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Weekly Address: Fighting for Trade Deals that Put American Workers First

WASHINGTON, DC -- In this week’s address, the President laid out why new, high-standards trade agreements are important for our economy, our businesses, our workers, and our values. These new trade deals are vital to middle-class economics -- the idea that this country does best when everybody gets their fair shot, everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules. The President has been clear -- any deal he signs will be the most progressive trade agreement in our history with strong provisions for both workers and the environment. It would also level the playing field -- and when the playing field is level, American workers always win.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at at 6:00 a.m. ET, April 25, 2015.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
April 25, 2015

Hi, everybody. I’ve talked a lot lately about why new trade deals are important to our economy.

Today, I want to talk about why new trade deals are important to our values.

They’re vital to middle-class economics -- the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.

These are simple values. They’re American values. And we strive to make sure our own economy lives up to them, especially after a financial crisis brought about by recklessness and greed. But we also live in a world where our workers have to compete on a global scale. Right now, on an uneven playing field. Where the rules are different. And that’s why America has to write the rules of the global economy -- so that our workers can compete on a level playing field.

I understand why a lot of people are skeptical of trade deals. Past deals didn’t always live up to the hype. They didn’t include the kind of protections we’re fighting for today.

We have lessons to learn from the past -- and we have learned them. But trying to stop a global economy at our shores isn’t one of those lessons. We can’t surrender to the future -- because we are meant to win the future. If America doesn’t shape the rules of the global economy today, to benefit our workers, while our economy is in a position of new global strength, then China will write those rules. I’ve seen towns where manufacturing collapsed, plants closed down, and jobs dried up. And I refuse to accept that for our workers. Because I know when the playing field is level, nobody can beat us.

That’s why, when I took office, we started thinking about how to revamp trade in a way that actually works for working Americans. And that’s what we’ve done with a new trade partnership we’re negotiating in the Asia-Pacific -- home to the world’s fastest-growing markets.

It’s the highest-standard trade agreement in history. It’s got strong provisions for workers and the environment -- provisions that, unlike in past agreements, are actually enforceable. If you want in, you have to meet these standards. If you don’t, then you’re out. Once you’re a part of this partnership, if you violate your responsibilities, there are actually consequences. And because it would include Canada and Mexico, it fixes a lot of what was wrong with NAFTA, too.

So this isn’t a race to the bottom, for lower wages and working conditions. The trade agreements I’m negotiating will drive a race to the top. And we’re making sure American workers can retool through training programs and community colleges, and use new skills to transition into new jobs.

If I didn’t think this was the right thing to do for working families, I wouldn’t be fighting for it. We’ve spent the past six years trying to rescue the economy, retool the auto industry, and revitalize American manufacturing. And if there were ever an agreement that undercut that progress, or hurt those workers, I wouldn’t sign it. My entire presidency is about helping working families recover from recession and rebuild for the future. As long as I’m President, that’s what I’ll keep fighting to do.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.


Remarks by the President at Organizing For Action Dinner

The Ritz-Carlton

Washington, D.C.

5:53 P.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Jennifer!  Well, I’ve got nothing to add to that.  (Laughter.)  Except just to say thank you. 

I got a chance to see all of you backstage and take pictures with you, and some of you have been able basically to record my progressive graying.  (Laughter.)  You’ve got, like, a picture from each year showing how I get older and Michelle, like Dorian Gray, continues to just stay exactly the same.  (Laughter.)  It’s a little spooky.  (Laughter.)

     But I’m going to be very brief on the frontend so that I can just spend some time talking with all of you.  Obviously we’ve had a very consequential stretch since I last saw all of you.  We have had some tough stuff, like losing in the midterm, but we’ve had some really significant accomplishments -- from a climate deal that promises to lead the world globally in making sure that this planet is working for future generations, to an initiative on comprehensive immigration reform that says we want Congress to work with us but we can’t wait when we’ve got so many families out there who are prepared to come out of the shadows and earn a legal path so that they can do right by this country, to making sure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon without having to resort to war, to the work we’ve done to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program and start making Medicare more efficient, something we actually got done with Congress, which was a big achievement, to just getting confirmed somebody who is going to be the outstanding next Attorney General of the United States of America.  (Applause.) 

     So we’ve been busy.  (Laughter.)  And I just have to tell all of you that the reason I am so energized and excited and wake up every morning ready to tackle all the problems that are in my inbox is because I know all across the country there are folks like Jennifer, who don’t get a big spotlight, who aren’t in the newspapers, but because of their story, because of their values, because of their love for a dad and seeing him tear up because he was able to accomplish something he didn’t think was possible, because there are tons of folks like that all across the country, I always feel confident about what this country can accomplish.  I feel confident there is not a problem out there we can’t solve.

     And I’ve now been at this long enough to know that you’re going to have some ups and you’re going to have some downs.  And there are going to be times when the pundits have written you off.  But if you remain true to that North Star, which was the basis of OFA and the basis for my campaigns -- that confidence that when ordinary people come together, they can change this country for the better -- when we’re true to that, I don’t worry about the future.  I feel confident about it. 

And the reason I’ve been able to do it is because I’ve had some folks in this room who have shared those values, through thick and through thin, from the start.  And some of you come from places where it’s really easy to be an Obama supporter and some of you come from places that it’s really hard to be an Obama supporter.  (Laughter.)  But all of you share with me a belief in people like Jennifer. 

And what OFA has been able to accomplish so that now it’s no longer about reelecting me -- it never technically was, but -- (laughter) -- or moving our agenda forward -- but I just wanted to make that point.  (Laughter.)  But the degree to which now you’ve got chapters all across the country that are working on local issues -- we can’t get minimum wage moved through Congress?  Let’s make sure that a city council passes a minimum wage law.  Congress isn’t prepared to do a comprehensive child care --  early childhood education bill?  Let’s find a governor who wants to do it, we’ll work with him.  That kind of grassroots, local, boots-on-the-ground, focused, relentless energy -- that’s changing this country just as much as anything we do here in Washington. 

And probably the most important thing that we’re doing is we are seeing -- and I see it every day, just this successive wave of young leadership that just keeps on coming up, and it’s a little scary now that -- I mean, it’s bad enough that Malia is going to be going to college next fall, but now I’ve got all these folks who are running through this process and now, suddenly, they’re just doing incredible things.  So there are concrete things we’ve accomplished.  There are people who have health care who wouldn’t have it if we hadn’t done what we’re doing here.  There are people who are going to college who wouldn’t have been going to college if we hadn’t done what we did here.  There are young people who would still be living in the shadows but who are now going to school or in our military and serving this country.  If it wasn’t for what we had done here, they wouldn’t have had those opportunities. 

But we’ve got more work to do.  And I just hope you guys feel as inspired as I do about that work, because despite the gray hair, I’ve got a lot more energy -- (laughter) -- and a lot more work that needs to be done.  And I can only do it with you.

     Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

                                           END                                                6:00 P.M. EDT


Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice at the Export-Import Bank’s Annual Conference

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice
Remarks at Export-Import Bank Annual Conference
Washington, D.C.
Friday, April 24, 2015
As Prepared

Thank you, Kusum, for that wonderful introduction.  Your story is a powerful testament to the drive and ingenuity of American small business owners, and to how the Ex-Im Bank facilitates connections and commerce that lift up our world.      

I want to thank my friend Fred Hochberg for his outstanding leadership of Ex-Im.  Fred, you’ve held the reins during a challenging time, and through it all, Ex-Im has provided critical support to help get the global economy back on track.  Thank you.  

President Obama has made promoting prosperity his top domestic priority and a key pillar of our National Security Strategy.  Even as we’re dealing with pressing global challenges—from countering terrorist threats to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and combatting climate change—we’re advancing an affirmative agenda that promotes prosperity around the world. 

Of course, President Obama isn’t the first American leader to emphasize the connection between a strong economy and strong foreign policy.  During the Depression, President Roosevelt proclaimed that America’s “full and permanent domestic recovery depends in part upon a revived and strengthened international trade.”  After World War II, President Truman noted that “peace, freedom, and world trade are inseparable.”  So today, once again confronted with a changing world, I’d like to lay out how the Obama Administration draws on America’s economic strength to bolster our national security and prepare for the challenges of the future.  

First, we are expanding economic opportunity, starting with American workers.  We’re now in the midst of the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record.  Businesses have added more than 12 million new jobs.  We’ve brought unemployment from a high of 10 percent in 2009 to 5.5 percent today.  And, critically, wages are finally on the rise again. 

FDR was right that America’s recovery is linked to robust international commerce.  That’s why President Obama launched the National Export Initiative in 2010—to help American companies reach overseas markets and create new jobs.  And it’s working.  Since 2009, exports have made up almost one-third of our growth.  All told, exports support more than 11 million American jobs, and those jobs pay up to 18 percent more than non-export related jobs. 

We’re also encouraging foreign direct investment into the United States.  Business leaders already recognize that the United States is the best place to locate, invest, and hire.  So, we’re making it easier for them.  With our SelectUSA initiative, we’ve cut red tape, streamlined government processes, and helped generate more than $20 billion in job-creating investments. 

That’s good progress, but there are more markets waiting to be tapped.  That’s why the Export-Import Bank of the United States is essential.  Last year, financing from the Bank helped thousands of American entrepreneurs reach new markets and grow their small businesses.  It supported 164,000 private sector American jobs.  And, it didn’t cost the American taxpayer a penny—Ex-Im returned $675 million to the Treasury.  That’s the very definition of a win-win.  And, I can tell you, when President Obama meets with foreign leaders, Ex-Im is an important part of our diplomacy.  So, I join the President, Members of Congress from both parties, the American Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and small business owners across the country in calling on Congress to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank with a long-term mandate to continue its vital work.

