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Remarks by DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the 105th NAACP Annual Convention

Remarks as delivered


Thank you Hilary for that wonderful introduction and for your steadfast advocacy on behalf of the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.

The NAACP is fortunate to have you as their voice of truth to policy makers and the Administration.

To Chairman Brock, your exemplary stewardship has ensured that the NAACP doesn't just survive, but thrives as the leading civil rights and social justice organization in the 21st century; and to President Brooks  – congratulations!  I know you will lead this organization through the next era of civic engagement and activism that our country still so desperately needs.

I look forward to working with you as you take up the mantel to lead the next chapter in the NAACP's history.

And I can't think of a better person for you to have received the gavel from than my good friend Lorraine Miller.

Lorraine is not just a friend and fellow DNC Member, she wears many hats.  She's been a trusted adviser to me and many others throughout the years.

She brought her same work ethic, dignity and grace to the role of Interim President of the NAACP as she did to the role of Clerk of the U. S. House of Representatives, and she is one of the most selfless public servants I know.

Thank you Lorraine for your leadership and service.

And finally, while I'm delighted to be here in Las Vegas with all of you and NAACP Las Vegas Branch President Frank Hawkins, and Tri State Conference President of Idaho, Nevada and Utah Jeanetta Williams, you are both wonderful hosts - there's no place like home, so I would like to recognize the President of my home state conference – Florida and Miami-Dade Branch NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze, National Vice Chair Leon Russell and all the leadership and members from the great state of Florida.

As a card-carrying member of the NAACP West Hollywood chapter, I was proud to join all of you last summer in Orlando as we Stood Our Ground and reaffirmed our collective commitment to justice and equality.

So, I'm pleased that this year's conference theme is All in For Justice and Equality.

That's a helpful frame to look at the contrasts between the Democratic and Republican parties, particularly with the upcoming November election.

I think the question every NAACP Member, every voter and every American must pose to its leaders is "Are you all in?"

The Republican Party has chosen to promote and work for the privileged few while Democrats work to expand opportunity, justice and equality for all.

This couldn't be more telling than on the economic front where Democrats have time and again offered policies to help everyone reach that next rung of the economic ladder, while Republicans have dug in their heels and just said no.

As you all know, this year, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer and of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

During Freedom Summer, hundreds of young volunteers descended on Mississippi with the goal of registering African-Americans to vote.

Participants faced opposition and violence, including the murder of three activists in Philadelphia, Mississippi. But they persisted because they knew that none of our civil rights is more fundamental to American democracy than the right to vote - they were all in!

Half a century later, we are still fighting to ensure that all Americans are able to exercise their right to vote.

A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key component of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Since then, the haste at which states have moved to enact voting restrictions is confirmation that the protections put in place by Section 4 are still necessary. It will require Congressional action to restore these protections.  So ask yourself, is your Senator and Member of Congress ‘all in’?

If not, and they’re up for reelection, it’s time for them to be all out!
Recently, Republicans have made a concerted effort to suppress the vote. This decision is based on a narrow, short-term political calculation that Republicans can win elections by shrinking the size of the electorate.

In the meantime, Democrats are committed to ensuring that every eligible voter can register to vote, every registered voter can vote, and every vote cast is counted.

So, let’s be clear NAACP, as a Member of Congress, as Chair of the Democratic National Committee, as a parent raising the next generation, as a voter and as an American, I am all in for justice and equality!

To his credit, I know that Michael Steele has criticized Republicans’ voter suppression efforts like voter ID laws, but we need more Republicans who say something and   stand up against their party.

Voter ID has been put forward as a solution to the virtually non-existent problem of voter impersonation. It disproportionately hurts women, young people, seniors and the African American community.

Even Rand Paul acknowledged to the New York Times that their voter ID push was offending people, but then went on Fox News and admitted that he was still in favor of voter ID laws. That's certainly not a sign that he's all in!

Eliminating same day registration or cutting early voting days and hours and eliminating early voting on the Sunday before Election Day when African American churches have had historical success with their “Souls to the Polls” programs. These are all voter suppression tactics to keep some of us from voting.

Just like the leaders of the Freedom Summer, who fifty years ago knew how important it was to register as many new voters as possible. At the DNC, we’re using our technology and data advantage of today to help campaigns and allies deploy their limited resources more efficiently to maximize voter registration efforts.

One new component is a data set that will help identify where we need to commit our resources in order to change electoral outcomes.

In other words, to turn red seats blue through registration and turnout of eligible voters who aren’t registered but should be.

For example, in one of my two home counties, Miami-Dade County, 90,000 eligible African Americans aren’t registered to vote. That’s why President Nweze is conducting a Freedom Summer down in South Florida to get them registered. And the DNC is ready to help!

We will estimate how many potential new Democrats need to register, how many net votes would be produced by registering new voters, and how difficult it will be to find potential voters in an area.

In practice, this data will help us know where to direct canvassing and voter registration drives to target the highest density of unregistered voters, and how many of our resources to commit in order to influence an electoral result.

