U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Mexico for his first summit with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts, with economic and security issues high on the agenda.
During the two-day North American Leaders Summit, Mr. Obama, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are discussing efforts to stem the spread of the H1N1 flu virus, economic competitiveness, national security, and global climate change, White House officials said. Canada and Mexico are the U.S.'s first- and third-largest trading partners, respectively, and trade-related issues are another focus of the meeting.
Late Sunday afternoon, Mr. Obama joined Mr. Calderon in what one senior administration official described as a "cordial" bilateral meeting. Mr. Calderon raised objections to a U.S. ban on Mexican trucks shipping goods across the border, a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"I think there's been a clear understanding that this issue was one that was a priority issue and one that everyone would like to see resolved as quickly as possible," the administration official said.
From the Washington Post, on H1N1:
As the first influenza pandemic in 41 years has spread during the Southern Hemisphere's winter over the past few months, the United States and other northern countries have been racing to prepare for a second wave of swine flu virus.
At the same time, international health authorities have become increasingly alarmed about the new virus's arrival in the poorest, least-prepared parts of the world. While flu viruses are notoriously capricious, making any firm predictions impossible, a new round could hit the Northern Hemisphere within weeks and lead to major disruptions in schools, workplaces and hospitals, according to U.S. and international health officials.
"The virus is still around and ready to explode," said William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University School of Medicine influenza expert who advises federal health officials. "We're potentially looking at a very big mess."
President Obama arrived in Mexico on Sunday for a two-day summit that will include discussions on swine flu, along with Mexico's drug wars, border security, immigration reform and economic recovery.
"Everyone recognizes that H1N1 is going to be a challenge for all of us, and there are people who are going to be getting sick in the fall and die," said John Brennan, the U.S. deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security. "The strategy and the effort on the part of the governments is to make sure we . . . collaborate to minimize the impact."
From MSNBC, on counterfeit cash:
Nicholas Ostergaard has a new policy at the Jukebox, the deli and pub he owns in Indian Trail, N.C.: "No more hundreds."
The Jukebox now accepts nothing bigger than a $50 bill after a teenager paid for an $11 order last month with what turned out to be a fake $100 bill and walked away with $89 in change.
"I instantly thought it was fake," Ostergaard said. But when he checked the bill with a detector pen - a common device that uses iodine to verify U.S. currency - "it came up it was real."
That made the deli another victim in what the U.S. Secret Service said was an ambitious counterfeiting operation that has spread as much as $60,000 in phony currency at businesses from Hickory to Greensboro, in central North Carolina, just since May.
8:45 AM EDT
Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute will deliver remarks at the 2009 National Conference on Community Preparedness
Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel
2799 Jefferson Davis Highway
8 AM EDT
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate will deliver opening remarks at the 2009 National Conference on Community Preparedness
Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel
2:30 PM MDT
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton will participate in a panel discussion on The Merida Initiative at the Border Security Conference
University of Texas at El Paso
500 W. University Ave.
El Paso, Texas
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.