This week, we opened a new forum focused on commerce and the southwest border, and specifically narrowed to four topics:
· Bi-National Business
· Commercial Traffic / FAST
· Passenger Traffic / SENTRI
We encourage you to visit the site and join the discussion.
There’s also a section where members are encouraged to introduce themselves to the network. We wanted to share the introduction of “Ramona,” one of our members:
“I'm not a DHS employee or a community leader. I'm not even sure I can be called an activist. I firmly believe that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world and it became that way by embracing immigrants from every other countries in the world. We need to find a way to secure our borders, prevent drug, weapon and human smuggling and still allow Mexico and the United States to grow stronger as supportive neighbors.”Ramona is one of over 300 members on Our Border, and, like others, she has already joined many of the groups and has participated in a number of the discussion forums. We encourage you to visit the site and get involved in the discussion. We want to hear from you.
"I don't want anybody to be alarmed, but I do want everyone to be prepared," he said.
The global swine flu epidemic first emerged in April, sickening more than 1 million Americans and killing about 500. More than 2,000 people have died worldwide. Health officials are preparing for a surge in cases this fall, and one White House report from a panel of experts suggests up to half the U.S. population could catch swine flu during a pandemicVaccine development is ongoing and is likely to be available by October. The president said the vaccine for swine flu - known as the H1N1 virus - would be voluntary, but "strongly recommended."
Certain groups are more vulnerable to swine flu, including children under 2, pregnant women and people with health problems like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
Like the seasonal flu, swine flu spreads through coughs and sneezes of people who are sick. Obama said there are common sense precautions people can take to lower their risk of infection, like washing their hands frequently and staying home if they feel sick.
"I know it sounds simple, but it's important and it works," Obama said.
The federal government is reintroducing a powerful weapon in the fight against the H1N1 flu virus: Elmo.Kathleen Sebelius and Elmo spoke in May at a news conference about the H1N1 flu public service ads.
The popular Sesame Street character will be featured in a series of public service advertisements meant to encourage better hygiene among young children, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday.
In the ads, Elmo teams up with Gordon, another Sesame Street veteran, to stress the importance of basic healthy habits such as frequent hand washing, sneezing into the bend of your arm, and not touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
U.S. House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson says Mississippi's health and emergency leaders appear prepared to handle the swine flu.Thompson and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute met privately Tuesday with health, education and emergency management officials to discuss the H1N1 flu virus.
"We came to hear what the issues were and learn what the challenges were in getting prepared," Lute said a news conference after the meeting. "What we heard was a great deal of awareness about the flu. That's a real strength as the flu season approaches."
When asked if Mississippi appeared to have its swine flu efforts under control, Thompson replied: "At this point, yes."Mississippi has 586 confirmed swine flu cases and two deaths as of Tuesday. Hundreds of other suspected cases have been reported on school and college campuses.
On Broadway, between 46th and 47th Streets
New York, N.Y.
Naval Postgraduate School
1 University Circle
999 9th Street, NW
As I said when we saw the first cases of this virus back in the spring, I don't want anybody to be alarmed, but I do want everybody to be prepared. We know that we usually get a second, larger wave of these flu viruses in the fall, and so response plans have been put in place across all levels of government. Our plans and decisions are based on the best scientific information available, and as the situation changes, we will continue to update the public.
We're also making steady progress on developing a safe and effective H1N1 flu vaccine, and we expect a flu shot program will begin soon. This program will be completely voluntary, but it will be strongly recommended.
For all that we do in the federal government, however, every American has a role to play in responding to this virus. We need state and local governments on the front lines to make antiviral medications and vaccines available, and be ready to take whatever steps are necessary to support the health care system. We need hospitals and health care providers to continue preparing for an increased patient load, and to take steps to protect health care workers. We need families and businesses to ensure that they have plans in place if a family member, a child, or a co-worker contracts the flu and needs to stay home.
And most importantly we need everyone to get informed about individual risk factors, and we need everyone to take the common-sense steps that we know can make a difference. Stay home if you're sick. Wash your hands frequently. Cover your sneezes with your sleeve, not your hands. And take all the necessary precautions to stay healthy. I know it sounds simple, but it's important and it works.