The DNC is committed to the policies and issues that are important to the African American community.

Not only are we all in for justice and equality at the DNC, diversity and inclusion are fundamental values for our party and they shape everything from our platform to our tactics.

In 2012, I worked closely with the Democratic Convention Committee, CBC, CHC, CAPAC and other stakeholders to improve our diverse hiring practices.

As a result, for the very first time, we set a goal and exceeded it, that one-third of all convention expenditures went to firms owned by people of color.

Half of all convention expenditures were awarded to firms owned by people from diverse backgrounds, including people of color, women, veterans and the LGBT community.

There are 66 total executive committee members of the DNC, comprised of our national officers, representatives from allied groups/other Dem committees, caucus chairs, sub-committee chairs, and regional representatives.

  • 54% of the Executive Committee are women.
  • 43% of the Executive Committee are people of color.
  • 24% of the Executive Committee are African American.
  • 15% of the Executive Committee are Latino.

We also have the most diverse senior staff of any committee between the two Parties. The heads of the Chair’s office, Communications, Political, Voter Expansion, Party Affairs, Community Engagement and Secretary’s Office departments are all African American or Latino.

We know that it is not enough to just hire a few extra people of color and call that commitment. It is our policies that speak the loudest about our commitment. From the highest reaches of our decision making, the President of the United States, our Executive Committee members, our most senior staff, and with whom the DNC does business. Our commitment to diversity speaks volumes.

We believe the most effective way to ensure that we can advance this agenda is to make our voices heard at the ballot box in November and expand those voices into a chorus that will make a difference in who is representing us in Washington and our state capitals.

Thank you.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on President Obama’s LGBT Executive Order

Washington, DC – DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement in response to President Obama signing an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity:

“The Executive Order signed by President Obama today is an important victory for the LGBT community, and adds to their list of accomplishments under the Obama administration. As the President has said, ‘in the United States, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense.’

“The Democratic Party remains committed to extending these protections to all Americans, without exceptions. This will require Congressional action, and the time is long past due for our Republican colleagues to join us.”

DNC, DSCC, and the Colorado Democratic Party Announce Voter Expansion Director in Colorado

Washington - Today the DNC, DSCC and the Colorado Democratic Party announced the hiring of Mike Weissman as Colorado Voter Expansion Project State Director.

Weissman joins a growing roster of Voter Expansion Project staff in key states as part of the DNC's ongoing commitment to increasing access to electoral participation.
“As Colorado Republicans try to limit our access to the polls, Democrats are fighting to expand the vote and increase access,” said DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “Our team is building a professional and permanent, in-house operation that will remain in place from cycle to cycle for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. We are happy to welcome Mike to the operation.”

"Last year, the Colorado General Assembly approved the broadest modernization of our election laws in many years," said Rick Palacio, chair of the Colorado Democratic Party. "A bipartisan group of county clerks - Colorado's election administrators - supported these changes.  In 2014 it will be easier for Coloradans to register to vote and to cast a ballot than ever before."
Weissman is a graduate of the University of Colorado law school and a member of the Colorado bar.  He has worked and volunteered in Colorado Democratic politics since 2004 including six years as Technology Director and Political Director for the Colorado Democratic Party.
"Colorado has some of the most pro-voter election laws in the country, and I look forward to helping make sure that Coloradans can exercise their rights under these laws this November," said Weissman.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on Senate GOP Blocking Not My Boss’ Business Act

Washington, DC – After Senate Republicans rejected the Not My Boss’ Business Act, a bill to combat the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement:

“It is shameful that Senate Republicans have blocked the Not My Boss’ Business Act that would have combatted the Supreme Court’s misguided decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. This bill would have prevented companies from discriminating against their women employees by forcing them to pay out of pocket for contraception, a basic preventive health care service.

“Today’s vote is another example of the clear contrast between the priorities of Republicans and Democrats. Republicans voted today to take money out of the pockets of women workers, hurting their ability to provide for their family and to access essential health services. The Democratic Party is committed to expanding economic opportunity for all, and ensuring that a woman’s health decisions are made by her and her doctor, not her boss.”

DNC announces Florida hire for Voter Expansion Project

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of the Democratic National Committee’s Voter Expansion Project, Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz today announced the hiring of Zach Learner as Florida State Director to be based in Tallahassee.

“My home state has had our share of intentional and unintentional challenges in past election cycles, but the DNC is ready to help all Floridians have a hassle-free voting experience this year and beyond,” said Wasserman Schultz. “With our state party partners, we have a national infrastructure and team of experts like Zach that no other organization can bring to bear. Our innovative Voter Expansion Project enables the DNC to help more eligible voters register to vote and will make casting a ballot easier for all Floridians.”

As the DNC and Democrats around the country – including Vice President Joe Biden– seek to expand access to voting, Republicans continue their cynical attempt to make it more difficult for people to vote. In Florida, attempts to purge voters from the rolls too close to the 2012 election was found to violate federal law.

