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October 19 2013

October 21, 2013




OPM clarifies leave, holiday policies during shutdown

Federal News Radio

Monday – 10/14/2013, 11:24am EDT

By Jack Moore


Federal employees who are “excepted” from furloughs have remained on the job despite the government shutdown, which is now stretching into its third week.

But what if they get sick or have a previously planned appointment or vacation as the shutdown drags on?

According to updated guidance from the Office of Personnel Management, these employees can take a break from performing their essential duties — but, in many cases, they’ll have to be furloughed, even if only for a day, to do so.

OPM updated its shutdown guidance Friday to include instructions on how to handle “brief or intermittent unpaid absences” by excepted federal employees.

During the lapse in annual appropriations, federal employees are unable to take any kind of paid time off. However, if excepted employees need to take a day or two off, agencies should considering using workplace flexibilities, such as alternative work schedules or telework, to work around the absence, according to OPM’s guidance.

Barring that, however, employees will have to be furloughed during their time off, which must be properly documented by the agency.

“One option would be for the agency to issue a furlough notice for the period of time when the employee will be absent, and then recall the employee when the employee is once again available to come to work and perform excepted activities,” the guidance stated.

For employees who expect to have multiple absences, another option is for managers to issue a special furlough notice that generally excepts them from furloughs except for the days they require off — all of which must be documented in the notice.

Overall, OPM has made more than a dozen changes to its shutdown guidance since congressional appropriations for fiscal 2014 lapsed two weeks ago.

Among the recent changes include an Oct. 8 update clarifying holiday pay during the shutdown. Excepted employees who don’t work on a holiday, such as Columbus Day, must be furloughed for the day and won’t receive pay, when Congress eventually restores funding. Employees who do work during the holiday are eligible for holiday premium pay.

OPM updated the holiday-pay guidance again on Oct. 11 to note that certain employees, such as the heads of agencies and members of the Senior Executive Service, are not eligible for holiday pay and overtime pay.



How Your Knees Can Predict the Weather

Granny was right: Scientists find link between achy joints and the forecast

October 14, 2013, 7:12 p.m. ET

By Melinda Beck

Leora’s grandmother, Esther Polatsek, says she started being sensitive to the weather in her 20s, when a fracture in her foot would ache whenever a snowstorm approached. Now 66 and plagued by rheumatoid arthritis, Mrs. Polatsek says she suffers flare-ups whenever the weather is about to change.

“It’s just uncanny. Sometimes it’ll be gorgeous out, but I’ll have this awful pain. And sure enough, the next morning it rains,” she says. “It may be just a few drops, but it makes my body crazy.”

Do weather conditions really aggravate physical pain?

It is one of the longest running controversies in medicine.

Weathering the Pain

You can’t change the forecast, but you can lessen its impact.

  • Take a pain reliever or anti-inflammatory in advance if a storm or cold weather is forecast.
  • Dress warmly in the cold, including thermal socks, gloves and a vest.
  • Keep out drafts at home by sealing doors and windows and carpeting floors.
  • Apply heat to aching joints.
  • Use a dehumidifier to avoid spikes in dampness.
  • Consider visiting a warm, dry climate, although the benefits may wear off after a prolonged stay.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Stay active, keeping muscles strong around damaged joints.

Hippocrates in 400 B.C. noticed that some illnesses were seasonal. The traditional Chinese medicine term for rheumatism (fengshi bing) translates to “wind-damp disease.”

But modern scholars have gotten inconsistent results in studies that tried to match weather patterns to reported pain symptoms—leading some to dismiss the connection as highly subjective or all in sufferers’ minds.

“People’s beliefs about arthritis pain and the weather may tell more about the workings of the mind than of the body,” concluded the late Stanford psychologist Amos Tversky in the mid-1990s, after comparing the pain reports of 18 rheumatoid-arthritis patients with local weather conditions for a year and finding no connection.

Still, other studies have linked changes in temperature, humidity or barometric pressure to worsening pain from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as headaches, tooth aches, jaw pain, scar pain, low-back pain, pelvic pain, fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia (a searing pain in the face), gout and phantom-limb pain.

Bill Balderaz had a rheumatoid-arthritis flare-up last year—just before a surprise storm hit Ohio.

Scientists don’t understand all the mechanisms involved in weather-related pain, but one leading theory holds that the falling barometric pressure that frequently precedes a storm alters the pressure inside joints. Those connections between bones, held together with tendons and ligaments, are surrounded and cushioned by sacs of fluid and trapped gasses.

“Think of a balloon that has as much air pressure on the outside pushing in as on the inside pushing out,” says Robert Jamison, a professor of anesthesia and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. As the outside pressure drops, the balloon—or joint—expands, pressing against surrounding nerves and other tissues. “That’s probably the effect that people are feeling, particularly if those nerves are irritated in the first place,” Dr. Jamison says.

Not everyone with arthritis has weather-related pain, says Patience White, a rheumatologist at George Washington University School of Medicine and a vice president of the Arthritis Foundation. “It’s much more common in people with some sort of effusion,” an abnormal buildup of fluid in or around a joint that frequently occurs with inflammation.

Many patients swear that certain weather conditions exacerbate their pain. Consequently, orthopedists, rheumatologists, neurologists, family physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists—even personal trainers—report an increase in grousing among their clients when the temperature drops or a storm approaches.