Today, we’re pursuing the most ambitious trade agenda in history.  We are working with Congress to secure support for a critical piece of legislation—you may have heard something about it this week—the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act.  This bill will help us finalize the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and ultimately create a free-trade zone that encompasses two-thirds of the global economy—with the United States at its center.  With this legislation, Congress doesn’t cede any power to have the final word on trade agreements.  Rather, it sets the parameters for a deal up front—a deal that protects the interests of American workers, sets high environmental standards, protects intellectual property, and includes robust enforcement provisions.  In short, it gives us the leverage to bring home the best possible agreements.

That brings me to a second way we promote prosperity.  Increased trade and investment is good for the global economy, but to realize its full potential, everyone has to play by the same rules.    

By 2030, two-thirds of the world’s middle class—more than 3 billion people—will live and work and buy in Asia.  To sustain America’s growth, we need to be part of those markets.  So, we are working hard to finalize the Trans Pacific Partnership and break down trade barriers across the dynamic Asia-Pacific region.  At the same time, through TPP, we will ensure that American businesses can compete on a level playing field.  We will protect access to shared spaces like the internet, the seas, and the sky so that goods, people, and ideas can more freely crisscross the region.  And, we will raise the bar on global trade, enshrining the high standards and enforceable protections Americans expect. 

Our economic relationship with Europe is already the largest in the world.  We conduct $1 trillion in annual two-way trade, invest $4 trillion in each other’s economies, and support jobs for millions of American and European workers.  The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will boost all those numbers.  And, if we align the rules that govern commerce on both sides of the Atlantic, we will effectively set the standard for commerce around the world.

These agreements will secure real economic benefits for the American middle class and advance American leadership.  Our security and our ability to shape global events are closely-tied to our sustained economic strength.  But, the global economy is not going to wait for us.  So, the choice is not between moving forward with these agreements and maintaining the status quo.  The choice is between leading the world in a direction that supports American values and interests, thus enhancing the safety of American citizens, and being left behind.  These trade agreements are an integral part of our vision for a future where all countries follow the same rules of the road, and all countries benefit—a future where growing prosperity supports our shared security. 

At a time of shifting power in Asia, TPP reaffirms America’s commitment to the region and to the alliances that have underwritten security and growing prosperity throughout the Asia Pacific for decades.  As Asia continues to grow and drive the global economy, our strategic interests in the region will become even more important—preserving peace and preventing maritime or territorial disputes, but also strengthening the rule of law, advancing human rights, and promoting inclusive development.  We’re committed to shaping the development of a region that will only grow more important to the future. 

Meanwhile, T-TIP will strengthen our trans-Atlantic bonds and put us in an even stronger position to take on shared challenges with our closest Allies.  We seek to build an economic relationship to match the scope and further strengthen our security partnership with Europe.

Let me be clear, growing the global economy is not a zero-sum contest between established and emerging powers.  If we work together to grow the whole pie, we will all be better off.  That’s why President Obama elevated the G-20 to be the premier forum for global economic cooperation—to make sure the world’s fastest growing economies were also part of the world’s most important economic discussions.  And, that’s why we will encourage new institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to uphold the standards that underpin sustainable, inclusive economic growth. 

We’re also committed to modernizing the established institutions of global finance, like the International Monetary Fund.  In the 1980s, the IMF coordinated the response to an international debt crisis brought on by oil shocks.  In the ‘90s, it helped former Soviet-bloc countries transform themselves into market-driven economies.  Today, the IMF is a first responder to global crises—helping Ukraine stand up against Russian aggression, securing our allies in the Middle East against extremists, providing economic relief to countries fighting Ebola in West Africa.  Proposed quota and governance reforms for the IMF would better integrate rising powers like China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil, while preserving American leadership and our veto power.  Congress should pass IMF reform so that we can join our G-20 partners to strengthen this bulwark of economic security. 

Third, we’re expanding prosperity by promoting inclusive growth.  Developing economies provide new markets, growing middle classes, and customers that are essential for sustaining America’s economic strength.  So, under President Obama, we’re forming partnerships that help countries lift themselves up.  And, we’re harnessing the resources and expertise of the private sector to amplify our efforts. 

Take, for example, the New Alliance for Food Security—thanks to more than $10 billion in private-sector commitments, we’re strengthening agriculture and helping farmers across Africa raise their incomes.  Or take Power Africa—with $7 billion from the U.S. government, including support from Ex-Im, we’ve brought in more than $20 billion from the private sector—all focused on increasing access to electricity for 60 million households and businesses across Africa.   

American firms are eager to expand into African markets, as Kusum can attest, and African companies want to do more business with the United States.  That’s why the African Growth and Opportunity Act and our Doing Business in Africa campaign are such effective tools for spurring broad-based development.  The African Growth and Opportunity Act, known as AGOA, makes it easier for African businesses to sell their goods in the United States.  That helps grow Africa’s middle class who, in turn, buy high-quality American products.  Under AGOA, both Africa’s non-oil exports to the United States and American exports to Africa have more than tripled.  So, President Obama strongly supports the bipartisan legislation introduced last week in the House and Senate to update and renew AGOA for the next ten years.         

With more than half the world’s population under the age of 30, we’re investing in job training, entrepreneurship, and educational opportunities for young people.  Through our Young Leaders Initiatives in Africa, Southeast Asia and most recently in the Americas, we’re empowering the next generation with skills and experience to help them succeed.  With the President’s Spark Global Entrepreneurship initiative, we’ll generate more than a billion dollars to help young people launch and expand new enterprises.  And, this summer, President Obama will participate in the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya.       

By spurring trade, setting 21st century standards, and building the capacity of our partners, we strengthen our ability to take on global challenges like climate change.  The United States is leading the charge to achieve a strong international climate agreement this December in Paris.  We’ve set an ambitious climate target for ourselves and announced joint actions with other major emitters including China, India, and Mexico.  At the same time, we’re developing clean energy solutions that will fuel our continued economic growth, working with partners to set emissions targets that will mitigate the worst effects of climate change, and helping vulnerable countries improve their resilience to climate change.       

Our economic tools also defend America’s national security interests.  Consider our engagement with Iran.  With our P5+1 partners, we’ve successfully reached an initial framework agreement for a long-term deal to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.  But, that deal wouldn’t have even been in the realm of possibility without the strong, rigorously enforced sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table.

When we employ sanctions, we target those who flout international norms while minimizing the impact to the broader global economy.  We rely on sanctions and other financial tools to cut off terrorist financing and disrupt transnational criminal organizations.  Coordinated sanctions with our European partners are imposing costs on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.  And, as online commerce continues to grow, we are developing dynamic approaches to enhance cyber security, including a recently signed executive order authorizing sanctions to deter the worst cyber actors.   

Which brings me to my final point—we rely on the private sector to advance America’s values and economic leadership.  As a government, we open access to foreign markets.  We protect the sea lanes and skyways.  Since 2010, our commercial advocacy has helped American firms sign contracts totaling more than $200 billion in new exports.  At the same time, America’s businesses are the foundation of our economic strength, upon which so much of our security and prosperity depend.  So both the government and private sector have responsibilities to fulfill. 

For example, corruption costs the global economy about $2.6 trillion each year.  So, we’ve made anticorruption efforts a centerpiece of our foreign assistance strategy—if countries want development compacts with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, they must embrace good governance.  Through the Open Government Partnership, we’re working with more than 65 nations to improve economic transparency.  And, the Department of Justice has been dogged in prosecuting those who pay or seek bribes in international business. 

We also count on American companies to meet the highest standards of responsible business practices.  We hold an advantage in the global marketplace because our companies are known as accountable, transparent partners.  So, we’re developing, in partnership with industry, a National Action Plan to promote responsible business conduct and to ensure that the American brand in business reflects American values.        

Leading in the 21st century isn’t just about the might of our military, it’s about using every element of our national power—including our economic power—to promote universal values and expand opportunity for all people.  It means using diplomacy to rally partners to meet global challenges.  It means implementing development policies that don’t just put a Band-Aid on poverty, they help eradicate it.  And, it means fostering a vibrant domestic economy and policies that expand our shared prosperity.     

When President Obama spoke at this conference five years ago, he issued a call to “make this century another American century.”  As a nation, we’ve come a long way since then.  It’s taken hard work and characteristic American grit to climb out of a deep hole, and we’re not done yet.  With our resurgent economy, our unmatched network of partners and allies, and our firm commitment to expand opportunity, we will continue to pursue a future of shared prosperity that benefits all people.  We will ensure that America continues to lead the global economy throughout this century, just as we did in the last. 

Thank you. 

Readout of Vice President Biden’s Meeting with Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri

The Vice President met this morning with former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The Vice President reaffirmed the United States’ support for Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, as well as the wide-ranging partnership between the United States and the government and people of Lebanon. The Vice President praised the courage of the Lebanese Armed Forces in confronting extremists inside Lebanon and expressed support for Lebanon’s policy of dissociation from the conflict in Syria. The Vice President and former Prime Minister discussed regional and international developments, including ongoing nuclear diplomacy with Iran. The Vice President underscored that no nation in the Middle East should enjoy a sphere of influence at the expense of its neighbors’ sovereignty. 

The Vice President and the former Prime Minister also discussed Lebanon’s political situation. They agreed on the need for Lebanese leaders to reach agreement, for the good of their country, to fill the current Presidential vacancy. The Vice President recognized the immense humanitarian challenge confronting Lebanon and all of Syria’s neighbors, and the former Prime Minister expressed his gratitude for U.S. humanitarian support for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Remarks by the President Marking the 10th Anniversary of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Office of the Director of National Intelligence
McLean, Virginia

2:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you so much.  Please, please, have a seat.  Thank you very much.  Well, thank you, Jim, for that introduction.  And former Director Negroponte, we are -- there he is -- we are thrilled to have you here, as well. 

I am here to help mark the 10th anniversary of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.  And I’m here for a simple reason:  Jim asked me to come.  (Laughter.)  You see, as you might say with the IC, Jim is one of my best HUMINT sources.  He is well-placed.  His reporting is known to be reliable.  So I accepted his invitation with a high degree of confidence.  (Laughter.) 