“As Republicans continue to impede our right to vote, limit our access to the polls, making it more difficult to cast our ballot, Democrats are fighting to expand the vote and increase access,” said Pratt Wiley, National Director of Voter Expansion at the DNC. “Our team is building a professional and permanent, in-house operation that will remain in place from cycle to cycle for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. We are happy to welcome Zach to the operation.”

Learner is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law and a member of the Florida Bar. He worked on the Voter Protection team for President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns in Florida, and most recently served as Chief of Staff to Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs. Learner previously worked for State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, and in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida while in law school.

“I am proud to join the Democratic National Committee's Voter Expansion Project,” said Learner. “Voting is where our democracy begins and it is our fundamental right. We will work to ensure that all eligible Floridians are able to register to vote, cast a ballot and have their voices heard.”

The Voter Expansion Project was announced in a video by former President Bill Clinton to DNC supporters earlier this year. This project helps ensure the Democratic Party not only protects the right to vote, but also works proactively with states across the country to expand access to the ballot box.

DNC Response to Boehner’s Comments Blaming the President for the Border Crisis

Washington, D.C. – The following is a reaction from DNC Director of Hispanic Media, Pili Tobar to Speaker Boehner’s comments blaming the President for the border crisis:

“It’s laughable that Speaker Boehner is trying to blame the President for this crisis, when in the 3 ½ years that Boehner has been Speaker, Republicans haven’t passed one serious piece of legislation to address immigration, leaving President Obama no option but to deal with these important issues on his own. The President asked Congress for $3.7 billion dollars in supplemental funding to deal with this crisis, and rather than point fingers, Speaker Boehner should immediately hold a vote to approve necessary resources for border enforcement and to provide essential services to these unaccompanied kids. The truth is, if Republicans would have done their job and passed a bill, we’d be better equipped to deal with this crisis.”

DNC Chair Statement on Confirmation of Castro as Secretary of Dept. of Housing & Urban Development

Washington, DC – DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued the following statement today on the confirmation of Julian Castro as Secretary of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:

“I would like to congratulate Julian Castro on his confirmation as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. As the mayor of San Antonio, Julian demonstrated his leadership and commitment to ensuring expanded opportunities for all. Castro helped revitalize San Antonio by attracting new businesses and investing in education to prepare the next generation of workers for the jobs of tomorrow. His experience will help him forward HUD’s mission of strengthening our communities and bringing the dream of home ownership within the reach of more Americans.

“With the Senate’s confirmation of Secretary Castro, the Obama administration adds another cabinet member who will be a powerful advocate for the Latino community and all Americans and demonstrates the President’s commitment to building an administration that reflects the value of diverse backgrounds and experiences.

“On behalf of Democrats, I would also like to thank outgoing Secretary Shaun Donovan for more than five years of dedicated service. Under Secretary Donovan, HUD has helped stabilize the housing market in the wake of the economic crisis and prioritized keeping working families in their homes.”

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on Independence Day

Washington, DC – DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued the following statement today celebrating Independence Day:

“On July 4th, we celebrate our country’s founding, the brave men and women on whose backs this nation was built, and the fundamental principles which have guided our history. In declaring independence, our Founding Fathers asserted that government exists to secure our unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For 238 years, Americans have struggled to define these principles, expand their application, and live up to their potential.

“The United States of America has made extraordinary progress expanding our rights and privileges to more members of society. Our nation has been strengthened by the fight for inclusion of women, minorities, immigrants, the LGBT community, and others. But our work is unfinished; from paycheck fairness, to marriage equality, to access to quality, affordable health care, to ensuring that all Americans can exercise their right to vote, we continue to be driven by the idea that as Americans, we can do better.

“As we gather with family and friends to celebrate today, we remember that America exists because of those who are willing to defend our freedoms, and because of those who have had the courage to speak up for our ideals. On this great American holiday, I wish everyone a happy and safe Fourth of July.”

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Washington, DC – DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued the following statement today on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act:

“Freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – it is a concept that seems inherent to a nation founded by declaring that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

“But it wasn’t until fifty years ago, with President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that this thoroughly American ideal came closer to reality when it was codified into law.

“Today’s anniversary of the Civil Rights Act is a reminder that equal protection under the law has not been self-evident, but instead a struggle for which each generation has had to fight. The civil rights leaders of the 1950s and 60s, including those who participated in Freedom Summer fifty years ago, endured unthinkable adversity for having the courage to seek the rights with which each of us is endowed. Each subsequent victory over the last five decades is a byproduct of their hardships, and for that we are eternally grateful.

“It is because of their success that today’s anniversary is less a celebration than a call to action.  The Democratic Party is committed to ensuring the creation of a more perfect union by extending rights to those who are still excluded.

“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed in the spirit of the Civil Rights Act, but Congressional action is required to restore the protections negated by last year’s Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. And despite President Obama’s recent executive action announcement, many American workers still lack protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity.

“President Johnson made the case for passage of the Civil Rights Act by invoking his predecessor, “No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long." Today, the Democratic Party believes there is no more fitting way to honor those who helped pass the Civil Rights Act than by extending its promise to all Americans.”

