09/23/2014 DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on National Voter Registration Day
Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement recognizing National Voter Registration Day:
“Fifty years ago, hundreds of young volunteers descended on Mississippi for Freedom Summer to register black Mississippians to vote. Despite being met with hatred and violence, the effort was an important milestone in the Civil Rights movement.
“Half a century after Freedom Summer, voter registration remains among the most effective methods by which to empower a community. Today, on National Voter Registration Day, and all days, we encourage every American to be sure they are able to exercise their right to vote.
“The Democratic Party believes that our nation and our democracy are stronger when more people participate. That is why our Voter Expansion Project is committed to more than just protecting the vote, but to expanding the vote as well. Registering new voters is one of the DNC’s top priorities in 2014 and beyond, and we have used our data and technology advantage to develop tools that allow voter registration efforts to use their finite resources most efficiently.
“Unfortunately, Republicans have made the cynical calculation that their path to victory is a smaller electorate. Obstacles to registering to vote – such as elimination of same-day registration and refusal to adopt online registration – disproportionately affect young people, women, and communities of color. These are the same groups that are fueling the growth of the Democratic Party and the key to victory for Democratic candidates – and also comprise a majority of all Americans.
“The DNC is fighting to make sure that every eligible voter can register, every registered voter can vote, and every vote cast is counted. This National Voter Registration Day, everyone should take a few minutes to visit IWillVote.com or VoyAVotar2014.com to find out how to register to vote if they haven’t already. And if you are registered to vote, sign the pledge to vote this November at Commit2Vote.com.”
09/16/2014 DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on the GOP Blocking Bank on Students
Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on the GOP blocking the Bank on Students bill in the U.S. Senate:
“Bank on Students is an important piece of legislation for borrowers everywhere. This common sense legislation would have allowed Americans to refinance their student loans. For young people just getting their start in the workforce, this was a measure that could have made a real difference. Instead, Republicans chose to block it for a second time, siding with those who have the most, over America's students.
“While Republicans scratch their heads, wondering why young people reject them on issue after issue, this is yet another sign that the problem isn't a lack of outreach—it's their core message and principles. While Democrats stand for a fair shot for all Americans, Republicans continue to stand in the way of progress. This isn't over, and Democrats will continue the fight to ensure that every American has access to a quality, affordable education. In the meantime, it continues to be clear which party stands with young Americans.”
09/16/2014 DNC’s Women’s Leadership Forum to Hold its Annual Issues Conference in Washington D.C.
Washington, DC – On Thursday September 18th and Friday September 19th the DNC will hold its annual Women’s Leadership Forum issues conference presented by the Democratic Women’s Alliance in Washington, D.C. The Women's Leadership Forum, founded in 1993 by Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore, engages women in Democratic politics by bringing together women leaders and supporters from across the country for regional and national events providing them with information, contacts, and support for further involvement in the Democratic Party.
On Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke will speak at a welcome reception. The First Lady’s remarks will be pooled for print media.
On Friday, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Hillary Rodham Clinton, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and DNC CEO Amy Dacey will address the conference. Remarks will be open for print press and still photography and pooled for video. Conference panels will be closed press.
Outlets planning to cover Friday’s speeches must RSVP to email@example.com by 6PM on Wednesday, September 17 and show valid press credentials on arrival. RSVP should include name, outlet and which remarks you plan to attend.
WHO: Friday, September 19th:
President Barack Obama
Vice President Joe Biden
Hillary Rodham Clinton
DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
DNC CEO Amy Dacey
09/16/2014 DNC Announces 2014 Ad Campaign Targeting Key Constituencies
First Radio Ad, ‘Obstruction’ Features President Obama to Air on African American Radio Stations Nationally
WASHINGTON, DC – The Democratic National Committee today announced the first ad in a seven figure national paid media campaign for the fall that will mobilize key constituencies of the Democratic Party to turn out in November’s election. The first ad, ‘Obstruction’ features President Obama and will air on African American radio stations nationally.
The campaign will feature multi-platform targeted ads to engage African Americans, Latinos, women, Asian Americans and young voters.
“This strategic national ad buy will engage key members of the coalition that elected President Obama twice and remind them what’s at stake in this midterm election,” said DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “It’s no secret that Democrats’ challenge is expanding the vote this November and before with early voting, so these ads are geared toward many constituencies that have typically dropped off in midterm elections.”
The multi-platform ad buy will run in print, on radio, and include a significant digital presence, with African American radio ads starting this week.
“From equal pay to affordable health care to immigration, the stakes in this election could not be higher and we look forward to communicating that contrast over the coming weeks,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Additional waves of ads will begin in the coming weeks.
No Democratic President in U.S history has faced the level of obstruction from the Republicans that Barack Obama has. It’s critical that we continue to fight for change and vote on November 4.
I’ve got a vision of an economy where opportunity is open to everybody who’s willing to work hard. I want an economy where new, long-term investments in American infrastructure and American manufacturing are unleashing new jobs in new industries; an economy where our workers have the chance to earn new skills that lead to that good job; I want an economy where your hard work pays off with higher wages, and higher incomes, and affordable health insurance, and decent retirement benefits.
President Obama will fight for us, but he can’t do it alone. We have a responsibility to stand up for our community and vote Nov 4.
“Paid for by the Democratic National Committee, democrats.org, not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising
09/15/2014 DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on the GOP’s Latest Effort to Block Paycheck Fairness Act
Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on the GOP’s latest effort to block the Paycheck Fairness Act:
“Today, for the fourth time in recent years, Republicans in the Senate voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act – commonsense legislation that would move us closer to equal pay for women. Once again, Republicans refused to join with Democrats to ensure that women are paid fairly and that they have the legal tools they need to fight pay discrimination when it occurs. Some GOP Senators have even gone beyond opposing the legislation to belittling the very idea of voting on Paycheck Fairness, calling it a waste of time, and a show vote. Sadly, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Republicans continue to put rigid partisanship before what’s best for the people that elected them.
“Ensuring that women earn fair and equal pay is a top priority for Democrats not only because it is the right thing to do for American women but because it improves the economic security of our families and the growth of our economy as a whole. Women constitute nearly half of the nation’s work force, and in 40% of U.S. households with children women are their family’s primary breadwinner.
“Today’s vote is just the latest evidence of a Republican Party that is vastly out of touch with the American people, especially women. This November, voters across the country will remember that when given the choice between progress towards pay equity and the clearly discriminatory status quo – the GOP was, as usual, on the wrong side of the issue.”
09/15/2014 Democratic National Committee and the Iowa Democratic Party Announce Voter Expansion Staff in Iowa
Washington, DC — Today the Democratic National Committee and the Iowa Democratic Party announced the hiring of Chris Poynor as the Iowa Voter Expansion Director. He will join Andrew Mertens, the Voter Expansion Coordinator, as part of the voter expansion team in Iowa. Poynor’s hire joins a growing roster of Voter Expansion Project staff in key states as part of the DNC's ongoing commitment to increase access to electoral participation.
“Republicans in Iowa, like Secretary of State Matt Schultz, are putting unnecessary barriers between voters and the ballot box and Schultz even spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars searching for fraud that wasn’t there,” said DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “The Democrats’ voter expansion project will continue to knock down these types of barriers and expand access to the polls. Chris will be an important part of our work in Iowa and we’re happy to have him on our team.”
“This notion of getting more people involved in the process isn’t just a program for us or a tactic – it is one of the most fundamental values that we share as Democrats, but more importantly, as Iowans,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Scott Brennan. “It’s not just about strengthening our Party, it’s about strengthening our state because more voices are being heard. Democrats are committed to expanding rights, not taking them away – we want to empower people, to break down barriers and to expand opportunity for all Iowans.”
Poynor most recently practiced election law at his firm Poynor Law, PLC. Previously he worked as the Deputy Voter Protection Director for Organizing for America – Iowa, as a Law Clerk at Eide & Heisinger, LLC, and as a researcher at Link Strategies, LLC. He earned his JD from Drake University in Des Moines.
Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on the commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month:
“Today begins our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and the long history of invaluable contributions that Hispanic Americans have made to our nation. From the earliest settlement at St. Augustine through generations of immigrants, Hispanics have played an integral role in building America into what it is today.
“While the Democratic Party is committed to policies that ensure opportunity for all Americans, including the Hispanic community, Republicans are more interested in expanding opportunity for only a select few.
“As we honor the legacy of Hispanics in the United States, the Democratic Party will continue to support policies that work for Hispanics like equal pay for women - a problem that disproportionately affects Latina women. We will continue to support investments in the educational opportunities that build ladders to the middle class for younger generations, and to pursue comprehensive immigration reform that opens doors for those compelled to pursue the American dream. We remain committed to fighting for the wellbeing of the Hispanic community and making sure Hispanics voices are heard.”
09/12/2014 DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on the 20th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act
Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on tomorrow marking the 20th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act:
“Twenty years ago, due to the leadership of then Senator Joe Biden and countless others, the Violence Against Women Act put in place critical protections that have held violent offenders accountable and extended services to victims of such crimes.
“Despite the legislation’s success and the broad bipartisan support it has enjoyed for most of the last two decades, Republicans fought and delayed the law’s most recent reauthorization. I am proud that the Democratic Party was insistent on strengthening VAWA’s protections despite opposition from a majority of Republicans.
“Unfortunately, far too many women continue to be subjected to violence and rape, including the brave women who choose to serve our country in our nation’s military and the future leaders who live on our college campuses. The horrific video that emerged this week should serve as a reminder that violence against women remains a real and persistent problem, and despite the progress we’ve made through legislation like VAWA it’s clear we have so much more to do. While we continue to fight to make sure that all women are able to live free from the fear of violence, we must also ensure that survivors of crimes are able to access the services they need to recover and rebuild and that they are empowered to speak out when such violence occurs.
“The Democratic Party is committed to supporting policies that protect and promote the well-being of women and their families and today, we honor and acknowledge this twentieth anniversary of VAWA with them in mind.”
09/11/2014 DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on the Anniversary of September 11th
Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on the Anniversary of September 11th:
“Five years ago, Congress designated today as the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. Thus, one of the darkest days in our nation’s history is instead an embrace of what is best about America.
“This is one of the defining characteristics of America and the American people. When faced with an enemy or challenge that attempts to tear us down, we come together and rebuild even better than before. And as the President laid out last night, we will continue to face our enemies head on, to secure our safety at home and the safety of our allies around the world. Though the process of rebuilding may be long and difficult, we emerge stronger. Earlier this year, speaking at the dedication of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, President Obama called on those gathered to ‘reaffirm the true spirit of 9/11 -- love, compassion, sacrifice -- and to enshrine it forever in the heart of our nation.’
“As the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, I recognize that there will be disagreements between Democrats and Republicans that warrant a healthy debate. But when our nation is attacked, on American soil or abroad, those differences should be set aside. We remember those we’ve lost, seek justice against our enemies, and work to prevent future attacks.
“Thirteen years ago, an unthinkable tragedy reminded us that what binds us together is far greater than what draws us apart. We would be well served to keep that in mind as our nation faces the challenges before us.”
Washington, DC – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement on tonight’s primary results:
“The next eight weeks will provide a stark contrast between the priorities of the Democratic and Republican parties. Democrats have nominated candidates who will fight to ensure opportunity for all Americans, while Republicans remain beholden to special interests and an extreme Tea Party agenda.
“Massachusetts Democrats have nominated Martha Coakley, who has demonstrated her ability and willingness to fight for the people of Massachusetts as a District Attorney and as the Commonwealth’s first female Attorney General. She will face Charlie Baker, who slashed jobs and put personal profit ahead of what was best for the people of Massachusetts as a health insurance executive. Baker also faces troubling ethical questions surrounding his connection to a possible pay-to-play scandal involving Chris Christie’s administration in New Jersey.
“And next door in New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s treatment of New Hampshire's Senate seat as a consolation prize is confirmation that he doesn’t care which state’s voters elect him as long as he can continue to represent Big Oil and Wall Street special interests. Jeanne Shaheen is New Hampshire through and through, and veterans, students, and women and their families know that she will continue to represent their voices in the Senate.
“I would also like to congratulate all the Democrats nominated tonight who will fight for middle-class families, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Gina Raimondo, who is poised to become the first female governor of Rhode Island. Come Election Day, voters will have a clear choice of which party is on their side.”
09/23/2014 Remarks by the President at Clinton Global Initiative
New York, New York
2:12 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, all of you. I was just discussing with President Clinton that if Chelsea begins delivery while I'm speaking, she has my motorcade and will be able to navigate traffic. (Laughter.) Because actually, it's pretty smooth for me during the week. I don't know what the problem is. Everybody hypes the traffic, but I haven't noticed. (Laughter.)
Always wonderful to follow Matt Damon. (Laughter.) I saw people trickling out after he was done. (Laughter and applause.) These are the hardcore policy people who decided to stay for me. (Laughter.)