“I can tell you emphatically there are certain days where practically every patient complains of increased pain,” says Aviva Wolff, an occupational therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and Mrs. Polatsek’s daughter. “The more dramatic the weather change, the more obvious it is.”

Both the Weather Channel and AccuWeather have indexes on their websites that calculate the likelihood of aches and pains across the country, based on barometric pressure, temperature, humidity and wind. Changes in those conditions tend to affect joints even more than current conditions do, says AccuWeather meteorologist Michael Steinberg, which is why the Arthritis Index shows more risk the day before a storm or a sharp drop in temperature is forecast.

Some sufferers say their joints can be more accurate than meteorologists. Rheumatoid-arthritis sufferer Bill Balderaz, 38, president of a digital-marketing firm in Columbus, Ohio, recalls feeling “the worst arthritis pain I’ve ever had—I could barely move” one day last year, even though it was sunny and clear. By midafternoon, a land-based hurricane known as a derecho with 80 mile-per-hour winds unexpectedly buffeted Ohio and three other states, traveling 600 miles in 10 hours and knocking out power for 10 days. “The storm caught everyone off guard. It was clear one minute and then the skies opened up,” Mr. Balderaz says.

Tests on animals seem to bear out the impact of weather. In one study, guinea pigs with induced back pain exhibited signs of increased pain by pulling in their hindpaws in low barometric pressure.

Cold weather seems to raise the risk of stroke, heart attacks and sudden cardiac death, some research shows. Heart-attack risk rose 7% for every 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) drop in temperature, according to a study of nearly 16,000 patients in Belgium, presented at the European Society of Cardiology last month. British researchers studying years of data on implanted defibrillators found that the risk of ventricular arrhythmia—an abnormal heart rhythm that can lead to sudden death—rose 1.2% for every 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit drop, according to a study in the International Journal of Biometerology last month.

Once blamed on physically demanding tasks like shoveling snow, the increased heart risk due to cold may be due to thickening blood and constricting blood vessels, researchers think.

And rising humidity may cause joints to swell and stiffen. In fact, tendons, ligaments, muscles, bones and other tissues all have varying densities, so they may expand or contract in different ways in changing conditions, Dr. Jamison says.

In people with chronic inflammation from arthritis or past injuries, even slight irritations due to the weather can aggravate sensory nerve cells, known as nociceptors, that relay pain signals to the brain. That may explain why some people with neuropathic pain and phantom-limb pain also report weather-related flare-ups.

“Fibromyalgia patients seem to be the most sensitive,” says Susan Goodman, a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery. She also notes that while some people seem to be extremely sensitive to weather, others with similar conditions aren’t, for reasons that aren’t clear. That may explain why many studies find no clear association, she says.

Some weather conditions seem to relieve pain. In one study, the warm, high-pressure Chinook winds common to western Canada lessened patients’ neuropathic pain, the kind brought on by disease or injury. For other patients, the same climate increased migraines and sinus headaches.

Some pain sufferers say they feel better in warm, dry climates where weather conditions seldom change. When she went to Israel in the 1990s, “I felt like I was 20 years younger when I stepped off the plane,” says Mrs. Polatsek, the rheumatoid-arthritis patient.

But studies haven’t consistently borne out the benefits of one climate over another. “There really is no place in the U.S. where people report more or less weather-related pain,” says Dr. Jamison. He surveyed 557 arthritis sufferers in four cities in 1995 and found that more than 60% believed the weather affected their pain—regardless of whether they lived in San Diego, Boston, Nashville, Tenn., or Worcester, Mass.

Visiting a warm, dry climate may bring temporary relief, Dr. Jamison adds. “But if you live there full time, your body seems to acclimatize and you become sensitive to even subtle weather changes.”



The Mars-and-Mercury problem of cybersecurity

By Frank Konkel

Oct 15, 2013


Half of all agency cybersecurity breaches are caused by feds who fail to comply with security measures in place at their agencies, according to a Meritalk study released Oct. 15. (Download the report at

The study, which polled 100 government cyber professionals and 100 federal employees, suggests a rift between IT cybersecurity professionals who value security above all else and their systems’ end users – the feds who just want to do their jobs.

Titled “The Cyber Security Experience: Cyber Security Pros from Mars; Users from Mercury,” the study finds 31 percent of federal employee end-users use some form of security work-around at least weekly, and nearly 20 percent of feds have failed to complete a work assignment because of existing security measures. Feds reported being most frustrated by simple tasks like surfing the web and downloading files, the same two tasks that cybersecurity professionals said most frequently produced security breaches through external attacks like phishing and malware.

The protocols cyber pros find necessary to keep data secure are burdensome, time-consuming and sometimes obstructive to their end users.

“More security rules, more security tasks, and more security delays have done little to drive more user buy-in for cybersecurity,” said Tom Ruff, Akamai’s vice president for public sector. Akamai underwrote the study.

Despite obvious disagreements on implementation, 95 percent of end users and cyber professionals agreed the deployment of cybersecurity measures is an “absolute necessity” to prevent against data loss, data theft and denial-of-service (DOS) attacks.

According to end-users surveyed, possible strategies to mitigate the bridge between themselves and security professionals include a single sign-on (56 percent), user-friendly interface (27 percent) and streamlined access to mobile applications (13 percent). However, cyber professionals rated “ensuring a user-friendly experience” dead last as a priority, indicating they favor the nuts and bolts of a tool over its looks and ease of use.