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on Harris v Quinn

Washington, DC – DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued the following statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Harris v Quinn:

“I disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Harris v. Quinn. Many of the basic workplace standards and protections that we take for granted as Americans are thanks to the efforts of organized labor. These benefits have been sought and achieved on behalf of all workers, regardless of whether or not they’ve paid union dues. I fear that this decision will seriously diminish the capacity of labor unions to represent the best interests of American workers who have fought for and won significant progress on wages, benefits and working conditions, and jeopardize the progress that has been made over the last century.”


Statement by the President on Ukraine

South Lawn

3:39 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody. 

In the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, and countries around the world, families are still in shock over the sudden and tragic loss of nearly 300 loved ones senselessly killed when their civilian airliner was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.  These grieving families and their nations are our friends and our allies.  And amid our prayers and our outrage, the United States continues to do everything in our power to help bring home their loved ones, support the international investigation, and make sure justice is done.

Since the shoot-down, however, Russia and its proxies in Ukraine have failed to cooperate with the investigation and to take the opportunity to pursue a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine.  These Russian-backed separatists have continued to interfere in the crash investigation and to tamper with the evidence.  They have continued to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft in the region.  And because of their actions, scores of Ukrainian civilians continue to die needlessly every day.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to support the separatists and encourage them, and train them, and arm them.  Satellite images, along with information we've declassified in recent days, show that forces inside Russia have launched artillery strikes into Ukraine -- another major violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.  And we have information that Russia continues to build up its own forces near the Ukrainian border and that more Russian military equipment, including artillery, armored vehicles, and air defense equipment, has been transferred across the border to these separatists.

Since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, the United States has worked to build a strong international coalition to support Ukraine, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity, its right to determine its own destiny, and to increase the pressure on Russia for actions that have undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and ability to make its own decisions.  The core of that coalition is the United States and our European allies. 

In recent days, I've continued to coordinate closely with our allies and our partners to ensure a unified response to the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and Russia’s continued arming of the separatists.  And I've spoken several times with Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands and Prime Minister Abbott of Australia.

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom, President Hollande of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, and Prime Minister Renzi of Italy. We are united in our view that the situation in Ukraine ought to be resolved diplomatically and that a sovereign, independent Ukraine is no threat to Russian interests.  But we've also made it clear, as I have many times, that if Russia continues on its current path, the cost on Russia will continue to grow.  And today is a reminder that the United States means what it says.  And we will rally the international community in standing up for the rights and freedom of people around the world.

Today, and building on the measures we announced two weeks ago, the United States is imposing new sanctions in key sectors of the Russian economy:  energy, arms, and finance.  We’re blocking the exports of specific goods and technologies to the Russian energy sector.  We’re expanding our sanctions to more Russian banks and defense companies.  And we’re formally suspending credit that encourages exports to Russia and financing for economic development projects in Russia.

At the same time, the European Union is joining us in imposing major sanctions on Russia -- its most significant and wide-ranging sanctions to date.  In the financial sector, the EU is cutting off certain financing to state-owned banks in Russia. In the energy sector, the EU will stop exporting specific goods and technologies to Russia, which will make it more difficult for Russia to develop its oil resources over the long term.  In the defense sector, the EU is prohibiting new arms imports and exports and is halting the export of sensitive technology to Russia’s military users. 

And because we’re closely coordinating our actions with Europe, the sanctions we’re announcing today will have an even bigger bite. 

Now, Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the sanctions that we’ve already imposed have made a weak Russian economy even weaker.  Foreign investors already are increasingly staying away. Even before our actions today, nearly $100 billion in capital was expected to flee Russia.  Russia’s energy, financial, and defense sectors are feeling the pain.  Projections for Russian economic growth are down to near zero.  The major sanctions we’re announcing today will continue to ratchet up the pressure on Russia, including the cronies and companies that are supporting Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine.

In other words, today, Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress.  And it doesn’t have to come to this -- it didn’t have to come to this.  It does not have to be this way.  This is a choice that Russia, and President Putin in particular, has made. There continues to be a better choice -- the choice of de-escalation, the choice of joining the world in a diplomatic solution to this situation, a choice in which Russia recognizes that it can be a good neighbor and trading partner with Ukraine even as Ukraine is also developing ties with Europe and other parts of the world.

I’m going to continue to engage President Putin as well as President Poroshenko and our European partners in pursuit of such a diplomatic solution.  But it is important for Russia to understand that, meanwhile, we will continue to support the people of Ukraine, who have elected a new President, who have deepened their ties with Europe and the United States, and that the path for a peaceful resolution to this crisis involves recognizing the sovereignty, the territorial integrity, and the independence of the Ukrainian people.

Today, the people of Ukraine I hope are seeing once again that the United States keeps its word.  We’re going to continue to lead the international community in our support for the Ukrainian people, and for the peace, the security, and the freedom that they very richly deserve.

Thanks very much.

