AF proposes 1,600 personnel increase to command support staffs

WASHINGTON (AFNS) —

The Air Force plans to increase commander support staff manning across the force by 1,600 by fiscal year 2022 increasing total authorizations to more than 6,300.

Currently, the personnel increase calls for 170 officers, 469 enlisted and 961 civilians with all civilian hires authorized for fiscal 2018.

The increase in CSS manning ties directly to the Air Force chief of staff’s first focus area — revitalizing squadrons. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein announced this focus area within the first month of his tenure, and appointed Brig. Gen. Stephen L. Davis, the director of Air Force manpower, organization and resources, as lead of this initiative.

“Squadrons are the core unit of the Air Force,” Davis said. „We must ensure they have the support required to accomplish the mission and support their Airmen. This is one step of many we plan to take to help revitalize Air Force squadrons.”

One of the first milestones of revitalizing squadrons was the reduction of additional duties for Airmen across the Air Force. A comprehensive review of duties under the direct control of the Air Force resulted in the elimination, reassignment, or reduction of 29 of 61 additional duties identified under Air Force Instruction 38-206, “Additional Duty Management.”

While this lessened the workload for the majority of Airmen within the service, many of the duties were realigned under CSS. In August 2016 the Air Force committed to ensuring CSS requirements are funded and positions filled as quickly as possible within budget limits.

The new positions will be prioritized by need across the Air Force. Some of the more than 1,975 active-duty squadrons are already fully manned while others are minimally manned. The Air Force will work with major commands to assess areas of greatest need and prioritize manning.

Davis said the manning increase is key to re-establishing the CSS to full capability.

The CSS provides critical support to the squadron, but not all of these positions were fully funded in the past,” Davis said. “We’re fixing that and will also add new positions to increase the level of CSS support for many squadrons. Fully funding the increased CSS requirement is a key element in revitalizing Air Force squadrons.”

Beyond the legend of Kokoda

‚Beyond the Legend’ is a good sub-title for this absorbing collection of contributions from an impressive array of former soldiers, military historians, academics and others from Australia, the US and Japan, brought together for an international conference at the Australian War Memorial in 2012 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign.

I was at Kokoda in 1992 as the ABC’s Papua New Guinea Correspondent when, to mark the fiftieth anniversary, Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating knelt and kissed the ground and proclaimed that Kokoda should be ranked higher than Gallipoli in the Australian consciousness. Keating argued that the soldiers at Kokoda ‚died in defence of Australia’ and so, for Australians, ‚the battles of Papua New Guinea were the most important ever fought’. The editor of Kokoda: Beyond the Legend, Karl James, a senior historian in the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial, is not attempting to mount a counter-argument. His opening chapter is called ‚Kokoda, the immortal trail’.

However, some myths do get busted.

One of the first struck down is that the Australians who stopped the Japanese initially faced overwhelming odds. As James notes, the ‚story of Kokoda and the fighting in Papua during 1942 has been told and retold with mixed quality and originality in countless websites, articles, books, documentaries and even an Australian film’.

In a chapter titled ‚Against Overwhelming Odds?’, Peter Williams, an author and former officer with the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs, examines the numbers on both sides. He says that in the first seven battles, when the Australians and Papua New Guineans (from the Papuan Infantry Battalion) were driven back over 70km in eight weeks, they were rarely outnumbered by the Japanese. For instance, in the Battle for Isurava on 30 August 1942, the Australians and Papuans numbered 2292 while there were 2400 Japanese. Admittedly, the Japanese had towed up to nine artillery guns to that engagement. And there would have been an additional 1100 more Japanese troops there if one of its battalions had not got lost in the jungle and turned up too late.

The other fact I found fascinating is how doubtful the Japanese general who commanded the operation was about his force’s ability to capture Port Moresby.

Haruki Yoshida, an independent historian who has helped the War Memorial with translations, writes in his chapter, ‚Japanese Commanders in Kokoda’, that Major General Horii Tomitaro was not keen on the overland operation. At a meeting at the Japanese 17th Army headquarters he was ‚encouraged’ to be ‚positive’ about crossing the Owen Stanley Ranges. ‚Horii, however, when pressed for his opinion, asserted that the operation seemed impossible.’ His major worry was about sustaining supply. Nevertheless, he accepted the order and pursued the operation with vigour. But on 13 September after getting to within 50km of Port Moresby he was effectively ordered to retreat back to the north coast.

The reason for this – and for why the Australian retreat then turned into attack – was developments elsewhere. The Battle of the Coral Sea had thwarted the Japanese attack on Port Moresby from the sea and the US Marines were so frustrating the Japanese in the battle for Guadalcanal that Horii’s expected reinforcements were diverted to the Solomons. The Australians also had a significant victory over the Japanese at Milne Bay.

What the book does exceedingly well is place the Kokoda campaign in the context of the wider war. There are separate chapters on the Battle of the Coral Sea, Guadalcanal, Milne Bay, the air war over Papua and an analysis of the quality of the Australian and American commanders during the beachhead battles at Buna, Gona and Sanananda after the Japanese had retreated to the north coast of Papua from Kokoda.

This last chapter is revealing about the poor opinions these commanders had of each other and of the troops from the other country. Australian Major General George Vasey said of the US 126th Infantry Regiment, which came under his command at Sanananda, that they ‚maintained a masterful inactivity’. The American Lieutenant General Robert Eichelberger wrote that ‚Vasey does not seem to like the commanders he draws but then maybe if we were to hear from them maybe it would be mutual’.