“Without question, federal cybersecurity pros have a tough job, but they must start working with end users as partners instead of adversaries,” Ruff said. “It is a team game, and better support for users will deliver better results for security.”

The news is particularly alarming because the number of cybersecurity threats to federal agencies continues to increase, as does the amount of damage attackers can do. Half the cyber professionals polled say their agency is likely to be a DOS attack victim in the next year – and less than 75 percent of agencies feel “completely prepared” for a variety of potential cyberattacks.


Pentagon Determining Fate of Revered Net Assessment Office

Oct. 15, 2013 – 03:45AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER and JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is considering reorganizing its internal think tank, an organization credited with helping the US win the Cold War, according to defense sources.

The office has been around since 1973, and is the ultimate rarity in Washington, where senior officials come and go like the seasons. Andrew Marshall, who is over 90 years old, was its boss on Day 1 and continues to be its boss.

But now as the Pentagon looks to build itself for the decade ahead, a period with fewer spending cash, the revered office could be reorganized or, as some have suggested, eliminated.

Defense officials stress that no final decision has been made, however DoD is in the midst of reducing its headquarters staffs by 20 percent over the next five years, a move intended to save the Pentagon billions of dollars.

Any change in the office’s status has prompted concern on both sides of the political aisle.


Asked if he thinks closing the Net Assessment shop is a good idea, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin’s eyes grew large as he replied: “No!”

“It doesn’t strike me as a good idea,” the Michigan Democrat said. “But I would at least consider their argument. I’m sure before they do it, they’ll talk to me about it.”

In an Oct. 11 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, House Armed Services seapower subcommittee Chairman Randy Forbes, R-Va., noted panel members have been “made aware that the Department is considering the elimination of the Office of Net Assessment (ONA).”

Forbes told Hagel that the Marshall-led office “has been at the forefront of the most innovative defense strategies of the last two generations.”

“Given the critical contributions to U.S. national security made by the office during its forty-year history and its role as a central repository for long-range strategic thinking, we believe it would be a serious error to further consider its abolition,” Forbes wrote.

The office is “helping to drive the development of the Air-Sea Battle concept” and long-range strategies, Forbes wrote.

“[T]hroughout ONA’s history the office has trained and mentored numerous strategic practitioners who have made considerable contributions to our nation’s long-range thinking,” he wrote.

Forbes wants Hagel’s commitment to remain “appropriately funded in light of its singular and continuing contributions to American national security and interests.”

The proposed move also has caught the attention of some in the think tank and consulting worlds. Dan Goure of the Lexington Institute, is as unimpressed with the idea as Forbes.

“The decision to eliminate [Net Assessment] might make sense were it an expensive endeavor, employing a large staff that might be better deployed elsewhere,” he wrote.

The Net Assessment office is less than a dozen people, tiny when compared with the rest of the Pentagon sweeping bureaucracy, Goure noted.

“Its budget is a few million dollars annually, much of that devoted to outside studies and analyses, he wrote. “You wouldn’t save enough from this action buy even one tactical fighter. Furthermore, the loss of the intellectual energy NA provides at a critical time for the Pentagon’s future could have negative effects far outweighing the utility of the few dollars that would be saved.”


McKeon Breaks With Senate Hawks Over Sequestration Flexibility

Oct. 15, 2013 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT |


WASHINGTON: — House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon on Tuesday broke with Senate defense hawks by opposing a plan to allow Pentagon leaders authority to pick what gets axed via sequestration.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., took to the chamber floor early Tuesday afternoon to endorse the notion of giving top Defense Department leaders the ability to pick and choose what gets cut — and spared — under across-the-board sequester cuts.

His endorsement came in the form of blasting House Republicans for not including such a provision in its version of last-minute legislation to raise the debt ceiling through early February and fund the government through mid-January.

“This [House] bill would give no flexibility to the president or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to move money around,” Reid said. “I don’t know how this country can go farther with this bill. … It’s awful for our country.”

Most defense hawks in recent months have voiced support for flexibility for the Pentagon.

Most feel that, if the Pentagon has to live with sequestration, it would be best for DoD leaders and congressional appropriators to determine what should get cut the deepest and what should be safeguarded.

“I would be glad to have it in there,” influential Senate Armed Services Committee member John McCain, R-Ariz., said Tuesday.

McCain said he would prefer to insert flexibility language if and when the Senate takes up its version of a 2014 Pentagon policy bill. But if it made it into the emergency debt-government funding bill, he said, “I would love to have it in there.”

Senate Armed Services Committee member Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., told Defense News on Tuesday she thinks “the flexibility language is important.”

“It’s not something that’s a deal breaker for me,” Ayotte said. “But I would prefer to have it in there.”

McKeon took the opposite stance on Tuesday, creating a rare chasm between the HASC chairman and Senate GOP hawks. McKeon is worried flexibility could make it tougher to get rid of sequestration, as many congressional Republicans and Democrats say they want to eventually do.

“The chairman’s goal is resolving sequestration,” McKeon’s spokesman, Claude Chafin, said in an email. “He is concerned that contrary to a bipartisan desire to end the defense sequester, flexibility actually makes sequester a likely long-term proposition. He is opposed to any flexibility package at this time.”

The stance also puts McKeon on the opposite side of the issue than Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla.

Inhofe for months led the charge to get Senate and House approval for sequester flexibility. Inhofe in March said Congress needs “to give the department the flexibility it needs to mitigate risk and operate within these severe budgetary constraints.