I want to thank you, Jim, and your entire team, and leaders from across the IC, for all of you taking the time to welcoming me here today.  I’m not going to give a long speech, but I do have three basic messages that I wanted to convey.

The first is that I don’t know how astute a consumer of information I am, but I can tell you I sure do rely on it.  And those who come and brief me every single morning do an extraordinary job. 

I will say that the only flaw, generally, in what’s called the PDB that I receive is that when Jim provides it, some of you may have heard, he leaves paperclips all over my office.  (Laughter.)  They’re in the couch, they’re on the floor.  He’s shuffling paper.  And so because I knew I was coming over here, one of the things I did was return them all.  (Laughter and applause.)  And so this will be available to you.  The DNI’s budget is always a little tight; we can start recycling these.  (Laughter.)  That’s going to be critical. 

But Jim is often one of the first people that I see in the morning, during the Presidential Daily Brief.  Jim always gives it to me straight.  He gives me his honest assessment free of politics, free of spin.  I trust his integrity.  And I can’t tell you how invaluable that is in the job that he has.

And that culture is one that permeates our IC.  It’s a culture that reflects leaders at the top.  And nobody, I think, exemplifies that more than Jim Clapper.  So I am very grateful for him. 

Here at ODNI, Jim has also led important reforms, both within the office and across the intelligence community.  Today, the Community is more collaborative and more integrated than it has ever been in the past.

And since no good deed ever goes unpunished, in appreciation of this integrity and outstanding work, I sent Jim to North Korea.  (Laughter.)  And I know he had a wonderful time in Pyongyang.  But thanks to the role that Jim played, he returned home with Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller to be reunited with their families.

Today is also special to him because it happens to be his 50th wedding anniversary to his wonderful wife, Sue.  So we want to congratulate the two of them.   (Applause.)  And fear not, this is not all he’s doing for their 50th wedding anniversary.  (Laughter.)  My understanding is they’re headed off for a well-deserved anniversary vacation this weekend.  So I'm going to move this along.

The second reason I wanted to be here was to thank all of you at ODNI.  I see Jim or Mike Dempsey, or sometimes Stephanie, every morning.  And I know that everything they present reflects incredible hard work on the part of hundreds of people -- thousands of people across the various agencies that are represented.  And I want you to know that Jim and Mike and Stephanie, and all the folks who give me these briefings, they are the first one to acknowledge that they are just the tip of the operation and that they can’t do their job if it weren’t for the incredible contributions that all of you are making every single day.

I know that sometimes it can seem like a one-way street.  You push up your reports, but you don’t always know how your work is received by your customers, and I guess I'm the number one customer.  You don’t always maybe get feedback.  So I'm here just to tell you, you do an outstanding job.  The work that you provide is vital for me being able to make good decisions.  And the fact that the work you prepare is giving it to me straight -- that doesn’t look at the world through rose-colored glasses, that doesn’t exaggerate threats but doesn’t underplay the significant challenges that we face around the world -- that’s vitally important to me and, as a consequence, vitally important to the security of the American people.

So Jim knows it, Mike know it.  The people who meet with me are always extolling your virtues.  But I figured it would be useful for you to hear it from me directly in saying how much we appreciate the incredible hard work and effort that you make every single day.

Whether it’s the PDB, your daily articles, your expert briefs, NIE’s, I could not do my job without your insights and your analysis, and your judgment. 

More broadly, you’re dedicated to your founding mission.  The 9/11 Commission said we needed to unify our intelligence community.  The legislation that created the DNI made you the statutory head of the Community overseeing all the agencies.

And it’s not an easy task bringing together 17 different organizations.  They each have unique histories and missions and cultures and tradecraft.  Many of you here represent those agencies.  And yet, you come here together to create a sum that’s even greater and stronger than its individual parts.

And we see the results.  We’ve got more sharing of intelligence across the Community and also beyond it, with our other partners.   The federal, state, local and the private sectors are now working together more effectively than they have in the past.  New technologies and new satellites are being shared and working across various platforms means that we’re able to do a better job both accumulating information but also disseminating it.  There’s more transparency than there’s been in the past.  There’s more innovation than there’s been in the past.  All that is making a difference each and every day.

I know that integrating the efforts and contributions of all 17 organizations, people, expertise, capabilities, is never-ending work.  And then there’s the challenge of being as open and transparent as possible, even as we continue to protect intelligence that saves lives.

But I want you to remember the United States is the most professional, most capable, most cutting-edge intelligence community in the world.  And part of the reason is because all of you here at ODNI bring it together.  It makes a difference.

Which brings me to my third and final point.  A message that I hope you share with the colleagues who are not in this auditorium, I want you to share it with all the home agencies:  You can take great pride in your service. 

Many of you -- those of you with gray beards or goatees, or, in Jim’s case, just no hair -- (laughter) -- are intelligence veterans with decades of service.  Some of you are young, and look even younger; a new post-9/11 generation.  And over the years, I know some of you have lost good friends and colleagues -- patriots, men and women who gave their lives, like those honored in the stars on the Memorial Wall at Langley.  On days like today, we remember them and we honor them, as well. 

These are challenging times.  And over the last few years, we’ve seen unprecedented intelligence disclosures.  We’ve seen wild swings with respect to our budgets because of sequestration and furloughs; increasing demands for intelligence due to everything from Russian aggression in Ukraine to turmoil and ISIL in the Middle East.

And today, like all Americans, our thoughts and prayers also continue to be with the families of Dr. Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto.  I’m not going to repeat everything I said yesterday, but I do want to make one point again.  We’re going to review what happened.  We’re going to identify the lessons that can be learned and any improvements and changes that can be made.  And I know those of you who are here share our determination to continue doing everything we can to prevent the loss of innocent lives. 

I was asked by somebody -- how do you absorb news like that that we received the other day.  And I told the truth:  It’s hard.  But the one thing I wanted everybody to know -- because I know you, because I work with you, because I know the quality of this team -- is that we all bleed when we lose an American life.  We all grieve when any innocent life is taken.  We don’t take this work lightly.  And I know that each and every one of you understand the magnitude of what we do and the stakes involved. 

And these aren’t abstractions.  And we’re not cavalier about what we do, and we understand the solemn responsibilities that are given to us.  And our first job is to make sure that we protect the American people.  But there’s not a person that I talk to that’s involved in the intelligence community that also doesn’t understand that we have to do so while upholding our values and our ideals, and our laws and our constitutions, and our commitment to democracy. 

And that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful to work with you, because I know you share that commitment, understanding that this is hard stuff.  Everybody here is committed to doing it the right way.  And for that reason, I’m absolutely committed to making sure that the American people understand all that you put in to make sure that we do it the right way.  I’m very grateful for that.

This self-reflection, this willingness to examine ourselves, to make corrections, to do better -- that’s part of what makes us Americans.  It’s part of what sets us apart from other nations.  It’s part of what keeps us not only safe but also strong and free. 

And part of what makes our job even more challenging is, is that despite the extraordinary work that’s done here and the lives that are saved on an ongoing basis, a lot of our work still requires that we maintain some things as classified.  And we can’t always talk about all the challenges.  And the one thing I know about people in the IC is they don’t seek the limelight.  That means, sometimes, that the world doesn’t always see your successes, the threats that you prevent or the terrorist attacks you thwart, or the lives that you save.

But I don’t want you or folks across the intelligence community to ever forget the difference that you make every day.  Because of you, we’ve had the intelligence to take out al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden.  Because of you, we’ve had the intelligence, quickly, that showed Syria had used chemical weapons, and then had the ability to monitor its removal.  Because of you, we had the intelligence, despite Russia’s obfuscations, to tell the world the truth about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine.  Because of you, we had the intelligence support that helped enable our recent nuclear framework with Iran.  And you’re going to be critical to our efforts to forge a comprehensive deal to prevent Iran from ever getting a nuclear weapon. 

So you help keep us safe, but you also help protect our freedoms by doing it the right way.  And the American people and people around the world may never know the full extent of your success.  There may be those outside who question or challenge what we do -- and we welcome those questions and those challenges because that makes us better.  It can be frustrating sometimes, but that’s part of the function of our democracy.

But I know what you do.  We’re more secure because of your service.  We’re more secure because of your patriotism and your professionalism.  And I’m grateful for that.  And the American people are grateful, as well -- to you and your families who sacrifice alongside you.

So it’s been 10 long and challenging years.  But when we look back on those 10 years, the American people have been a whole lot safer.  And I’m confident that over the next 10 years and 10 years after that, as long as we continue to have outstanding patriots like yourselves, we’re going to be okay.

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.) 

2:57 P.M. EDT

FACT SHEET: Administration Announces New Commitments in Support of President Obama’s Upskill Initiative to Empower Workers with Education and Training

100 employers commit to help millions of front-line workers climb up the career ladder and earn higher wages

Today, at the White House Upskill Summit, the Administration is announcing new steps to help realize the full potential of America’s workforce by empowering workers with the education and training they need to develop new skills and earn higher wages.  Over 100 leading employers, who employ more than 5 million workers, are making concrete commitments to empower front-line workers across their businesses, in partnership with 30 national labor unions, and accelerated by new innovative data and tools. During his State of the Union address earlier this year, the President launched a new Upskill Initiative, calling on businesses to help workers of all ages earn a shot at better, higher-paying jobs, even if they do not have a higher education. The commitments being announced today already represent significant action and progress since the President’s January call to action.

As part of this Summit, the companies, unions and tech innovators are announcing that new tools and opportunities that will be made available to millions of front-line workers to get ahead in their careers: 

  • 100 leading employers are answering the President’s call to action and announcing new commitments to provide opportunities for their front-line workers to get ahead by expanding access to apprenticeships and on-the-job training; increasing uptake of training opportunities by making them cheaper, easier, and faster; and clarifying what skills workers need to get ahead within their companies. The President and Vice President are challenging other employers to follow their lead.
  • 30 national and local labor unions and major foundations are also working with employers to expand access to best-practice training strategies like apprenticeships, and by targeting small businesses and industries like retail and hospitality where there is an opportunity to help millions of low wage workers earn a reward for better skills.
  • New data tools for workers and employers: To accelerate these efforts, the private sector and tech leaders are inspiring innovation and developing efficient tools that disseminate best practices for employers and workers, so that more can follow those who are leading the way.

