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Hi, all.  Today's report features:

Defense Department round-up: The President thanks the troops; eligible servicemembers now have until Dec. 3 to apply for retroactive stop loss special pay; and deadlines approach for delivering holiday mail to overseas recipients.

The State Department and gender violence: State’s support of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign that runs from November 25 through December 10, 2010.

NIH and the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act:  Projects that support STEM eduction, advance science and medicine, and create or sustain jobs.

It Gets Better: Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry records a video message of encouragement to LGBT youth.

It's beginning to look a lot like...: First Lady Michelle Obama accepts delivery of the White House Christmas Tree.

See Blackwaterdog’s latest post.

• DEFENSE DEPARTMENT ROUND-UP  •

From the Department of Defense, Nov. 26, 2010:

The President’s Troop Message

President Obama calls members from each branch of the military, to thank them for their service and sacrifice. He also had a message of support for the troops in his weekly radio address.

From the U.S. Air Force, Nov. 26, 2010:

Loadmaster's call with the President makes for a memorable Thanksgiving

by Staff Sgt. Stefanie Torres, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Deployed Airmen broke bread Nov. 25 for the Thanksgiving holiday at this air base in Southwest Asia, taking time away from their normal duties to celebrate with food and friends, but a phone call from the president of the United States made it an especially memorable day for one C-130 Hercules loadmaster.

Senior Airman Nicole Kazimer, assigned to the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, was one of a handful of servicemembers chosen throughout U.S. Central Command to talk with President Barack Obama on Thanksgiving Day....

"He said he was very proud of the things we do out here," Airman Kazimer said. "I feel like it was a great honor to get this call."....

"She is a hard worker with great performance," said Master Sgt. John Zahn, a C-130 loadmaster who oversees Airman Kazimer at the 737th EAS. "I think this is an awesome way to recognize her dedication."

The commander of the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group here agreed.

"Senior Airman Kazimer represents the spirit and commitment of our young aircrew who fly our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen to and from the battlefield every day," Col. Scott Brewer said. "The daughter of two Air Force enlisted members still on active duty, her desire is to follow in her parents’ footsteps and be part of an even bigger family that is contributing to the defense of our nation."

As a C-130 loadmaster, Airman Kazimer flies airlift missions in support of operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn, delivering troops and supplies to destinations across the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility. Loadmasters often fly into austere locations in marginal weather with minimal ground support, facing a spectrum of enemy threats like small-arms fire, anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles.

The 737th EAS is part of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, which serves as the primary airlift hub for coalition forces in Iraq and provides theater airlift services across Southwest Asia. Home to more than 2,000 Airmen, 386th AEW aircrews have transported more than 500,000 troops and civilians so far this year and airlift approximately 3,000 tons of cargo per month aboard C-130 and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.

Stop-Loss Extension

Nov. 26: The Defense Department wants to remind eligible servicemembers that the deadline to apply for retroactive stop loss special pay has been extended to December 3, 2010.

President Obama signed legislation in September extending the deadline.  In a public service message released by the White House, the President said, "You served with honor. You did your duty. And when your country called on you again, you did your duty again. Now, it's time to collect the special pay that you deserve....

I know there's been some confusion and skepticism out there. Some veterans think this is some sort of gimmick or scam, or that it's a way for the government to call you back to service. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As your commander in chief, I'm here to tell you that this is no gimmick or trick. You worked hard. You earned this money. It doesn't matter whether you were active or reserve, whether you're a veteran who experienced ‘Stop Loss’ or the survivor of a servicemember who did - if your service was extended, you're eligible."

Holiday Mail Deadlines

Nov. 26: Time is running out to mail holiday gifts to loved ones overseas.

• THE STATE DEPARTMENT AND GENDER VIOLENCE •

From the Department of State, Nov. 18, 2010:

Ambassador Verveer Delivers Remarks for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues provides a video message in support of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign that runs from November 25 through December 10, 2010.

From the Department of State, Nov. 18, 2010:

Ambassador Verveer’s Message for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 Days Campaign

By Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues

In support of the International Day For the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) on November 25 and in observance of the accompanying 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) encourages sustained efforts to prevent and address gender-based violence around the world.