“Although the amount of the cuts to the topline would remain the same, the department would have maneuvering room to decide where to take them,” Inhofe said at that time. “I talked to all of the service chiefs about this topic, and all of them agreed that this flexibility would provide significant relief and help to reduce risk.”

The 2011 Budget Control Act stipulates that twin $500 billion cuts be made every year for 10 years to all non-exempt defense and domestic accounts are automatic. That means Pentagon and agency leaders have no ability to protect high-priority programs and target low-priority ones for bigger cuts.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and a bipartisan group of senators late last week took up Inhofe’s cause, pushing a debt-ceiling plan that featured language granting all federal agency leaders the flexibility most say they want.

Pentagon brass, industry officials and hawkish lawmakers want DoD to be granted sequestration flexibility because the first round of across-the-board cuts hit operations and maintenance and procurement accounts hard.

The next round is slated to kick in Jan. 15. Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are finishing a version of emergency legislation that would adopt a GOP-preferred $986 billion government-wide funding level. It also would only fund the government through Jan. 15 to force a conversation about budgetary matters, including sequestration — a Democratic demand.


‘Running out of hope’

The debate about whether or not to include the sequestration language came as promising talks between Reid and McConnell about a deal to open the government and avoid a debt default ceased.

The leaders, senior senators said, have decided to see what the House GOP leadership puts on the floor, or if it fails to get enough votes and the lower chamber does nothing in the next 24 hours.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a McConnell confidant, told reporters he doesn’t “think there are any discussions going on now” among Senate leaders.

Moderate senators streamed out of separate party luncheons to tell reporters that the differences between the House and Senate debt deals aren’t that big.

But the White House and Reid called the House plan a waste of time that wouldn’t see the light of day in the Senate since it again targets part of the Affordable Healthcare Act, or Obamacare.

With the clock ticking toward Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s Thursday deadline for a debt deal, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he remains optimistic that a deal will get done.

“But I’m running out of hope,” Nelson said.


ACC Training Units Flying, Some Combat Coded Units Still Down

Oct. 15, 2013 – 04:06PM | By AARON MEHTA |


WASHINGTON — The US Air Force’s Air Combat Command (ACC) ended a shutdown-imposed grounding of training aircraft last week , but some combat craft remain grounded.

“All formal training units, which spin up pilots who are new to a particular aircraft, were able to resume operations once civilians returned to duty, but we still have combat-coded units that are stood down,” Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, ACC spokesman, wrote in an email. “As the shutdown continues, we’re making adjustments as changes in unit readiness levels require us to restart flying to maintain an ability to meet our operational taskings.”

Approximately 7,500 civilians were furloughed on Oct. 1. A day later, ACC announced it was grounding aircraft that are not immediately being used to train for deployment, a direct result of the furloughs. Nine combat-coded squadrons, along with 26 training and test units in ACC, were ordered to stop flying.

Following a decision by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to bring back the vast majority of furloughed Pentagon civilians, all ACC civilians returned to work on Oct. 7.

The stand down order came three months after ACC lifted its sequestration-based grounding of 17 combat-coded squadrons.

This year, Air Force officials said it would take about 90 days after the previous grounding ended for pilots and crews to regain currency for higher-end missions. And it would take more time after that to be completely combat ready, Lt. Gen. Burton Field, the deputy chief of staff for operations, said in July.


ACC is trying to keep all combat-coded units that are scheduled for operations within the next few months training at mission ready levels, but the longer the units remain grounded, the more degradation to readiness.

“Over time, if you want to ensure an acceptable level of readiness in support of ongoing or emerging taskings, you need to resume flying those grounded units,” Sholtis said. “We’re managing those adjustments based on a recurring review of where we stand in terms of readiness and missions — more of a week by week approach, rather than … turning everything back on at one time.”


Calif. town clears Apple’s ‘spaceship’ campus

By Hayley Tsukayama, Wednesday, October 16, 11:42 AM


Apple got unanimous approval from the city council of Cupertino, Calif., to move ahead with plans for a new campus.

The company’s late co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs personally made his pitch for the campus before the council in 2011, saying that the four-story circular building would make it look “like a spaceship landed there.”

Yahoo is regaining its appeal among investors a lot faster than with the online advertisers who generate most of its revenue.

The building is expected to house up to 14,200 employees and will be surrounded by green space, according to the plans. The new campus is just across the highway from the tech giant’s current headquarters, which is also in Cupertino.

The building itself will be designed with input from architect Sir Norman Foster and his firm, Foster + Partners.

The measure was expected to pass with no problems, according to reports from the San Jose Mercury News, but the council met to finalize the impacts that the campus’s construction and presence would have on the city’s traffic patterns and environment.

Apple employees showed up in force at the meeting — the Mercury News reported “several hundred” Apple workers, some with bright green posters of support — to be there during the measure’s final vote.

The benefit of having Apple remain in Cupertino was not lost on the council members.

“It’s great that we’re keeping jobs here rather than letting them go somewhere else, and I want to thank both Apple and Steve Jobs for his vision,” said Cupertino City Council member Mark Santoro, at the meeting after the final vote passed.

Cupertino Deputy Mayor Gilbert Wong said in the meeting that the company is expected to have its grand opening in the winter of 2016 if everything goes “very well.”