Of the four commanders examined – two Australian and two American – Eichelberger emerges as the most competent and effective. That was an opinion shared by my father, who served in the later campaigns at Lae and Finschhafen as a doctor commanding an Australian Field Ambulance unit with the Australian Ninth Division. He spoke positively of Eichelberger in interviews I recorded with him in the 1980s. However, Eichelberger’s success and popularity irritated General Douglas MacArthur, ‚who sidelined him and passed him over for army command in 1943.’

It is appropriate that this book is published this year, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Kokoda campaign.

Industry asserts brand new attitude at WINDPOWER 2017

May 23, 2017

ANAHEIM, Calif., May 23, 2017 — U.S. wind industry leaders and the leader of the California Senate described the mounting economic benefits of increased wind power as thousands arrived in Anaheim for the American Wind Energy Association’s annual WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition.

“With wind’s success comes new and solvable challenges. Management of the grid needs to evolve to meet these challenges,” said Tristan Grimbert, newly elected AWEA Board Chair, and President and CEO of EDF Renewable Energy. He said to compete in the low price energy environment will take increased and improved transmission; fairer market rules; and for the market to recognize and compensate for wind’s attributes. “A brand new attitude is to embrace now, all forms of support to help forge the necessary policies and regulations for wind to thrive,” Grimbert said.

State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León gave the keynote address on Tuesday, highlighting wind power’s success.

“California’s clean energy economy is a model for the rest of the nation and the world,” said Kevin de León, California State Senate President pro Tempore. “We’ve turned some of our biggest environmental challenges into incredible opportunities. We can dramatically expand clean energy while also growing our economy and putting people to work.”

De León authored California’s signature 50 percent renewable energy standard in 2025. That leadership continues this year as the Senate President has legislation that would take California to the next level. Modern wind power originated in the mountain passes of California. As one of the most affordable and reliable forms of electricity generation, wind will play an increasingly important role in the state and nation’s expanding clean energy mix.

“Wind power has grown to be America’s largest source of renewable capacity because we’ve delivered on our promises,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “We said more wind could be reliably added to the grid, that with stable tax policy we could grow jobs, and that with a level playing field we would invest in America. We delivered. Today we have five states over 20 percent wind, and over 100,000 American wind jobs. And we’ve invested $14 billion two years running in communities that need it the most.”

“We’re not just here to stay, we’re here to grow, and grow, and grow,” added Kiernan.

The Western Hemisphere’s largest wind energy conference features over 400 exhibitors, including 91 at the show for the first time. Kiernan in his remarks and columns this week in trade media described 16 trends that will continue to buoy the industry beyond 2020, once the wind energy Production Tax Credit completes its current phaseout. They include the falling cost of wind energy, expanding state policies like California’s, and upgrades to the nation’s power grid and transmission infrastructure.

New AWEA Leadership

In his new role as AWEA Board Chair, Grimbert appointed two Board members to fill temporary vacancies until 2018 member elections: Laura Beane, President and CEO, Avangrid Renewables, and Paul Loeffelman, Director, Corporate External Affairs and Head of Corporate International Affairs, for AEP. Earlier on Monday, AWEA welcomed new Board members elected by AWEA’s members in the 2017.

Panel: Energizing the Value Proposition for Wind Energy to Support Growth Beyond 2020

Wednesday, May 24

What: General session, featuring special presentations by Ben Fowke, President and CEO of Xcel Energy, and Chris Brown, President, Vestas Americas, and a panel discussion, followed by a media availability for media attending the conference.

Wind energy today is a highly competitive source of power in many regions of the U.S., thanks to steady and significant reductions in wind generation costs in recent years. Coupled with a growing preference for clean energy on the part of consumers and industrial customers, policy support from the PTC and state RPS policies, and the price volatility of natural gas, wind energy has grown impressively and now delivers 5.5 percent of electrical power in the U.S. With the continued falling cost of solar and the PTC sunset, the industry must make an effective business case for wind energy moving forward.

Who:

Special presentations and dialogue from:

  • Chris Brown, President, Vestas Americas;
  • Ben Fowke, President and CEO, Xcel Energy;

Panelists:

  • Amy Francetic, SVP, New Ventures & Corp. Affairs, Invenergy LLC;
  • Aparna Narang, Senior Director, Electric and Gas Acquisition, Pacific Gas and Electric Company;
  • Chris Brown, President, Vestas Americas;
  • Renee Carlson, Procurement Manager, Global Energy, 3M Corporation;
  • Moderator: Stephanie Kushner, CEO, Broadwind Energy;

When: 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Wednesday, May 24

Where: General session to be held at the Power Station, simulcast in all education stations, the AWEA booth and streaming online. This year’s new simulcast feature enables the general session to reach a record number of viewers. A media availability will take place tomorrow in the Green Room (pictured below) at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time, following the panel.

You can register for the General Session livestream here.

California was an early wind energy pioneer and still ranks fourth in the U.S. in wind power installations with over 5,600 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity. That growth has led to $12.5 billion dollar in capital investment and up to 4,000 jobs. This includes manufacturing jobs at 12 wind-related factories across the state. Wind farms in California pay rural landowners $20 million a year in land lease payments.

Wind energy supporters who aren’t attending this year’s conference can follow this week’s event by using the hashtag #windworks primarily on Twitter or Facebook.

A media kit for the conference is available here: www.awea.org/WINDPOWER2017MediaKit

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AWEA is the national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry. We represent 1,000 member companies and over 100,000 jobs in the U.S. economy, serving as a powerful voice for how wind works for America. Members include global leaders in wind power and energy development, turbine manufacturing, and component and service suppliers. They gather each year at the Western Hemisphere’s largest wind power trade show, the AWEA WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition, next in Anaheim, California, May 22-26, 2017. Find information about wind energy on the AWEA website. Gain insight into industry issues on AWEA’s blog, Into the Wind. And please join us on , and follow @AWEA on .