As Secretary Clinton has stated, "women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights." Gender-based violence is not solely a women’s issue – it is a development, humanitarian, and security issue that affects us all. The challenges cannot be confronted by women alone. NGOs and civil society actors, for example, are working to prevent and address gender-based violence by engaging men and boys.

Examples of Innovative Programs that address Violence Against Women

India: The Independent Commission for People’s Rights and Development

The Independent Commission for People’s Rights and Development is one important program supported by the USAID-funded Garima Project to mobilize hundreds of men and boys from low income/rural communities in Rajasthan and Karnataka to address the problem of violence against women through street plays and performances.  While in India last November, I first became acquainted with this program and had the opportunity to watch male members of the Rajasthan community perform a powerful street play that addressed the negative impact of child sex selection, domestic violence, child marriage, and sexual harassment in their community....

Senegal: Tostan

Another program that works with grassroots-level advocates and community leaders at the village level is Tostan, a West-African NGO headquartered in Senegal, that has successfully partnered with male and female community leaders to provide education regarding the harmful effects of female genital cutting, among other issues. Tostan’s methodology, which centers on respect and places villagers in charge of decisions, has been extremely effective. By helping to foster the collective abandonment of female genital cutting, Tostan's programs allow community members to share the knowledge they gain with their neighbors, friends, and family members. The successful methods of Tostan are a lesson without borders and should be introduced elsewhere, especially given the fact that two to three million girls and women are subjected to female genital cutting each year, and millions more continue to suffer from its detrimental effects. It has been introduced in other countries beyond Senegal with great success and it's community awareness and participation model is a proven practice that can be adopted even more broadly.

Brazil: ProMundo and the Maria de Penha Conference

On the other side of the globe, in Brazil, a number of NGOs are using innovative channels to promote gender equality and end violence against women. Promundo, for example, engages young men and women in critical reflections on gender norms and attitudes. This important work has led to positive changes, from improved partner relationships to decreased incidents of sexual harassment and violence against women.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, some religious leaders incorporate sermons about the need to combat violence against women in their Friday prayer services. They can be strong persuasive voices in their communities about raising awareness on the need to stand up against gender-based violence.

S/GWI Programs to address Violence Against Women

The United States is working bilaterally and multilaterally to define gender-based violence not as solely a woman’s issue, but one of international human rights. We are taking action on the ground, training peacekeepers on gender-based violence awareness and prevention activities, working with NGOs to ensure men’s engagement in preventing violence against women, and partnering with religious leaders of all faiths to incorporate these messages into their outreach. The economic empowerment of women is also integral to any sustainable approach to eradicating violence against women, as studies show that women who control their own resources are less vulnerable to being targeted because of their gender.

These 16 Days offer an opportunity to renew the commitment to freeing women from violence, whether the abuse occurs in the home behind closed doors, or in the open fields of armed conflict. Countries cannot progress when half their populations are marginalized and mistreated, and subjected to discrimination. When women are accorded their rights and afforded equal opportunities in education, healthcare, employment, and political participation, they lift up their families, their communities, and their nations – and act as agents of change. As Secretary Clinton recently noted, "Investing in the potential of the world’s women and girls is one of the surest ways to achieve global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for women – and men – the world over." Thank you for all you are doing in support of ending violence against women.

Office of the Spokesman, Nov.  23, 2010:

Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer Hosts Panel Discussion -- Changing Attitudes: What Men and Boys Can Do to Address and Prevent Violence against Women

In commemoration of the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women and the accompanying 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, running November 25 through December 10, the Department of State will host a panel of experts speaking on the critical role of men and boys in addressing this global scourge.

Panelists will include: Ambassador Meera Shankar, Indian Ambassador to the U.S.; Nisha Biswal, Assistant Administrator for Asia, USAID; Anthony Porter, Co-Founder, A Call to Men; Nandini Azad, Chairperson of the Independent Commission for People’s Rights and Development (ICPRD), and Carol Kurzig, President, Avon Foundation for Women. Ambassador Melanne Verveer will moderate the discussion. The panel will highlight actions that governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations are taking to address gender-based violence. A short documentary by the NGO ICPRD will be screened, showcasing how men and boys from rural India are using street plays and performances to change negative attitudes against women.