I want to thank President Clinton for your friendship and your leadership, and bringing us together as only he can. Bill first asked me come to CGI when I was a senator -- and as President, I’ve been proud to come back every year. As President, Bill asked Americans to serve their country -- and we recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps on the South Lawn. And Bill asked all of you to make commitments to better our world -- and together you’ve touched the lives of hundreds of millions of people. And it's a testimony, I think, to any leader, not just for what they themselves do, but the degree to which they’re able to inspire action from others. And by that measure, obviously Bill Clinton has continued to exert extraordinary global leadership for decades and I suspect for decades more to come. (Applause.)
Now, in agreeing to come I had an ask, as well. I think one of the best decisions I ever made as President was to ask Hillary Clinton to serve as our nation’s Secretary of State. (Applause.) She just welcomed me backstage. I’ll always be grateful for her extraordinary leadership representing our nation around the world. And I still have a lot of debt to pay, though, because the two of them were separated far too often. Hillary put in a lot of miles during her tenure as Secretary of State. She has the post-administration glow right now. (Laughter.) She looks much more rested. (Laughter.)
So it's wonderful to be back at CGI. I cannot imagine a more fitting audience with whom to discuss the work that brings me here today -- and that is our obligation as free peoples, as free nations, to stand with the courageous citizens and brave civil society groups who are working for equality and opportunity and justice and human dignity all over the world.
I'm especially pleased that we're joined today by our many partners in this work -- governments, civil society groups, including faith leaders, and men and women from around the world who devote their lives and, at times, risk their lives to lifting up their communities, and strengthening their nations, and claiming universal rights on behalf of their fellow citizens. And we’re honored by the presence of these individuals.
As we do every time this year, Presidents and Prime Ministers converge on this great city to advance important work. But as leaders, we are not the most important people here today. It is the civil society leaders who, in many ways, are going to have the more lasting impact, because as the saying goes, the most important title is not president or prime minister; the most important title is citizen.
It is citizens -- ordinary men and women, determined to forge their own future -- who throughout history have sparked all the great change and progress. It was citizens here in America who worked to abolish slavery, who marched for women’s rights and workers’ rights and civil rights. They are the reason I can stand here today as President of the United States. It’s citizens who, right now, are standing up for the freedom that is their God-given right.
And I’ve seen it myself, in the advocates and activists that I’ve met all over the world. I’ve seen it in the courage of Berta Soler, the leader of Cuba’s Ladies in White who endure harassment and arrest in order to win freedom for their loved ones and for the Cuban people. I’ve seen it in the determination of Russians in Moscow and St. Petersburg who speak up for rule of law and human rights. I’ve seen it the passion of advocates in Senegal who nurture their democracy, and young Africans across the continent who are helping to marshal in Africa’s rise. I’ve seen it the hope of young Palestinians in Ramallah, who dream of building their future in a free and independent state. I see it in the perseverance of men and women in Burma who are striving to build a democracy against the odds.
These citizens remind us why civil society is so essential. When people are free to speak their minds and hold their leaders accountable, governments are more responsive and more effective. When entrepreneurs are free to create and develop new ideas, then economies are more innovative, and attract more trade and investment, and ultimately become more prosperous.
When communities, including minorities, are free to live and pray and love as they choose; when nations uphold the rights of all their people -— including, perhaps especially, women and girls -— then those countries are more likely to thrive. If you want strong, successful countries, you need strong, vibrant civil societies. When citizens are free to organize and work together across borders to make our communities healthier, our environment cleaner, and our world safer, that's when real change comes.
And we see this spirit in the new commitments you’re making here at CGI to help the people of West Africa in their fight against Ebola.
We’ve also seen this spirit in another cause -– the global campaign against anti-personnel landmines. Tireless advocates like Jody Williams fought for the Ottawa Convention; leaders like Patrick Leahy have led the charge in Washington. Twenty years ago, President Clinton stood at the United Nations and pledged that the United States would work toward the elimination of these landmines, and earlier today, we announced that we will take another important step. Outside of the unique circumstances of the Korean Peninsula -— where we have a longstanding commitment to the defense of our ally South Korea -— the United States will not use anti-personnel landmines. (Applause.)
So we will begin destroying our stockpiles not required for the defense of South Korea. And we’re going to continue to work to find ways that would allow us to ultimately comply fully and accede to the Ottawa Convention. And the United States will continue to lead as the world’s largest donor of global demining efforts, freeing communities and countries from these weapons.
The point is this started in civil society. That's what prompted action by President Clinton and by myself. And promoting civil society that can surface issues and push leadership is not just in keeping with our values, it’s not charity. It’s in our national interests. Countries that respect human rights -— including freedom of association -- happen to be our closest partners. That is not an accident. Conversely, when these rights are suppressed, it fuels grievances and a sense of injustice that over time can fuel instability or extremism. So I believe America’s support for civil society is a matter of national security.
It is precisely because citizens and civil society can be so powerful -— their ability to harness technology and connect and mobilize at this moment so unprecedented -— that more and more governments are doing everything in their power to silence them.
From Russia to China to Venezuela, you are seeing relentless crackdowns, vilifying legitimate dissent as subversive. In places like Azerbaijan, laws make it incredibly difficult for NGOs even to operate. From Hungary to Egypt, endless regulations and overt intimidation increasingly target civil society. And around the world, brave men and women who dare raise their voices are harassed and attacked and even killed.
So today, we honor those who have given their lives. Among them, in Cameroon, Eric Lembembe; in Libya, Salwa Bugaighis; in Cambodia, Chut Wutty; in Russia, Natalia Estemirova. We stand in solidarity with those who are detained at this very moment. In Venezuela, Leopoldo Lopez; in Burundi, Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa; in Egypt, Ahmed Maher; in China, Liu Xiaobo; and now Ilham Tohti; in Vietnam, Father Ly. And so many others. They deserve to be free. They ought to be released.
This growing crackdown on civil society is a campaign to undermine the very idea of democracy. And what’s needed is an even stronger campaign to defend democracy.
Since I took office, the United States has continued to lead the way, and as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton helped champion our efforts. Across the globe, no country does more to strengthen civil society than America. And one year ago, here in New York, I pledged that the United States would do even more, and I challenged the world to join us in this cause. Working with many of you, that’s what we’ve done. And today I’m proud to announce a series of new steps.
First, partnering and protecting civil society groups around the world is now a mission across the U.S. government. So under a new presidential memorandum that I’m issuing today, federal departments and agencies will consult and partner more regularly with civil society groups. They will oppose attempts by foreign governments to dictate the nature of our assistance to civil society. (Applause.) And they will oppose efforts by foreign governments to restrict freedoms of peaceful assembly and association and expression. So this is not just a matter of the State Department, or USAID. It’s across the government -— this is part of American leadership.
Second, we’re creating new innovation centers to empower civil society groups around the world. And I want to thank our partners in this effort, including the government of Sweden and the Aga Khan Development Network. Starting next year, civil society groups will be able to use these centers to network and access knowledge and technology and funding that they need to put their ideas into action. And we’ll start with six centers in Latin America, in Sub-Saharan Africa, in the Middle East and in Asia. Oppressive governments are sharing “worst practices” to weaken civil society. We’re going to help you share the “best practices” to stay strong and vibrant.
Number three, we’re expanding our support and funding for the Community of Democracies to better coordinate the diplomacy and pressure that we bring to bear. And this means more support for those who are fighting against the laws that restrict civil society. In recent years, we’ve worked together to prevent new limits on civil society from Kenya to Cambodia. And we’ve helped expand the space for civil society in countries from Honduras to Tunisia to Burma. And standing together, we can do even more.
And finally, we’re increasing our support to society groups across the board. We’re going to increase our emergency assistance to embattled NGOs. We’ll do more to match groups with the donors and funding that they need. And in the coming months, our Treasury Department will finalize regulations so it’s even easier and less costly for your foundations to make grants overseas. (Applause.)
We’ll increase our legal assistance and technical support to those pushing back against onerous laws and regulations. And through our Open Government Partnership, we’ll help more governments truly partner with civil society. We’ll continue to stand up for a free and open Internet, so individuals can access information and make up their own minds about the issues that their countries confront.
And through our programs to engage young leaders around the world, we’re helping to build the next generation of civil society leaders. And our message to those young people is simple: America stands with you.
We stand with educators like Walid Ali of Kenya. Where’s Walid? I just had a chance to meet him. There he is. (Applause.) In his village near the border of Somalia, young people without jobs are tempted by drugs. They're recruited by terrorists. So Walid offers them counseling, and business classes, and small plots of farmland -— helping them rebuild their own lives and their communities and giving them options for the future. He strives, he says, not just for the idea of democracy, but to “cement the practice of democracy.” So we thank you, Walid, for your extraordinary efforts, and we stand with you. (Applause.)
We stand with humanitarians like Miriam Canales. Where is Miriam? There she is right there. (Applause.) In communities that are wracked at times by horrific violence, children are so terrified to walk the streets that many begin that dangerous and often deadly march north. And Miriam’s outreach centers give them a safe place to play and grow and learn. And she says her dream is “that people in Honduras can walk free” and that young people will have “opportunities in their own country.” We couldn’t be prouder of you, Miriam, and we stand with you. (Applause.)
We stand with activists like Sopheap Chak, of Cambodia. Where’s -- there she is, Sopheap. (Applause.) Sopheap saw a fellow human rights advocate hauled off by the police, and she could have fled, too, but she says she’s never thought of leaving Cambodia even for minute. So she keeps organizing and marching and mobilizing youth to demand justice. And she says: “I dream that Cambodian citizens can enjoy the freedoms that they are entitled to.” We could not be prouder of you, and we stand with you. (Applause.)
And we stand with advocates like John Gad of Egypt. Where’s John? (Applause.) Like all Egyptians, John has lived through the turmoil of recent years. As an artist, he uses his poetry and performances to help people “discover the power inside them,” which is as good a description of being an organizer as anything -- and being a leader. And he’s been working to help women and girls recover from violence and sexual assault. He’s focused, he says, on “how to teach Egyptians to accept each other.” And he has said that “we have rights that we can achieve in a peaceful way.” John is the future. That's why we stand with him. (Applause.)
Now, these individuals are just a small sample, they're just an example of the extraordinary drive and courage and commitment of people that oftentimes are outside of the headlines. People don't do stories on them. When they're endangered or harassed, it usually doesn't surface in the news. But they are those who are pushing the boulder up the hill to make sure that the world is a little bit of a better place.
And we live in a complicated world. We’ve got imperfect choices. The reality is sometimes, for instance, for the sake of our national security, the United States works with governments that do not fully respect the universal rights of their citizens. These are choices that I, as President, constantly have to make. And I will never apologize for doing everything in my power to protect the safety and security of the American people. That is my first and primary job. (Applause.) But that does not mean that human rights can be simply sacrificed for the sake of expediency.
So although it is uncomfortable, although it sometimes causes friction, the United States will not stop speaking out for the human rights of all people, and pushing governments to uphold those rights and freedoms. We will not stop doing that, because that's part of who we are, and that's part of what we stand for. (Applause.)
And when governments engage in tactics against citizens and civil society, hoping nobody will notice, it is our job to shine a spotlight on that abuse. And when individuals like the one I introduced are being held down, it’s our job to help lift them back up. When they try to wall you off from the world, we want to connect you with each other. When your governments may try to pass oppressive laws, we’ll try to oppose them. When they try to cut off your funding, we’re going to try to give you a lifeline. And when they try to silence you, we want to amplify your voice.
And if, amid all the restrictions, and all the pressure, and all the harassment, and all the fear, if they try to tell you that the world does not care and that your friends have forsaken you, do not ever believe it. Because you are not alone. You are never alone. (Applause.) Your fellow advocates stand with you, and your communities stand with you. Your friends around the world stand with you. The United States of America stands with you, and its President stands with you.
No matter how dark the hour, we remember those words of Dr. King: “The time is always ripe to do right.” And Dr. King also said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” The reason we support civil society is because we have seen in this country of ours that it does, in fact, bend toward justice. But it does not do so on its own. It does so because there are hands of ordinary people doing extraordinary things every single day and they pull that arc in the direction of justice.
That's why we have freedom in this country. That's why I’m able to stand before you here today. And that's why we will stand with them tomorrow.
God bless you all. God bless all those who are working under tough conditions in every corner of the world. (Applause.) Thank you, CGI. Thank you, President Clinton. Thank you. (Applause.)
09/23/2014 Statement by the Press Secretary on the Conviction and Sentencing of Ilham Tohti
The United States is deeply concerned by today’s sentencing of prominent Uighur Ilham Tohti to life imprisonment on charges of separatism. He is a respected professor who has long championed efforts to bridge differences between Uighurs and Han Chinese. We believe that civil society leaders like Ilham Tohti play a vital role in reducing the sources of inter-ethnic tension in China, and should not be persecuted for peacefully expressing their views.
We call for Chinese authorities to release Professor Tohti, as well as his students who remain in detention, and to guarantee them the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China’s international human rights commitments and its own constitution. We stress the importance of Chinese authorities differentiating between peaceful dissent and violent extremism.