When all Americans have the opportunity to master new skills, contribute their full talents to our economy, and be rewarded for it, our businesses, our families and our communities thrive. The President has laid out an agenda designed to increase wages for workers across the country, through steps that range from providing tax relief to working families, increasing the minimum wage, improving access to higher education and investing in areas that support well-paying jobs like infrastructure, research and clean energy. The Upskill Initiative is a public-private effort that is a critical part of that agenda, meant to create clear pathways for the over 20 million workers in front-line jobs who may too often lack the opportunity to progress into higher-paying jobs.

Developing the skills and abilities of these workers, and empowering them to contribute more at work, presents a significant opportunity to improve their wages and to increase the productivity and competitiveness of employers. Front-line workers are too often stuck because of three primary challenges: lack of access to training, which is often focused on workers who are already highly skilled; low uptake of training where it is available, due to limited awareness as well as difficulties in finding the time and money needed to take advantage of it; and a lack of clear information on pathways to promotions, which makes it hard for low wage workers to take the steps needed to advance. 

Today’s White House Upskill Summit brings together employers, labor unions, foundations, educators, workforce leaders, non-profits and technologists who are committing to take action in the next year to enable more front-line workers to realize their full potential at work and advance into better paying jobs. The summit is also an opportunity to build on Vice President Biden’s comprehensive report released last summer that lays out successful strategies to train our nation’s workforce and widen the path to the middle class for more hard-working Americans.  

A new White House report is also available here that includes new data on trends in employer training investments and highlights best practices and employer case studies.  Click here to learn more about the Upskill commitments being announced today, which are summarized below. 

To join these employers, unions, and technologists, share what you are doing to support the Upskill Initiative at 

Employers including 30 of the Fortune 500 and many small businesses are leading the way by taking steps within their own companies to end dead-end jobs, and enable workers to earn more over time. 

Over 100 employers across the country, employing more than 5 million workers, are expanding access to on-the-job training and launching registered apprenticeship training programs, increasing uptake of these programs by making participation easier, cheaper, and faster, and clarifying career pathways for workers who want to get ahead.

More on-the-job training and apprenticeship opportunities, the “gold-standard of upskilling”  that help workers get ahead, without having to leave their jobs to go back to school full-time. 

  • Companies big and small, like IBM, Zurich Insurance, CVS, Daetwyler, Stober Drives and Optimax, are committing to start or expand apprenticeships in new industries as far-ranging as information technology, insurance, healthcare and advanced manufacturing.
  • Fortune 500 companies like Gap Inc., Capital One, McDonalds  and Walmart are expanding partnerships with online educational organizations like LearnUp, Udacity and Cengage Learning to enable millions of front-line workers to earn credentials and develop the skills required for more senior roles.
  • Employers of all sizes including Pepsico, PG&E and Metaphase Technologies are setting internal goals to staff a certain percentage of their management and supervisory jobs from their front-line workforce, and leveraging on-the-job training programs to help meet those targets; others, like Orange Research are setting a goal for the percent of working hours that will be devoted to training.

Increasing uptake of training programs by building awareness and making it easier, cheaper and faster for front-line workers to benefit from these opportunities.

  • Companies across industries, such as Grifols and Partners HealthCare, are increasing uptake of tuition benefits by partnering with competency-based online programs, like College for America at Southern New Hampshire University, so tens of thousands of employees can use their benefits online to complete an accredited degree for free or close to free, and at their own pace. 
  • Small businesses like R&R Transportation are providing employees with the necessary time and financial support to increase the number of workers with skills certifications; others, like Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are focusing on making training more of a company priority by talking about it more with employees.   
  • Businesses like Discover and Amali Restaurant are testing how financial incentives can drive upward career mobility and accelerated job progression for employees.

Clarifying pathways to a promotion by articulating the skills better-paying jobs require, and providing self-assessments for workers to figure out how far away they are from having those skills today

  • Businesses like Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center are launching initiatives including talent management frameworks that will provide employees with a clear understanding of what differentiates success at each organizational level
  • Companies like Kaiser Permanente and Bank of America are launching new online career portals that will provide employees and managers with tools, resources and training for skill enhancement and career development. 
  • Major employers like AXA are making online gaming tools available to their employees to identify their strengths and develop a more granular understanding of their skills needs.  

Employers are also working in partnership with government, unions, and philanthropy to expand the use of strategies like apprenticeships in new and growing fields.

  • The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division is clarifying common employer misperceptions that may lead employers to be less likely to offer training to employees . DOL is publishing a new “mythbuster” document that stipulates how employers can more specifically determine when they are and when they are not required to compensate employees for voluntary training.
  • 30 major employers are working with the Department of Labor to launch a new employer-to-employer outreach program called LEADERs (Leaders of Excellence in Registered Apprenticeship Development, Education, and Research) that helps business leaders learn from other businesses how to launch a successful Registered Apprenticeship program.  Later this year, the Department of Labor will bring together major employers on expanding the use of Registered Apprenticeship to strengthen U.S. companies while providing workers with pathways to the middle class and beyond.
  • Focusing on the healthcare industry in particular, SEIU and AFSCME, together with their local unions and employer partners including Temple University Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Addus Healthcare, and the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes of New York, are joining together to create 1,700 apprenticeships for advanced home care aides, community health workers, and medical coders throughout six states.
  • Labor management partnerships like BEST Corp. Hospitality Training Center, District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership and 1199SEIU Bill Michelson Home Care Education Fund, and unions like IBEW Local Union 43, the Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity, and UAW, are committing to expanding access to registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.
  • Labor leaders such as local affiliates of SEIU and AFL-CIO, non-profits like Goodwill and industry groups such as the Western Association of Food Chains are focusing on expanding access to training and credentials in industries like retail and hospitality that employ millions of front-line workers.
  • Foundations like Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses are providing small business owners with a business education that promotes front-line talent development

The private sector and tech leaders are spurring innovation and developing tools that disseminate best practices for employers and workers, so that more can follow those who are leading the way.

  • Recognizing and supporting employers that are upskilling: The Aspen Institute is coordinating a business-led UpSkill America campaign in partnership with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, the HR Policy Association, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships, the Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board, the Bay Area Council, and the Small Business Majority. This coalition will work to recognize leading employers that provide expanded career opportunities for their workers, promote the widespread adoption of business policies and practices that increase economic opportunity for frontline workers, and cultivate public-private education and workforce development efforts that support and advance these initiatives.
  • Innovation that helps facilitate upskilling: XPRIZE is promoting innovation by announcing its commitment to design an incentivized prize competition aimed at spurring innovation and accelerating the rate of positive change in upskilling among American workers.
  • Tools for workers that are trying to get ahead: Glass Door is launching an On-the-Job Training Finder, an interactive, map-based tool to help job seekers easily search job opportunities, such as apprenticeships and trainee positions, in which they can learn new skills to advance their career while getting paid.   LinkedIn is committing to help employers identify mentors for front-line workers by engaging interested senior employees in aspirational roles.
  • Best practice resources for employers: Deloitte Consulting and The Aspen Institute are launching A Guide to Upskilling America’s Frontline Workers that aims to deliver a structured resource to help businesses strengthen existing or jumpstart new upskilling initiatives. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) will develop a Registered Apprenticeship Blueprint to help companies expedite implementation of customized apprenticeships that meet their talent needs.

The Upskill initiative builds on the Administration’s agenda to support job-driven training:

  • Proposed Rules for Reforming our Federal Workforce System. Last July, the President signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) – the most significant reform to our Federal workforce system in nearly 20 years. Last week, we issued proposed rules implementing WIOA that will move our entire system to be more job-driven. The law will also increase opportunities for work-based learning, including on-the-job training and Registered Apprenticeships.
  • Vice-President Biden’s Job-Driven Training Review. The President’s Upskill Initiative builds on the job-driven training review that the President asked the Vice President to lead in the 2013 State of the Union. Amongst other findings, the Vice President’s review identified employer training for front-line workers as an area in need of more job-driven training strategies to meet business needs and provide more workers with a path to the middle class.
  • American Apprenticeship Grants Competition. Last year, the Department of Labor launched a $100 million competition to spur partnerships to expand apprenticeships into high-growth fields like information technology, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare. The deadline for this application is April 30, 2015, and more information is available at the application page.
  • $100 million in New Federal Investments to Train and Connect More Workers to a Good Job in Technology and Other In-Demand Fields. The Administration is launching a $100 million H-1B grant competition by the Department of Labor to support innovative approaches to training and successfully employing low-skill individuals with barriers to training and employment including those with child care responsibilities, people with disabilities, disconnected youth, and limited English proficient workers, among others.
  • Launching a New $25 Million Competition for an Online Skills Academy that Will Leverage Technology to Offer Free and Open Online Courses of Study, helping students earn credentials online through participating accredited institutions, and will expand access to curricula designed to speed the time to credit and completion.
  • FY16 Budget Proposals to Expand Access to Quality Training and Career Advancement Opportunities. The President’s Budget includes measures that support upskilling through:
    • American Technical Training Fund would award $200 million in new competitive grants to support the development, operation and expansion of innovative, evidence-based job training programs in high-demand fields that provide a path to the middle class for low-income individuals. This could replicate successful models like Tennessee’s Applied Technology Centers whose graduates have impressive employment rates.
    • Doubling American Apprenticeships over Five Years:  The President is calling on Congress to launch a $2 billion Apprenticeship Training Fund for states and regions to adopt comprehensive strategies ranging from economic incentives to stronger links to technical colleges to double the number of registered apprentices in America over the next five years.
    • Updating Licensing Requirements: The Budget proposes a $15 million increase for grants to States and partnerships of States for the purpose of identifying, exploring, and addressing areas where occupational licensing requirements create an unnecessary barrier to labor market entry or labor mobility and where interstate portability of licenses can support economic growth and improve economic opportunity.

Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden the 67th Annual Israeli Independence Day Celebration

Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
Washington, D.C.

7:29 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Ron, Mr. Ambassador, my name is Joe Biden, and everybody knows I love Israel. 

I was thinking as Ron was saying that he doesn't know what it’s like in Catholic families -- whether we argue as much as allegedly occurs in Jewish families.  Well, I settled all that.  Two of my three children married Jews.  (Laughter.)  And you want to see what happens then.  (Laughter.) 

As a matter of fact, my daughter -- I -- the dream of every Irish-Catholic father is for his daughter to marry a Jewish surgeon.  (Laughter.)  And she did.

But I want you to know I think the only time on record, at least in the state of Delaware, in the oldest Catholic church in the state, the second oldest -- 1842 -- we signed the ketubah in the Catholic rectory.  (Laughter.)  Not a joke.  (Laughter.)  Not a joke.  I think that's a first.  We had a chuppah on the altar, handmade, magnificently, beautiful chuppah.  And we had a Catholic priest, Father Murphy, and a rabbi, and it was hard getting a rabbi, by the way.  (Laughter.)  I had to go up to Montgomery County to find one.  (Laughter.)  And the reason why -- Montgomery County, Pennsylvania -- and the reason he came is his mother loved me.  (Laughter.)  But -- and my daughter asked me, she said, Daddy, what do you want played at the wedding?  I said, just one -- maybe the concluding hymn could be “On Eagles’ Wings”.

And so the rabbi was a wonderful guy, literally presided over 75 percent of the wedding.  The vows were administered by the Catholic priest.  And as the wedding party was departing, as the bride and groom were departing down the aisle, they played the hora.  (Laughter.)  So I figured it out.  One way to end arguments is to marry.  (Laughter.) 

Look, the fact of the matter is that 77 years [sic] ago, at midnight on May 14, 1948, against all odds, in the wake of searing tragedy, defiant in the face of overwhelming military numbers massed on its borders, the modern State of Israel was born.   (Applause.)

What you did next was no less than miraculous.  You were blessed with one of the greatest generations of founding fathers and mothers of any nation in the history of the world -- Ben-Gurion, Meir, Begin, Sharon, Rabin, Peres.  They all fashioned Israel into a vibrant, vibrant democracy. 

And in the process, you built one of the most innovative societies on Earth.  In the process, you defended your homeland and became the most powerful military in the entire region.  And all these years later, things have changed, but the danger still exists.  But the people of Israel still live in a dangerous neighborhood.  And just to be an Israeli -- it still demands uncommon courage.

Much has changed, but two things have remained absolutely the same: the courage of your people and the commitment of mine.  (Applause.)   

So today, we celebrate your independence and our friendship, which was born just 11 minutes after Israel’s founding.  And President Obama and I are proud to carry forward the unbroken line of American leaders –- Democrat and Republican —- who have honored America’s sacred promise to protect the homeland of the Jewish people.

It’s no secret that, like administrations before us, as the Ambassador said, we’ve had our differences.  I have been here for a long time, for eight Presidents.  I’ve witnessed disagreements between administrations.  It’s only natural for two democracies like ours.  As Ron said, we’re like family.  We have a lot to say to one another.  Sometimes we drive each other crazy.  But we love each other.  And we protect each other.   (Applause.)

And it’s hard to see with these lights, but I suspect I know many of you personally.  As many of you heard me say before, were there no Israel, America would have to invent one.  We’d have to invent one because Ron is right, you protect our interests like we protect yours.  (Applause.)

So let’s get something straight.  In this moment of some disagreement occasionally between our governments, I want to set the record straight on one thing:  No President has ever done more to support Israel’s security than President Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

Just look at the facts.  Each time a rocket has rained down from Gaza, President Obama stands up before the world and defends Israel’s right to defend itself like any other nation. 

Under President Obama, with the United States Congress, America has provided $20 billion in military assistance to Israel -– and cutting edge weaponry needed to maintain the qualitative advantage against any potential opponent. 

You all know the stories of Iron Dome.  What you may not know is that next year, we will deliver to Israel the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter –- our finest -– making Israel the only country in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft.  No other.  (Applause.)

And we continue to discuss, as the Israeli military here and the intelligence communities will tell you in Israel as well as here -- we continue to discuss what more must be done in the near term and the long term to continue to strengthen Israel so she can maintain that edge.  (Applause.)

Our commitment to protect Israel’s security in my case and many of your case is not just political or national interest, it’s personal.  It’s personal for me and it’s personal for the President.

You've heard me say this many of my friends out there before, but it bears repeating on this day, it began at my father’s dinner table.  My father was a righteous Christian.  We assembled to eat, to have discussions -- and occasionally eat.  My father talked about how he could not understand why there was a debate among Americans or why there was a debate among American Jews about whether or not we should have recognized Israel; why there would be any debate about why we hadn’t done more; why we hadn’t -- that's where I first learned about not bombing the railroad tracks.  I learned from my father about the concentration camps.  And the first thing I did with my children when each of them turned 15, I took them to Europe, flew them directly to Dachau, and made them spend a day there with me.  And I’ve done the same with my grandchildren.  My grandchild Finnegan as recently as just a month ago where we met with a 94-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, as well as Dachau.  He showed us the camp because he was proud -- proud -- to welcome the Vice President and his granddaughter.

All you have to do to understand is stand on the Golan and look down.  I remember the first time I did that as a young senator.  All you have to do is wander throughout Israel.  All you have to do is take that helicopter ride the entire length of the fence.  All you have to do is just look at the map.  All you had to is set foot at Yad Vashem -— and you understand. 

I’ve had the great privilege of knowing every Israeli Prime Minister since Golda Meir and more than just casually.  And I’ve worked with many of you in this room for up to 40 years.  You know me.  You raised me.  You educated me.  And I know you. 

So believe me when I tell you:  It’s not only personal to me, it’s personal to President Obama, as well.  The President was raised with memories of his great-uncle, who marched with Patton’s Army to liberate Jewish prisoners from the horrors of Buchenwald.  As a young man, he grew up learning about Israel from the stories of Leon Uris’ in “Exodus”; the Six-Day War; and Moshe Dayan, with his eye patch and his courage.  I remember sitting in front of Golda Meir’s desk as she flipped those maps up and down, chain-smoking, talking about the losses of the Six-Day War, sitting next to her military attaché at the time, a guy named Rabin.

But Barack, as a young senator -- being 19 years younger than I am, he heard about it.  He read about it.  As senator, Barack Obama went to a small town in southern Israel to see with his own eyes the lives of the families who live under threat of rockets -– families that he has helped protect as Commander-in-Chief, under Iron Dome. 

As President, he stood in Jerusalem, and declared to the whole world, “Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.  So long as the United States of America is there, Israel will never be alone.”  (Applause.)  He means it.  He means it.  You know I mean it.  I’m telling you he means it.

That’s my President.  He understands the need for Israel to have the right and the capacity and the capability to defend itself.  At the same time, he says, “we have Israel’s back” -- and you can count on it.

The same commitment to the survival and security of Israel is fundamental to our strategy for the entire Middle East.  And then we get into the controversial piece.  Iran.  Remember this is the President who made it for the first time in American history a declared policy of the United States to use all the instruments of our power to prevent -— not contain, prevent –- Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon.  He stated that all options are on the table -— then he made sure of what did not exist before.  He made sure we spent the time and money and the research to develop the capacity required to act against their capacity to develop a weapon if ever needed.

Over the skepticism of many, we worked with the U.S. Congress, our European allies, and Russia, China, to put in place the toughest sanctions regime in modern history.

We also knew the cost of not negotiating.  Midway through the last administration, the U.S. government refused to directly engage.  It insisted at the same time that Iran dismantle its entire program.

The result?  By the time President Bush left office, Iran had dramatically advanced its movement toward ability to acquire a nuclear weapon.  So we’ve taken a different approach, combining unprecedented pressure with direct diplomacy to find an enduring solution. 

Negotiations began.  And we’ve come a long way.  And you’ve all seen the parameters that were put forward.  It’s a framework, only a framework -- not a final deal.  A great deal of work lies ahead to see if Iran will actually enshrine the commitments that went into that framework as part of a final deal.

If they do, each of Iran’s paths to a bomb would be meaningfully and verifiably blocked.  Iran would cut its enrichment capacity by two-thirds; shrink its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent.  Breakout time to create a weapon’s worth of bomb-grade material will go from two to three months, which it is today, to over a year.

The deal would ensure at least a one-year breakout cushion for a decade.  And for years after that, the breakout time would continue to be longer than it exists today.

We’ll prevent the Arak reactor from ever being a source of plutonium for nuclear weapons.  We will put in place the toughest transparency and verification requirements in history -— providing the best possible check against a secret path to the bomb.

This isn’t a grand bargain between the United States and Iran.  It’s a nuclear bargain between Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany, the EU, America and Iran.  It’s based on hard-hitting, hard-headed, uncompromising assessments of what is required to protect ourselves, Israel, the region, and the world.

And if the final deal on the table that doesn’t meet the President’s requirements, we simply will not sign it.  

A final deal must effectively cut off Iran’s pathways to the bomb.  If it doesn’t, no deal.

A final deal must ensure a breakout timeline at least for one year for a decade.  If it doesn’t, no deal. 

A final deal must include phased sanctions relief, calibrated against Iran taking meaningful steps to constrain their program.  If it doesn’t, no deal. 

A final deal must provide a verifiable assurance to the international community demands to ensure Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful going forward.  If it doesn’t, no deal. 

And if Iran cheats at any time and goes for a nuclear weapon –- every option we have to respond today remains on the table.  And your military will tell you, and more.