The panel will be held November 29 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in the Loy Henderson Auditorium at the Department of State, with live webcasting and online discussion for overseas audiences, and it is open to the press. Guests should arrive at the 23rd Street entrance (includes instructions for media representatives....)

From the Department of State, Nov. 24, 2010:

Youth Forums Against Gender Based Violence

Highlights the work of ICPRD, a leading NGO leading a grassroots movement with young men in India across Rajasthan and Karnataka. The documentary shows the boys and young men engaging in street theater and plays across villages, talking about the negative impact of domestic violence, female fetecide, sexual harrassment, child marriage, and dowry deaths. It also notes how the men have positively engaged with the police amd community members to take up cases and conduct advocacy.

Documentary video produced by the Indian non-governmental group Independent Commission for People's Rights and Development (ICPRD) with support from USAID to be screened at panel discussion.

Transcript of video for screening at November 29, 2010 panel discussion.

NARRATOR: Youth Forums Against Gender Based Violence is a growing mass movement of male youth for women’s rights. The Independent Commission for People’s Rights and Development, or ICPRD, a national NGO federation, initiated this innovative and pathbreaking movement, Youth Forums Against Gender Based Violence or YFAGBV, in 2004, 2005 in rural Karnataka and Rajasthan. Young men from low-income communities are combating violence against women at the household and community level. It is a unique methodology through which future male citizens are being transformed into promoters of social and economic rights of women, a project of its kind at the grassroots policy level....

NARRATOR: Young men from the age group 14-17 and 18-24 are mobilized in youth forums through cycle rallies, cricket matches, and street theater. The great success of the project in a short period has been largely due to the youth forums being trained in street theater and fusion imagery, which has emerged as a low-cost effective tool for mobilizing and creating awareness in low-income communities through mass campaigns.

The project has invested skills in master trainers, peer educators to evolve as grassroot pivots of the project organization and program strategy. These master trainers have become the key catalysts, informants, communicators, and coordinators of the project at the local level. Through various trainings and inputs given under the project, young men are now beginning to transform their perceptions regarding women and the rights of women. They have learned about gender, patriarchy, and different forms of gender-based violence, solving cases, referrals on legal matters or with (inaudible), teachers, and police....

NARRATOR: The project has created a powerful alliance between young male advocates for gender equity and women microfinance groups at the local level. With this model, ICPRD has innovated a new product, gender-based violence linked to microfinance, a most effective connection leading to sustainable solutions for women’s social and economic empowerment....

• NIH AND THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT (ARRA) •

From Recovery.nih.gov, Feb. 3, 2010:

Wayne State University Receives Nearly $1 Million Grant To Bolster Detroit Teacher Competency in S.T.E.M. Areas and Environmental Health

A stimulus grant awarded to a Wayne State researcher aims to enhance teacher and student viability in the job market through increased proficiency in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) topics. The nearly $1 million grant was awarded to Mary Dereski, Ph.D., associate professor in the Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and resident of Troy, Mich., through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The grant is one of 22 Recovery Act Funds totaling approximately $18.3 million awarded to support S.T.E.M. education. The grants are part of the National Institutes of Health's national effort to attract young people to biomedical and behavioral science careers and to improve science literacy in adults and children. WSU is one of only two Michigan universities to receive this type of funding.

The grant will be used for a professional development summer institute for current Detroit Public Schools in-service high school teachers and supplements to curriculum for students in WSU's College of Education. Material will consist of historical, contemporary and emerging issues in environmental health, including genetic code, genetic engineering, DNA mutations and current trends and applications of biotechnology.

The purpose of the course is to stimulate job creation and sustainability by raising teacher quality and student competency in S.T.E.M. areas in the adversely economically impacted Detroit Public Schools. It is also anticipated that the skills obtained by the pre-service teachers will assist them in securing a position in a prospective school district after graduation.

"By improving the understanding of science concepts and skills in current and future teachers, we will enhance the competitive edge and marketability of these teachers and their students," Dereski said. "In Detroit's dire economy and failing school system, this training could not be more valuable."