The city will be holding a news conference Wednesday to discuss its approval of the campus plans. According to a release from the city of Cupertino, the conference will include remarks from Cupertino Mayor Orrin Mahoney and representatives from Apple.


The FAA’s complaint against Trappy

FAA Civil Penalty on Misuse of UAS

by Patrick Egan • 8 October 2013


Docket No. 2012EA210009


On April 13, 2012, you were advised through a Notice of Proposed Assessment that the FAA proposed to assess a civil penalty in the amount of $10,000. After consideration of all the available information, it appears that:


1. On or about October 17, 2011, you were the pilot in command of a Ritewing Zephyr

powered glider aircraft in the vicinity of the University of Virginia (UVA), Charlottesville, Virginia.


2. The aircraft referenced above is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).


3. At all times relevant herein you did not possess a Federal Aviation Administration pilot


4. The aircraft referenced above contained a camera mounted on the aircraft which sent real time video to you on the ground.

5. You operated the flight referenced above for compensation.

6. Specifically, you were being paid by Lewis Communications to supply aerial photographs and video of the UVA campus and medical center.


7. You deliberately operated the above-described aircraft at extremely low altitudes over vehicles, buildings, people, streets, and structures.


8. Specifically, you operated the above-described aircraft at altitudes of approximately 10 feet to approximately 400 feet over the University of Virginia in a careless or reckless

manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.


9. For example, you deliberately operated the above-described aircraft in the following manner:

a. You operated the aircraft directly towards an individual standing on a UVA sidewalk causing the individual to take immediate evasive maneuvers so as to avoid being struck by your aircraft.

b. You operated the aircraft through a UVA tunnel containing moving vehicles.

c. You operated the aircraft under a crane.

d. You operated the aircraft below tree top level over a tree lined walkway.

e. You operated the aircraft within approximately 15 feet of a UVA statue,

f You operated the aircraft within approximately 50 feet of railway tracks.

g. You operated the aircraft within approximately 50 feet of numerous individuals.

h. You operated the aircraft within approximately 20 feet of a UVA active street

containing numerous pedestrians and cars.

i. You operated the aircraft within approximately 25 feet of numerous UVA


j . You operated the aircraft on at least three occasions under an elevated pedestrian

walkway and above an active street.

k. You operated the aircraft directly towards a two story UVA building below rooftop

level and made an abrupt climb in order to avoid hitting the building.

l. You operated the aircraft within approximately 100 feet of an active heliport at UVA.


10. Additionally, in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another, you operated the above-described aircraft at altitudes between 10 and 1500 feet AGL when you failed to take precautions to prevent collision hazards with other aircraft that may have been flying within the vicinity of your aircraft.


11. By reason of the above, you operated an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another. By reason of the foregoing, you violated the following section(s) of the Federal Aviation Regulations: Section 91.13(a), which states that no person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.


NOW THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED, pursuant to 49 U.S.C. §§46301(a)(l) and (d)(2) and 46301(a)(5), that you be and hereby are assessed a civil penalty in the amount of $10,000. You may pay the penalty amount by submitting a certified check or money order payable to the “Federal Aviation Administration” to the Office of Accounting, 1 Aviation Plaza, Jamaica, NY 11434. In the alternative, you may pay your civil penalty with a credit card over the Internet. To pay electronically, visit the web site at Iittp:// and click on

“Civil Fines and Penalty Payments” which will bring you to the “FAA Civil Penalty Payments Eastern Region” page. You must then complete the requested information and click “submit” to pay by credit card.


If you do not request a hearing before the National Transportation Safety Board within twenty (20) days after you receive this Order, the amount of debt assessed in this Order constitutes a

legally collectible debt owed to the United States. You will not have a right to seek review within the Federal Aviation Administration of the validity and/or amount of this debt. If this debt is not paid in full within thirty (30) days of your receipt of this Order, the debt is considered delinquent.


For delinquent debts, federal regulation (49 C.F.R. §89.23) requires us to charge interest, from the date this Order is issued, at a fixed annual rate of 5% along with an administrative charge of $12.00

per month, representing our costs of administrative collection. Furthermore, if the full amount assessed is not paid in full within 120 days of your receipt of this Order, we are required to assess an additional penalty at an annual rate of 6%, accruing from the date of delinquency. Delinquent debts may be reported to consumer reporting agencies or commercial credit bureaus, which could adversely affect your credit rating. Nonpayment of this debt may ultimately result in a referral to a collection agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Department of Justice or, if applicable, to a Federal Agency for offset of debt against Federal pay.

Alfred R. Johnson, Jr.

Regional Counsel


Remember Trappys counsel filed a motion to dismiss last week.



SOCOM Wants an Iron Man Suit with Liquid Body Armor




Special Operation Command wants a suit its operators can wear that features liquid body armor, built-in computers and offers super human strength. Essentially, the Pentagon wants to outfit its special operators in Iron Man suits.

Officials from U.S. Special Operation Command issued a formal request to researchers to help them build this suit the military is calling the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS). The request comes right from the top — Adm. William McRaven, USSOCOM commander.

Some of America’s top scientists from labs such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology are pitching in on the project. MIT engineers are working on a liquid body armor made of magnetorheological fluids that “transform from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” according to an Army statement.

But the liquid body armor is only a portion of the suit. Leaders of the project also want the TALOS to include physiological subsystems that can monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels.