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES $10 MILLION TO REPAIR ROADS, FLOODWALLS AND PUBLIC WATER INFRASTRUCTURE IN IMPACTED COMMUNITIES ALONG LAKE ONTARIO

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New Targeted Investment Program Will Support Local Municipalities in Flood Recovery Efforts

New Yorkers Encouraged to Report Suspected Price Gouging to the Lake Ontario Flood Assistance Hotline at 866-244-3839

Mobile Command Centers Continue to be Deployed to Assist with Insurance Claims and Expedited Permitting

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $10 million in state funding is available to assist eligible local municipalities that have been impacted by the recent flooding along the Lake Ontario coastline. The new investment program will support flood recovery efforts, including repairs to flood walls, roads, sidewalks, and culverts, as well as public water and sewer infrastructure. The funding is available through New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The program will be open to applications for funding from municipal governments in counties that were identified in Governor Cuomo’s May 2, 2017 emergency declaration this week.

Earlier this month, the Governor declared a State of Emergency in Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wayne counties for the region in order to expedite repairs to impacted structures and construction of shoreline stabilization projects. Additionally, staff from the Lake Ontario Rapid Response Team continue to be deployed to assist residents and monitor response efforts along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

As Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River continue to slowly rise, we must do everything in our power to ease the financial and personal toll on our families and communities, while fortifying our infrastructure to ensure its continued viability,Governor Cuomo said. „With this available funding, we are ramping up our multi-agency response efforts to help these communities and provide the assistance that they need now.”

Since the end of April, more than 1.2 million sandbags have been deployed to help localities mitigate against damage to their homes and businesses, along with 11 sandbagging machines – at least one in each effected county. In addition, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has deployed field teams to provide on-the-ground technical assistance and coordination with state and local emergency management personnel.

„Our communities on Lake Ontario are working hard to fight off flood damage to roads, floodwalls and the public water infrastructure in several locations along the lakefront spanning from Jefferson County to Niagara,” Lieutenant Governor Hochul said during the announcement in Fair Haven today. „Governor Cuomo has committed $10 million in state funding to help make needed infrastructure repairs in these communities, and we will continue our ongoing support in manpower, sandbagging and assistance at our Mobile Command Center.”

Report Suspected Price Gouging

The Governor is asking residents to report suspected price gouging to the Lake Ontario Flood Assistance Hotline at 866-244-3839. The hotline is available for residents and businesses concerned about potential price gouging or other exploitative practices by service providers in the area. If you believe you are being charged excessive prices for any essential consumer goods or services during the present disaster situation, you are urged to call the hotline and staff will connect you to the Department of State Division of Consumer Protection.

Emergency Response Mobile Command Centers

In addition, the state will continue to deploy Emergency Response Mobile Command Centers staffed by Department of Financial Services personnel who can help residents navigate the insurance claim process. Since the deployment of the Emergency Response Mobile Command Centers, over 700 individuals have asked for insurance assistance at the various locations in the eight affected counties.

Department of Environmental Conservation experts are also available at the Mobile Command Centers to help answer questions on the Storm Recovery General Permit, describe the specific types of repair and stabilization work authorized, and provide assistance in completing the application form. In certain instances, based on the available information provided by applicants, DEC will provide permits on-site or expedite further review and field visits necessary to issue permits. To obtain the required authorization under this General Permit, residents should come prepared by reading the General Permit and Application Instructions; determine whether or not the proposed work is within the scope of the General Permit; fill out the Application for General Permit GP-0-17-006 and provide drawings, plans, photos (if available) and a location map.

In addition, DEC has deployed a team of experienced coastal engineers to Lake Ontario to meet with property owners, conduct site visits and offer technical assistance. DEC’s engineers stand ready to work with property owners so that protective structures can be repaired and homeowners can take appropriate actions expeditiously. To date, DEC has issued 247 permits.

The NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Centers will be at the below locations over the next five days. In addition, those who are not able to visit the Emergency Response Mobile Command Center can call the Department of Financial Service’s Disaster Hotline at 1-800-339-1759, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 8 p.m. for help with insurance-related issues.

Sunday, May 21

Wayne – NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Center

10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Village of Sodus Point

Sodus Point Beach Park

7958 Wickham Blvd.

Jefferson – NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Center

10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Town of Lyme

Chaumont Volunteer Fire Department

11385 NY Route-12E

Monday, May 22

Oswego County – NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Center

10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Town of Mexico

New York State DOT Maintenance Center

5846 Scenic Ave.

Cayuga County – NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Center

10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Village of Fair Haven

Fair Haven Village Hall

14523 Cayuga St.

Tuesday, May 23

Niagara – NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Center

10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Town of Newfane

Olcott Fire Company

1691 Lockport-Olcott Road

Olreans County – NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Center

10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Town of Kent

County Marine Park

Point Breeze Road (Route 98)

Wednesday, May 24

Monroe – NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Center

10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Town of Parma

Town Hall

1300 Hilton Parma Rd

Parma, NY

Jefferson County – NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Center

10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Town of Lyme

Chaumont Volunteer Fire Department

11385 NY Route 12E

Thursday, May 25

Wayne – NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Center

Sodus Point

Sodus Point Beach Park

7958 Wickham Blvd

St. Lawrence – NYS Emergency Response Mobile Command Center

City of Ogdensburg

100 Riverside Avenue (The Dobinsky Center)

If you are unable to visit a mobile location, the DEC will continue to provide support to communities through expedited permitting, site inspections, and technical guidance at regional offices. Since last month the DEC regional offices have received 336 applications and have issued 168 General Permits, 35 individual permits and 44 Emergency Authorizations. The remaining applications are under review.