I’ve been involved in arms control negotiations since I was a kid in the Senate at 30 years of age -- every major SALT agreement, START agreement, and toward the end, I was deeply involved negotiating when Brezhnev was still around, leading a delegation of senators.  But just like arms control talks with the Soviet Union —- another regime we fundamentally disagreed with, another regime whose rhetoric was outrageous and unacceptable, another regime whose proxies were forcefully making trouble, and we forcefully countered around the world –- we negotiated to reduce the nuclear threat to prevent a nuclear war.  And it kept us safer.  That’s what we’re attempting to do today.

We also continue to agree with Israeli leaders going back decades –- from Rabin to Sharon, whose funeral I had the great honor of eulogizing –- that a two-state solution is essential to Israel’s long-term survival as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.   Consistent with our commitment to Israel’s security and survival, the United States stands ready to help Israel decide -- if they decide -- how to get there and if they want our help in getting there.

I’ll always remember what my friend and mentor, and Holocaust survivor who worked for me as my national security advisor before he became Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos once said.  He said, “the veneer of civilization is paper thin.  We are its guardians and can never rest.”

That’s why we must never retreat from fighting every scourge and source of anti-Semitism as we find it.  You see, in too many places where legitimate criticism crosses over into bigotry and anti-Semitism; where an explicitly anti-Semitic attack takes place at a kosher grocery store; assaults on religious Jews in the streets of major European capitals.  Some of you may remember how harshly I was criticized as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee over 15 years ago when I held hearings on anti-Semitism in Europe.  Emerson said, society is like a wave, the wave moves on, but the particles remain the same.  Wherever, in whatever country, whatever circumstance it rears its head, we have to stop it. 

Enough is enough.   We have to fight it everywhere we find it. 

I’ll conclude -- and my friends kid me and I imagine Ron may, as well -- telling you the story about my meeting with Golda Meir.  The reason I do it had a profound impact on me, one of the most consequential meetings I’ve ever had in my life.  I think I’ve met every major world leader in the last 36 or 37 years in the world, in a literal sense.

But I remember meeting for close to an hour with her.  She went through what happened in the Six-Day War, and the price that was paid.  And I just had come from Egypt.  They let me go to Egypt and go to the Suez Canal.  And I was saying to she and Rabin that I thought that they were getting ready to attack again.  And everyone including my military and Israeli military thought I was crazy.

I remember driving from Cairo all the way to out to the Suez.  And you could see these great plumes of dust and sand.  But none it seemed isolated.  It turns out it was maneuvers taking place in the desert.  And I was really worried.  And we went through, and she painted a bleak, bleak picture -- scared the hell out of me, quite frankly, about the odds. 

And all of a sudden she looked at and she said, would you like a photograph?  And I said, yes, ma’am.  And those double-blind doors opened up into that hallway -- not hallway.  It looks like -- it’s a foyer.  And we walked out, and the press was standing there.  We didn't say anything.  We just stood side by side.  And she must have thought I looked worried.  And it’s an absolutely true story.  She didn't look at me, she spoke to me.  She said, Senator, you look so worried.  I said, well, my God, Madam Prime Minister, and I turned to look at her.  I said, the picture you paint.  She said, oh, don't worry.  We have -- I thought she only said this to me.  She said, we have a secret weapon in our conflict with the Arabs.  You see, we have no place else to do.

I was criticized in the national press a couple weeks ago when I said that, in fact, every Jew in the world needs there to be an Israel.  And it was characterized by some of the conservative press as saying that I was implying Jews weren’t safe in America.  They don't get it.  They don't get it.  Israel, Israel is absolutely essential -- absolutely essential -- security of Jews around the world.  And that's why you have never farmed out your security.  You’ve accepted all the help we could give.  The most admirable thing about you is you’ve never asked us to fight for you.  But I promise you, if you were attacked and overwhelmed, we would fight for you, in my view.  (Applause.)

The truth of the matter is we need you.  The world needs you.  Imagine what it would say about humanity and the future of the 21st century if Israel were not sustained, vibrant and free.

We’ll never stop working to ensure that Jews from around the world always have somewhere to go.  We’ll never stop working to make sure Israel has a qualitative edge.  And whomever the next President is -- Republican or Democrat -- it will be the same because the American people, the American people are committed.  The America people understand. 

So I say happy birthday, Israel.  Happy Independence Day.  May God bless you and may God bless and protect the United States of America.  Thank you all so very much.  (Applause.)

7:52 P.M. EDT

Statement by the President on Armenian Remembrance Day

This year we mark the centennial of the Meds Yeghern, the first mass atrocity of the 20th Century.  Beginning in 1915, the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths.  Their culture and heritage in their ancient homeland were erased. Amid horrific violence that saw suffering on all sides, one and a half million Armenians perished.  

As the horrors of 1915 unfolded, U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. sounded the alarm inside the U.S. government and confronted Ottoman leaders.  Because of efforts like his, the truth of the Meds Yeghern emerged and came to influence the later work of human rights champions like Raphael Lemkin, who helped bring about the first United Nations human rights treaty. 

Against this backdrop of terrible carnage, the American and Armenian peoples came together in a bond of common humanity.   Ordinary American citizens raised millions of dollars to support suffering Armenian children, and the U.S. Congress chartered the Near East Relief organization, a pioneer in the field of international humanitarian relief. Thousands of Armenian refugees began new lives in the United States, where they formed a strong and vibrant community and became pillars of American society.  Rising to great distinction as businesspeople, doctors, scholars, artists, and athletes, they made immeasurable contributions to their new home.

This centennial is a solemn moment.  It calls on us to reflect on the importance of historical remembrance, and the difficult but necessary work of reckoning with the past.  I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed.  A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests.  Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past.  We welcome the expression of views by Pope Francis, Turkish and Armenian historians, and the many others who have sought to shed light on this dark chapter of history. 

On this solemn centennial, we stand with the Armenian people in remembering that which was lost.  We pledge that those who suffered will not be forgotten.  And we commit ourselves to learn from this painful legacy, so that future generations may not repeat it. 

Statement by National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s Meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees

National Security Advisor Susan Rice met at the White House this afternoon with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres. During their meeting, they discussed the grave humanitarian crises facing Africa and the Middle East – from Kenya to Syria to Yemen – and addressed the significant needs of refugees and other displaced and conflict-affected persons.  They stressed the shared global responsibility for responding to these crises and discussed new approaches for supporting host countries in protracted refugee situations. Ambassador Rice emphasized the critical role that UNHCR and other UN agencies play in responding to these crises and pledged continued U.S. support.   

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:

Mauro Morales – Staff Director, United States Commission on Civil Rights

Daniel Weiss – Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council

President Obama said, “I am pleased to announce that these experienced and committed individuals have decided to serve our country.  I look forward to working with them.”

President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:

Mauro Morales, Appointee for Staff Director, United States Commission on Civil Rights

Mauro Morales is currently Assistant Director in the Office of Public Engagement at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), a position he has held since 2014.  From 2009 to 2014, he served as Attorney Advisor in the Office of the General Counsel at OPM.  In 2006, Mr. Morales founded The Morales Law Group, where he served as Managing Partner until 2009.  He served as General Counsel and Director of Public Affairs for Verches Associates from 2004 to 2006, and he was General Counsel for Lambco Engineering, Inc. from 2000 to 2004.  From 1997 to 2000, Mr. Morales was a staff member for Congresswoman Lorreta Sanchez, serving as Legislative Director and then as District Director.  From 1993 to 1997, he was a Senior Associate Attorney at McGuiness & Williams and was an Associate Attorney at Pereyda, Delnick and Ruedaflores from 1992 to 1993.  From 1990 to 1992, Mr. Morales was a Senior Law Clerk with the Orange County, California District Attorney’s Office.  He began his career as a Legislative Assistant for Congressman Esteban Torres from 1983 to 1988.  Mr. Morales received a B.S. from Georgetown University and a J.D. from the University of Southern California.

Daniel Weiss, Appointee for Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council

Daniel Weiss is Managing Partner of Angeleno Group LLC, a private equity firm he co-founded in 2001.  Previously, Mr. Weiss was an attorney at O’Melveny & Myers LLP from 1998 to 1999.  Mr. Weiss is currently a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy and the Council on Foreign Relations.  He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Temple Israel of Hollywood, the Board of Directors of World Resources Institute, and the Advisory Board of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.  Mr. Weiss received a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. and J.D. from Stanford University.


Open thread for night owls: Militia movement finds new 'patriot' to defend
Miner Rick Barclay appears in video interview conducted by 'Oath Keepers' militia group
A mine owner in Oregon was having a dispute with the Bureau of Land Management over his paperwork. His solution? Summon the ready nationwide movement of heavily armed "patriots" that so deftly protected Cliven Bundy from having to follow the same laws as everybody else. What could go wrong?
Among those who have come to the mine is Arizona militiaman Blaine Cooper, who made a video widely seen on YouTube urging Patriots to make their way to Oregon.

They’re calling it a “security operation” largely because owner Rick Barclay insists that the BLM is notorious for burning down miners’ cabins in the backwoods, and he believes they’d have destroyed his mine if he had not called for help. Cooper was last seen leading a group of anti-Obama protesters outside the White House, including several who demanded the president be hung.

While the militia forces have been very thorough in their "protection", blocking off a public road leading to the mine and forming camp nearby, our hero of the insufficient paperwork appears to have had second thoughts as to why he did this thing. Perhaps.
In an interview with the Medford Mail-Tribune, he denounced the scene near his mine: “What you’re seeing is mostly a spectacle caused by social media and ‘keyboard commandos’ whooping it up.” He seemed eager to draw a curtain on the drama.

“As soon as I get my court arrangements made, the Oath Keepers are leaving,” he said. “It’s OK. It’s going to be OK.”