“[The] requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that — a whole bunch of stuff that RDECOM is playing heavily in,” said Lt. Col. Karl Borjes, a Army Reserach, Development and Engineering Command science advisor assigned to SOCOM, in a statement.



Nighttime Solar Power Arriving in United States


Pete Danko

October 9, 2013


Arizona Public Service says plant developer Abengoa is now testing the Solana Generating Station, a massive solar thermal power plant that will be the first in the country to use cutting-edge heat storage technology to extend energy production into the evening hours.

An APS spokesman said the plant is expected to go into commercial operation this month, but already it is sending energy to the grid in the testing phase, include during periods when the sun isn’t shining on the nearly 3 square miles of row upon row of parabolic mirrors that have an aperture area of 2.2 million square meters.

Solana, backed by a federal loan guarantee of nearly $1.5 billion, will be able to generate 280 megawatts of power, which will make it a very big solar power plant, though not as big as the three-unit Ivanpah power tower plant that’s in a similar testing phase in the California desert. But Solana comes with up to six hours of energy storage.

“Solana is a monumental step forward in solar energy production,” Don Brandt, APS president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Solana delivers important value to APS customers by generating power when the sun isn’t shining. It also increases our solar energy portfolio by nearly 50 percent. This provides a huge boost toward our goal to make Arizona the solar capital of America.”

With most parabolic trough solar thermal systems, the troughs focus the sun’s heat on a tube that has a transfer fluid running through it. That fluid is used to boil water to make steam.

That happens at Solana, but the plant also can use some of the sun-heated fluid to heat molten salts, where the heat can be efficiently stored.

The molten salt storage technology is something that the plant’s builder, Abengoa, already has working, although in a somewhat different fashion, at the much smaller, 19.9-megawatt capacity Gemasolar plant in Spain. Like Ivanpah, Gemasolar uses a power tower system, with 2,650 mirrors (heliostats in the industry’s jargon) bouncing sunlight to the top of a 460-foot tower at the center of the circle of mirrors. But unlike with the trough system, there’s no intermediary fluid used — the heat goes directly to the molten salts.

This is a system that’s akin to what SolarReserve is working on in Nevada with the much larger Crescent Dunes plant. It’s expected to be operating before the end of this year, giving the U.S. the two largest solar power systems in the world that have energy storage capability.


Good enough for government work? The contractors building Obamacare

Sunlight Foundation

Friday, October 11, 2013

By Bill Allison Oct 09 2013 3:34 p.m.

The Obama administration dreamed that itshealth insurance exchanges–the websites that were supposed to make it easy to buy health insurance–would function as smoothly as online consumer sites like Expedia or But as head-scratching continues about how a famously web-savvy administration could have flubbed its Internet homework so badly, an examination by the Sunlight Foundation shows the administration turned the task of building its futuristic new health care technology planning and programming over to legacy contractors with deep political pockets.

One result: Problem-plagued online exchanges that make it all but impossible for consumers to buy insurance and hundreds of millions of dollars in the coffers of some of the biggest lobbying powerhouses in Washington. 

Citing the government shutdown, the Health and Human Services Department will not release a list of the estimated dozen or more companies tasked with building the site. But Sunlight reviewed contract award information from and, and found 47 organizations that won contracts from Health and Human Services or the Treasury Department to manage, support or service the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Among them were top contractors likeNorthrop GrummanDeloitte LLPSAIC Inc. General Dynamics and Booz Allen Hamilton. All fiveof those companies provided information technology services to either the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or the Internal Revenue Service, the two agencies tasked with building back components of the health insurance exchanges.

All but one of of the 47 contractors who won contracts to carry out work on the Affordable Care Act worked for the government prior to its passage. Many–like the Rand Corporation and the MITRE Corporation–have done so for decades. And some, like Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, are among the biggest wielders of influence in Washington. Some 17 ACA contract winners reported spending more than $128 million on lobbying in 2011 and 2012, while 29 had employees or political action committees or both that contributed $32 million to federal candidates and parties in the same period. Of that amount, President Barack Obama collected $3.9 million.

Because the government provides brief, partial descriptions of contracts in, it is not possible to say which of the contractors with information technology contracts or project management contacts were involved in building the 36 federally run health insurance marketplaces, a responsibility tasked to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known by the acronym CMS, or those assigned to develop the federal data hub, which would allow applicants to have their income and family size immediately verified by the Internal Revenue Service.

Media accounts note that CGI Federal, a longtime provider of IT services to the federal government, won the contract to build the exchanges. The federal data hub was shelved when the health insurance exchanges launched on Oct. 1; when it will come online has not been announced. 

Sunlight contacted a number of vendors that won IT and related contracts to implement portions of the Affordable Care Act. A spokesperson for SAIC, whose contracts with the Internal Revenue Service included one for supporting income and family verification procedures required by the health care law, said it had no role in building the federal data hub. Similarly, PricewaterhouseCoopers said its contract from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a multi-vendor award, to “analyze, evaluate and improve existing business processes and technology systems required under the Affordable Care Act,” had nothing to do with the health insurance exchanges.

Vangent, the company that won a $28 million contract to run customer contact centers for CMS — fielding questions via telephone, mail, email and web chats — is a subsidiary of General Dynamics, a company best known for making submarines, Abrams tanks and ammunition. While it’s not clear that Vangent was the company responsible, web chat responses for help for with the health insurance exchanges have been one of many targets of consumer ire.