Q    Is this a new Cold War, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, it’s not a new Cold War.  What it is, is a very specific issue related to Russia’s unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path. 

And I think that if you listen to President Poroshenko, if you listen to the Ukrainian people, they’ve consistently said they seek good relations with Russia.  What they can't accept is Russia arming separatists who are carrying out terribly destructive activities inside of Ukraine, thereby undermining the ability of Ukraine to govern itself peacefully.  That's something that no country should have to accept.

And the sooner the Russians recognize that the best chance for them to have influence inside of Ukraine is by being good neighbors and maintaining trade and commerce, rather than trying to dictate what the Ukrainian people can aspire to, rendering Ukraine a vassal state to Russia -- the sooner that President Putin and Russia recognizes that, the sooner we can resolve this crisis in ways that doesn't result in the tragic loss of life that we’ve seen in eastern Ukraine.

Q    So far sanctions haven’t stopped Vladimir Putin.  Are sanctions going to be enough?  And are you considering lethal aid for Ukraine?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, keep in mind, the issue at this point is not the Ukrainian capacity to outfight separatists.  They are better armed than the separatists.  The issue is how do we prevent bloodshed in eastern Ukraine.  We’re trying to avoid that.  And the main tool that we have to influence Russian behavior at this point is the impact that it’s having on its economy. 

The fact that we’ve seen Europeans who have real, legitimate economic concerns in severing certain ties with Russia stepping up the way they have today I think is an indication of both the waning patience that Europe has with nice words from President Putin that are not matched by actions, but also a recognition as a consequence of what happened with the Malaysian Airlines flight that it is hard to avoid the spillover of what’s happening in Ukraine impacting Europeans across the board.

And so we think that the combination of stronger U.S. and European sanctions is going to have a greater impact on the Russian economy than we’ve seen so far.  Obviously, we can't in the end make President Putin see more clearly.  Ultimately that's something that President Putin has to do by -- on his own.  But what we can do is make sure that we’ve increased the costs for actions that I think are not only destructive to Ukraine but ultimately are going to be destructive to Russia, as well.

All right.  Guys, I’ve got to get going. 

3:49 P.M. EDT

Presidential Nomination Sent to the Senate


David Nathan Saperstein, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, vice Suzan D. Johnson Cook.

Statement by the President on the Confirmation of Bob McDonald as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs

I applaud the overwhelming, bipartisan confirmation of Bob McDonald as our next Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  As a veteran himself and a proud member of a military family, Bob is deeply committed to serving our veterans and their families.  And as an executive with decades of private-sector experience, he is uniquely equipped to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, and to help change the way the VA does business.  As a country, we have a solemn duty to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.  I know Bob will help us honor that commitment and make sure every veteran gets the care they deserve, the benefits they’ve earned, and the chance to pursue the American Dream they’ve risked so much to protect.  

Notice to Congress -- Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Lebanon


- - - - - - -


On August 1, 2007, by Executive Order 13441, the President declared a national emergency with respect to Lebanon pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions of certain persons to undermine Lebanon's legitimate and democratically elected government or democratic institutions; to contribute to the deliberate breakdown in the rule of law in Lebanon, including through politically motivated violence and intimidation; to reassert

Syrian control or contribute to Syrian interference in Lebanon; or to infringe upon or undermine Lebanese sovereignty.  Such actions contribute to political and economic instability in that country and the region.

Certain ongoing activities, such as continuing arms transfers to Hizballah that include increasingly sophisticated weapons systems, serve to undermine Lebanese sovereignty, contribute to political and economic instability in Lebanon, and continue to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. 

For this reason, the national emergency declared on August 1, 2007, and the measures adopted on that date to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond August 1, 2014.  In accordance with section 202(d) of the National

Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to Lebanon declared in Executive Order 13441.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.


Message to Congress -- Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Lebanon


Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date.  In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency with respect to Lebanon that was declared in Executive Order 13441 of August 1, 2007, is to continue in effect beyond August 1, 2014.

Certain ongoing activities, such as continuing arms transfers to Hizballah, which include increasingly sophisticated weapons systems, undermine Lebanese sovereignty, contribute to political and economic instability in the region, and continue to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.  For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13441 with respect to Lebanon.


FACT SHEET: Empowering America’s Agricultural Sector and Strengthening Food Resilience through the President’s Climate Data Initiative

“My administration will work with tech innovators and launch new challenges under our Climate Data Initiative, focused initially on rising sea levels and their impact on the coasts, but ultimately focused on how all these changes in weather patterns are going to have an impact up and down the United States…and how do we start preparing for that.” – President Obama, remarks on the California Drought, February 14, 2014.

In March 2014, the Obama Administration unveiled the Climate Data Initiative—a key deliverable of the President’s Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution in America, prepare communities for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address this global challenge. The Climate Data Initiative leverages the Federal Government’s vast and open data resources to stimulate the kinds of innovation and entrepreneurship that can empower America’s communities and businesses to take action against climate change and prepare for the future.