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2013How will American companies respond to fatal Bangladesh factory collapse?:

The death toll has passed 300 in the industrial building collapse in Bangladesh; workers had been ordered to go to work or lose wages even though there were visible cracks in the walls and floors of the building. There's plenty of blame to go around in Bangladesh, including the owner of the unsafe building, the owners of factories located in the building who ordered work to continue, and authorities at every level. The American and European companies whose brands are being found in the wreckage of the building also deserve a look:

Activists combing through the rubble in Savar, outside the capital, Dhaka, have already discovered labels and documents linking the factories to major European and American brands, like the Children’s Place, Benetton, Cato Fashions and Mango.
Just as Walmart initially denied having contracted with the Tazreen factory in which a fire killed more than 100 workers in November, Benetton is denying any association with the collapsed Rana Plaza. That's the thing about networks of subcontractors: they give you plausible deniability. There's also a question of how companies that had subcontractors in Rana Plaza will respond: After the Tazreen fire, some companies paid compensation for the victims and their families. But not Walmart or Sears. Walmart also continues to refuse to join a plan to fund fire safety and other upgrades in the Bangladeshi factories that manufacture its goods.

Bangladeshi workers have been protesting dangerous conditions, but rather than making real safety improvements, their government has put down the protests.

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Japan laps US with new high speed train
Artist rendering of California's high speed train
In the United States the definition of high-speed rail ranges from 90 mph to 150 mph. The average speed of the the fastest train currently running in the United States, the Acela Express, is 68 mph. While the Acela Express is capable of higher speeds, and while it does run at 150 mph on segments of its run, its speed is woefully lacking when compared to other countries.

Japan this week tested a new maglev train with a top speed of 374 mph. That is more than double the speed that is considered high speed—150 mph—in the United States.

Shortly after Scott Walker took the governor's office in Wisconsin, he killed the proposed Madison to Milwaukee section of high-speed rail, which eventually would have been a part of a line that connected Chicago to Minneapolis. That line would have been completed two years ago. And while this was a short-sighted political move, this is not a post written to slam Walker, as you can read below the fold.

Five ways the DEA is redundant
Banner for DEA website
America survived for almost 200 years without the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Somehow, we muddled through all of those years without this expensive boondoggle of an agency.

Richard Nixon was the force behind our current drug war, riding into office in 1969 on a wave of Southern racism and Northern law-and-order votes and a "secret plan" to end the war in Vietnam and begin the war on crime. A big part of his war on crime would focus on drug use, especially marijuana, the drug he felt was destroying America as part of a Communist plot. Seriously.

The marijuana issue also played into the culture wars of the time. President Nixon saw a connection between civil rights and anti-war demonstrators and marijuana use [...] Nixon discussed this with entertainer Art Linkletter claiming: “. . . radical demonstrators that were here . . . two weeks ago . . . They’re all on drugs, virtually all.”
In another conversation he links drug use, homosexuality and immorality to the downfall of great countries concluding: “You see, homosexuality, dope, immorality in general. These are the enemies of strong societies. That’s why the Communists and the left-wingers are pushing the stuff, they’re trying to destroy us.”
The DEA is the legacy of a racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic megalomaniac who wanted to find a way to lock up all of those anti-war protestors, Jews, homosexuals, and blacks. Can't we finally just declare victory in this trillion-dollar war, let the states enforce their own marijuana laws, and restrict the DEA to overseas drug interdiction? Do we really need this law enforcement agency when we have other federal agencies that fill many of the same functions? A list of some of those redundancies are below the fold.

What game is Obama playing with the TPP? A bargain? A ruse?

President Obama’s personal and post-college history enforces the belief that he has always been a champion of the poor and the middle class. He has displayed a certain pragmatic reality while in office that upset most liberal and progressive purists, evident in his immediate abandonment of single payer in the Affordable Care Act and subsequently the entire scrapping of the public option.

A president is one man that promises. The presidency itself is an amalgamation of special interest, public interest, agencies, compromises, and unspoken realities. President Obama’s leading and defending of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is proof positive of that reality.

On April 15, Elizabeth Warren came out swinging against the TPP. She had the support of the unions and Sen. Bernie Sanders, among other liberals and progressives.

"No more secret trade deals," Warren said. "Are you ready to fight? No more secret deals. No more special deals for multinational corporations. Are you ready to fight? Are you ready to fight any more deals that say we are going to help the rich get richer and leave everyone else behind? Are you ready to fight back?"

Follow below the fold for more.

Bobby Jindal advocates unholy alliance of fundamentalists and big business to back discrimination
Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference.
I solemnly swear that I am up to no good. And not in the fun way, like in Harry Potter.
Bobby Jindal wants to be relevant. Yes, he wants to be president, but given where the soon-to-be former governor of Louisiana stands in recent polling, Jindal needs to make sure he can walk before he can seriously run. After previously trying to be the sensible Republican who criticized those within the party who say "stupid" things, he's now gone ahead and abandoned that anti-stupid position.

You see, Jindal is quite perturbed at the fact that, in Indiana and Arkansas, corporations forced fundamentalist conservatives to back down from their attempts to enshrine in law the absolute right of anyone to deny gay people equal treatment if doing so would offend their religious beliefs. Jindal has decided that the way to differentiate himself from the rest of the Republican presidential field is to show that he is more loyal than anyone else to his Christian conservative beliefs, and especially more loyal to them than fellow governors Pence and Hutchinson of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively. That's why he's more excited than ever to support the kind of "religious liberty" bill from which those states ultimately turned away. Jindal clearly thinks that he can be the most Christian conservative of them all, and then, just maybe, he can actually gain some traction for his as-yet-undeclared campaign for the White House.

That's the context for the op-ed piece Jindal wrote for Thursday's New York Times. One must read the whole thing in order to truly appreciate his, er, passion on the issue. But his overarching theme is that the business community was wrong to bring pressure against this kind of legislation, and that they should "stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting for religious liberty" against those who expound a "misguided, government-dictating ideology." That's how Jindal characterizes those "left-wing activists" and "radical liberals" who support those radical, liberal principles of equal rights for and equal treatment of all citizens.

I explore the passion of Bobby Jindal further beyond the fold.

Same-sex marriage opposition is a modern-day 'Mudsill theory'
Just Married: Sharon Papo & Amber Weiss in San Francisco,June 17, 2008
Sorry. Can't let you get married because straight people won't feel superior any more.
This upcoming Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether it is constitutional for states to ban same-sex marriage. Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee have seen their states' marriage equality bans overturned, and they have appealed to the highest court in the hopes of re-instituting discrimination. They will probably not prevail: Justice Kennedy has long been supportive of LGBT rights and provided the decisive swing vote in the 5-4 decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down Article 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. He is widely expected to join with the four liberal justices (Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor) in affirming that lower courts ruled correctly in deeming marriage equality bans unconstitutional.

Justice Kennedy, however, is perceived as having a weakness: abortion. He has voted to strike down only one of the 21 abortion restrictions that have come before the Supreme Court during his tenure, and conservative legal minds are well aware of this tendency. In the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, which gave permission to closely held corporations to exempt themselves from federal laws that their owners found objectionable, Kennedy once again provided the swing vote, but this time on behalf of the court's conservative wing. In the oral arguments of that case, Kennedy theorized that a decision on behalf of the government could result in companies being forced to pay for an employee's abortion coverage—and the conservative solicitor arguing the case for the plaintiffs was more than happy to reinforce that perspective.

So what's the next logical step for opponents of same-sex marriage? Why, try to turn the fight over marriage equality into an abortion case, of course—as a group of over 100 conservative legal figures just tried to do. Sure, it's laughable. But the steps required by the theory serve as a very good reminder that the essence of conservatism is the enforcement of the privilege of those it deems superior.

More below the fold.

How anti-abortion intensity wins in pro-choice America
For four decades, American public opinion on the issue of abortion has been largely unchanged. As the numbers from Gallup, the Pew Research Center, and other polls show, roughly half of Americans have identified themselves as "pro-choice" even as consistent majorities support keeping abortion legal in all or many circumstances.

But now, a new survey conducted for Vox by the communications and strategy firm, PerryUndem, revealed that for Americans abortion is "not so black and white." Where past polls found a public bitterly divided over the legality of abortion, the Vox survey found nuanced views and surprising common ground. When questions moved "beyond legality and into [the] reality" of the abortion experience for American women, a much different picture emerged.

Nearly four in 10 respondents said they were "neither" (21 percent) or "both" pro-choice and pro-life. Just changing the wording from "abortion should be legal in almost all cases" to "women should have a legal right to safe and accessible abortion in almost all cases" produced a 9-point jump in approval. Even more important, when the 1,067 adults were asked about what a woman's actual abortion experience should be like, using terms like "comfortable," "supportive," "without pressure," "non-judgmental," "affordable," "informed by medically-accurate information," or "without added burdens," the transformation was even more dramatic. As ThinkProgress summed it up:

A large majority of respondents--at least 69 percent--said "yes" for each of those descriptors, suggesting there's consensus about how Americans want women to be treated after they choose to seek an abortion. This aspect of Undem's polling is "really groundbreaking," according to [Kate] Stewart [of Advocates for Youth].
But while PerryUndem further found that Americans were unfamiliar with just how common abortion is (one in three women have terminated a pregnancy by age 45) and that support for women's reproductive rights was much higher among those who had talked to someone experiencing the procedure, in one area the survey shed little new light.

If support for women's safe and legal access to abortion is surprisingly broad, why are anti-abortion extremists enjoying even more surprising success at the ballot box?

In a nutshell, the answer is intensity. Anti-abortion voters simply care more about erasing women's reproductive rights than their supporters do about preserving them. And in some regions of the country and in off-year elections, that difference in motivation, commitment, activism, and turnout makes all the difference.

Continue reading below about when anti-abortion intensity trumps pro-choice propensity.

1.5 million black men are 'missing' from local communities, many because of prison
Chart of Population 18 Years and Older in Selected Group Quarters and Households by Race: 2009–2011
(click to enlarge)

The New York Times's Upshot released a fascinating piece of data journalism this week, which you may have already seen: the case of the "1.5 million missing black men." They aren't actually "missing," to the extent that we know where they are—most are either dead due to disproportionate mortality rates, or incarcerated due to disproportionate rates of imprisoned African Americans. This is especially startling when you look at the ratio of black women to black men age 25-54 who aren't in prison: it's 100 to 83.

