in a Change of Command ceremony for the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area in which Vice Admiral Jody Breckenridge will relieve Vice Admiral David Pekoske
Parade Field
Coast Guard Island
Alameda, Calif.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
July 9, 2009
4:45 pm
The H1N1 Flu Prepardness Summit wrapped up about an hour ago. Hopefully some of you had the opportunity to watch part of the live-stream. If not, you can check out highlights from the summit, the Twitter feed, and other information on how today's discussion will move things forward on this public health issue at the newly re-launched flu.gov. The bottom line is that we all need to be prepared for flu season. The federal government, in coordination with all our partners, used today as an opportunity to discuss the best options for preparing the public.

President Obama joined the summit via telephone from Italy, underscoring the importance of the discussion and noting the point is to prepare, not to panic:

"And so I won't go through the details of this," the President said. "I'm sure that Kathleen and Janet and others have laid out what the potential consequences are of a renewed outbreak of H1N1. We want to make sure that we are not promoting panic, but we are promoting vigilance and preparation. And the most important thing for us to do in this process is to make sure that state and local officials prepare now to implement a vaccination program in the fall, but also that they are working on an overall public communications campaign with the White House and the possibilities that we may need to be dealing with schools that are seeing significant outbreaks of H1N1."

Check out the President's full remarks at whitehouse.gov.

For those more creatively inclined, there's a new contest for you. Record a public service announcement, in the form of a video response on Youtube to Secretary Sebelius' call for contest entries. If you win, you could be eligible for a $2,500 cash prize.

So, check out the new site to get and stay informed as we get ready for the fall.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
July 9, 2009
10:40 am
Morning Roundup for July 9th, 2009 - Featured News and Public Events
From The New York Times, on E-Verify:

The Obama administration will require businesses that win federal contracts to use a government electronic database system to verify that their employees have legal immigration status to work in the United States, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Wednesday.

After a six-month review, Homeland Security officials decided to go ahead with a worker-verification plan based on the electronic system, called E-Verify. The system, which the Bush administration sought to put into effect in its final months, is meant to prevent federal contractors from hiring illegal immigrants.

At the same time, Homeland Security officials said they would drop another Bush administration proposal that would have forced employers to fire any workers whose Social Security information did not match the records of the Social Security Administration. That measure, called the no-match rule, had been challenged in federal court by immigrant advocates and businesses, who said the Social Security database contained errors that could have cost thousands of legal workers their jobs.

Administration officials said the court battle over the no-match rule, which never went into effect, would now end.


From the Associated Press, on the H1N1 Summit:

The Obama administration put the states on notice Thursday: Swine flu promises to create a mess this fall. Are you ready?

Swine flu may have faded from the headlines but it's still sickening people here and abroad and is certain to worsen when influenza-friendly fall temperatures arrive.

The federal government called together health and education officials from every state to check their preparations for the likely prospect of vaccinations and determine how they'll handle flu-riddled schools.

"I want to be clear: This summit is not about raising alarms or stoking fears. It is about being prepared," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebeliussaid. "We must avoid complacency."

The government estimates that 1 million Americans so far have been infected with the never-before-seen virus known formally by its scientific family name,
H1N1.

No longer do many public health experts warn of the new virus' "return" in the fall. Summer's heat and humidity usually chase away influenza, but the swine flu has never left. Children are spreading it in summer camps, and U.S. deaths have reached 170.


Leadership Events
9:05 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks about DHS H1N1 Influenza preparedness efforts
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
National Institutes of Health
Conference Room A
Natcher Conference Center
Bethesda, Md.

9:25 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a roundtable discussion with Secretary Sebelius and Secretary Duncan
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Conference Room A
National Institutes of Health
Natcher Conference Center
Bethesda, Md.

10:15 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will participate in a media availability with Secretary Sebelius, Secretary Duncan and Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
National Institutes of Health
Conference Room A
Natcher Conference Center
Bethesda, Md.

Public Events
10 AM EDT
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations Deputy Director Kumar Kibble and DHS Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs Alan Bersin will testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about Southwest border security
2154 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C.

10 AM EDT
Coast Guard Rear Admiral Kevin Cook will testify before the Technology and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation about Merchant Mariner licensing and documentation
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
July 8, 2009
8:00 pm
Dhs.gov features a number of programs aren't always in plain view. Operation Warfighter is a great example. It offers recuperating miliatry service members the chance to remain active in internships or temporary assignments during their convalescence. The Operation Warfighter page on our site explains the program, its benefits for employers and service members, and information on how to become involved. Check it out.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
July 8, 2009
5:51 pm
We talked last week about the H1N1 Flu Preparedness Summit happening tomorrow. It's an opportunity for federal, state, local, and tribal governments, as well as our private sector and emergency responder partners to come together and discuss a clear way forward on this public health issue. It's taking place at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland tomorrow.

A new development: The morning portion of the summit will be live-streamed on flu.gov, the new federal source for information on H1N1. Check it out, beginning at 8:30 AM EDT and ending just after 12:00 PM EDT.