Building a Ready and Resilient Nation
Today marks the beginning of National Preparedness Month, an opportunity for our nation’s families and communities to discuss their plans if they were faced with an emergency.
Protecting the United States from threats like terrorism, natural disasters, and infectious diseases is a shared responsibility and everyone has an important role to play.
This effort starts in our own communities. By talking to your neighbors, friends and family about citizen preparedness – during September and beyond – we can build a culture where shared responsibility for preventing and responding to emergencies is every bit as common as planning for retirement or keeping your car and home in good repair.
For more information about emergency planning, visit www.ready.gov or the Spanish-language site, www.listo.gov.
Individuals can also help by learning a skill like CPR, or volunteering in their community through a local Citizen Corps council.
We look forward to sharing additional ideas and information here, and at DHS.gov throughout the month of September to help all Americans become better prepared for – and more resilient to – emergencies of all kinds.
From the Associated Press, on Operation Twisted Traveler:
The Department of Homeland Security has opened up phase two of its Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.
DHS yesterday launched the web component of the review's second phase. And the agency is asking the blogosphere to spread the word about the process.
Alan Cohen, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Plans at DHS says that in phase one a task force of DHS staffers used the website to solicit suggestions on topics for discussion as part of the first annual Review.
"For the second national dialogue," he told a reporter teleconference on Monday, "we're focusing here on the groups taking their goals, breaking their goals into strategic objectives, and we've distilled those objectives down to a short and pithy description that you'll see on the site. We're asking folks to assign a priority level to the objective: do you think that these priorities should be higher than others?"
Thus far, Cohen says, DHS has gathered more than 20,000 comments, suggestions and ratings from people who participated in part one of the review process. And they've even been able to revise and adjust the format of the review, from a radio button-style click-through questionnaire form to more of a dialogue box comment format, based on feedback from all those people who have participated in the review process so far.
Three men expelled from Cambodia are facing charges in the U.S. as part of a crackdown on Americans who travel overseas to have sex with children, authorities said Monday.
The three previously convicted sex offenders were the first to be charged under "Operation Twisted Traveler," an initiative targeting problems in Cambodia, which authorities described as ground zero for the crimes.
"Let their arrests serve as notice to any other person who might be tempted to evade justice by victimizing children outside of this country," said John Morton, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Boarding a plane to a foreign land is no protection."
From the New York Times, on new accusations in a credit card fraud investigation:
The five men operated thousands of miles from Manhattan, under aliases like "the Viver," "Inexwor" and "DoZ." And with their true identities obscured on the Web, Manhattan prosecutors said, these men were able to play intimate roles in a cybertheft that resulted in more than 95,000 stolen credit card numbers and $4 million worth of fraudulent transactions.
The men, all from Eastern Europe, were the latest suspects to be identified by Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, in a 17-defendant, 173-count enterprise corruption indictment dating to November 2007.Mr. Morgenthau said at a news conference on Monday that the men were involved in a vast conspiracy known as the Western Express Cybercrime Group, which trafficked in stolen credit card information through the Internet and used it for things like forging credit cards and selling goods on eBay. The defendants often hid their identities by using digital currencies like e-gold and Webmoney, Mr. Morgenthau said.
From Forbes, on how to fight the flu this fall:
Last week, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a group of the nation's leading scientists and engineers, released a report on the H1N1 flu virus. The forecast seemed grim.
A more aggressive mutation of the virus, they said, could infect 30% to 50% of the population, lead to as many as 1.8 million hospitalizations and cause between 30,000 to 90,000 deaths compared to the annual number of 36,000.
Yet to Dr. Philip Alcabes, an epidemiologist and professor at Hunter College School of Health Sciences in New York, the estimate is a "plausible scenario," not a prediction.
"Should the public be alarmed?" he says. "Absolutely not." Besides, it's impossible to know whether the virus will mutate until the day it happens.
In Depth: How To Fight The Flu This Fall
Jean Gallagher, a 46-year-old alumna of St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows, N.Y., which was the epicenter of a New York City H1N1 outbreak of this spring, says she's not concerned about contracting the virus this fall. Gallagher, who is on leave from her job as a professor of English at the Polytechnic Institute of NYU, says she'll get her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Maggie, vaccinated this fall and wash both of their hands frequently, but plans to take no additional precautions.