DEC Regional Permit Office Contacts

NYS DEC Region 6

(Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties)

Regional Permit Administrator

Dulles State Office Building

317 Washington Street

Watertown, NY 13601-3787

Phone: 315-785-2245

Fax: 315-785-2242

Email: dep.r6@dec.ny.gov

NYS DEC Region 7

(Cayuga and Oswego counties)

Regional Permit Administrator

615 Erie Blvd. West, Room 206

Syracuse, NY 13204-2400

Phone: 315-426-7444

Fax: 315-426-7425

Email: dep.r7@dec.ny.gov

NYS DEC Region 8

(Monroe, Orleans and Wayne counties)

Regional Permit Administrator

6274 East Avon – Lima Road

Avon, NY 14414-9519

Phone: 585-226-5400

Fax: 585-226-2830

Email: dep.r8@dec.ny.gov

NYS DEC Region 9

(Niagara County)

Regional Permit Administrator

270 Michigan Avenue

Buffalo, NY 14203-2915

Phone: 716-851-7165

Fax: 716-851-7168

Email: dep.r9@dec.ny.gov

Regional Resource Deployment

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Emergency Management continues to coordinate with county and local partners in monitoring the rising levels of Lake Ontario and additional resources from other state stockpiles have been shifted to locations in Monroe county in the event that conditions worsen. To date, more than 1.2 million sandbags have been deployed to affected communities to help mitigate flooding. Currently, assets have been deployed to the following counties:

St. Lawrence County

  • 40,000 sandbags distributed (20,000 from Army Corps of Engineers)
  • 1 sandbagger deployed
  • State sandbagging operation at 2317 Green Street Ogdensburg

Jefferson County

  • 170,000 sandbags (50,000 from Army Corps of Engineers)
  • 2 sandbaggers deployed
  • 30 National Guard members deployed
  • State sandbagging operations at Routes 8 and 12E in Chaumont
  • An inmate crew at the Cape Vincent Correctional Facility are filling sandbags on-site for the Town of Lyme and Cape Vincent.

Oswego County

  • 139,000 sandbags distributed
  • 1 sandbagger deployed
  • 32 National Guard Members deployed
  • State sandbagging operation at State Route 104 in Mapleview

Cayuga County

  • 85,000 sandbags distributed
  • 1 sandbagger
  • 20 National Guard Members deployed
  • Local sandbagging operation at 14523 Cayuga Street in Fair Haven

Wayne County

  • 255,000 sandbags distributed
  • 2 sandbaggers deployed
  • 47 National Guard Members deployed
  • State sandbagging operation at 7290 Ridge Road in Sodus
  • Local sandbagging operation at 7452 Seaman Street in Sodus Point
  • 2 hoses and pumps
    • 2 – 6” pumps

Monroe County

  • 322,000 distributed (30,000 from the Army Corps of Engineers)
  • 2 sandbaggers deployed
  • 64 National Guard members deployed
  • State sandbagging operation at 198 East Manitou Road in Hilton
  • Local sandbagging operation at 1 Long Pond Road in Rochester
  • 24 pumps
    • 12 – 4” pumps
    • 2 – 6” pumps
    • 10 – 3” pumps

Orleans County

  • 130,000 sandbags distributed
  • 1 sandbagger deployed
  • 52 National Guard members deployed
  • State sandbagging operation at 14410 Route 31 in Albion
  • 3 Department of Corrections and Community Supervision inmate crews
    • 2 in the Town of Kendell
    • 1 in the Town of Carlton

Niagara County

  • 60,000 sandbags distributed
  • 1 sandbagger deployed
  • 10 National Guard members
  • Local sandbagging operations at 1691 Lockport Road in Olcott
  • 14 pumps and various hoses
    • 12 – 3” pumps
    • 2 – 6” pumps

 

The New York State Department of Transportation continues to work in coordination with sister agencies and local and county leaders, providing assistance and equipment to more than a dozen communities. To date, NYSDOT crews have bagged more than 3,700 tons of sand, providing nearly 170,000 of the deployed sandbags to affected communities.

New York State Parks continues to actively monitor the situation specifically involving issues of high water, shoreline erosion, and debris accumulation. Crews have placed sandbags around vulnerable facilities such as marina buildings, and are cleaning and clearing out debris. State Parks crews will assess long term impacts once the water recedes. All parks are open and focused on getting ready for a busy summer. Park visitors should monitor www.nysparks.com or call their local park office for the latest updates regarding park hours, openings and closings.

All New Yorkers are encouraged to sign up for NY-Alert, the state’s free, all hazards subscription-based alerting system. For more information and to register, please visit www.nyalert.gov. For information on flood safety visit the DHSES website at www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/flood. For more information on the Storm Recovery Permit, visit the DEC website. Details of the general permit and instructions for applicants can be found at: www.dec.ny.gov/permits/89343.html.

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Thailand: Junta Entrenched 3 Years After Coup

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a news conference after his meeting with the National Security Council at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, August 15, 2016. 

© 2016 Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

(New York) – Thailand’s junta has failed to fulfill pledges to respect human rights and restore democratic rule three years after the military coup, Human Rights Watch said today. The ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), led by Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, has instead prolonged its crackdown on basic rights and freedoms, and devised a quasi-democratic system that the military can manipulate and control.