The live-stream will include a panel discussion involving Secretary Napolitano, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of Health and Human Services, and Secretary Arne Duncan from the Department of Education. The discussion will be moderated by Governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland.

Tune in!
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
July 8, 2009
1:31 pm

This morning, Secretary Napolitano swore in Rand Beers as Under Secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD). Mr. Beers was confirmed by the Senate in late June, and brings a wealth of experience in national security and law enforcement policy.
“More than anyone I know, Rand Beers can be trusted with protecting the security of the United States,” said DHS Secretary Napolitano. “He will be an invaluable asset to NPPD. I thank Rand for his service as Acting Deputy Secretary, and I am grateful that his leadership and vast depth of experience will continue to benefit the Department of Homeland Security.”
Check out NPPD's page on dhs.gov for more information on who they are and what they do.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
July 8, 2009
9:23 am

Morning Roundup for July 8th, 2009 - Featured News and Public Events

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on a new national fire chief:


Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin J. Cochran has accepted a key federal position with the Obama Administration.

Cochran was chosen as U.S. Fire Administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Department of Homeland Security, according to a White House press release.

"Each of these individuals brings with them valuable expertise in their respective fields, and I am grateful for their decision to serve in my administration," President Obama said in the statement, which includes nominations of nine others for various federal roles.

Cochran has 28 years of experience from firefighter to chief training officer to fire chief, according to the press release. Cochran has also served as the president of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association and Vice Chairman of Volunteers of America. Cochran took over as Atlanta's fire chief in 2008. Prior to his post with Atlanta, he served as fire chief in Shreveport, Louisiana
beginning in 1999.

"It is remarkable to think that my childhood dream of being a firefighter has taken me from the front porch of a shotgun house in Shreveport, Louisiana, to becoming the head of the United States Fire Administration," Cochran said in a statement from the City of Atlanta's press office.


From the Associated Press, on the recent cybersecurity incident:

A widespread and unusually resilient computer attack that began July 4 knocked out the Web sites of several government agencies, including some that are responsible for fighting cyber crime, The Associated Press has learned.

The Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department Web sites were all down at varying points over the holiday weekend and into this week, according to officials inside and outside the government.

Some of the sites were still experiencing problems Tuesday evening. Cyber attacks on South Korea government and private sites also may be linked, officials there said.

U.S. officials refused to publicly discuss details of the cyber attack. But Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Department, said the agency's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued a notice to federal departments and other partner organizations about the problems and "advised them of steps to take to help mitigate against such attacks."

The U.S., she said, sees attacks on its networks every day, and measures have been put in place to minimize the impact on federal Web sites.


From WWL-TV, on new ICE efforts to curb the flow of undocumented workers into the U.S.:

In an effort to stop the flow of undocumented workers into the country, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is about to try a new approach: not just targeting the workers, but also the people who employ them, in the
first place.

"That's a challenge. There are millions of employers in the United States," said John Morton, the newly-appointed assistant secretary of ICE, who spent Tuesday visiting New Orleans.

Among the agency's efforts: a renewed, aggressive auditing of I-9 forms. All employers are required to have one, as proof of an employee's residency or citizenship. Just how effective that move will be in the New Orleans area, though, remains to be seen.

Here, a majority of illegal workers are day laborers, not concentrated within one company, but rather working in smaller numbers for individual employers or contractors. Morton said the smaller concentration does make enforcement harder.

"We're very cognizant that we just can't focus on the very top, on the biggest employers - that we have to do this at all levels," he said.


Public Events
10 AM EDT
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate and Inspector General Richard Skinner will testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs about FEMA housing solutions
311 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C.

10 AM EDT
FEMA National Preparedness Directorate (NPD) Deputy Administrator Tim Manning will testify before the House Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Technology and 2318 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C.

10 AM EDT
Federal Protective Service Director Gary Schenkel will testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee about the Government Accountability Office’s preliminary findings concerning the Federal Protective Service and security operations
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C.

2 PM EDT
Acting Chief Financial Officer Peggy Sherry will testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization and Procurement, about annual oversight of the federal government’s consolidated financial statement
2247 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C.

Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
July 7, 2009
4:48 pm
I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I walked onto the 5th floor of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building last week. I had an email telling me that the 8th longest serving federal employee, and the longest serving employee at the Department of Homeland Security, was retiring…after 67 years of government service. It’s one of those opportunities no one should pass up, right? Whether you write for a blog, or a newspaper, or just your journal - that kind of insight into the last 70 years of our nation’s inner workings doesn’t come along every day. So, there I was, sitting across the table from Erma Paliani…sorry, “Ms. Erma”, not 5 feet tall, and 92 years old. She’d been working for the federal government for 67 years. I’d been working for the federal government for 6 weeks.

Before we start talking about Ms. Erma’s story, let’s put 67 years into perspective. The U.S. hadn’t entered the Second World War 67 years ago, the minimum wage was 30 cents an hour, you could get a coke for a nickel, and the jitterbug was just getting its legs. Oh, and Federal office buildings weren’t air-conditioned, and as Washington, D.C. was essentially constructed on top of a swamp, I would imagine that would make summers…difficult.