11:15 AM CDT
Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute and Chairman Bennie Thompson will participate in a media availability
Jackson State University, The Jackson Medical Mall
350 West Woodrow Wilson, Room 131
4:30 PM EDT
Secretary Napolitano, Mayor Fenty, Governor O’Malley and Governor Kaine will participate in a media availability
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Press Room
Ronald Reagan Building, Concourse Level - Room C.1-47
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
8 AM MDT
U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will participate in an Enforcement Expo forum to showcase vital new techniques as well as to view and compare the latest equipment necessary to enforce our immigration and customs laws
Columbus Convention Center
10 AM PDT
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Public Affairs Manager Suzanne Trevino will conduct a media event and press availability with Continental Airlines representatives on paperless boarding pass technology
San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco, Calif.
It’s one of the most horrific crimes imaginable: The sexual exploitation of children. In recent years, many sex offenders have sought to cover their tracks by traveling overseas, where they hope to conduct their criminal activities far from the reach of U.S. law enforcement.
Today we’re sending a message that they won’t get away with it.
I’m in Los Angeles, where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice announced that three U.S. citizens, all previously convicted sex offenders, are being returned from Cambodia to the United States, where they will face federal charges for child sex tourism.
Under Operation Twisted Traveler, which launched in February, ICE is working closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the FBI and our law enforcement counterparts in Cambodia to identify and arrest Americans engaging in child sex tourism in that Southeast Asia country.
Today’s arrests and charges are the direct result of an extraordinary cooperation between ICE, the Cambodian National Police, the Department of State, and the non-governmental organizations who work in Cambodia to identify suspected sex tourists and rescue victims. Offering vital contributions to the effort are Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), the International Justice Mission, and HAGAR International, three non-governmental organizations that shared valuable information to facilitate these arrests.
The three individuals named today are all alleged to have molested or raped children, some as young as 9 years old, in Cambodia. All have previous records of crimes against children. One of the suspects, a 75-year-old man, is reported to have ridden a motor scooter through the streets of the city of Siem Riep, dropping money behind him as a way to entice children, according to witness reports.
Combating the sexual exploitation of minors has been a leading priority for ICE under Operation Predator. Under this long-running initiative, we’ve arrested more than 11,000 sex offenders—including more than 1,100 outside the United States. Thanks to tougher laws against child sex tourism, we have the tools to target those offenders who travel abroad in the effort to evade capture by law enforcement.
There might have been a time when it was easier for predators to hide their crimes by crossing borders. ICE is leading the effort to ensure that child sex tourism becomes an issue of the past.
John Morton is the Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
The way it works: U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents apply for the program, pay a $100 fee, and are interviewed by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer. Following a successful background investigation, they are accepted into the program. Once accepted into the program, membership is good for five years and can be used at any participating airport in the country.
There are currently twenty international airports in the program. These include airports in or near the following major cities:
- Fort Lauderdale
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Francisco
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Washington, D.C. (Dulles)
Walk up to the computer station.
Place passport or lawful permanent resident card into the machine reader.
Press fingers down on the pad Answer customs declaration inspections questions.
Take receipt Show it to CBP officers.
Travelers should be aware that CBP officers retain the right to question all entrants to the country, even Global Entry participants.
The application form is located at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/trusted_traveler/global_entry/.
Individuals with questions about the program may visit CBP’s Customer Service page at https://help.cbp.gov/cgi-bin/customs.cfg/php/enduser/home.php?p_sid=VsMWsEbj.
Check out the video below from Smart Planet on the new system:
From The Hill:
The Obama administration says it is prepared to handle a major natural disaster on par with Hurricane Katrina.
President Barack Obama's White House and agencies are winning high marks from both Democrats and Republicans for efforts at both rebuilding and preparing for other storms, four years after Katrina destroyed the Gulf Coast and damaged the Bush administration's legacy.
The Obama team went to work quickly after taking office, with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issuing a department-wide directive -- including to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) -- on Jan. 27 to ensure integration between state and federal agencies in planning for disasters.