Today, building on the Climate Data Initiative’s initial focus on coastal resilience, the Obama Administration is unveiling the Initiative’s “Food Resilience” theme, aimed at empowering America’s agricultural sector and strengthening the resilience of the global food system in a changing climate.

The National Climate Assessment, released in May, 2014, confirms that climate disruptions to agriculture have been increasing, are projected to become more severe over this century, and that climate-change effects on agriculture will have consequences for food security, both nationally and globally, through changes in crop yields and food prices, as well as effects on food processing, storage, transportation, and retailing. 

That’s why the Obama Administration is working to connect farmers, food distributors, and agricultural businesses with the data, tools, and information they need to understand how climate change impacts—such as more intense heat waves, heavier downpours, and severe droughts and wildfires out westare affecting their operations today and steps they can take to both prepare for and help fight climate change.

To continue momentum under the Climate Data Initiative, the Obama Administration is today renewing the President’s call to America’s private-sector innovators to leverage open government data and other resources to build tools that will make the U.S. and global food systems more resilient against the impacts of climate change. In response to this call, today’s launch includes a number of commitments by Federal agencies and private-sector collaborators to combat climate change and support food resilience through data-driven innovation.

Administration Commitments: 

  • Convening Agriculture and Technology Leaders at the White House. Today, Senior Obama Administration officials are meeting at the White House with representatives of leading food, agriculture and technology businesses to discuss ways these companies are leveraging open government data, related information tools, and other innovations to improve the resilience of the U.S. and global food system and reduce the contributions of food production to climate change.
  • New Features on The Obama Administration is today unveiling an expanded to include new pages and features that make data about the risks of climate change to food production, supply, nutrition, and security more open and accessible to innovators, entrepreneurs, and researchers. Through a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other Federal agency partners, hundreds of datasets, web services, and tools on these topics and more are being made accessible through, including data from the Census of Agriculture, current and historical data on production, supply, and distribution of agricultural products, and data on climate-change-related risks such as storms, pests, and drought. The Administration is also expanding to include datasets from climate models, projecting potential future climate impacts.
  • Hosting Agriculture-Innovation Workshops. The Obama Administration will host and participate in a series of innovation workshops focused on data-driven innovation at the nexus of climate-change and agriculture, including:
    • On July 30, USDA will host two innovation workshops in Washington, DC, one with young and beginning farmers and another with food distributors, to spur the development of creative information-technology tools that can help farmers and those in the food supply chain to prepare for climate-change impacts.
    • On August 1, USDA and NYU’s Governance Lab (GovLab) will host an Open Data event in Washington, DC, focused on food resilience and climate change, as well as preparedness for food emergencies. The event will encourage dialogue between government agencies and the businesses and organizations that use their data, in support of the goals of the Climate Data Initiative.
    • On August 5, concurrent with the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Government, IBM, and partners of the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative will host a data-innovation event focused on developing technological innovations based on open data that can help address global food security and nutrition in Africa.

Private-Sector Commitments:

  • Principles for Responsible Investment. The United-Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) has formed an investor group made up of Rockefeller & Co. and five European-based institutional investors (PGGM, Aberdeen Asset Management, Hermes, MN, and Nordea) to address the risks from climate change to companies with agricultural supply chains – including in the food, beverage, and apparel sectors. Using data from the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Water Risk Filter mapping tool and Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ (PwC) ESCHER model, the investor group will engage approximately 50 major companies in constructive dialogue to increase resilience to water risks and foster more informed investment decision-making. PRI and the investor group are launching an Investor Guidance Document and issuing a call to action to support the effort to PRI’s 1260 global signatories representing more than $45 trillion USD in assets.
  • Microsoft. In support of the President’s Climate Data Initiative’s, Microsoft and USDA will co-host a series of workshops, webinars, and an app-athon aimed at demonstrating the value of open-data and data-driven tools to boost climate preparedness and resilience in the agricultural sector. Microsoft and USDA will also jointly launch a climate-change-focused Innovation Challenge to inspire the development of new tools and services that harness data available via, as well as an initial collection of USDA datasets that will be made available through Microsoft’s Azure Marketplace. Microsoft Research will issue a special request for proposals focused on food resilience and climate change and grant 12 months of free cloud-computing resources to 20 awardees whose proposals are submitted by Sept. 15, 2014 through the Azure for Research program.
  • Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Through the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, the U.S. dairy industry is today committing to advance a series of science-based efforts, including additional research to understand and optimize dairy’s role in a resilient, efficient, and sustainable food system, as well as testing and piloting four new Farm Smart modules—energy, feed, nutrient, and herd management—by the end of 2014.  Farm Smart is a data-driven online tool that helps dairy farmers assess their farm’s environmental footprint; explore the potential environmental value and cost-effectiveness of on-farm innovations; and communicate progress.
  • The U.S. Water Partnership. Recognizing that open data can help inform actions to meet the growing water crisis in regions at home and abroad, the U.S. Water Partnership (USWP) will deploy a web-based portal called “H2InfO” during World Water Week on September 2, 2014, to increase access to high quality US-based water- and drought- information resources. In addition, the U.S. Water Partnership will develop a virtual community of practice to share data, experiences, lessons, and best practices and will convene an in-person technical dialogue for community members and other key public and private stakeholders to create a two-way exchange of expertise on drought preparedness and water resilience.
  • IBM. IBM is announcing an expansion of its philanthropic World Community Grid program, which enables members of the public to donate their computer or mobile device's unused computing power to scientists. The expansion will provide scientists studying climate change topics including staple food crops and water management with free access to dedicated virtual supercomputing resources and a platform to engage the public on their research. Each researcher will have access to up to 100,000 years of computing time, a value of $60m in today's costs. IBM is inviting researchers to submit project proposals and members of the public to donate their unused computing power to these efforts at
  • GoodCompanyVentures. During the summer of 2015, GoodCompanyVentures will launch Climate Ventures 2.0, a project to source, accelerate, and deploy entrepreneurial solutions to climate-change preparedness in collaboration with the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, the Impact Hub, and the MIT Climate CoLab.  Over a nine-month period, Climate Ventures 2.0 will provide mentoring, design consulting, and access to capital for 10 high-potential teams working on ongoing climate data innovation challenges, such as those issued by NASA and MIT.  Climate Ventures 2.0 will focus on innovations that leverage scientific and government data to enhance climate change preparedness in areas such as food security, agriculture, flood, and drought.  
  • The Coca-Cola Company. To help reduce the company’s environmental footprint across its value chain, the Coca-Cola Company is committing to rapidly expand the application of the Field-to-Market program and its data-driven tool to quantify water use, fertilizer use, energy use, greenhouse emissions and more. By the end of 2014, Coca-Cola will launch major initiatives with two of its four leading suppliers to implement this commitment. By the end of 2015, Coca-Cola will aim to engage farmers representing 250,000 acres, and by 2020, up to 1 million acres—equating to roughly 50% of the company’s global corn supply.
  • World Wildlife Fund. In support of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF’s) collaboration with the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), WWF is combining detailed agricultural, water, and economic data from its Water Risk Filter to help the PRI’s 1000+ signatories better assess and manage water risks in the agro-commodity supply chains of portfolio companies. WWF will work with leading technology partners to make public and leverage detailed datasets that include more than 15,000 agricultural-crop/water-basin combinations in order to empower industry, financiers, and policy-makers as they work to strengthen global water stewardship, food security, and climate resilience.
  • The Agricultural Model Intercomparison & Improvement Program and the Center for Integrated Modeling of Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition Security. The Agricultural Model Intercomparison & Improvement Program (AgMIP) and the Center for Integrated Modeling of Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition Security (CIMSANS), in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), are announcing a new public-private partnership on open data and open-source code modeling to enhance the climate-resilience of food systems. The new partnership will secure the resources and expertise necessary to evaluate seven novel nutrition and sustainability metrics of global food systems, including all of the world’s important staple and non-staple foods, through the year 2050.
  • Amazon Web Services. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is today launching the Amazon Climate Research Grant program and a call for proposals designed to drive innovative climate-change research with a focus on computational analysis. In early September 2014, AWS will award grants of free access to supercomputing resources through Amazon EC2 Spot Instances. By providing grants totaling 50 million core hours, AWS is enabling researchers to accelerate research that can result in an improved understanding of the scope and effects of climate change, and analyses that could suggest potential mitigating actions. Early results of the program will publish in November 2014. Expanding upon AWS’s participation in the Open NASA Earth eXchange (NEX), this program will also accelerate the development of open climate data and software resources. Details can be found here.
  • National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center at the University of Maryland. The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) at the University of Maryland is committing to fund 25 early-career scholars to address critical, actionable research questions on the resilience of food systems to climate change. Advanced Ph.D. students and scholars fewer than two years post-Ph.D. with relevant interests will be invited to apply through an open call. Successful candidates will participate in workshops in which SESYNC and USDA computational experts guide participants in a highly interactive and dynamic process of data discovery, analysis, and visualization, and will be invited to submit proposals for interdisciplinary team projects. SESYNC will fund up to six teams as well as a postdoctoral fellow with expertise in food systems research to undertake and help coordinate research for the program.