There was no shortage of top flight consultants hired by Health and Human Services. Booz Allen Hamilton was awarded a $1.8 million task order to develop a plan to allow CMS to fully utilize electronic medical records. McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm that released a widely criticized study claiming that anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of large employers would drop employee health insurance because of the health care reform, had one contract potentially worth $13.8 million for project management planning with CMS. Deloitte LLP won a contract to support the IRS in its effort to “deliver world class implementation” of its technological requirements under the act.  

The Deloitte LLP contract was to service the project management office in the IRS, which had the responsibility of meeting the Affordable Care Act’s requirements. That contract was awarded two months after the Government Accountability Office found fault with the way the IRS was managing implementation of the act. 

And then there are the surveys, studies and reports. The National Opinion Research Center, a Chicago-based polling organization that also does the Survey of Consumer Finances, a Federal Reserve report that measures the assets and indebtedness of Americans, got a $300,000 task order from CMS for a study that “may be of assistance to the department in determining future needs” due to the impact of the Affordable Care Act. NORC’s lobbying firm, Drinker, Biddle & Reath, reported spending $200,000 in 2012 to lobby Congress and the Office of Management and Budget on funding for health and social science research and data. George Washington Universtiy won a contract to study the act’s impact on vaccine programs, while the University of California won a $12,000 contract to report on how minority women fare under the act.

Sunlight’s survey does not include awards to contractors that built the 14 state exchanges. For example, Xerox Corp. won a $72 million contract to help build Nevada’s exchange and one for $68 million to do the same in Florida. Not only is Xerox building the online marketplaces for some states, it’s also offering insurers the means to “fully take advantage of the nearly 30 million new members that will be shopping for health care on these exchanges.”

Peter Olsen-Phillips contributed to this report.







LOBBYING, 2011-12 


A. Reddix & Associates 





ABT Associates 















Booz Allen Hamilton 





CDM Group 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



CGI Federal 





Client/Server Software Solutions (





Computer Sciences Corp. 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Computing Solutions 





David-James LLC 





Deloitte Consulting





Genova Technologies 





George Washingotn Univeristy 





H.S.I. Network 





Humanitas Inc. 





ICP Systems LLC 





Information Systems Consulting Group Inc.





International Business Machines 





Intertribal Council of Arizona 


Indian Health Service, HHS 



IQ Solutions Inc. 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers



JSI Research and Training Institute 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



KAT Video Productions 





Macro International Corp. 





Maximus Federal Services Inc. 





McKinsey & Company 





Mitre Corp 





National Opinion Research Center 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Northrop Grumman 





Porter Novelli Public Strategies 










Quality Software Services Inc (United Health Group) 





Rand Corporation 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Research Triangle Institute 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Science Applications International Corp. 





Sentel Corp 










Social and Scientific System Inc. 





Soft-Con Enterprises 





Summit Consulting 





Thomson Reuters Healthcare Inc. (now Truven Health Analytics) 





Unicom Logistics 





University of California (SF) 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Urban Institute 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Vangent (General Dynamics)





Verizon Business Network Services 





Weber Shandwick 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Westcott, John 







New NIST cybersecurity standards could pose liability risks

Once passed, the standard will become the benchmark to measure critical infrastructure security programs

Jaikumar Vijayan

October 11, 2013 (Computerworld)


Critical infrastructure companies could face new liability risks if they fail to meet voluntary cybersecurity standards being developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The slated release of a draft of the standard on Thursday was delayed, apparently due to the federal government shutdown. NIST’s main website was shuttered on Thursday.

The standards effort was launched after an Executive Order by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

A preliminary version of the draft standard has been floating around for several weeks, however.

The formal draft version, when released, will be available for public review until February 2014, according to the original schedule. Once the review is complete, will release a final version of the standards that incorporates changes recommended by stakeholders.

The NIST cybersecurity framework is designed to serve as a security best practices guide for organizations in critical infrastructure sectors, like power, telecommunications, financial services and energy.

The framework was developed with input from industry stakeholders.

It is not designed to mandate specific security controls. Rather, it offers broad standards for identifying and protecting critical data, services and assets against cyber threats. It offers a set of best practices for detecting and responding to an attack, mitigating the fallout from cyber incidents and for managing risks overall.

Obama issued the Executive Order in February to address, what he said was an immediate need to protect critical infrastructure targets against cyberattacks. Administration officials said the order came only after repeated failures by Congress to pass meaningful cybersecurity legislation.

Participation in the standards program is voluntary. The Executive Order leaves it up to the federal agencies in charge of each critical sector to push adoption of the standards through a combination of incentives and other market driven means.

In practice though, critical infrastructure owners and operators will likely be left with little choice but to follow the standards, or at least show they have comparable security measures in place, said Jason Wool, an attorney with Venable LLP, a Washington D.C-based law firm.

Companies that ignore the standards and are breached will open themselves up to negligence, shareholder and breach of contract lawsuits along with other liability claims. The standards will likely be viewed as the minimum level of care and integrity within critical infrastructure sectors, Wool noted.

“You don’t have to adopt these standards. But the fact that this framework [spells out] activities that are recommended for cybersecurity, establishes a bar that companies need to meet,” Wool said. “The framework requires, at minimum, that owners and operators of critical infrastructure look at themselves and do a gap analysis.”

Even companies that don’t adopt the standards need to show what they are doing is as effective.