On Jan. 28, Napolitano ordered a department review of plans to address Katrina's "lingering impacts," according to a White House fact sheet. And then on Jan. 29, FEMA announced an approved $23 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs "to cover the entire cost of elevating 48 residential properties in Orleans Parish to the Advisory Base Flood Elevation."
Obama focused his weekly radio address on his administration's efforts on both the rebuilding and the preparation fronts.
"From the streets of New Orleans to the Mississippi Coast, folks are beginning the next chapter in their American stories," Obama said. "And together, we can ensure that the legacy of a terrible storm is a country that is safer and more prepared for the challenges that may come."
From Security Management:
In the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) post-Hurricane Katrina years under the Bush administration, state officials cited renewed engagement by their agency partners who worked with them directly at the regional level.
States remained less impressed, however, with their DHS partners in the nation's capital, who they said still took a closed-door, dictatorial approach to issues like grant management, handing down strict guidelines from on high while ignoring or disregarding states' needs and wants.
That has begun to change under the Obama administration, according to a report by Deb Weinstein, a student at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, assigned to the Medill News Service bureau in Washington, DC.
From the New York Times:
Houses still sit empty, residents are still scattered and streets still echo with the sounds of hammers and power saws. But on the fourth anniversary of the hurricane that redefined its future, New Orleans is no longer talking about mere recovery.
Yes, people are returning: the number of households receiving mail is now more than three-fourths of the pre-Katrina figures, according to the latest estimates, up from fewer than half three years ago. Projects stalled by red tape and the bad credit market, like the Lafitte public housing complex, are finally getting back on track.
But reverting to the city that existed here before the flood is not the goal. For a city that justly if sometimes self-consciously relishes its own nostalgia, there was much about pre-Katrina New Orleans, from the unstable floodwalls to the stagnant economy, that was best left behind. Employment had not grown for the six years before the storm. The population had been shrinking since the 1960s. In 2005, there were only two
Fortune 500 companies with headquarters here - now there is only one, Entergy, a power company.
So instead of returning to a decaying economic structure, New Orleans is talking about revitalization, a buzzword behind the new energy in the city, carried by an intensity and idealism that would have bordered on indecent in the old, charmingly carefree New Orleans.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
For the survivors, hurricane Katrina lives in memories, photographs, and the empty spaces left by lost friends and objects.
Its immediate toll was tragedy. The storm that crashed into New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast four years ago wreaked a shocking $80 billion in damage and resulted in 1,836 confirmed fatalities. But since then, its overall legacy has broadened and, one hopes, has not been all bad.
Count these among the lessons it taught and the changes it spawned:
.Volunteers matter a lot in a time of crisis.
.FEMA's mission has shifted from a top-down to a bottom-up approach.
.New appreciation has emerged of the need to retain and restore wetlands to help absorb storm surges.
.Storm-tracking capabilities have advanced in ways that improve public safety.
.Hurricanes have moved to the center of the climate-change debate.
"Katrina has become a symbolic event," says Russell Dynes, founding director of the University of Delaware's Disaster Recovery Center, in Newark.
The limits of centralized response
The storm four years ago ripped apart the fabric of New Orleans, but it also left a deep impression on emergency response workers nationwide. It showed, for one thing, how volunteer efforts - churches, college students - played a much more important role than expected and how the centralized response, led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), alienated many of the same people it was intended to help.
After Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) overhauled its National Disaster Plan, incorporating a more bottom-up approach and going back to its roots as a civil, not military, response unit. FEMA's current director, Craig Fugate, is intent on setting policy to reflect his belief that citizens are less victims than crucial first responders.
11:30 AM PDT
ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton will participate in media availability with the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles to announce the first arrests made in conjunction with Operation Twisted Traveler, an international ICE-led initiative targeting Americans traveling to Cambodia to sexually exploit children
300 N. Los Angeles St.
Los Angeles, Calif.
David Heyman, Assistant Secretary for Policy, sat down with reporters Wednesday to answer questions and discuss preparedness and business contingency planning for H1N1. He talked about what individuals and businesses can do to prepare for the upcoming flu--from taking care of your family to encouraging employers to be ready to support employees and their business.