“The Thai junta’s empty promises to respect rights and restore democratic rule have become some sort of a sick joke played on the Thai people and the international community,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Three years after the coup, the junta still prosecutes peaceful critics of the government, bans political activity, censors the media, and stifles free speech.

Sweeping, Unchecked, and Unaccountable Military Power

General Prayuth and the Thai military staged a coup on May 22, 2014, and created the NCPO junta. On March 31, 2015, the nation-wide enforcement of the Martial Law Act of 1914 was replaced with section 44 of the 2014 interim constitution, which allows General Prayuth as the NCPO chairman to wield power without administrative, legislative, or judicial oversight or accountability, including for human rights violations. In addition, section 47 states that all such orders are “deemed to be legal, constitutional, and conclusive.” Section 48 further provides that NCPO members and anyone carrying out actions on behalf of the NCPO “shall be absolutely exempted from any wrongdoing, responsibility, and liabilities.”

Three years after the coup, the junta still prosecutes peaceful critics of the government, bans political activity, censors the media, and stifles free speech.

Brad Adams

Asia Director

Key constitutional bodies set up by the NCPO – such as the National Legislative Assembly – are dominated by military personnel and other junta loyalists, meaning that there are no effective checks and balances on military rule.

The new constitution, which was promulgated on March 6, 2017, ensures that NCPO members will not be held accountable for any of the many rights violations committed since taking power. It also strengthens and prolongs military control of the government even after an election that the junta promises to hold in 2018.

“The new constitution whitewashes all junta rights violations, ensuring that Thai military leaders can continue to commit abuses without fear of prosecution,” Adams said.

Censorship and Restrictions on Free Expression

The junta’s promised reconciliation and “road map” to return to democratic civilian rule has become meaningless as a result of the censorship and prosecution of those expressing dissenting opinions.

Immediately after the May 2014 coup, the NCPO forced satellite TV channels and community radio stations from all political factions off the air. Some were later allowed to resume broadcasting if they agreed to self-censorship, by excluding programs on political issues.

A man watches Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha during his weekly TV broadcast in Bangkok, Thailand, May 19, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

Since then, the junta has aggressively restricted media freedom and conducted extensive surveillance of the internet and other online communications. Print media have been ordered not to publicize commentaries critical of the junta. TV and radio programs have been instructed not to invite guests who might give negative comments about the situation in Thailand.

Three years after the coup, repression against anyone openly critical of the government continues. On March 27, 2017, a government order forced Voice TV – a private station known for its criticism of military rule – off the air. Voice TV had aired stories that contradicted and disparaged information provided by military authorities about the raid on Dhammakaya Temple, the army’s killing of a teenage ethnic Lahu activist, the arrest of anti-government groups for alleged weapons possession and plotting assassinations of the prime minister and others, and the controversial construction of a casino on the Thai-Cambodian border.

Asserting that political discussions and differences in political opinions could somehow undermine social stability and national security, Thai authorities have frequently canceled political events, academic panels, seminars, and public forums on issues related to the state of human rights and freedom in Thailand. Most recently, on World Press Freedom Day on March 3, Thai authorities ordered the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) to cancel its panel discussion on the disappearance of a plaque commemorating the end of absolute monarchy in Thailand in 1932. On May 19, police arrested eight activists in Bangkok after they staged a mime performance in memory of those killed and wounded from excessive use of force by the military during the political upheavals in 2010. Not only does the military remain completely untouchable, but many of the commanders involved in the 2010 crackdown – including General Prayuth – are now ruling Thailand.

Thailand’s new Computer-Related Crime Act, which the junta-installed National Legislative Assembly adopted in December 2016, gives broad powers to the government to restrict free speech and enforce surveillance and censorship. On May 16, Thai authorities threatened to shut down all access for users in Thailand to Facebook to pressure the social media platform to block or remove alleged lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) content posted by various users.

People charged with lese majeste, a serious criminal offense in Thailand, are routinely denied bail and held in prison for months or years while awaiting trial.  This is the case of prominent pro-democracy student activist Jatupat Boonphatthararaksa, who faces lese majeste and computer crimes charges for posting on his Facebook page a profile of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, published by the BBC Thai language service. Thai authorities deemed the article to be critical of the monarchy and blocked it in Thailand. Since the May 2014 coup, at least 105 people have been arrested on lese majeste charges, mostly for posting or sharing online commentary. Some have been convicted and sentenced to years or even decades of imprisonment.

Thai authorities continue to enforce the NCPO’s ban on political gatherings of more than five people, with violators subject to punishment that includes up to a year in prison and a 20,000 baht (US$600) fine. Thousands of dissenting activists, politicians, journalists, and human rights defenders have been taken to military camps for questioning and, in the junta’s parlance, “adjusting” of their attitude. The junta has also compelled those released from “attitude adjustment” programs to sign a written agreement that they will not make political comments, become involved in political activities, or oppose military rule – all in violation of their fundamental human rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Failure to comply with such agreements could result in a new detention or a sentence of two years in prison.

Arbitrary Secret Detention, Torture and Military Courts

Under NCPO Orders 3/2015 and 13/2016, military authorities have the power to secretly detain people for up to seven days without charge and interrogate them without access to lawyers or safeguards against mistreatment. The junta has repeatedly dismissed allegations that soldiers have tortured detainees but then failed to provide any evidence to rebut those allegations.

Human Rights Watch has frequently raised serious concerns regarding secret military detention in Thailand. The risk of enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill-treatment significantly increases when detainees are held incommunicado in military custody. The junta continues to refuse to provide information about people in secret detention.