The American people and government commend China’s social and economic progress over the past three decades and value good relations with the Chinese people and government. At the same time, the United States will always speak out in support of universal rights, including the freedom of expression, including for members of the press, and the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly. These basic freedoms – which are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, the Chinese Constitution, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – are ones the United States champions around the world.
09/23/2014 FACT SHEET: U.S. Support for Civil Society
In September 2013, President Obama launched Stand with Civil Society, a global call to action to support, defend, and sustain civil society amid a rising tide of restrictions on its operations globally. Working in partnership with other governments, the philanthropic community, and multilateral initiatives, including the Community of Democracies and Lifeline: Embattled CSO Assistance Fund, the United States Government has focused on three lines of effort over the past year: (1) promoting laws, policies, and practices that foster a supportive environment for civil society in accordance with international norms; (2) coordinating multilateral, diplomatic pressure to push back against undue restrictions on civil society; and (3) identifying innovative ways of providing technical, financial, and logistical support to promote a transparent and vibrant civil society. The United States is the largest supporter of civil society in the world, with more than $2.7 billion invested to strengthen civil society since 2010.
Today, President Obama deepened the United States’ commitment to Stand with Civil Society by issuing a Presidential Memorandum to U.S. agencies engaged abroad. Specifically, the Presidential Memorandum directs U.S. agencies to defend and strengthen civil society abroad by: consulting regularly with civil society organizations to explain the views of the United States, seek their perspectives, utilize their expertise, and build strong partnerships to address joint challenges; resisting efforts by foreign governments to dictate the nature of U.S. assistance to civil society, the selection of individuals or entities to implement U.S. Government programs, or the selection of recipients or beneficiaries of those programs; opposing efforts by foreign governments to impose excessive restrictions on the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association; and creating greater opportunities for exchange and dialogue between governments and civil society. Through this directive, the President is mobilizing the U.S. Government to address the global crackdown on civil society.
The President also announced a new, groundbreaking initiative to support and connect civil society across the globe through the launch of Regional Civil Society Innovation Centers, in partnership with the Government of Sweden and the Aga Khan Development Network. Over the next two years, up to six networked Regional Civil Society Innovation Centers will be created worldwide. These Centers will connect civil society organizations at the regional and global level to each other, new partners, and resources; encourage peer-to-peer learning; provide civil society organizations and their networks with virtual and physical platforms to access tools and technologies that will bolster their work; and amplify civil society voices around the world. Civil society organizations, academia, and technology partners will provide additional financial and in-kind resources, as well as technical expertise, to enhance the value of the Centers to civil society.
The Administration is committing additional resources and taking new actions – in partnership with other governments, regional and multilateral institutions and bodies, the philanthropy community, and the private sector – to expand the space for civil society around the world and advance the Stand with Civil Society Agenda:
Providing core funding for the Community of Democracies (CD). The United States will provide $3 million over three years in core funding to CD to strengthen the architecture for global diplomatic action when governments are considering new laws, regulations, or administrative measures that restrict civil society in a manner inconsistent with their international obligations and commitments, including those enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Financial Action Task Force. This funding will also help CD in its efforts to repeal or reform excessive restrictions on civil society through expert consultations and dialogue with civil society representatives from repressive environments.
Operationalizing CD-UNITED (Using New Investments to Empower Democracy). The United States is supporting a groundbreaking effort that enables governments and organizations in CD to pool resources and co-finance projects that strengthen civil society and democracy worldwide. From training women activists in Central Asia to helping citizens and the media monitor elections in North Africa, CD-UNITED is making it easy for donors to team up and provide multilateral funding that supports civic engagement and citizen action. The new core funding for CD from the United States will allow CD-UNITED to build civil society partnerships and projects with courageous organizations in more countries around the world.
Expanding the Legal Enabling Environment Program (LEEP). An increasing number of governments are inhibiting the free operation of civil society and cutting off civil society organizations’ ability to receive funding from legitimate sources. In some cases, these restrictions arise out of the implementation of laws, regulations, and administrative measures that are being inappropriately applied; in other cases, the laws, regulations, and administrative measures are themselves problematic. The U.S. Government will expand the LEEP program, which is implemented by International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), to further strengthen legal and regulatory environments for civil society by providing technical assistance, financial support to partner organizations, training, and expert research to mitigate restrictions on civil society.
Coordinating with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to support civic participation and making government more responsive, effective, and accountable. OGP’s 64 participating countries represent one-third of the world’s population and have made more than 2,000 open government reform commitments since 2011. OGP National Action Plans (NAPs), developed through consultations between government and civil society, commit to advance transparency, accountability, citizen engagement, and technological innovation for good governance. The United States consulted with the general public, a broad range of civil society stakeholders, academia, and the private sector in developing its first two National Action Plans in 2011 and 2013. Globally, the United States works with participating countries to deepen engagement with civil society organizations to improve good governance in key thematic areas, such as the environment, health and education. The United States strongly supports the development of OGP’s Rapid Response Policy to respond when participating countries do not fulfill their commitments to inclusive governance.
Consulting with civil society. Over the past year, the U.S. Government has held public and private consultations with civil society organizations to explore new approaches and partnerships around civil society sustainability and civic space. Consultations included a Partners’ Forum in June on “The Challenge of Closing Space” and the Civil Society Forum of the African Leaders Summit in August. Most recently, in September, the Asia Civil Society Experience Summit in Indonesia (co-sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme and others) brought together over 150 participants from civil society, government, and the private sector from 21 countries across Asia. A joint statement by participating civil society organizations called on civil society to leverage information and communication technologies to strengthen regional coalitions; called on the international community to improve donor coordination and promote innovative partnerships with non-traditional actors; and called for civil society and international partners to engage local governments to collaborate with civil society to solve community problems.
Enhancing efforts with other governments and within intergovernmental bodies to protect civil society while combating terrorist activity. The United States is committed to working with relevant institutions and bodies, including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), to implement laws on combating terrorist financing while working to protect the legitimate activities of civil society organizations from being disrupted. For example, the United States has worked closely with the FATF over the past year to increase engagement with civil society, including in the development of the FATF Non-Profit Organization Typology Report, and supports the inclusion of civil society during the important FATF anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance country assessment process. In the coming year, the Administration will continue to work with the FATF and seek continued consultation with the private sector to revise the FATF Best Practices on protecting non-profit organizations from abuse by terrorist organizations.
Expanding assistance to Lifeline: Embattled CSOs Assistance Fund. The Administration will contribute an additional $2 million to Lifeline, a multilateral initiative in which the United States participates. This builds on the $5 million that has been provided to date. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Norway have also renewed their financial commitments to Lifeline. This funding will augment emergency assistance available to civil society organizations under threat and deliver more coordinated diplomatic engagement in priority countries. Since its founding in 2011, Lifeline has assisted 446 civil society organizations in 85 countries.
Developing the Next Generation of Civil Society through the establishment of an Asian Civil Society and Non-Profit Management Curriculum Program. The U.S. Government is partnering with Khon Kaen University in Thailand to establish Southeast Asia’s first School for Civil Society and Non-profit Management. This program will allow 140 university students per year, as well as 40 civil society leaders from throughout the Mekong Lower Basin, to complete a degree or certificate program that builds their non-profit management skills. Over the next three years, the University will develop Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs as well as executive certification (non-degree) programs, and will serve as a regional hub for coordination, best practice exchange, and networking among civil society leaders.
Emerging Global Leaders Initiative: Atlas Corps Fellows. The United States Government and Atlas Corps will partner to bring 100 of the world’s best social change leaders to the United States on a leadership development fellowship, each ranging from 6-18 months. As part of the program, Atlas Corps will convene fellows three times in Washington, D.C. for leadership training and place them at leading civil society organizations across the United States.
09/23/2014 Remarks by the President at U.N. Climate Change Summit
United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York
1:03 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow leaders: For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week -- terrorism, instability, inequality, disease
-- there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.
Five years have passed since many of us met in Copenhagen. And since then, our understanding of climate change has advanced -- both in the deepening science that says this once-distant threat has moved “firmly into the present,” and into the sting of more frequent extreme weather events that show us exactly what these changes may mean for future generations.
No nation is immune. In America, the past decade has been our hottest on record. Along our eastern coast, the city of Miami now floods at high tide. In our west, wildfire season now stretches most of the year. In our heartland, farms have been parched by the worst drought in generations, and drenched by the wettest spring in our history. A hurricane left parts of this great city dark and underwater. And some nations already live with far worse. Worldwide, this summer was the hottest ever recorded -- with global carbon emissions still on the rise.
So the climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. The alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call. We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm. We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We have to adapt to the impacts that, unfortunately, we can no longer avoid. And we have to work together as a global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late.
We cannot condemn our children, and their children, to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair. Not when we have the means -- the technological innovation and the scientific imagination -- to begin the work of repairing it right now.
As one of America’s governors has said, “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.” So today, I’m here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that we have begun to do something about it.
The United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We now harness three times as much electricity from the wind and 10 times as much from the sun as we did when I came into office. Within a decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas, and already, every major automaker offers electric vehicles. We’ve made unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in our homes and our buildings and our appliances, all of which will save consumers billions of dollars. And we are committed to helping communities build climate-resilient infrastructure.
So, all told, these advances have helped create jobs, grow our economy, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades -- proving that there does not have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth.
Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to do more. Last year, I issued America’s first Climate Action Plan to double down on our efforts. Under that plan, my administration is working with states and utilities to set first-ever standards to cut the amount of carbon pollution our power plants can dump into the air. And when completed, this will mark the single most important and significant step the United States has ever taken to reduce our carbon emissions.
Last week alone, we announced an array of new actions in renewable energy and energy efficiency that will save consumers more than $10 billion on their energy bills and cut carbon pollution by nearly 300 million metric tons through 2030. That's the equivalent of taking more than 60 million cars off the road for one year.
I also convened a group of private sector leaders who’ve agreed to do their part to slash consumption of dangerous greenhouse gases known as HFCs -- slash them 80 percent by 2050.
And already, more than 100 nations have agreed to launch talks to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol -- the same agreement the world used successfully to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals.
This is something that President Xi of China and I have worked on together. Just a few minutes ago, I met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and reiterated my belief that as the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. That’s what big nations have to do. (Applause.)
And today, I call on all countries to join us -– not next year, or the year after, but right now, because no nation can meet this global threat alone. The United States has also engaged more allies and partners to cut carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts we cannot avoid. All told, American climate assistance now reaches more than 120 nations around the world. We’re helping more nations skip past the dirty phase of development, using current technologies, not duplicating the same mistakes and environmental degradation that took place previously.
We’re partnering with African entrepreneurs to launch clean energy projects. We’re helping farmers practice climate-smart agriculture and plant more durable crops. We’re building international coalitions to drive action, from reducing methane emissions from pipelines to launching a free trade agreement for environmental goods. And we have been working shoulder-to-shoulder with many of you to make the Green Climate Fund a reality.
But let me be honest. None of this is without controversy. In each of our countries, there are interests that will be resistant to action. And in each country, there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don't that we will be at an economic disadvantage. But we have to lead. That is what the United Nations and this General Assembly is about.
Now, the truth is, is that no matter what we do, some populations will still be at risk. The nations that contribute the least to climate change often stand to lose the most. And that’s why, since I took office, the United States has expanded our direct adaptation assistance eightfold, and we’re going to do more.
Today, I’m directing our federal agencies to begin factoring climate resilience into our international development programs and investments. And I’m announcing a new effort to deploy the unique scientific and technological capabilities of the United States, from climate data to early-warning systems. So this effort includes a new partnership that will draw on the resources and expertise of our leading private sector companies and philanthropies to help vulnerable nations better prepare for weather-related disasters, and better plan for long-term threats like steadily rising seas.
Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation –- developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.
The emerging economies that have experienced some of the most dynamic growth in recent years have also emitted rising levels of carbon pollution. It is those emerging economies that are likely to produce more and more carbon emissions in the years to come. So nobody can stand on the sidelines on this issues. We have to set aside the old divides. We have to raise our collective ambition, each of us doing what we can to confront this global challenge.
This time, we need an agreement that reflects economic realities in the next decade and beyond. It must be ambitious –- because that’s what the scale of this challenge demands. It must be inclusive –- because every country must play its part. And, yes, it must be flexible –- because different nations have different circumstances.
Five years ago, I pledged America would reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. America will meet that target. And by early next year, we will put forward our next emission target, reflecting our confidence in the ability of our technological entrepreneurs and scientific innovators to lead the way.
So today, I call on all major economies to do the same. For I believe, in the words of Dr. King, that there is such a thing as being too late. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate while we still can.
This challenge demands our ambition. Our children deserve such ambition. And if we act now, if we can look beyond the swarm of current events and some of the economic challenges and political challenges involved, if we place the air that our children will breathe and the food that they will eat and the hopes and dreams of all posterity above our own short-term interests, we may not be too late for them.
While you and I may not live to see all the fruits of our labor, we can act to see that the century ahead is marked not by conflict, but by cooperation; not by human suffering, but by human progress; and that the world we leave to our children, and our children’s children, will be cleaner and healthier, and more prosperous and secure.