Take a moment to view the video we put together to highlight some of his key points:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Thursday that she was optimistic that a bipartisan immigration-policy overhaul would, at some point, get through Congress.
"This is not a new issue," she said in a meeting with The Dallas Morning News' editorial board. "It's just putting together a comprehensive package that covers the immigration issues from A to Z. ... It's a priority for both me and the president."
Napolitano expressed hope that the effort, which has bogged down in Congress in years past, would not be as contentious as it was under former President George W. Bush.
She did not say when a bill would ultimately be considered since Congress and the White House are now consumed with health care legislation. So changes to immigration policy could be further down the road, though she has had meetings with Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat expected to take the lead on the issue.
"There is a bipartisan recognition that the current law is outdated and needs to be brought up to date with our current needs," she said.
Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, has dealt with the effects of illegal immigration for much of her career in public service.
She said an immigration bill should focus on the following:
. Developing or bolstering the penalties for employers who repeatedly hire illegal immigrants.
. Stamping out the new tactics human traffickers and money launderers are using to exploit the border.
. Developing programs that would allow seasonal workers to legally enter the country.
. Updating the visa process to allow students with capabilities the country needs to remain in the U.S.
From the Associated Press, on rebuilding efforts along the gulf coast:
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama pledged to right the wrongs he said bogged down efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Seven months into the job, he's earning high praise from some unlikely places.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., says Obama's team has brought a more practical and flexible approach. Many local officials offer similar reviews. Even Doug O'Dell, former President George W. Bush's recovery coordinator, says the Obama administration's "new vision" appears to be turning things around.
Not too long ago, Jindal said in a telephone interview, Louisiana governors didn't have "very many positive things" to say about the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But Jindal said he had a lot of respect for the current FEMA chief, Craig Fugate, and his team. "There is a sense of momentum and a desire to get things done," the governor said.
Added O'Dell: "I think the results are self-evident."
The retired Marine general served what he calls a frustrating stint as Bush's recovery coordinator last year. "What people have said to me is that for whatever reason, problems that were insurmountable under previous leadership are getting resolved quickly," O'Dell said.
"And I really hate to say that because (the top FEMA leaders) in my time there were good, hardworking, earnest men, but they were also the victims of their own bureaucracy."
From the Associated Press, on the new Fire Administrator:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano swore in Kelvin Cochran as the nation's new Fire Administrator on Thursday and emphasized to a gathering of emergency responders efforts the government is making to help struggling fire departments.
Napolitano reminded attendees at the Fire-Rescue International Conference that the federal stimulus bill provides $210 million in Assistance to Firefighter grants for fire stations.
Congress also will waive the requirement that local governments match funds when they split an additional $210 million worth of Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants this year. That move will let fire departments rehire laid-off firefighters. The Department of Homeland Security plans to ask for double that amount for next year, Napolitano said.
"Cities and states are cash-strapped right now and we want to do things, to the extent we can, so that our emergency services continue our security planning continues unimpeded," she said after swearing in Cochran.
From Fire Rescue 1, on H1N1 preparedness:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano admitted Thursday the swine flu vaccine is unlikely to be ready for the start of the next expected wave of the virus, and urged the fire service to be ready for outbreaks.
"In all likelihood, this flu will be back on our shores before any vaccine is available," she said.
Secretary Napolitano said shots to protect against the H1N1 virus should be available about mid-October.
During an address to Fire-Rescue International in Dallas, Secretary Napolitano said fire departments should begin planning for high rates of absenteeism, not only due to member sickness but from those having to stay at home to tend to children with the virus.
Secretary Napolitano urged departments to begin looking at leave and overtime policies. "Do it now, before we are in the midst of this next flu season," she said.
10 AM CDT
USCG Sector Lake Michigan Commander Capt. Luann Barndt and Col. Vincent Quarles, Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers' Chicago District will conduct a press briefing to discuss public safety and vessel traffic issues concerning the Aquatic Nuisance Species Dispersal barrier in Romeoville, IL.
W Edgewood Dr
Under the Romeo Road Bridge adjacent to the Citgo Lamont Refinery.