On April 29, Prawet Prapanukul – a prominent human rights lawyer and critic of the monarchy – and five other people were secretly arrested and put in incommunicado military detention for allegedly posting and sharing commentary on Facebook that Thai authorities considered to be offensive to the monarchy. Their whereabouts were unknown for six days until they were transferred to the Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division and charged with lese majeste, sedition, and computer crimes.

There have been no indications of any serious or credible official inquiry by Thai authorities into reports of torture and mistreatment in military custody. In November 2015, Human Rights Watch submitted a letter to the Thai government raising grave concerns about conditions at the 11th Military Circle Camp, where dissidents have routinely been held. The letter was prompted by the suspicious deaths of a fortune teller, Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, and Police Maj. Prakrom Warunprapa during their detention there.

The use of military courts, which lack independence and fail to comply with international fair trial standards, to try civilians remains a major problem. In September 2016, General Prayuth revoked Announcement 37 and other two NCPO announcements that empowered military courts to try civilians for national security offenses, including lese majeste and sedition. However, the action is not retroactive and does not affect the more than 1,800 cases already brought against civilians in military courts across Thailand.

“With each passing year in power, Thailand’s junta falls deeper into a dictatorship,” Adams said. “Pressure from Thailand’s friends is urgently needed to end repression and restore respect for basic rights that are essential for the country’s return to democratic civilian rule.”

AREVA Annual General Meeting

Press release

May 18, 2017

The Ordinary General Shareholders’ Meeting met in Paris La Défense today under the chairmanship of Mr. Philippe Varin and approved the resolutions submitted to a vote by the Shareholders.

In particular, the Shareholders:

• approved the financial and consolidated financial statements for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016 and the allocation of results in their entirety to retained earnings, entailing the non-payment of a dividend;

• approved the regulated agreements;

• issued a favorable opinion on the components of the compensation due or allocated for the financial year 2016 to the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the Chief Executive Officer, in accordance with the recommendations of the Afep Medef Code of Corporate Governance.

• approved the compensation policy applicable for financial year 2017 to the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the Chief Executive Officer, in accordance with legal provisions;

• appointed two directors proposed by the French State, Mrs. Marie-Solange Tissier and Mrs. Florence Touïtou-Durand;

• authorized, as every year, the Board of Directors to buy back Company’s shares, for a legal period of 18 months, up to a limit of 10% of the Company’s share capital.

During this meeting, management presented the progress made on the group’s strategic roadmap. In this respect, it has been indicated that the target sequence of events aims at:

• carrying out the capital increases reserved for the French State for AREVA SA and NewCo1 during the 3rd quarter of 2017, as soon as the preconditions set by the European Commission in its decision of January 10, 2017 are fulfilled;

• closing the sale of the exclusive control of New NP2 to EDF at the end of 2017, after the fulfillment of the preconditions stipulated in the share purchase agreement signed on November 15, 2016.

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(1) NewCo: temporary name of the entity which combines all of the operations of AREVA related to the nuclear fuel cycle, whose legal name is New AREVA Holding.

(2) New NP combines the operations of AREVA NP, excluding the OL3 contract and the means necessary for its completion, and, as applicable, certain component contracts affected by serious anomalies which might be identified in connection with the quality audit in progress.

Carter Center Releases Final Guyana 2015 Election Report

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 17, 2017

Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison,

ATLANTA — The Carter Center today released its final report on Guyana’s 2015 general and regional elections. The report summarizes the Carter Center’s observation activities and makes recommendations to the Guyanese authorities to improve future elections to help bring them in line with international standards for democratic elections and Guyana’s own legal framework.

The Carter Center election observation mission in Guyana launched April 8, 2015, following an invitation from the office of the president. It was led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Dame Audrey Glover of the United Kingdom, and Dame Billie Miller of Barbados. Six medium-term observers from six countries were deployed throughout the country in advance of election day to assess election preparations. On election day, 53 observers from 26 countries visited 297 polling stations in all 10 regions to observe voting, counting, tabulation, and the declaration of results. The Carter Center remained in Guyana to observe the post-election environment.

In the report, The Carter Center repeats its longstanding support for fundamental constitutional reform that attenuates the problems with the current winner-take-all system. The urgency of this challenge is made greater with the anticipated influx of oil revenue, which has the potential to exacerbate ethnic and political conflicts. The report also includes a compendium of reform recommendations from previous Carter Center election observation missions (pages 105-108) and makes new recommendations (pages 7-9 and pages 56-59). These include:

  • Re-evaluate the electoral system to increase the accountability of politicians to the electors and to equalize representation of women in parliament.
  • Allow individuals to stand for election to the presidency and consider adopting a ranked-choice voting system to give greater incentive for candidates to appeal to more than their base voters.
  • Ensure geographic seats are more equitably distributed among electors.
  • Clarify the law and procedures for recounts.
  • Consolidate electoral laws to make the rules of the game more easily accessible.
  • Strengthen the professionalism and independence of GECOM by closely evaluating the structure, recruitment, and training of GECOM staff and commissioners.

With the 2015 Guyana mission, The Carter Center reached an important milestone: its 100th election observation mission. It has now observed 103 elections in 39 countries.


Final Election Report: 2015 General and Regional Elections in Guyana (PDF)

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„Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.”
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

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State aid: Commission widens scope of the General Block Exemption Regulation frequently asked questions

The EU Treaty gives the European Commission the task of enforcing EU state aid rules. Member States are normally required to notify their plans for state aid to the Commission and should only go ahead, if they have received the Commission’s prior approval.

However, the General Block Exemption Regulation declares specific categories of state aid compatible with the Treaty, provided they fulfil the clear conditions, and exempts these categories from the requirement of prior notification and approval. This allows Member States to implement state aid measures directly, with full legal certainty and without prior control by the Commission.