09/23/2014 Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes en route New York, NY, 9/23/2014
Aboard Air Force One
En Route New York, New York
10:55 A.M. EDT
MR. EARNEST: Good morning, everybody. Welcome aboard Air Force One as we make our way to New York City where the President will spend the next three days or so participating in the meetings at the U.N. General Assembly.
There’s one piece of news that I want to get out of the way and then we'll open it up to your questions. Obviously, I'm joined here by the Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. He can talk to you about some of the activities from overnight that all of you and your organizations have already reported on. The one piece of news is that this afternoon in New York, the President will drop by a meeting that's been convened by the Secretary of State that will include representatives of the nations who partnered with the United States in the operation in Syria last night.
So you all saw, there were five partners from Arab nations who participated in the operation. They’re represented at the UN and they will be participating in this meeting the President will drop by. There will be an opportunity for you all to see the President’s interaction this afternoon.
Q What time is that?
MR. EARNEST: It’s late this afternoon at the Waldorf. I think the timing is around 4:00 p.m.
Q Is he going to take questions?
MR. EARNEST: I don't anticipate that he'll take questions in that context.
So with that piece of news out of the way, we'll open it up to your questions.
Q What was the imminent threat that prompted the bombings? Was it Khorasan?
MR. RHODES: So the Khorasan Group is a group of extremists that is comprised of a number of individuals who we've been tracking for a long time. It includes some former al Qaeda operatives, core al Qaeda operatives from Afghanistan and Pakistan who made their way to Syria, remain in our view affiliated with al Qaeda. And we have been monitoring over the course of many months the development of plotting against the United States or Western targets emanating from Syria.
So for some time now we've been tracking plots to conduct attacks in the United States or Europe. We believe that that attack plotting was imminent and that they had plans to conduct attacks external to Syria. And we also believe, of course, that the Syrian regime was not able to take action against that threat. So, in addition to the strikes against ISIL, we took action against the Khorasan Group to disrupt that plotting against the United States and Western targets.
Q How imminent, and where were they going to strike?
MR. RHODES: I'm not going to get into the specific details of plotting other than to say that we saw that they had very clear and concrete ambitions to launch external operations against the United States or Europe. And so this was actual plotting that was ongoing from Syria, and the strike that we took last night was aimed to disrupt that plotting.
Q And this morning was the first time that we heard the President discuss this group or this threat and it was not part of the pitch he made to the American public asking for their support in these strikes in Syria. So doesn’t this mark a significant expansion of the military campaign that we're carrying out there?
MR. RHODES: Well, I think when the President gave his speech to the nation about his strategy against the threat from ISIL, he made clear that he’d be taking strikes in both Iraq and Syria --
Q ISIL, but not against --
MR. RHODES: Well, okay, so we see this very much as an extension of the threat posed by al Qaeda and their associated forces. These are individuals who have their origin, their history serving in al Qaeda. They’re known to people who’ve been following this threat for years. They were in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So this, frankly, is a part of the ongoing effort against al Qaeda in which you’ve seen us take strikes in Yemen; you’ve seen us take strikes in Somalia. When there’s an al Qaeda target we're going to take action against it.
What’s unique about Syria is that the Assad regime was certainly unable to take action against this organization, the Khorasan Group, so therefore we felt the need to take action in our own defense.
MR. EARNEST: I'll just add that this is entirely consistent with the principle that the President did lay out in the address that Ben obviously worked on a lot, a core principle of this President’s foreign policy that we're going to actively deny a safe haven to individuals or organizations that seek to establish a safe haven and use that safe haven to plot attacks against the U.S. homeland. So these strikes last night are entirely consistent with that core principle of this presidency.
MR. RHODES: And, similarly, consistent with the 2001 AUMF, which is the basis under which we take action against al Qaeda and associated forces.
Q Can you talk about coordination or notification there was to the Syrian government regarding what the U.S. and the other countries did last night?
Q Because Jen has made it clear from State that there was sort of a vague, open-ended notice.
MR. RHODES: First of all, the President obviously declared publicly our intention to take military action in Syria. Subsequent to that, there was a direct contact to the Syrian regime to notify them of the fact that we would take direct action. That was undertaken at the United Nations by Samantha Power to the Syrian Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
I want to be very clear, though, that we did not coordinate with them, we did not provide them advance notice of the timing or of targets that the U.S. was going to strike. In fact, we warned them to not pose a threat to our aircraft. And again, going forward, there is no plan to have any coordination whatsoever with the Assad regime. Again, this was simply consistent with what the President had said -- a notification that we would be taking this action; frankly, a warning to not pose a risk to our aircraft. And it was in no way an effort to coordinate or provide specific information about the types of targets or timing of targets that we would hit.
Q Did the Syrians give you a green light to do it?
MR. RHODES: I’m not going to characterize the Syrian response in a private diplomatic communication. Obviously, we have significant differences with the Syrian regime. We had been able to communicate with them on issues over the course of the last several years, for instance, when we needed to send a message about our concerns about chemical weapons. But it’s obviously rare that we have that contact. This was simply a matter of notifying them that we’d be taking this action.
Q When did that take place?
MR. RHODES: I’m not going to provide a specific time. Obviously, it took place in recent days.
Q I was wondering about the Arab partners that participated last night, which you all announced the President is going to stop by a meeting. Is that going to be the partnership we’re going to see continuously through Syria? Could that change? Could you add partners? Will that be sort of decided on per mission, or per week or per day?
MR. RHODES: I think you will continue to see this coalition work together in Syria. And again, we were joined by five Arab partners who flew with us last night. A number of those countries took strikes with us last night. The Pentagon can give you the specifics of those roles.
I think going forward, we’re looking to build this coalition. So insofar as it will change, we will grow a coalition of nations to take different actions. Some nations will take strikes in Syria; some nations will take strikes in Iraq. Some nations will participate in training and equipping of Iraqis, training and equipping of Syrians. Some nations will help us in counter financing, stopping the flow of foreign fighters.
So again, this is the beginning, but part of what the President is going to be doing at the United Nations is consulting with allies and partners about additional contributions that can be made in both Iraq and Syria.
Q What was the significance of the timing of the strikes -- last night, right before he goes to the UN?
MR. RHODES: We did not time this related to the UN meetings. This was based on the development of the strike campaign plan by the Pentagon and by the coalition that we built. So we wanted to make sure that we had good targets. We wanted to make sure that we had a coalition in place so that we were acting together with partners, particularly Arab partners. And I think it’s very significant that -- it’s very unique that you have five Arab countries flying with us, taking direct military action in the Middle East on behalf of our common security. That’s a powerful message.
And the other thing I’d just say for timing purposes, the President was briefed on the plan that had been developed when he was at CENTCOM by General Austin and other military leadership. And the following day is when he gave the authorization to move forward with those strikes. And at that point, it shifted to the discretion of the commander, General Austin, as well as the coalition-building exercise which was still coming together.
Q Given all the stuff that’s gone on in the last 12 hours or so, can you talk a little bit about his speech to the General Assembly tomorrow?
MR. RHODES: Yes, I think it’s a very important moment for the President to put everything that we’re doing in the context of U.S. leadership in the world. We are leading a coalition of countries against ISIL. We are leading an effort to combat the outbreak of Ebola. We are leading an effort to impose costs on Russia and to support the Ukrainian people.
So there are many different issues at play in the world today. We believe that the constant thread between them is U.S. leadership. And I think you’ll see the President call upon the world to join us in confronting this threat from ISIL, but also to offer his vision of how U.S. leadership is going to deal with this set of challenges at a moment in the international community when, frankly, nations need to be stepping up to the plate and coming together to deal with threats as diverse as ISIL or the outbreak of Ebola or the type of aggression we’ve seen in Ukraine.
Q Are you going to still be trying to get the support of countries who may have either a philosophical objection to what the coalition did last night, or maybe just an opposition to using military force to confront these threats? Are you still going to be trying to get them on board, for example, with interdicting foreign fighters, or the financial or the oil-related issues that work into this situation?
MR. RHODES: Yes. It’s a good question. And we absolutely are going to do that. I mean, already we’ve seen different nations have a different degree of willingness to conduct military action, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a significant role for them to play. For instance, you have a number of European countries like Germany, for instance, that haven't participated in airstrikes but they are providing arms and equipment for Kurdish forces. That’s critically important. For this to succeed, it’s not just going to be about airstrikes, it’s going to be about the effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces, Kurdish forces, and Syrian opposition forces.
And then, absolutely, we are going to need the cooperation of many countries to cut off ISIL financing and to stop the flow of foreign fighters. The President will lead a UN Security Council meeting that is focused specifically on this question of foreign fighters, and that requires cooperation across many countries so that we’re able to have common protocols about how we can track those people who are traveling into and out of this region. And then we have the ability to interdict foreign fighters before they can pose a threat either by reaching the battlefield in Syria and Iraq, or dangerously coming out of that theater to pose a risk in Europe and the United States.
So there will be many different roles for nations to play in this coalition. And frankly, you can’t overstate the importance of some of the non-military roles, given the fact that you’re not going to defeat an organization like ISIL unless you’re able to cut off its financing and stop this flow of foreign fighters that they’ve benefited from.
Q Were you able to sense if the Khorasan strikes actually have disrupted the plot?
MR. RHODES: We’re still reviewing the outcome of the strikes. I think certainly the report from the Pentagon was that they successfully hit the targets that they were aiming at. As to what impact that had on Khorasan leadership and operatives, that’s something that we’ll have to run down in the coming days.
Q Were any American forces on the ground helping guide these attacks?
MR. RHODES: No. There were no American forces on the ground associated with these attacks in Syria. Again, these were taken from the air, from military assets in the region, but not involving any U.S. ground forces.
Q But based on a target list that you formed over the past month since this all started?
MR. RHODES: Yeah, I think as we’ve been focused increasingly on the threat from ISIL, we have looked at contingency plans for targets in both Iraq and Syria. Obviously, that accelerated when the President made the decision to take action in Syria, and gave guidance to his military commanders to develop essentially a campaign plan for Syria. And after that work was done and he was briefed on it at CENTCOM by General Austin, the following day is when he gave his authorization to move forward when the timing was ready and the coalition was ready.
And I should say, part of what is remarkable about our military is CENTCOM’s ability to absorb the contributions of different partner nations very quickly so that we can essentially apportion roles for nations to play, so you can end up with five countries coming together on a fairly quick basis only in a matter of a short number of weeks from the President’s speech. To have those nations flying with us in the air, conducting airstrikes is a testament both I think to the support for the President’s objective of defeating ISIL, Secretary Kerry’s hard work in the region, and CENTCOM’s ability to put together a coalition like this.
Q Have these five Arab nations agreed to participate or support airstrikes on an ongoing basis? Or was this kind of the big action already?
MR. RHODES: No, we expect that this will be done on an ongoing basis. We don’t expect to in any way have solved this challenge in one night of airstrikes. This is clearly going to have to be a sustained campaign. And we believe that we’ll have a strong coalition with us going forward. And again, that’s so critically important to the region to see that there are a broad number of Arab partners who are with us. This is not about the United States and ISIL; this is about the threat that ISIL poses not just to the United States, but to the people of the Arab world who are in closest proximity, to the Muslims who have been killed in far greater numbers than anybody else over the last several months.
Again, to have on the first night of these strikes in Syria Arab partners with us, that was an absolute priority of the President’s. And he wanted -- if at all possible -- to get that done. And frankly, in getting five nations with us, I think we achieved that as well as we possibly could have.
Q Which Arab partners did what last night?
MR. RHODES: Again, I think the Pentagon can give you a more specific breakdown. They're doing an operations briefing now. All five countries flew with us. A number of countries conducted airstrikes with us, and the Pentagon can speak to the particulars better than I can.
Q What does he want to tell the Prime Minister of Iraq when he meets with him?
MR. RHODES: Well, first of all, we very much supported Prime Minister Abadi, who has put forward a far more inclusive program in Iraq than the previous government. I think he wants to underscore our support for his leadership, his efforts to bring about an inclusive government. I think he wants to discuss the nature of our ongoing commitment, not just through airstrikes, but through training and equipping of Iraqi security forces; and discuss the political program within Iraq that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all of Iraq’s different communities.
So we believe Prime Minister Abadi is off to a very strong start, and we want to discuss how to cooperate going forward, and also, frankly, how to cooperate with this coalition of countries that want to contribute to Iraq’s future as well.
MR. EARNEST: Thanks very much, everybody. See you on the ground.
09/23/2014 Presidential Memorandum -- Civil Society
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Deepening U.S. Government Efforts to Collaborate with and Strengthen Civil Society
The participation of civil society is fundamental to democratic governance. Through civil society, citizens come together to hold their leaders accountable and address challenges that governments cannot tackle alone. Civil society organizations -- such as community groups, non-governmental organizations, labor unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations -- often drive innovations and develop new ideas and approaches to solve social, economic, and political problems that governments can apply on a larger scale. Moreover, by giving people peaceful avenues to advance their interests and express their convictions, a free and flourishing civil society contributes to stability and helps to counter violent extremism. Countries should ensure that civil society organizations can engage freely in legitimate and peaceful activity, while recognizing the potential for illicit actors to abuse the sector and establishing proportionate and targeted safeguards to prevent that abuse.
The rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association that enable civil society to participate fully in social, economic, and political life are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In many parts of the world, however, these rights are in danger. An increasing number of governments are inhibiting the free operation of civil society and cutting off civil society organizations' ability to receive funding from legitimate sources. In some cases, these restrictions arise out of the implementation of laws, regulations, and administrative measures that are being inappropriately applied; in other cases, the laws, regulations, and administrative measures are themselves problematic. Despite concerted efforts by the United States and a growing number of like-minded governments to address this problem, greater, sustained energy and attention is needed worldwide.
On September 23, 2013, during the United Nations General Assembly, the United States convened a High Level Event on Civil Society that included heads of state, representatives of civil society, the philanthropic community, and multilateral organizations to spur coordinated international action to support and defend civil society. Through the issuance of a Joint Statement on the Promotion and Protection of Civil Society, attendees affirmed that the strength and success of nations depend on allowing civil society to function without interference, and on robust engagement between governments and civil society to advance shared goals of peace, prosperity, and the well-being of all people. Attendees also committed to take concrete steps, individually and jointly, and to lead by example to promote laws, policies, and practices that expand the space for civil society to operate in accordance with international law.
To take further steps to fulfill that commitment, this memorandum directs agencies engaged abroad (as defined in section 6 of this memorandum), including those that do not traditionally work with civil society, to take actions that elevate and strengthen the role of civil society; challenge undue restrictions on civil society; and foster constructive engagement between governments and civil society.
Therefore, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby direct the following:
Sec. 1. Engaging in Consultation with Civil Society Representatives. (a) In the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, it is in the national interest to build relationships with people, as well as with governments. Therefore, agencies engaged abroad shall consult with representatives of civil society to explain the views of the United States on particular issues, seek their perspectives, utilize their expertise, and build strong partnerships to address joint challenges.
(b) When traveling overseas, senior U.S. officials of agencies engaged abroad shall seek opportunities to meet with representatives of civil society, especially those who face restrictions on their work and who may benefit from international support and solidarity.
(c) Each agency engaged abroad shall incorporate inclusive outreach to civil society into their international engagement.
Sec. 2. Working with Civil Society Organizations. The U.S. Government works with civil society organizations even when local laws restrict the ability of civil society organizations to operate or where local laws restrict the fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, with due regard for the safety of civil society interlocutors and their operations. Agencies engaged abroad shall oppose, through appropriate means, efforts by foreign governments to dictate the nature of U.S. assistance to civil society, the selection of individuals or entities to implement U.S. Government programs, or the selection of recipients or beneficiaries of those programs. Additionally, agencies engaged abroad shall review their internal regulations, policies, and procedures to ensure that programmatic requirements do not inadvertently impede civil society operations.
Sec. 3. Opposing Undue Restrictions on Civil Society and Fundamental Freedoms. (a) Agencies engaged abroad shall oppose, through appropriate means, efforts by foreign governments that restrict the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association in a manner inconsistent with their international obligations and commitments. Such actions may include urging relevant governments or legislatures to reverse course; making high-level statements or delivering messages publicly or privately; working with local and international civil society organizations and stakeholders, like-minded countries, and regional and multilateral organizations and bodies; and, where possible, providing direct assistance to civil society actors engaged in these efforts.
(b) Agencies engaged abroad shall, where possible, expand the provision of advice and other support to governments seeking to institute legal and political reforms to protect civic space, and to civil society organizations where governments are not engaged in such affirmative reform efforts. This may include funding for democracy, human rights, workers' rights, and governance assistance, as well as emergency support to activists and organizations.
(c) Agencies engaged abroad shall seek diplomatic and programmatic opportunities in regional and multilateral organizations and bodies to protect and strengthen civil society. This shall include efforts to enhance support for the work of the U.N. Special Rapporteurs charged with advancing relevant rights, including the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and human rights defenders.
Sec. 4. Facilitating Exchanges between Governments and Civil Society. (a) Agencies engaged abroad shall seek to foster improved relations and understanding between governments and civil society, including in the advancement of social, economic, and development priorities. Such efforts may include training for government and civil society representatives; brokering dialogue between government and civil society representatives; identifying affirmative activities around which governments and civil society organizations can engage; providing legal or other assistance to governments and civil society organizations to draft or improve laws, regulations, and administrative measures; and sharing best practices regarding the proper implementation of these laws.
(b) Agencies engaged abroad that organize public, U.S.-hosted international gatherings shall create opportunities for civil society to substantively engage in such events, where appropriate.
Sec. 5. Reporting on Progress. The National Security Advisor shall prepare an annual report for the President on the Federal Government's progress implementing the requirements of this memorandum. Agencies engaged abroad shall provide the National Security Advisor with any requested information on their progress implementing the requirements of this memorandum to include in this annual report.
Sec. 6. Definitions. For the purposes of this memorandum, "agencies engaged abroad" are the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, the United States Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
Sec. 7. General Provisions. (a) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
(b) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof, or the status of that department or agency within the Federal Government; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(c) Nothing in this memorandum shall alter the role of the Secretary of State or Chiefs of Mission in the coordination or implementation of U.S. foreign policy, and this memorandum shall be implemented consistent with agencies' respective missions.
(d) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(e) The Secretary of State is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
09/23/2014 Executive Order -- Climate-Resilient International Development
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CLIMATE-RESILIENT INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to safeguard security and economic growth, protect the sustainability and long-term durability of U.S. development work in vulnerable countries, and promote sound decisionmaking and risk management, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. The world must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the most dangerous consequences of climate change. Even with increased efforts to curb these emissions, we must prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The adverse impacts of climate change, including sea-level rise, increases in temperatures, more frequent extreme precipitation and heat events, more severe droughts, and increased wildfire activity, along with other impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, such as ocean acidification, threaten to roll back decades of progress in reducing poverty and improving economic growth in vulnerable countries, compromise the effectiveness and resilience of U.S. development assistance, degrade security, and risk intranational and international conflict over resources.
Executive Order 13514 of October 5, 2009 (Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance), and Executive Order 13653 of November 1, 2013 (Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change), established a strong foundation for coordinated and consistent action to incorporate climate-resilience considerations into policies and procedures throughout the Federal Government. Executive departments and agencies (agencies) with international development programs must now build upon the recent progress made pursuant to these orders by systematically factoring climate-resilience considerations into international development strategies, planning, programming, investments, and related funding decisions, including the planning for and management of overseas facilities.
This order requires the integration of climate-resilience considerations into all United States international development work to the extent permitted by law. Dedicated U.S. climate-change adaptation funds are critical to managing the risks posed by climate-change impacts in vulnerable countries. Coping with the magnitude of the consequences of accelerating climate change also requires enhanced efforts across the Federal Government's broader international development work. Consideration of current and future climate-change impacts will improve the resilience of the Federal Government's broader international development programs, projects, investments, overseas facilities, and related funding decisions. The United States will also promote a similar approach among relevant multilateral entities in which it participates.
By taking these steps and more fully considering current and future climate-change impacts, the United States will foster better decision-making processes and risk-management approaches, ensure the effectiveness of U.S. investments, and assist other countries in integrating climate-resilience considerations into their own development planning and implementation. Collectively, these efforts will help to better optimize broader international development work and lead to enhanced global preparedness for and resilience to climate change.
The international climate-resilience actions required by this order complement efforts by the Federal Government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home and globally. The more greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, the less need there will be to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.
Sec. 2. Incorporating Climate Resilience into International Development. (a) Agencies with direct international development programs and investments shall:
(i) incorporate climate-resilience considerations into decisionmaking by:
(A) assessing and evaluating climate-related risks to and vulnerabilities in agency strategies, planning, programs, projects, investments, overseas facilities, and related funding decisions, using best-available climate-change data, tools, and information, including those identified or developed pursuant to sections 3 and 4 of this order; and
(B) as appropriate, adjusting strategies, planning, programs, projects, investments, and related funding decisions, including the planning for and management of overseas facilities, based on such assessments and evaluations;
(ii) collaborate with other agencies to share knowledge, data, tools, information, frameworks, and lessons learned in incorporating climate-resilience considerations into agency strategy, planning, programs, projects, investments, and related funding decisions, including the planning for and management of overseas facilities;
(iii) work with other countries, as appropriate, to identify climate risks and incorporate climate-resilience considerations into their international development assistance efforts;
(iv) when determining how to use resources, support efforts of vulnerable countries to integrate climate-resilience considerations into national, regional, and sectoral development planning and action; and
(v) monitor progress in integrating and promoting climate-resilient development considerations as required by this subsection.
(b) Agencies that participate in multilateral entities and other agencies with representation in multilateral development entities, including multilateral development banks and United Nations organizations, shall, as appropriate:
(i) work to encourage multilateral entities to:
(A) assess and evaluate climate-related risks to and vulnerabilities in their strategies, planning, programs, projects, investments, and related funding decisions, using best-available climate-change data, tools, and information; and
(B) adjust their strategies, planning, programs, projects, investments, and related funding decisions, as appropriate, based on such assessments and evaluations;
(ii) collaborate with multilateral entities and share with agencies and other stakeholders knowledge, data, tools, information, frameworks, and lessons learned from the multilateral entities in incorporating climate-resilience considerations into strategies, planning, programs, projects, investments, and related funding decisions;
(iii) encourage multilateral entities to support efforts of vulnerable countries to integrate climate-resilience considerations into national, regional, and sectoral development planning and action; and
(iv) monitor the efforts of multilateral entities in integrating climate-resilient development considerations as encouraged by this order.
Sec. 3. Enhancing Data, Tools, and Information for Climate-Resilient International Development. Agencies with direct international development programs and investments and those that participate in multilateral entities shall work together with science and security agencies and entities, through the Working Group on Climate-Resilient International Development established in section 4 of this order, to identify and develop, as appropriate, data, decision-support tools, and information to allow the screening for and incorporation of considerations of climate-change risks and vulnerabilities, as appropriate, in strategies, plans, programs, projects, investments, and related funding decisions, including the planning for and management of overseas facilities. In addition, such agencies shall coordinate efforts, including those undertaken pursuant to Executive Order 13653, to deliver information on climate-change impacts and make data, tools, and information available to decisionmakers in other countries, so as to build their capacity as information providers and users. United States participants in relevant multilateral entities shall share this information with the respective multilateral entity, as appropriate.
Sec. 4. Working Group on Climate-Resilient International Development. (a) Establishment. There is established a Working Group on Climate-Resilient International Development (Working Group) of the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience (Council) established by Executive Order 13653.
The Secretary of the Treasury and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, or their designees, shall co-chair the Working Group. Agencies with direct international development programs and investments, agencies that participate in multilateral entities, and science and security agencies and entities shall designate a representative from their respective agencies or entities to participate in the Working Group. Representatives from other agencies or entities may participate in the Working Group as determined by the Co-Chairs.
(b) Mission and Function.
(i) The Working Group shall:
(A) develop, for agencies with direct international development programs and investments, guidelines for integrating considerations of climate-change risks and climate resilience into agency strategies, plans, programs, projects, investments, and related funding decisions, including the planning for and management of overseas facilities;
(B) assess and identify, for agencies with direct international development programs and investments, existing climate-change data, tools, and information, as described in section 3 of this order, to help agencies assess climate risks and make decisions that incorporate climate-resilience considerations, such as through project screening. To the extent the Working Group identifies needs for new data, tools, and information, it shall work with relevant science and security agencies and entities to advance their development, as appropriate;
(C) identify approaches for adjusting strategies, planning, programs, projects, investments, and related funding decisions, including the planning for and management of overseas facilities, to respond to the findings of climate-risk assessments;
(D) facilitate the exchange of knowledge, data, tools, information, frameworks, and lessons learned in assessing climate risks to and incorporating climate-resilience considerations into strategies, planning, programs, projects, investments, and related funding decisions, including the planning for and management of overseas facilities, of agencies with direct international development programs and investments, including efforts referenced in section 3 of this order;
(E) work through existing channels to share best practices developed by the Working Group with other donor countries and multilateral entities to facilitate advancement of climate-resilient development policies;
(F) promote interagency collaboration, including through joint training; and
(G) develop, for agencies with direct international development programs and investments, methods for tracking and reporting on Federal Government progress in institutionalizing more climate-resilient development approaches, including performance metrics.
(ii) The Co-Chairs of the Council may designate additional Co-Chairs of the Working Group. The Co-Chairs of the Working Group may establish sub-working groups, as appropriate.