“If a company gets sued, it should be able to provide some evidence that they took a look at the standards, performed a risk assessment and were managing their risk in a reasonable manner, Wool said.

Scott Vernick, an attorney at Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia said that there is a good chance that the NIST standards will eventually become sector-specific regulations overseen by the federal agencies in charge of various critical infrastructure areas. At that point, covered entities will have no choice but to adopt the standards, he suggested.

Even if that’s wrong, “once NIST finishes its work, the Plaintiffs Bar will point to it as the standard,” Vernick said. Critical infrastructure owners and operators should, at a minimum, determine how their security measures stack up against the standard, he said.

Companies should also consider joining information sharing initiatives and other cybersecurity forums to show they are making an effort to understand new threats, he said. “This really is an area where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Ironically, even companies that do adopt the framework may not be free from liability risks, experts say.

For instance, some of the provisions for protecting personally identifiable information (PII), could be pose problems for critical infrastructure companies, said Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary for policy under the George W. Bush administration, in a blog post.

The privacy appendix would require that companies take extensive measures to protect PII while carrying out cybersecurity functions, said Baker now an attorney in the Washington office of the Steptoe & Johnson LLP law firm.

For example, companies that want to share threat-information with other firms will have to first scrub the data so it’s clean of personally identifiable information.

Baker said the requirements in the draft document are ambiguous and open to interpretation.

Companies that share threat information containing personal data, like IP addresses and email addresses, face few legal consequences as long as the government is kept out of the picture.

“Once the NIST privacy appendix takes effect, though, private cybersecurity sharing will slow to a crawl as lawyers try to anticipate whether every piece of data has been screened for PII and for relevance,” Baker noted. “In short, under the NIST framework, pretty much every serious cybersecurity measure in use today will come with new limits and possibly new liability,” he said.



Ramussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Americans paint a pretty gloomy picture of the present and the future these days, but the housing market offers a glimmer of hope.

Just 13% of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction. That’s down 15 points from two weeks ago and the lowest finding in five years.

Over half (52%) say America’s best days are in the past, the highest level of pessimism since December 2011. 

Consumer confidence remains at its lowest levels of the year. 

Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans now say they know someone who joined the military because of the bad job market. That’s up four points from 39% in January 2012.

The body bags continue to come home, but just 19% of voters believe it’s still possible for the United States to win the war in Afghanistan. That’s down from a high of 51% in December 2009 and the lowest level of confidence ever. Though most troops and equipment are set to be out of Afghanistan by December 2014, 53% now favor the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from that country.

But is the government listening?

Voters remain skeptical of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs, but only 32% trust the president, the executive branch, Congress and federal judges to make sure the NSA abides by the Constitution

Consistent with surveys since 2006, a solid majority (64%) of voters favors a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes

Sixty-three percent (63%) believe thoughtful spending cuts should be considered in every program of the federal government, but just 30% believe it’s even somewhat likely that government spending will be significantly reduced over the next few years

As the new national health care law stumbles into existence, most voters continue to dislike it as they have since Congress passed it in March 2010. 

Forty-seven percent (47%) now give President Obama poor marks for his handing of the health care issue. That’s an eight-point increase from September and a high for the year to date.

Yet Obama’s overall job approval rating appears to have weathered the government shutdown/debt ceiling crisis in Washington, D.C., and remains at levels seen for much of his presidency. 

If the next congressional election were held today, however, 78% would vote to get rid of the entire Congress and start over again. That’s a 10-point jump from the previous high of 68% in May of last year.

Sixty-one percent (61%) of voters believe Republicans in Congress are acting in a partisan, rather than bipartisan, fashion, and 55% say the same of congressional Democrats. Just over half (51%) think the president is acting like a partisan Democrat.

Democrats jumped to a seven-point lead over Republicans – 45% to 38% – on the most recent Generic Congressional Ballot. But 47% think it is fair to say that neither party in Congress is the party of the American people

Still, ask voters which party they want in charge of the entire Congress, and – it’s a draw. Forty-six percent (46%) would vote for the Democratic Party to run everything, while just as many (45%) would vote for the Republican Party to be totally in control.

Interestingly, in these seemingly hyperpartisan times, while 56% of Americans believe their fellow citizens are less tolerant of other people’s political opinions than they were in the past, that’s the lowest finding in three years. 

At the same time, 77% think their fellow Americans are becoming ruder and less civilized

Now for some good news: 38% of U.S. Homeowners believe the value of their home will go up over the next year, the highest finding since Rasmussen Reports began regular tracking in April 2009. Fifty-six percent (56%) expect the value of their home to go up over the next five years. That’s up 11 points from last month and also the highest to date.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) feel that their home is worth more now than when they bought it. That’s a three-point increase from 56% in June and the highest level of confidence since October 2011.

Rasmussen Reports’ final survey of New Jersey’s special U.S. Senate race showed Democrat Cory Booker with a 12-point lead over Republican Steve Lonegan. Booker won this past week by 11 points.

In other surveys last week:

— Only 12% of Americans consider the federal government’s oversight of the banking industry as good or excellent, and 53% continue to feel it is better for the U.S. financial system to have more competition and less regulation

— Fifty-three percent (53%) say bullying in schools is a bigger problem today

Eighty-one percent (81%) of adults trust their doctor. 

— Fifty-eight percent (58%) think the United States should continue to honor explorer Christopher Columbus with a national holiday


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