The Commission has today further widened the scope of the General Block Exemption Regulation. The new rules exempt, for the first time, support measures for ports and airports and give Member States more flexibility to support culture, multi-functional sports arenas and businesses in the EU’s outermost regions, without having to seek prior Commission approval. Please see also the press release.

What is the General Block Exemption Regulation?

The 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation exempts certain categories of state aid from the requirement of prior notification to the Commission, if these are unlikely to distort competition in the Single Market. State aid measures which meet the criteria of the Regulation can be implemented by Member States directly, without prior Commission approval. As a result, about 95% of state aid measures implemented by Member States (with a combined annual expenditure of about €28 billion) are now exempted.

The criteria set out in the General Block Exemption Regulation determine, in particular, eligible beneficiaries, maximum aid intensities (i.e. the maximum proportion of the eligible costs of a project that can benefit from state aid) and eligible expenses. These criteria are derived from the Commission’s market experience and decision-making practice.

The fact that a state aid measure does not meet the criteria of the General Block Exemption Regulation does not mean that it is incompatible with EU state aid rules. It only means that the measure must be notified to the Commission, which will then assess case-by-case whether the measure can be approved under EU state aid rules.

Why has the Commission widened the scope of the General Block Exemption Regulation?

The aim is to facilitate public investment that can create jobs and growth whilst preserving competition, in line with the Juncker Investment Plan. This will be achieved by giving Member States more flexibility to implement state aid measures without prior Commission approval.

The amended Regulation simplifies the procedure for public investments in ports, airports, culture, multi-purpose sports arenas and the EU’s outermost regions. It will make it easier to implement crucial infrastructure investments quicker, and with full legal certainty for project developers and aid granting authorities.

What are the main new elements of the General Block Exemption Regulation?

The General Block Exemption Regulation now exempts, for the first time, state aid to airports and ports from prior Commission approval. It also widens the existing exemptions for state aid to culture, multi-purpose sports arenas, and the EU’s outermost regions.

New exemption for airports:

The Regulation introduces a new exemption from the obligation to notify state aid measures to the Commission for approval before they are implemented, covering investment aid for airports handling up to 3 million passengers per year. The main conditions for this exemption are the following:

–      Aid should not be granted to airports located in the catchment area (100 kilometres distance or 60 minutes of travel time) of another airport.

–      The funded infrastructure should be fully used in the future and will not be larger than expected demand.

–      The aid does not go beyond what is necessary to trigger the investment, taking into account future revenues from the investment (i.e. aid can only cover the „funding gap”).

–      Only a certain percentage of the investment costs can be subsidised (depending on the size of the airport and on whether the airport is located in a remote region).

For small airports handling up to 200 000 passengers per year, the Regulation sets out more flexible rules for investment aid and also allows aid to cover operating losses.

New exemption for ports:

The Regulation introduces a new exemption from the obligation to notify state aid measures to the Commission for approval before they are implemented, covering maritime ports and inland ports. The main conditions are the following:

–      The aid cannot exceed a certain absolute threshold (between €40 million and €150 million), depending on whether the project concerns a maritime port or an inland port and whether the port is included in a core network corridor under the TEN-T Regulation.

–      The aid does not go beyond what is necessary to trigger the investment, taking into account future revenues from the investment (i.e. aid can only cover the „funding gap”).

–      Only a certain percentage of the investment costs can be subsidised (depending on the size and the nature of the investment and on whether the port is located in a remote region).

–      Only investment costs are eligible for aid (with the exception of dredging, for which both investment and maintenance costs are eligible for aid).

–      Concessions to third parties for the construction, upgrade, operation or rent of port infrastructures must be assigned on a competitive, transparent, non-discriminatory and unconditional basis.

For small projects in ports, the Regulation lays down more flexible rules for investment aid.

Other simplifications and clarifications:

The Regulation also introduces new and more flexible rules in other areas, based on the Commission’s case practice since the adoption of the General Block Exemption Regulation in 2014. In particular:

–      The upper limit for aid to culture and to multi-purpose sports arenas, which can be implemented under the Regulation, has been increased. Public support in these areas is rarely state aid, since they do not usually involve economic activities, and where aid is involved it does not pose a threat to competition, if the criteria in the Regulation are met.

–      The rules on state aid to support the EU’s outermost regions have been clarified and further simplified. Member States will now be able to fully cover both the transport costs and other additional costs that undertakings operating in those regions have, across all sectors of the economy.

–      The Commission has clarified that projects funded by Member States that meet the criteria of the „Seal of Excellence” quality label under the EU Horizon 2020 SME-instrument can receive public support without the need to notify it to the Commission, in line with the criteria set out in the Regulation.

–      Start-up aid for small companies up to 5 years from their registration is now authorised. Until now start-ups that were considered as „companies in difficulty” could not benefit from start-up aid. However, innovative start-ups or start-ups in research and development intensive sectors often incur losses in their first years before they can sell their products, even though they can in fact be dynamic and growing.

–      The Regulation allows the „simplified cost options” (simplified methods for calculating cost eligible for support) that apply under the EU’s Structural and Investment Funds to be used under the General Block Exemption Regulation. This reduces differences between different areas of EU law and reduces administrative burdens.  

How does the update to the General Block Exemption Regulation fit in with Regulatory fitness and simplification?

Under EU state aid rules Member States must in principle notify state aid to the Commission and wait approval before implementing it. However, the Commission has exempted aid measures from this obligation, where they meet certain criteria, through its General Block Exemption Regulation. This enables Member States to pay aid directly and quickly, without any procedural obstacles.