Sec. 5. Implementation and Reporting of Progress. (a) Implementation. To promote sustained focus on implementation, both at agency headquarters and in the field, the Working Group shall:
(i) establish a 2-year timeline, divided into 6-month intervals, to implement section 4(b)(i) of this order, setting forth specific goals to be accomplished and milestones to be achieved; and
(ii) analyze, at least annually, the Federal Government's progress in implementing this order and provide recommendations for priority areas for further implementation to the Council, Office of Management and Budget, National Security Council, Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and other agencies, offices, and entities, as appropriate.
(i) Agencies with direct international development programs and investments shall report on and track progress in achieving the requirements identified in section 2(a) of this order, including accomplished and planned milestones, through the Federal Agency Planning process set forth in section 5 of Executive Order 13653. Once the Working Group has developed metrics and methodologies as required by section 4(b)(i)(G) of this order, agency reporting shall include an estimation of the proportion of each agency's direct international development programs and investments for which climate-risk assessments have been conducted, as well as an estimation of the proportion of the programs and investments for which climate risk was identified and acted upon.
(ii) Agencies that participate in multilateral entities shall report on the efforts of multilateral entities in integrating climate-resilient development considerations into their operations through the Federal Agency Planning process set forth in section 5 of Executive Order 13653. Where more than one agency is involved in the U.S. Government's participation in a multilateral entity, the lead agency for such participation shall be responsible for reporting, in coordination with the other agencies involved.
Sec. 6. Climate-Change Mitigation. As agencies incorporate climate-resilience considerations into international development work, they shall continue seeking opportunities to help international partners promote sustainable low-emissions development. The Federal Government has greatly increased the number and variety of international development initiatives focused on climate-change mitigation, including programs to promote clean energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable land-use and forestry practices, as well as partnerships with more than two dozen countries to formulate and implement sustainable low-emissions development strategies. Within 1 year of the date of this order, and building on the full range of efforts the United States has undertaken to date, the National Security Council shall convene relevant agencies and entities to explore further mitigation opportunities in broader U.S. international development work and develop recommendations for further action.
Sec. 7. Definitions. As used in this order:
(a) "Adaptation" has the meaning provided in section 8(b) of Executive Order 13653: adjustment in natural or human systems in anticipation of or response to a changing environment in a way that effectively uses beneficial opportunities or reduces negative effects;
(b) "Direct international development programs and investments" refers to:
(i) bilateral, regional, and multilateral international development programs and investments over which agencies have primary programmatic and financial management responsibilities; or
(ii) the extension of official financing by agencies bilaterally to private sector investors to support international development;
(c) "Climate-change mitigation" refers to actions that reduce or enhance removals of greenhouse gas emissions;
(d) "Resilience" has the meaning provided in section 8(c) of Executive Order 13653: the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions and withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions;
(e) "Agencies with direct international development programs and investments" means the Department of State, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, United States Agency for International Development, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, United States Trade and Development Agency, and other relevant agencies and entities, as determined by the Working Group Co-Chairs;
(f) "Science and security agencies and entities" means the Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, United States Global Change Research Program, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and other relevant agencies and entities, as determined by the Working Group Co-Chairs; and
(g) "Agencies that participate in multilateral entities" means the Department of the Treasury, Department of State, and other relevant agencies and entities, as determined by the Working Group Co-Chairs.
Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law or Executive Order to an executive department, agency, or head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with U.S. obligations under international agreements and applicable U.S. law, and shall be subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
09/23/2014 Letter from the President -- War Powers Resolution Regarding Iraq
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
AND THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE
September 23, 2014
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
In my reports of August 8 and 17 and September 1 and 8, 2014, I described a series of discrete military operations in Iraq to stop the advance on Erbil by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), support civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar, support operations by Iraqi forces to recapture the Mosul Dam, support an operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to civilians in the town of Amirli, Iraq, and conduct airstrikes in the vicinity of Haditha Dam.
As I noted in my address to the Nation on September 10, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and the Congress at home, I have ordered implementation of a new comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy to degrade, and ultimately defeat, ISIL. As part of this strategy, I have directed the deployment of 475 additional U.S. Armed Forces personnel to Iraq, and I have determined that it is necessary and appropriate to use the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct coordination with Iraqi forces and to provide training, communications support, intelligence support, and other support, to select elements of the Iraqi security forces, including Kurdish Peshmerga forces. I have also ordered the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes and other necessary actions against these terrorists in Iraq and Syria. These actions are being undertaken in coordination with and at the request of the Government of Iraq and in conjunction with coalition partners.
It is not possible to know the duration of these deployments and operations. I will continue to direct such additional measures as necessary to protect and secure U.S. citizens and our interests against the threat posed by ISIL.
I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional and statutory authority as Commander in Chief (including the authority to carry out Public Law 107-40 and Public Law 107-243) and as Chief Executive, as well as my constitutional and statutory authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States.
I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.
09/23/2014 FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions To Strengthen Global Resilience To Climate Change And Launches Partnerships To Cut Carbon Pollution
The U.S. Continues to Lead International Efforts to Combat Global Climate Change and Prepare for its Impacts
Today, at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York, President Obama announced a new set of tools to harness the unique scientific and technological capabilities of the United States to help vulnerable populations around the world strengthen their climate resilience. The United States also announced its leadership and participation in more than a dozen new climate change partnerships launched at the Climate Summit.
The tools for global resilience announced by the President include improved and extended extreme weather risk outlooks to help avoid loss of life and property; data, tools and services to enable countries to better prepare for the impacts of climate change, including a new release of global elevation data; and an announcement of a new public-private partnership to ensure that the climate data, tools, and products made available by U.S. technical agencies are useful to developing countries. The President also announced a new Executive Order requiring Federal agencies to factor climate resilience into the design of their international development programs and investments.
New international climate change partnerships in which the United States has played a key role in launching include the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, the Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Change Mitigation, and the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance.
These actions build on the President’s Climate Action Plan, which includes unprecedented efforts by the United States to reduce carbon pollution, promote clean sources of energy that create jobs, and protect American communities from the impacts of climate change.
The Climate Action Plan is working. In 2012, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell to the lowest level in nearly two decades. Since the President took office, wind energy production has tripled, and solar energy has increased by a factor of ten. This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, which account for a third of U.S. carbon pollution. And the President is empowering state and local leaders to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts of climate change in their communities through initiatives including a $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition and the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.
Internationally, the United States continues to press for an ambitious, inclusive, and pragmatic global climate agreement in 2015, and intends to put forward a robust post-2020 climate commitment in the context of other major economies doing the same. Through our leadership of the Major Economies Forum and the Clean Energy Ministerial as well as our bilateral relationships, we continue to press the scientific and economic case for strong climate action. U.S. leadership has helped spur international action to address the health and climate impacts of short-lived climate pollutants, to launch free trade talks on environmental goods, and to cut donor country financial support for new coal-fired power plants. Going forward, the United States will continue to help develop, launch, and implement practical, action-oriented international initiatives such as those announced at today’s U.N. Climate Summit.
New U.S. Actions to Strengthen Global Resilience to Climate Change
Executive Order on Climate-Resilient International Development
President Obama announced an Executive Order on Climate-Resilient International Development, requiring agencies to factor climate-resilience considerations systematically into the U.S. government’s international development work and to promote a similar approach with multilateral entities. U.S. financial support for adaptation activities in developing countries has increased eightfold since 2009; such dedicated funding is critical. At the same time, the magnitude of the challenge requires not just dedicated adaptation finance flows but also a broader, integrated approach. Development investments in areas as diverse as eradicating malaria, building hydropower facilities, improving agricultural yields, and developing transportation systems will not be effective in the long term if they do not account for impacts such as shifting ranges of disease-carrying mosquitoes, changing water availability, or rising sea levels, thereby reducing the effectiveness of taxpayer money. This new Executive Order will:
Improve the resilience of the Federal Government’s international development programs, projects, investments, overseas facilities, and other funding decisions through consideration of current and future climate-change impacts, as appropriate;
Share knowledge, data, tools, information, frameworks, and lessons learned in incorporating climate-resilience considerations; and
Complement efforts by the Federal Government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home and globally.
Releasing Powerful New Data to Enable Planning for Resilience
To empower local authorities to better plan for the impacts of severe environmental changes such as drought, glacial retreat, flooding, landslides, coastal storm surges, agricultural stresses, and challenges concerning public health, today the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Geospatial-intelligence Agency (NGA), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), as part of an ongoing commitment to open data and international data sharing through the inter-governmental Group on Earth Observations, will release a collection of higher-resolution elevation datasets for Africa. Datasets covering other global regions will be made available within one year, with the next release of data providing more accurate elevation information for Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Until now, elevation data for Africa were freely and publicly available only at 90-meter resolution. The datasets being released today, and during the course of the next year—which are based on data collected by sensors designed by an international partnership and carried on the U.S. Space Shuttle—resolve to 30-meters and will be used worldwide to improve environmental monitoring, climate change research including sea-level rise impact assessments, and local decision support. These datasets are being made available via a user-friendly interface on USGS’s Earth Explorer website. With a commitment from the Secure World Foundation, and in collaboration with the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, USGS, NOAA, and NASA plan to offer online training and regional workshops to further enable users to take advantage of these data resources.
Developing New Outlooks for Extreme-Weather Risk
To reduce harm from extreme-weather events occurring throughout the world, the Obama Administration announced its intent to begin a coordinated U.S. effort, led by NOAA, to develop reliable extreme-weather risk outlooks on time horizons that are currently not available. This effort will initiate the planned development of new extreme-weather outlooks in the 15-30 day range, beyond the 14-day limit of current reliable weather forecasts and will explore producing information products for longer time-scales at which climate change influences risk. Currently available weather and climate information from NOAA empowers decision-makers, communities, farmers, and business owners to make smart decisions as they plan and prepare for the future. This new effort will seek to increase the information available to these decision makers in the 15-30 day timeframe with new kinds of actionable information to use as they plan and prepare for the future. To kick off the effort this year, NOAA will begin issuing weekly 3-4 week precipitation outlooks and will extend its current extreme-heat index product from the current 6-to-10-days-out to 8-to-14-days-out, giving communities several additional days to prepare for potential life threatening heat waves.
Equipping Meteorologists in Developing Nations with the Latest Tools and Knowledge
To help connect meteorologists in developing nations with the best-available tools, knowledge, and information resources, NOAA will seek to significantly expand the reach of its highly successful international “Training Desk” program, which brings developing-country meteorologists to the United States for state-of-the-art training and education at NOAA’s National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Since 1992, more than 300 meteorologists from 35 nations have completed NOAA’s training desk program, helping both to build capacity at meteorological institutions in their home countries for climate prediction, monitoring, and assessments, and to feed local observational climate data back to NOAA upon returning to their home countries. This effort will increase the number of meteorologists from developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia who will participate in the training desks and will expand the curriculum from weather and climate to include the important water challenges (predicting how much, how little and what quality) that are now confronting the global community.
Launching a Public-Private Partnership on Climate Data and Information for Resilient Development
President Obama announced that the United States will develop and launch a new public-private partnership focused on connecting actionable climate science, data, tools, and training to decision-makers in developing countries. This partnership will enhance capacity within developing countries to assess impacts and vulnerabilities associated with climate change, boost resilience, and achieve their own development goals in the context of a changing climate. Building on the skills and investments of USAID’s climate change and development programming, including leveraging the newly announced Global Resilience Partnership, expertise from international and scientific agencies, including the agencies of the U.S. Global Change Research Program; and the innovation of U.S. universities, NGOs, and the private sector, this new partnership will:
Make existing climate data, scientific information, outlooks, tools, and services more accessible to decision-makers around the world;
Identify and address targeted climate information and capacity gaps, including by providing targeted training opportunities;
Create a global community of practice that links climate data, climate change adaptation efforts, and international development; and
Commit to the timely development of new products to support decision-making targeted at the needs of specific climate-vulnerable countries.
Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives Launched at the Climate Summit with U.S. Leadership
The Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture
The United States is joining the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture as a founding member. The Alliance brings together governments, businesses, farmers’ organizations, civil society groups, research bodies and intergovernmental entities to address food security in the face of climate change. The United States will bring its existing food security and climate programs to this multi-stakeholder effort, including:
Feed the Future – the U.S. Presidential initiative for food security, invests in technologies to deliver drought tolerant seeds, fertilizer and water efficiency technologies, and other tools to help farmers become more climate-smart in achieving its objectives of inclusive agricultural sector growth and improved nutrition.
The Agriculture Initiative of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) – the United States co-chairs CCAC’s Agriculture Initiative, which seeks to reduce methane and black carbon emissions while promoting agricultural livelihoods and advancing broader climate change objectives on adaptation and mitigation.
The Department of Agriculture’s Regional Climate Hubs will deliver information to American farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to help them adapt to climate change and weather variability.
Launch of CCAC Oil and Gas Methane Partnership
The United States has played an integral role in launching the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, an innovative public-private initiative bringing together governments, leading oil and gas companies, and other stakeholders in a partnership focused on cost-effective reduction of methane emissions. The Partnership, an initiative of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), provides involved companies with a systematic, cost-effective approach for reducing their methane emissions and for credibly demonstrating to stakeholders the impacts of their actions.