The program's environmental health focus is particularly relevant to Detroit, where there is much concern surrounding the contamination of hazardous substances such as lead. The curriculum will include many of the known health implications of living among environmental contaminants.

"We're really hoping to see a lot of environmental health research translated into positive public health outcomes," Dereski said. "In that way, this program also provides the public service of empowering residents of Detroit with knowledge that could lead to bringing positive change to their city."

Once the grant is complete, support for teachers will continue through a supplemental Web site that will provide important development resources as well as a forum for teacher dialogue. "It is extremely important that teachers have access to resources and to each other as they work on problem solving and incorporating these important facets into curriculum," Dereski said. "Our hope is that the site will facilitate continued improvement to Detroit Public Schools and job creation and retention in the Detroit area long after the grant's two years are complete."

From the White House, Sept. 16, 2010:

A STEM Education, Tools to Change the World

Energy Secretary Steven Chu and business leaders discuss how, with an understanding of Science and Math, individuals are shaping the world we live in.

From National Center for Research Resources, Nov. 18, 2010:

Construction and Renovation Awards

State-of-the-art research facilities built with NCRR support not only advance science and medicine but also spur economic growth. Investments in research create new positions for scientists and support staff, advance discoveries, and promote education in science and medicine, all of which lead to better health and a more productive workforce.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided $1 billion through NCRR to support construction, repair and renovation projects at academic institutions across the nation. One hundred forty-seven awards were made in 44 states, the District of Columbia and in Puerto Rico. NCRR has the responsibility to approve the design documents for each of these awards and to ensure that the awardee institution understands and abides by the complex terms and conditions for these awards. Because of the high visibility and fast timelines for construction imposed by ARRA, NCRR staff are actively engaged in each award. Per ARRA, these awards must be monitored for 10 years following the completion of construction....

Highlights include:

• Renovation of Children’s Health Research and Evaluation Facility, Indianapolis. Nearly $8.5 million in grant funding will help to create a state-of-the-art facility for pediatric clinical research and to create a core facility of pediatric phenotyping laboratories and patient research resources at the Indiana University School of Medicine. The project will bring together a range of existing pediatrics laboratory programs into a single core to create collaborative, quantitative phenotyping of diseases and treatments.

• The Genome Data Center Initiative, St. Louis. The Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) will use a $14.3 million award to build a world-class data center to support human genome research. WUSM’s genome center recently embarked on several ambitious projects to decode the genomics of hundreds of cancer patients and their tumors. The new 15,000 square-foot data center will support the computational power and storage needs that projects like these require.

• The San Francisco Office of AIDS Renovation (SOAR) Project. A grant of more than $9.5 million will allow three prominent United States-based HIV/AIDS prevention research units within the San Francisco Department of Public Health to increase their capacity to recruit, enroll and retain large, diverse populations of study participants efficiently and effectively, and to provide critical data on new HIV/AIDS cases to investigators worldwide. The SOAR project will provide researchers with the space required for large patient studies, improved security for records storage, and training.

• Cell and DNA Repository Renovation, New Brunswick, N.J. To address space shortages and infrastructural needs and to broaden the scope of the molecular biology services, Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository (RUCDR) has been awarded $9.5 million to renovate their biology laboratory. RUCDR’s services provide approximately 90 NIH-funded grantees with resources that aid research in disease areas, including autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and kidney diseases.

From Rutgers Today, March 26, 2010:

Investigating Genetic Clues to Disease

The continued success of the Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository (RUCDR) has raised the university's profile as a world leader in human disease and genome studies.

From NIH.gov, May 14, 2010:

HHS Secretary Sebelius Announces $1 Billion in NIH Recovery Act Awards to Construct or Improve Biomedical Research Facilities

Grants expected to create or sustain jobs while advancing research nationwide

.... "This unprecedented Recovery Act investment in research facility construction will not only give our world-class scientists the modern facilities they need for impact research, it will also help create and maintain jobs in varied business sectors and in all regions of our country," said Secretary Sebelius.

These awards are part of an overall $100 billion federal government investment in science, innovation and technology the Administration is making through the Recovery Act to spur domestic job creation in emerging industries and create a long-term foundation for economic growth.