The General Block Exemption Regulation therefore plays a crucial role in reducing administrative burdens and costs for public authorities and project developers, as well as for the Commission. At the same time the Regulation gives public authorities and project developers legal certainty that the aid is in accordance with EU state aid rules.

The amended Regulation simplifies the application of State aid rules for investments in ports, airports, culture, multi-functional sports arenas, as well as for aid to businesses in the EU’s outermost regions.

This is fully in line with the objectives of the Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance of EU Legislation (REFIT) agenda, which aims to ensure that EU laws deliver their intended benefits for citizens, businesses and society while removing red tape and lowering costs.

 

What are the next steps?

The amending Regulation will enter into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. The amending Regulation, together with an explanatory note, is available here.

Asia Foundation Hosts APEC App Challenge to Help the Asia-Pacific Regions Small Businesses Expand

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Hanoi, May 16, 2017 — The Asia Foundation, together with Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Vietnam Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT), and Google will host the “APEC App Challenge” on May 18-19. Eleven teams of software developers from APEC member countries are arriving in the capital city to participate in a 24-hour marathon coding session. The app challenge will take place on the sidelines of the APEC Symposium on Trade and Innovation on May 19. Competing teams will also be considered for the APEC Digital Prosperity Award, a special prize recognizing a new digital product developed to expand inclusive growth across economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The APEC App Challenge is particularly important for the Asia-Pacific region, where MSMEs make up roughly 98 percent of all businesses and employ two-thirds of the region’s labor force,” said The Asia Foundation’s Senior Director of Digital Media and Technology Programs, John Karr. “For example, even though Indonesia’s SMEs contribute nearly 60 percent of GDP, their share of total exports is only 16 percent.”

The developers will attempt to build new mobile or web solutions to help the region’s micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSMEs) expand to new export markets. Participants are encouraged to think creatively and address the challenges faced by local MSMEs in these ways: 1) Standards and Regulatory Compliance, 2) Access to Financial Services, 3) Logistics and Supply Chain Management, 4) Building partner networks and gaining market intelligence.

Although the internet has dramatically cut down the exporting costs for SMEs, especially in developed economies, businesses in the region are facing a number of challenges, and the benefits from international trade remain elusive,” explained Vietnam E-Commerce and Information Technology’s Principle Deputy Director General, Ms. Lai Viet Anh.

“The APEC App Challenge is a unique effort to generate learning and share new ideas across APEC by concurrently building potential solutions to help small businesses overcome existing barriers,” Google Asia Pacific’s Head of Trade and Economic Affairs Andrew Ure observed.

All finalists are encouraged to continue to refine their products and eventually take them to market. The winning team will receive direct support from The Asia Foundation and APEC to cover hosting and maintenance costs associated with this for up to two years.

“Ultimately, the goal of the APEC App Challenge is to highlight new ways of promoting inclusive, innovative, and sustainable growth in Asia-Pacific economies and stipulate policies that will promote more innovation to address trade issues,” added Dr. Alan Bollard, the APEC Secretariat’s Executive Director.

Follow on Twitter this week to find out about the exciting and innovative solutions the developer teams will create.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work.

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Asia Foundation Hosts APEC App Challenge to Help the Asia-Pacific Regions Small Businesses Expand

The Asia Foundation's picture

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Hanoi, May 16, 2017 — The Asia Foundation, together with Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Vietnam Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT), and Google will host the “APEC App Challenge” on May 18-19. Eleven teams of software developers from APEC member countries are arriving in the capital city to participate in a 24-hour marathon coding session. The app challenge will take place on the sidelines of the APEC Symposium on Trade and Innovation on May 19. Competing teams will also be considered for the APEC Digital Prosperity Award, a special prize recognizing a new digital product developed to expand inclusive growth across economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The APEC App Challenge is particularly important for the Asia-Pacific region, where MSMEs make up roughly 98 percent of all businesses and employ two-thirds of the region’s labor force,” said The Asia Foundation’s Senior Director of Digital Media and Technology Programs, John Karr. “For example, even though Indonesia’s SMEs contribute nearly 60 percent of GDP, their share of total exports is only 16 percent.”

The developers will attempt to build new mobile or web solutions to help the region’s micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSMEs) expand to new export markets. Participants are encouraged to think creatively and address the challenges faced by local MSMEs in these ways: 1) Standards and Regulatory Compliance, 2) Access to Financial Services, 3) Logistics and Supply Chain Management, 4) Building partner networks and gaining market intelligence.

Although the internet has dramatically cut down the exporting costs for SMEs, especially in developed economies, businesses in the region are facing a number of challenges, and the benefits from international trade remain elusive,” explained Vietnam E-Commerce and Information Technology’s Principle Deputy Director General, Ms. Lai Viet Anh.

“The APEC App Challenge is a unique effort to generate learning and share new ideas across APEC by concurrently building potential solutions to help small businesses overcome existing barriers,” Google Asia Pacific’s Head of Trade and Economic Affairs Andrew Ure observed.

All finalists are encouraged to continue to refine their products and eventually take them to market. The winning team will receive direct support from The Asia Foundation and APEC to cover hosting and maintenance costs associated with this for up to two years.

“Ultimately, the goal of the APEC App Challenge is to highlight new ways of promoting inclusive, innovative, and sustainable growth in Asia-Pacific economies and stipulate policies that will promote more innovation to address trade issues,” added Dr. Alan Bollard, the APEC Secretariat’s Executive Director.

Follow on Twitter this week to find out about the exciting and innovative solutions the developer teams will create.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation.

Read more about the Foundation’s work.

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