Global Green Freight Action Plan
The United States is helping to lead the development and implementation of a Global Green Freight Action Plan together with over 20 countries plus NGOs, international organizations, and companies. This effort will result in fuel and cost savings for businesses and consumers as well as emission reductions of climate and air pollutants such as black carbon, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter.
Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge
The United States witnessed the signing of the landmark Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge by the CEOs of Cargill, Asian Agri, Golden Agri-Resources, Wilmar, and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This Pledge includes industry-leading benchmarks such as proactive government engagement on policy reform and a principle of no planting on peat lands, and go beyond the companies’ existing sustainability commitments. By applying these principles to third-party suppliers and covering the signatories’ operations worldwide, these companies are creating best practices for their industry. The U.S. Government looks forward to working with the signatories, civil society and the Government of Indonesia to follow and promote implementation of the Pledge.
Pilot Auction Facility (PAF) for Methane and Climate Change Mitigation
The United States will announce the intention to provide a $15 million contribution to the Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Change Mitigation (PAF), an innovative, World Bank-managed climate finance instrument that will use auctions to maximize the efficiency of public resources for climate change mitigation. The PAF will pioneer an innovative, results-based climate finance model with potential to support low-carbon investment in ways that provide better value and lower risk for the taxpayer. The United States drove this concept forward from the time of our G8 presidency in 2012 to its launch by the World Bank this month.
Power Africa Cooperation Agreement with Sustainable Energy for All Initiative
The United States will sign a Cooperation Understanding Agreement with the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Initiative to further strengthen collaboration between the President’s Power Africa Initiative and the UN- and World Bank-led SE4All activities in Africa. Building on Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid component, the cooperation will focus on expanded energy access, as well as development of renewable energy projects. At the August 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, President Obama announced new aggregate goals for Power Africa to add 60 million new electricity connections and 30,000 megawatts of clean energy generation in Africa. Working with the countries on investment strategies and reducing barriers to project development will be a high priority of the collaboration.
The Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance
The United States is a founding member of the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance, a new initiative aimed at helping cities around the world access financial tools for low carbon, climate resilient infrastructure. The Alliance will bring together cities, national governments, financial institutions, NGOs, and other stakeholders. The United States will contribute experience, best practice and lessons learned from ongoing efforts such as the National Disaster Resilience Competition and Climate Resilient Transportation System.
National/Subnational Cooperation on Climate Change
Enhanced cooperation and coordination among national and subnational levels of government is essential to forge coherent, effective, and efficient responses to climate change. The United States has been at the leading edge of efforts to connect these national and subnational efforts through its State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience and other programs, and announced a range of initiatives at the Climate Summit including:
Climate Action Champions – The Climate Action Champions initiative will recognize local and tribal government entities that are leading emission reductions and climate resilience efforts domestically. The initiative will enhance opportunities for financial and technical assistance, as well as facilitated peer-to-peer networking and mentorship, to support and advance their climate mitigation and resilience objectives.
Public Transportation Resilience Projects – The U.S. Federal Transit Administration announced the awarding of nearly $3.6 billion for climate resilient transportation infrastructure projects in the states impacted by Hurricane Sandy that were competitively selected.
Federal-Tribal Climate Resilience Partnership – The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs launched a new $10 million program for delivering adaptation training.
First Green Guaranties Issued by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)
By providing “Green Guaranties,” OPIC (the U.S. government’s development finance institution) joins other public and private sector institutions in supporting climate-friendly investments. OPIC’s first Green Guaranties were offered to eligible U.S. investors in the domestic debt capital markets on September 17, 2014. These U.S. government-guaranteed certificates of participation adhere to the Green Bond Principles of 2014, which have been collaboratively developed with the guidance of leading capital markets issuers, investors, underwriters and environmental groups. The placement enables OPIC to boost an asset class that is rapidly becoming an attractive investment for generating both social and financial returns. Proceeds raised under these Green Guaranties will total an initial $47 million to be deployed in the construction of the Luz del Norte solar project in Chile – which, when completed, will be the largest photovoltaic project in Latin America.
Phasing down Climate-Potent Hydrofluorocarbons
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerators, air conditioners, and other industrial applications as replacements for ozone-depleting substances. At the Climate Summit, a large group of governments and civil society partners agreed to support phasing down consumption and production of HFCs through a Montreal Protocol amendment; promoting public procurement of climate-friendly alternatives to high-GWP HFCs; and welcoming new private sector led initiatives aimed at reducing HFC emissions, including a Global Cold Food Chain Council, and a Global Refrigerant Management Initiative. This summer, EPA proposed two new rules under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program that would smooth transition to climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs in the United States by expanding the list of acceptable alternatives and limiting use of some of the most harmful HFCs where lower risk alternatives are available. Last week, the Obama Administration also announced new private sector commitments and executive actions that will reduce the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon pollution globally through 2025. Companies committed to introducing new climate-friendly alternatives, transitioning production lines and cold food chain equipment – the equipment that brings food from farm to market – away from potent HFCs.
City Action to Reduce Methane and Black Carbon from Municipal Solid Waste
The United States, in cooperation with over 60 country, city, non-government, and private sector partners, is taking action to reduce harmful methane and black carbon from municipal solid waste through a global city network that seeks to catalyse action in 1,000 cities by 2020. The United States is providing direct technical assistance to cities to improve waste and emissions data, design waste policies and programs, and conduct project studies. American cities like San Diego and San Francisco are also doing their share by building partnerships with cities overseas to help them apply our world-class practices in their own cities.
U.S. Leadership on Forest Preservation
The United States joined other governments, the private sector, civil society, and indigenous peoples organizations in signing the New York Declaration on Forests. Supporting the Declaration reaffirms the ongoing commitment of the United States to protecting the world’s forests and restoring degraded lands, including our pledge to restore 15 million hectares (ha) of forest land domestically as our contribution to the Bonn Challenge global goal to restore 150 million ha of forests and degraded lands by 2020. The United States government has committed over $1.3 billion to support REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) since 2010. The United States was a co-founder of the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL), which seeks to promote reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the land sector, from REDD+, and from sustainable agriculture, as well as smarter land-use planning, policies and practices. The ISFL co-founders announced at the Climate Summit that they have agreed to establish the first two large-scale, public-private programs in the Oromia Regional State of Ethiopia and the Luangwa Valley of Zambia.
New International Energy Partnerships
At the Climate Summit and SE4All events in New York, the United States announced its support for three group initiatives:
The Africa Clean Energy Corridor is a regional project in East Africa aimed at accelerating renewable energy development and complements the Administration’s Power Africa initiative;
A coalition of foundations and private companies is launching “energy efficiency accelerators” to pursue policy reforms and commercialization of new technologies in buildings, appliances and lighting, and transport. The United States will support these accelerators through the Clean Energy Ministerial’s (CEM) Clean Energy Solutions Center and other CEM initiatives; and
The SIDS Lighthouse Initiative complements U.S. efforts in Hawaii and the Virgin Islands and the new Caribbean Energy Security Initiative.
09/23/2014 Letter from the President -- War Powers Resolution Regarding Syria
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
AND THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE
September 23, 2014
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
As I have repeatedly reported to the Congress, U.S. Armed Forces continue to conduct operations in a variety of locations against al-Qa'ida and associated forces. In furtherance of these U.S. counterterrorism efforts, on September 22, 2014, at my direction, U.S. military forces began a series of strikes in Syria against elements of al-Qa'ida known as the Khorasan Group. These strikes are necessary to defend the United States and our partners and allies against the threat posed by these elements.
I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional and statutory authority as Commander in Chief (including the authority to carry out Public Law 107-40) and as Chief Executive, as well as my constitutional and statutory authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States. I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.
09/23/2014 PPP finds close races in Alaska for Senate and governor, with one huge warning sign for Mark Begich
Democratic Sen. Mark Begich
PPP takes a look at the Last Frontier and finds tight races for U.S. Senate and governor. In the former contest, they find Republican Dan Sullivan with a small 43-41 lead over Democratic Sen. Mark Begich. When supporters of third-party candidates are asked to choose between the two main contenders, Sullivan posts a 45-42 edge. In early August, before the Republican primary, Begich led 43-37.
While this is far from a huge deficit, there is one massive warning sign for Begich in the crosstabs. Begich's approval rating is underwater at 42-51, while Sullivan posts a 44-42 favorable rating. If this is anywhere close to accurate, Begich could be in real trouble: It's very difficult to win in a state hostile to your party when you're clearly the less popular of the two candidates. Not helping things is that Barack Obama has a 40-56 job approval rating here.
It's worth noting that a recent Harstad poll conducted for the pro-Democratic Senate Majority PAC showed a very different race here. They pegged Begich's favorable rating at 50-42, a lot better than Sullivan's 41-42 rating. All this gave Begich a five-point lead in Harstad's survey. Favorable ratings and job approval ratings aren't the same thing, and it's possible that a tangible amount of voters like Begich personally while disapproving of his job in the Senate, but it's unlikely that PPP and Harstad are both right at the same time.
Begich may have some room to grow in PPP's survey. The undecideds are mostly independents, a group that is breaking for Begich 42-36. Looking at race, more non-white voters (primarily Native Americans) are undecided than whites: "Other" is currently breaking for Begich 42-34. That said, this may all come down to a question of whether PPP or Harstad is closer to the mark when it comes to Begich's popularity. If Harstad's right and Begich is popular he stands a good chance to win; if PPP is correct and voters are unhappy with Begich's performance in office, it's very hard to see him winning unless Sullivan's ratings crash.
Things are also tight for governor. A few weeks ago, Democratic nominee Byron Mallott dropped out of the race and accepted the lieutenant governor's spot on independent Bill Walker's ticket. PPP finds Walker leading Republican Gov. Sean Parnell by a narrow 42-41 spread: When supporters of minor independent candidates are asked to choose between the two, Walker leads 45-41.
Parnell isn't popular, posting a 42-46 job approval, while Walker has a healthy 40-23 job approval. The only other recent poll of the Parnell-Walker race came from Hays Research on behalf of the AFL-CIO: They gave Walker a larger 37-30 edge. The Senate race will overshadow the gubernatorial contest, but it looks like Parnell has a real fight on his hands.
09/23/2014 Cotton slammed for 'creating a fantasy version of history' in food stamp attack ad
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), self-righteous purveyor of fantasy histories.
Arkansas Republican Senate nominee Rep. Tom Cotton's loony ad trying to defend himself for having voted against the farm bill has drawn a fact check that's going to leave a mark. In the ad, Cotton claimed that "President Obama hijacked the farm bill, turned it into a food stamp bill." Problem being, nutrition assistance has been in the farm bill for decades, far longer than Cotton's been alive. Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes that history, and continues:
Look at the dictionary definition of hijacking: “to steal or rob…to subject to extortion or swindling.” Is that what Obama did when he said that Congress should continue to do what it did in the past? Or was breaking up the farm bill the more radical step?
The most problematic aspect of Cotton’s ad is that he suggests that attaching food stamps to the farm bill was a new idea—something that he was fighting against. But that's invented history.
Sometimes histories get invented over a long time, through generations of oral tradition. When someone takes a well-recorded history of decades, rather than hundreds or thousands of years, and twists it for political purposes, that's really more of a lie. But it's easier to forgive Kessler that understatement given how he concludes:
By creating a fantasy version of history, Cotton certainly sounds like a career politician. We wavered between Three and Four Pinocchios, but Cotton’s self-righteous tone tipped this to Four.
09/23/2014 White House moves to limit corporate tax inversions
President Barack Obama talks with Jack Lew outside the Oval Office.
As promised, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Monday that the Obama administration is going to use its regulatory authority to crack down on corporate inversions, the strategy corporations have used to avoid paying taxes by buying up foreign companies and relocating their headquarters overseas. The most recent example is Burger King, which bought Canadian coffee purveyor Tim Horton's. The new regulations are intended to both make existing inversions less lucrative and to make future inversions more difficult.
The first provision aimed at making inversions less appealing would prevent companies from using what Treasury called “creative” loans to move profits among overseas subsidiaries to avoid paying taxes on dividend payments. The so-called hopscotch loans allow the controlled foreign corporation that owes dividends to make a loan to the new foreign “parent” company to avoid U.S. taxation.
The new Treasury rules would consider value of the loans taxable as U.S. property and apply dividend rules to loans made to the U.S. parent company before the inversion.
Current rules allow the foreign parent company to buy enough stock to take control away from the U.S. company so that the foreign income earned by other subsidiaries is never subject to U.S. taxes. The new provision would continue to tax the controlled foreign corporation on its profits and deferred earnings.
Additionally, the new rules will make it harder for companies to fudge the rule that new foreign owners control more than 20 percent of the company's total stock after an inversion. The new rules apply to future inversions, but also to maneuvers now in progress that haven't been completed.