While the Times article doesn't delve into political implications, they aren't difficult to figure out: a sizable piece of the Democratic Party's most reliable population segment (the Democratic vote share among African Americans often exceeds 90 percent) is left unable to vote. And since many of them are in states that disenfranchise felons, they're still unable to vote even when they're no longer "missing" and return to public life. Felon disenfranchisement often gets overlooked amidst the focus on voter ID requirements and registration list purges, but in terms of raw numbers of people affected, ending felon disenfranchisement would likely make the single biggest difference in easing the suppression of potential Democratic voters.

There's more over the fold.

A drone too far?

As a youngster, I built and flew model aircraft, similar in principle to the one above, but we didn't call them drones. We called them radio-controlled airplanes and if you have a son or daughter with a flair for building things and an interest in flight, I cannot recommend this hobby enough. RC aircraft aren't just a blast to build and fly, they're a superb, safe way for anyone of any age to soak up the engineering principles behind the art of flight without the significant expense of owning a real aircraft.

Thanks to advances in electronics and engines, RC modeling has never been cheaper or more diverse. Today, hobbyists can choose between sleek, scale model SR-71 reconnaissance jets with ducted fan engines or RC gliders that can ride thermals for hours just like the real thing. With a little research you can find them ready to fly, right out of the box, for less than a hundred bucks.

Unmanned aircraft have become ubiquitous; they now hover with cameras over sporting events, collect data for businesses, and even guard people and property. It seems like everyone, from Google to Amazon, is exploring further commercial applications. Needless to say there are more sinister uses ... Jump below the fold for a review of those lethal versions and look at a few of the disturbing questions they raise.

Now they just kill us one by one
Cartoon decrying the Hamburg massacre of July 1876
Cartoon decrying the Hamburg massacre of July 1876
As people raise a hue and cry, for a media minute, about yet another police murder of an unarmed black man—this time Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, who was riddled with bullets by a white cop who must have seen too many reruns of The Deer Hunter—and as news and endless video loops of his death leave the headlines, just remember this: #Blacklives (still) matter to black people and our allies but nothing has changed in the systemic racism of America.

Who's it gonna be next week? Oh, wait ... next week has already happened. Spell it "Freddie Gray." Will it be my (or your) son-father-cousin-nephew-godson-husband-neighbor-student ... or me next? Sistas get murdered too.

They don't kill us in bunches anymore. Now they just murder us one by one.

Slaughtering black folks en masse was part of an agenda of open terrorism to end any possibility of black political and economic power, or successful black and white "fusion" during Reconstruction. History books dub them "riots" because riot evokes images of scary black people runnin' wild, but they were massacres. South Carolina is no stranger to murdering black folks. I've written here about a more recent one, in "Orangeburg, SC, 1968: The massacre of students you may not have heard of." But we need to dig deeper into the past to understand the rot at the roots of what we face today.

Follow me below the fold for the history of the Hamburg Massacre and others that took place during the same time period, perpetrated by white terrorist "Red Shirts" and backed by elected officials whose names are engraved on shrines and monuments to white supremacy.


First Draft: Gay Businessman Who Hosted Cruz Event Apologizes
Ian Reisner, one of the two gay hoteliers facing boycott calls for hosting an event for Senator Ted Cruz, who is adamantly opposed to gay marriage, said he had shown “poor judgment.”

New Amendments Imperil Measure on Iran in Congress
Amendments threaten to break the rare bipartisan spirit that pushed a bill, which would give Congress a voice in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and even overcame White House objections.

Jeb Bush’s Anticipated Campaign Embraces South Florida Style
In his inaugural gathering of major donors for a widely expected presidential run, Jeb Bush displayed an unconventional approach that busted many Republican stereotypes.

Republican Contenders Reach Out to Sheldon Adelson, Palms Up
Jeb Bush faces a hurdle after a speech on Israel by his father’s secretary of state, James A. Baker III, incensed the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

In Rare Remarks, George W. Bush Argues Against the Lifting of Iran Sanctions
The former president, in an expansive mood while meeting with Republican Jewish donors, weighed in gingerly on foreign policy, the 2016 presidential field, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and his own record.

G.O.P. Struggling With Shifts on Gay Marriage
Once a winning primary issue as well as a powerful wedge issue, same-sex marriage has grown far more complicated for Republicans.

White House Takes Cybersecurity Pitch to Silicon Valley
Computer industry mainstays are rolling out technology to block surveillance, including by the National Security Agency, which fears “going dark” on terror threats.

Sharon Levin to Leave U.S. Attorney’s Office for WilmerHale, Joining Other Ex-Prosecutors
As head of the asset forfeiture unit at the United States attorney’s office, Ms. Levin helped get corporate giants and others to pay some $15 billion.

Letter From Washington: Flood of Money in U.S. Election Is a Scandal Waiting to Happen
The large sums of cash in the 2016 presidential race may produce Watergate-level financial scandals.

Laughter (and a Few Boos) as Obama Takes Aim at Correspondents’ Dinner
At the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, President Obama made use of an Anger Translator, and sought to skewer just about everyone in the ballroom.


Hendrik Hertzberg: Anthony Weiner’s all-digital sex scandal.
It’s been another political season of impressively gaudy sex scandals, further confounding America’s hard-won reputation as a nation of censorious puritans. The paradox isn’t so surprising, when you think about it: the broader the range of sex-related activities deemed immoral, unnatural, or . . .

John Cassidy: Don’t give up on Detroit.
If you were to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, home to Diego Rivera’s magnificent murals depicting scenes at the Ford Motor Company in the early nineteen-thirties, and then take a stroll through the surrounding streets, you might be surprised at what you would find: coffee shops . . .

Jelani Cobb: The folly of Stand Your Ground laws.
For some years, the N.R.A.’s approach to gun-rights advocacy has amounted to a variant of the old Maoist dictum, to the effect that democracy flows from the barrel of a gun. In March, the group provided a novel twist on the theme of sidearm liberty when it . . .

George Packer: Why Egypt is a foreign-policy puzzle.
American foreign aid has always been an awkward exercise in high-minded self-interest—humanitarian goals balanced uneasily with strategic calculations. Whenever these two come into conflict, Presidents inevitably find a way out of their loftier commitments. In 1947, when Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a huge . . .

Jeffrey Toobin: The end of DOMA and the future of gay rights.
The Supreme Court’s embrace of gay rights last week had an almost serene majesty. The obvious correctness of the Court’s judgment, its curt dismissal of a monstrous injustice, had a grandeur that requires little elaboration. Yet the decision had its roots in something prosaic and largely . . .

Steve Coll: Obama sends weapons to Syria.
The carved minaret above Aleppo’s twelfth-century Umayyad Mosque collapsed in April. The city, which is Syria’s most populous, has endured Hittite, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman rule, little of it benevolent. But this year, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have delivered a distinctly . . .

Hendrik Hertzberg: Difficult questions about the N.S.A.
Since the first week of June, when the Washington Post and London’s Guardian, doing the work that journalism is supposed to do, published detailed news of the National Security Agency’s gigantic programs of cell-phone and Internet information-gathering, the world has been riveted. These were . . .

Steve Coll: Why journalists deserve better protections.
In 1969, when nothing excited the public’s interest like the depredations of drug fiends, the Louisville Courier-Journal sent a reporter named Paul Branzburg to penetrate Kentucky’s marijuana underground. He published eyewitness accounts; a photograph accompanying one of them showed hands hovering over a pile of . . .

William Finnegan: The struggle for immigration reform.
It was edifying while it lasted. A bipartisan immigration bill, supported by an unusually wide coalition of business, labor, church, and humanitarian groups, made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the baying over Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service was fierce and rising . . .

Elizabeth Kolbert: What’s at stake in Obama’s Keystone decision.
A lot of what’s known about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be traced back to a chemist named Charles David Keeling, who, in 1958, persuaded the U.S. Weather Bureau to install a set of monitoring devices at its Mauna Loa observatory, on the island of Hawaii. By . . .

60 MINUTES +/-

Death in the Mediterranean
Desperation fuels the largest mass migration since WWII in which thousands have died trying to reach Europe by sea

Desperate migrants dying in effort to reach Europe
Syrian migrants say they have nothing to lose by making the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean that has killed so many

A Crime Against Humanity
Scott Pelley reports on the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria that U.S. intelligence estimates killed more than 1,400 civilians

TED Talks
The lecture series has become one of the Internet's most powerful platforms -- spreading ideas through the stories of remarkable people

Hoop Dreams
Bob Petrella can remember virtually every day of his life -- and a half century of one of college basketball's greatest teams. Why haven't you heard of them?

When TED Talks, people listen
Popular lecture series is a modern campfire where stories get told, knowledge is spread and lives can change

A 60 Minutes story you will never forget
Bob Petrella can remember virtually every day of his life -- and a half century of one of college basketball's greatest teams. Why haven't you heard of them?

Kennedy name still resonates in Japan
After a year and half on the job, Amb. Caroline Kennedy has helped strengthen U.S.-Japan relations -- an alliance her father was keen to build

Rush to Judgment
Former Duke lacrosse coach discusses his forced resignation during the 2006 Duke rape scandal and his hard road back to coaching

The Attack on Sony
North Korea's cyberattack on Sony Pictures exposed a new reality: you don't have to be a superpower to inflict damage on U.S. corporations

Could Sony hack happen to more corporations?
There are thousands who could launch the same kind of cyberattack North Korea hit Sony with, says a former hacker

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy on 60 Minutes
As a Kennedy, Caroline grew up being diplomatic -- a good preparation for her role as ambassador to Japan

Ex-Duke coach on rape scandal, resignation
The lacrosse coach forced to resign in Duke rape scandal shows Bryant University the loyalty that he says Duke failed to show him

60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll: The American dream
Most Americans choose to believe that with study and hard work the American dream is alive and well. What do you think?

Meet the Wikipedians. Those "persnickety," techy types who keep your favorite Internet information website brimming with data

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