"These Recovery Act dollars will provide state-of-the-art facilities for hundreds of researchers to conduct cutting-edge science with the latest technologies," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "At the same time, they will create job opportunities nationwide."....

"These Recovery Act awards literally and figuratively are laying the groundwork to accelerate research in disorders that affect the health and productivity of so many families – both children and adults," said NCRR Director Barbara Alving, M.D.

Environmental impact is a key component of the Recovery Act and was a prominent theme of the related NCRR construction application and awards process. The construction grants awarded through the Recovery Act encouraged, and in many cases required, grantees to implement several primary elements of sustainable technologies and design principles. These elements ensure energy efficiency, reduction of the environmental impact of building materials and minimized use of compounds that deplete the ozone....

• IT GETS BETTER: JOHN BERRY  •

United States Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry - It Gets Better

From the White House Blog, Nov. 26, 2010:

It Gets Better: Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry

Posted by John Berry

Ed. Note: As part of the It Gets Better Project, President Obama and Vice President Biden recorded video messages. Watch the videos here.

Recently, thousands of Americans have come together to share their messages of hope for American youth who may be experiencing feelings of isolation because they are, or are perceived to be, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). With the It Gets Better Project, people have shared their own stories of how life does get better for those who may feel isolated today.

I wanted to take a moment and share with you my own video for the project. As an openly gay man myself, I know that life does get better for LGBT youth. It dramatically does. Young people should know that no matter how difficult the challenges are that they are facing right now, it does get better. Every individual is precious and our nation's future rests on our ability to engage and inspire this new generation. You can be whatever you want. You can love whomever you want, but only if you first love yourself. Trust me. It's worth it. It gets better.

I encourage you to share your own story of how life gets better for LGBT youth. You can do so at: www.itgetsbetter.org.

If you are a young person who’s been bullied or harassed by your peers, or if you are feeling isolatied for being who you are, there are people who can help.  While your family can serve as a valuable resource, I realize that not all LGBT youth have that option.  However, here are a few resources that can help:

The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LBGT and questioning youth by providing resources and a nationwide, 24 hour hotline.  If you are considering suicide or need help, call: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

BullyingInfo.org

BullyingInfo.org is a project of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP) focused on providing tools and resources for youth, parents, teachers and mental health providers to prevent and address bullying.

It Gets Better Project

My video is just one of thousands of videos submitted by people across the country to inspire and encourage LGBT youth who are struggling. You can watch more videos at ItGetsBetterProject.com.

For even more information and resources visit or call:

Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

Matthew Shepard Foundation

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

• National Suicide Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255)

• IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE ...  •

From the White House, Nov. 26, 2010:

The First Lady Receives the White House Christmas Tree

The First Lady is presented with the Official White House Christmas Tree.

From CSTreeFarm.com:

2010 White House Christmas Tree: A repeat performance for Crystal Spring Tree Farm

The 2010 Blue Room Christmas tree in our nation's capitol will once again come from Crystal Spring Tree Farm. Just as in 2006 our journey began at the state level where we took reserve champion in January 20. This took place at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show with an 8' Douglas fir. Our placement at the farm show gave us another opportunity to compete at the national level. This year's national convention was held in Winston-Salem, NC which was a little closer to home than in 2006.

We decided to compete in North Carolina with an 8" Colorado Blue Spruce. To spare all of the details of the convention we ended up winning grand champion and another trip to Washington, DC. White house officials made the journey late in September to Crystal Spring Tree Farm and chose a 19 ½ Douglas Fir as our 2010 National Christmas tree. This win makes us only the fifth farm in the nation to ever repeat this honor....

The national grand champion (determined by the National Christmas Tree Growers Association) is not only awarded with plaques and ribbons but also the honor of supplying The White House, in our nation’s capitol, with the national Christmas tree. Along with this honor, the Botek family will personally present the tree, actually three trees, to the First Lady. We will also have the opportunity to tour The White House and possibly meet with the president himself. There is no greater honor or achievement in our business than the opportunity we have been blessed with. For the past 42 years we have always taken great pride in the quality of our trees and we feel truly honored to be given this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Originally posted to Kat 4 Obama on Sat Nov 27, 2010 at 09:44 AM PST.

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