Republicans in Congress, who need to act to actually end this loophole reacted predictably: "A few campaign-style speeches and stopgap measures from Treasury won’t do it—it hasn’t worked in the past, and even Secretary Lew admits the only real solution is tax reform," House Ways and Means Chairman David Camp sniffed. Of course, the Republican House has failed to move on tax reform and despite a lot of noise from Camp about doing it, doesn't appear to be actually motivated to do anything about it. Once again, they've forced President Obama to try to find an imperfect solution that is within the executive's power to implement, a solution which they can then attack as doing too little.
09/23/2014 President Obama addresses the United Nations Climate Summit, where signs of progress remain mixed
Today was the day of the one-day United Nations Climate Summit. Expectations were not high for this one.
Officially, Tuesday's summit is not part of the formal negotiations taking place over the next year, as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Those negotiations will culminate with international climate talks in Paris, in the fall of 2015—and, if environmentalists get their way, some kind of binding global agreement that reduces greenhouse gases at a significant rate.
Unofficially, Tuesday's summit is an indicator of how ready the world is to take action—five years after major polluters left Copenhagen without a binding treaty. And so far there are some worrisome signs.
Those signs being a massive funding gap and less-than-urgent rhetoric from the world's top polluters. There have been, however, positive moments as well.
Endorsed by over 30 countries, including the United States, all members of the E.U., and many tropical forest countries, the New York Declaration on Forests aims to at least halve the rate of loss of natural forests globally by 2020 and strives to end natural forest loss by 2030. It also supports the private-sector goal of eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, paper, and beef products by no later than 2020. More than 40 major companies, including Kellogg’s, Walmart, and McDonalds also endorsed the deal. The group also pledged to restore more than one million square miles of forest worldwide by 2030.
President Obama addressed the General Assembly earlier today, announcing that America would reduce its consumption of HFCs by eighty percent by 2050 and promising a new national carbon emissions target by early next year.
None of this is without controversy. In each of our countries, there are interests that will be resistant to action. And in each country, there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don't that we will be at an economic disadvantage. But we have to lead. That is what the United Nations and this General Assembly is about. [...]
Today, I’m directing our federal agencies to begin factoring climate resilience into our international development programs and investments. And I’m announcing a new effort to deploy the unique scientific and technological capabilities of the United States, from climate data to early-warning systems. So this effort includes a new partnership that will draw on the resources and expertise of our leading private sector companies and philanthropies to help vulnerable nations better prepare for weather-related disasters, and better plan for long-term threats like steadily rising seas.
You can read President Obama's full remarks to the General Assembly here.
09/23/2014 Cartoon: I've got a great idea for your strip
L.A. Readers! Come celebrate the release of the new Knight Life collection Knight takes Queen! It's happening this Thursday, 9/25 @ the Wilde Thistle, 3456 Motor Ave. near Palms from 7pm-9pm. Cider, art, chess and Keef!
09/22/2014 Obamacare premiums for 2015 shaping up to be a good deal
The Kaiser Family Foundation has surveyed and determined that in major cities, insurance premiums in Obamacare plans will increase by an average of 8.7 percent. That's an average from 15 states, and seven large cities. Further reporting from The New York Timessays that the most popular plans will see an increase of 8.4 percent, but if people are willing to switch plans, they could see just 1 percent increases.
Then they put that in historical context.
Even the average 8.4 percent increase for people who renew in the most popular plans falls within the range of historical increases in the individual market. It’s not on the low end, but it’s not in the category of runaway premium growth that many critics of the Affordable Care Act warned might be coming. […]
A Commonwealth Fund study conducted by the M.I.T. economist Jonathan Gruber this summer found that, before the Affordable Care Act passed, premiums were rising by higher rates: 9.9 percent in 2008, 10.8 percent in 2009 and 11.7 percent in 2010. Those are average rates. As in the current marketplaces, there was a lot of local variation in price increases.
The employer market has seen smaller recent increases, but that market has not seen an average 1 percent increase in recent memory. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently published its 16th annual survey of employer health plans. It found that 2014 was a year with a record-low premium increase for family plans: 3 percent. That number makes 8.4 percent look less rosy. But the 1 percent available to marketplace switchers looks good.
Bottom line: no rate shock as so many of the laws opponents have been warning since the damned thing passed. But there's more to take from this, reiterating the importance of being willing to switch plans and shopping for a new one. New insurers into the marketplace could mean much lower available premium rates. Those new low rates could mean that some people will be receiving lower subsidies—the tax credit is calculated based on the lowest priced "silver" plan available. What might have been that plan this year might not be the same next year, and if it changes, so do the subsidies. If having a premium increase of just 1 percent isn't incentive enough to shop around for a good deal, the possibility of losing subsidy money should be.
09/23/2014 The GOP plan to save Sen. Pat Roberts' seat: Trash his independent opponent
Roberts can't make the case for himself, so his campaign is going to go negative on his opponent instead
Based on this from The Hill, it sounds like Republicans have given up on convincing Kansas voters that Republican Sen. Pat Roberts deserves re-election:
With a two-man race now looking all but certain, national Republicans are planning a scorched-earth offensive to frame Sen. Pat Roberts’s (R-Kan.) independent opponent, Greg Orman, as a shady businessman.
Their first volley this weekend: reports that Orman represented Rajat Gupta — the former Goldman Sachs board member who incurred criminal and civil fines of more than $18 million and was jailed earlier this year for securities fraud — on a two-person board of a Cayman Islands private equity partnership.
Kansas Republicans say to expect more information on his business dealings to come out in the coming weeks — likely as a systematic drip-drip of information, to keep the issue alive throughout the race.
Given the breadth of Pat Roberts' unpopularity—he not only loses 15 percent of "very conservative" voters to Orman but 30 percent of "somewhat conservative" ones as well—it's not surprising that Republicans seem to have settled on a strategy of trying to make Orman unelectable instead of boosting Roberts.
But here's the thing: It's September 23. It's awfully late to be making these sorts of charges, especially without any sort of news hook that can fuel multiple cycles of news coverage and when it's obvious that the reason for the attacks is that Roberts can't make a good argument for himself. Nonetheless, this is the only option on the table, because if the campaign continues to be focused on whether Roberts deserves re-election, he's not going to win.
09/23/2014 Darrell Issa is jealous that Lois Lerner talked to Politico
When former IRS official Lois Lerner decided to give Politico an interview about life after becoming public enemy number one for tinfoil conservatives, she steered clear of talking about the specific allegations Republicans have made against her, sticking to general statements about having done nothing wrong.
But even though that's the same posture she took in invoking the Fifth Amendment when House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa asked her to testify before Congress about the IRS and how it handled non-profit applications from tea party groups, Issa is still extremely jealous—or at least he's pretending to be:
“Her decision to make unsubstantiated claims to a media outlet while claiming Fifth Amendment protections from answering Congress’ questions is telling,” Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement on Monday. “She appears to have great confidence that her allies in the Obama Administration will not consider legal action after she resigned and declined to discuss the IRS’ actions against private citizens.”
Actually, what's telling is Issa's continued inability to find any evidence to substantiate the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration used the IRS to swing the 2012 election and that Lois Lerner was an accomplice. Perhaps if Issa still had Benghazi to play around with he wouldn't waste his time publicly pouting about Lerner's interview, but he doesn't—and as he well knows, people who want to believe conspiracy theories will believe them whether there is evidence or not. In fact, for the true conspiracy buff, the lack of evidence is the most revealing evidence of all.
09/23/2014 Pat Roberts: 'Our country is headed for national socialism'
Behold Virginia resident and Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts' new campaign speech, delivered on September 22, 2014, in Dodge City, Kansas, and captured by American Bridge:
Yes, that's Bob Dole in the background
There's a palpable fear amongst Kansans, all across this state, that the America that we love, and cherish, and honor, will not be the same America for our kids and grand kids. And that's wrong. That's very wrong.
As a result, unfortunately, people are losing faith in their government. And turn it around: Government is losing faith in our people. That is a bad situation to be in.
And I will tell you that one of the reasons—I'm going to get partisan here—but one of the reasons I'm running is to change that. To change that. There's an easy way to do it. I'll let you figure it out. But, at any rate, we have to change course, because our country is headed for national socialism. That's not right. Changing the culture, changing what we're all about.
So a guy who lives in Virginia says he knows what people all across Kansas are thinking, that what they're thinking is that America is headed toward "national socialism," and that he knows of an easy way to change that, but he won't tell them—because they can figure it out.
I'm guessing he meant that last bit as a joke—his way of asking the crowd to vote for him—but if that's the case, it fell about as flat as his candidacy has thus far. Moreover, if America is indeed headed toward the "national socialism" of Nazi Germany, and Roberts has been in D.C. for three decades watching that happen, then how would keeping him in D.C. be an easy to way to change anything?
Who knows if Roberts actually believes what he said or if he's just trying to appeal to the fringe, but either way, here's some good news for him: America isn't headed toward national socialism. And even better news: When Roberts loses in November and has to give up his totally unsocialist taxpayer-funded salary, there's going to be something pretty sweet waiting for him: Medicare and Social Security, not to mention the fat Senate pension he's built up over the years.
And he'll be able to enjoy at in his lovely home in Virginia.
Remember how, when the fiasco of the broken website was overcome and the enrollments started pouring in and beating all expectations, the Republicans trotted out the talking point that only a tiny proportion would end up paying? Just a reminder:
Here's Issa in May: "I think the important thing is that 20 percent to 33 percent are signing up and then not paying, which means that the 7 million figure was never 7 million or close to it." That statement came out with the release of a completely fabricated report the Republican Energy and Commerce Committee cooked up to "prove" that only 67 percent of people paid their first premium, so instead of 8 million enrollments, there'd be something like 5.5 million. And don't forget House Speaker John Boehner, who confidently claimed in March that, "When you look at the 6 million Americans who have lost their policies and some—they claim 4.2 million people who have signed up—I don't know how many have actually paid for it—that would indicate to me a net loss of people with health insurance. And I actually do believe that to be the case.”
And you can't forget Reince.
Report: 1/3 of #ObamaCare "enrollees" haven't paid premiums. How does not paying the premium constitute enrollment? http://t.co/... — @Reince
So where are all these guys now? How have they responded to the news that all of these people who signed up for Obamacare did it because they actually do want health insurance and really are willing to pay for it?
09/23/2014 On the Environment: Flooding Risk From Climate Change, Country by Country
A new analysis of sea levels and flood risk around the world offers more evidence that the brunt of climate change will not be borne equally.
09/23/2014 Omar Gonzalez, Accused of White House Intrustion, Is Recalled as Good but Troubled Neighbor
The veteran accused of breaching White House security started behaving strangely in recent months, neighbors in Texas said.
09/23/2014 White House Intruder’s Past Raises Concern
Omar Gonzalez, the intruder, was arrested in July in Virginia after the state police there found several loaded semiautomatic weapons in his car after a high-speed chase on Interstate 81.
09/23/2014 First Draft: Obama Faces the World After Bombs Fall in Syria
President Obama heads to New York on Tuesday to address world leaders just hours after opening a new front in the war against Islamic extremists with an aerial barrage in Syria.
09/23/2014 Midterm Calculus: Four Reasons the G.O.P.’s National Edge Isn’t Translating to Senate Races
Why are Democrats holding up reasonably well as Republicans pull ahead in national polling? There are four possibilities.
09/22/2014 States in Play: North Carolina, in Political Flux, Battles for Its Identity
The state often seems as if it is moving in two directions at once, with the Democratic and Republican parties exhibiting gains and their members coexisting as neighbors.
09/22/2014 Midterm Calculus: Why Senate Control Matters
No major laws are likely to pass in the next two years, regardless of which party controls the Senate. The reasons that the midterms matter are subtler.
09/22/2014 Airstrikes by U.S. and Allies Hit ISIS Targets in Syria
Airstrikes, conducted with several Arab allies, unleashed a torrent of cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs on the militants’ de facto capital, Raqqa, Syria.
08/04/2013 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 . . .
07/28/2013 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 . . .
07/21/2013 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 . . .
07/14/2013 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 . . .
06/30/2013 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 . . .
06/23/2013 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 . . .
06/16/2013 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 . . .
06/02/2013 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 . . .
05/26/2013 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 . . .
05/19/2013 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 . . .
09/19/2014 Biggest scam around: Identity tax fraud
Con artists have been filing bogus tax returns and collecting millions. Steve Kroft finds out how far the scam has gone and why the IRS hasn't been able to stop it
09/19/2014 The Islamic State: On the ground in Iraq
Scott Pelley reports from the front lines in the fight against ISIS in northern Iraq. He speaks with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and victims of ISIS atrocities
09/04/2014 BP cries foul in massive oil spill settlement
Is BP backpedaling on a settlement with oil spill victims, or are some Gulf Coast businesses exploiting BP to the tune of more than $500 million?
08/26/2014 Pink Panthers: Daring heists rake in half-a-billion dollars
Using expert planning and military discipline, a loose group of European thieves dubbed "the Pink Panthers" have stolen $500M over 20 years
08/21/2014 The Data Brokers: Selling your personal information
Steve Kroft investigates the multibillion-dollar industry that collects, analyzes and sells the personal information of millions of Americans with virtually no oversight