Ms. Erma sat across the table, sunken into her chair after just finishing an interview with the AARP. Now here I was, writing for a “blog,” and the latest in a series of people who wanted to interview her. The attention had been steady in recent weeks and had been kindly - if not eagerly - received. I asked her if she was looking forward to her big retirement party on Friday. She grinned and politely shook her head no.

We began to talk about her life, her roots, her home. She was born in Ambridge, Pa., the second of seven children in an Italian family. Her father passed away when she was young, and it became difficult for her mother and 6 siblings to support themselves. Ms. Erma said she ran errands while her mother took in laundry, and did odd jobs for people to earn money. “My mother was dependent on us to help with the family expenses,” she explained.

Ms. Erma found a job with the Works Progress Administration when she graduated from high school, and her tenure as a federal employee began a few years later when she started working as a stenographer for the Army Signal Corps in 1941—one month before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Her skill earned her a reputation, so when she started looking for work in the private sector after the war, the government asked her to stay; so in 1947 Ms. Erma transferred to the INS, where she remained for 62 years.

Working in the investigations office, Ms. Erma helped dismantle organized crime and racketeers, and over the years handled correspondence in such notable cases as the Tokyo Rose and the Alger Hiss trials and the McCarthy-era HUAC hearings. When she passed her 50th year of service, the then INS granted her with honorary credentials as an agent.

She’s now in the Office of Investigations at ICE and is secretary to the Deputy Assistant Director. A computer has supplanted the Dictaphones and manual typewriters she used at the beginning of her career, though she draws the line at carrying a BlackBerry. Her eyes crinkled into a smile as she explained, “I have enough junk to carry without one of those.” Sing it sister.

Her many friends and colleagues talk about her generous spirit, evident in discussions about how she would stay up all night baking cakes and cookies when an office birthday drew near.

As our meeting wrapped up, a coworker came by to remind Ms. Erma that her Metro Access bus would be coming soon. As we (slowly) walked out with her, it was hard not to notice the fondness with which they treated her. After I said goodbye to Ms. Erma, a coworker turned to me and said, “She’s just got such big heart.”
 

Thanks to Ms. Erma for 67 years of service.
 
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
Category: Erma Paliani, ICE, Service
July 7, 2009
2:12 pm
It may be the best name ever, but it also serves a critical need. Secretary Napolitano talks a lot about how important our state and local partnerships are to keeping our borders and ports safe. Project SeaHawk exemplifies this idea.

Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Project SeaHawk brings state and local authorities together with federal resources and personnel to enhance our maritime security and response abilities, making our ports safer. The Secretary, joined by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, announced on Monday that responsbility for the pilot program would be transferred from the Department of Justice to DHS on October 1st, 2009.
“Project SeaHawk is an innovative security program designed to increase our
maritime security capabilities,” said Secretary Napolitano. “By working with our
state, local, and Federal partners we will improve overall situational
awareness, increase information sharing and continue to collaborate to find more
effective and efficient ways to protect our ports.”

Responsbility was transferred to DHS as part of the SAFE Port Act of 2006.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
July 7, 2009
9:20 am
Tuesday, July 7th Morning Roundup - Featured News and Public Events

From the Associated Press, on Project Seahawk:

Project Seahawk, a port security effort developed in South Carolina, is vital to waging the war on terrorism and a model for ports around the nation, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday.

Graham, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Gov. Mark Sanford and other leaders had a private briefing on the project during a visit to the Project Seahawk headquarters at the old Charleston Navy Base.

Seahawk, created in 2003 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, brings together representatives of state, federal and local law enforcement agencies who meet each day in a command center to share and compare information on harbor activity.


From the San Diego Union-Tribune, on a fruitful holiday weekend for CBP:

Federal authorities announced Monday the seizure of marijuana, heroin and cocaine worth more than $1 million in three separate busts.

Customs and Border Protection agents found 99 packages of marijuana, weighing more than 315 pounds, hidden throughout a Nissan SUV Saturday morning at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, officials said.

A dog walking through the line of vehicles waiting to enter the United States alerted agents to the drugs, officials aid. Two male Mexicans, ages 19 and 20, were arrested on smuggling charges.

On Friday, Border Patrol agents at a checkpoint on Interstate 8 in Pine Valley discovered 10 bundles of cocaine weighing 26 pounds hidden in the dashboard of a Chevrolet Malibu, officials said. The driver, a 26-year-old man and U.S. citizen, was arrested.


Public Events
10 AM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will testify before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard regarding Coast Guard Authorization
253 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C.

11 AM EDT
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nelson Minerly will participate in a media event to highlight OLE/FAMS workforce diversity efforts in federal law enforcement at the FAMS Detroit field office
11301 Metro Airport Center Dr.Romulus, Mich.

10:30 CDT
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine personnel will demonstrate Marine Advance Concept Technology for members of congress and local media
Jones Park Road & U.S. Highway 49
Gulfport, Miss.
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.

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