  • PepsiCo. PepsiCo is announcing the installation of a 1.7 megawatt solar photovoltaic system designed to supply 3.3 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy for the company’s Gatorade manufacturing operations in Tolleson, Arizona.  Over the 25 year life of the project, this initiative will prevent the release of approximately 50,000 tons of carbon and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. PepsiCo will use data from this solar project to help inform future solar installations and projects as the company works to meet its goal of achieving an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Esri. Esri will work with USDA, GEOGLAM, CGIAR and others to expose and unlock authoritative data as live data feeds across dimensions of agricultural production, risk and trade.  In the fall of 2014, Esri will host an Executive White Boarding session to target the development of common information products (maps, apps and templates) needed to address specific needs in the domain of climate, society, and agriculture.  
  • Michigan Agri-Business Association. In August 2014, the Michigan Agri-Business Association will launch a publicly-available web-based mapping tool for use by the state’s agriculture sector. This platform will incorporate Federal, state, and local data that could prove useful to farmers, rural businesses, conservationists and economic development professionals. Resulting maps will aggregate soil, water, meteorological and infrastructure GIS data that can be compared and visualized to meet the needs of a particular project. It is anticipated that this tool will be particularly useful for planning future agricultural activities in response to climate change in Michigan.
  • Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Columbia University Earth Institute. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network is announcing a new initiative on Healthy and Sustainable Diets that will include efforts to build datasets that enable the analysis of food and nutrition security achievements across landscape-level scenarios and rural livelihoods. The Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development (CGSD) in Columbia’s Earth Institute, as a partner in the Agriculture and Food Systems group of the Network, is committing to provide this initiative with tools, research, and policy support to address these challenges in a global context.
  • SWIIM System. SWIIM System, Ltd. will develop an application using USDA Quickstats data that will allow users to easily view trends in water use by irrigated agriculture as climate changes occur and as water transfers from agricultural to municipal and industrial (M&I) uses take place. This new application will allow users to explore the consequences of future climate- and water-use scenarios to water available for crop production, and will educate the user on effects of water transfer and climate change on irrigated agriculture on a localized basis. The application will be made available on the SWIIM client page and its parent website. Development is expected to commence in August 2014 and completed within approximately six months.
  • Nestle. Nestlé will review and expand the scope of its public commitments on climate change leadership (detailed in the Nestlé in Society report), setting greenhouse-gas reduction targets that are based upon science and incorporating both absolute-carbon and carbon-intensity aspects. Nestlé will also incorporate climate change provisions into its responsible sourcing & traceability program, will engage in further water stewardship programs, and will extend education and training within its Farmer Connect initiative regarding good farming practices and water stewardship. Nestlé’s nutritional profiling tool (which can be used to link nutritional value calculations to calculations of environmental impact) and related data will be made available outside Nestlé through the publication of algorithms for nutritional assessments in peer reviewed scientific journals, the sharing of data on Life Cycle Inventories, and other mechanisms. 
  • Rock and Wrap it Up. Rock and Wrap It Up! (RWU) is launching an updated Whole Earth Calculator, a simple mobile app that resides on a mobile-friendly website and can be used on both mobile and laptop/desktop devices. Using EPA datasets and based on information from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and USDA, the Whole Earth Calculator converts the total pounds of paper products and plastics that are diverted from landfills into the amount of carbon dioxide that is not produced as a result – and then sends this information to social media (Twitter).  The tool can also be used to convert total pounds of donated food into meal equivalents and total CO2-averted equivalents.
  • Monsanto. Monsanto is announcing that it will donate a multi-site/multi-year maize breeding trial dataset to open data portals maintained by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Agricultural Model Intercomparison & Improvement Project (AgMIP). Opening these data will it make it possible for public- and private-sector scientists to improve models being used to understand how climate and water-availability changes will impact crop productivity and therefore food security. Monsanto is also partnering with a number of external scientists in the AgMIP community to improve one of the leading publicly available crop-growth simulation models (AgMaize).
  • HabitatSeven and Quandl: HabitatSeven is announcing a partnership with the data platform Quandl to combine Federal climate-impact data with private-sector commodity and supply-chain data. Through this partnership, visualization tools will be developed for private-sector decision makers, investors, and commodity traders to incorporate climate risks and opportunities into commodity prices and resilience strategies.
  • The Climate Corporation: The Climate Corporation has launched a free online and mobile service called Climate Basic that provides farmers with hyper-local weather information to help them identify the impact of recent and current weather conditions on their fields. To enable the development of additional data science driven tools and services to help farmers increase production to meet increasing global demand, the company helped found the Open Ag Data Alliance (OADA), an open source software project to ensure farmers have full data access across different agriculture technology platforms. The Climate Corporation is today committing resources to support OADA's work, as well as code development to enable farmers to fully leverage their data. 
  • Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy at the University of Chicago. The Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP), a research center at the Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, is announcing several new tools to expand access to the data and methods used by experts to understand climate change and its impacts. The RDCEP climate emulator, enables users to work in their own web browser with output data from state-of-the-art climate models that typically require powerful supercomputers. ATLAS, which will launch this fall, will enable users to explore climate impact data on global food security and land use. Additional web tools make up RDCEP’s FACE-IT platform, which will be adapted later this year for use by researchers in seven countries, including China, Nigeria, and India, to model and understand local climate risks and vulnerabilities in food supply, agriculture, and economics. Preliminary versions of these applications will be unveiled at the African Food Systems in the Information Age forum in Ibadan, Nigeria, on August 28-30, 2014.
  • Kellogg Company and University of Minnesota. The Global Landscapes Initiative at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment is committing to openly share data and maps that illustrate how climate change affects risks to major crops within the food system. In conjunction with this commitment, Kellogg Company is committing to use these agricultural data and climate-related maps to foster geographically relevant implementation in its global sourcing. Kellogg Company, the Global Landscape Initiative, and other partners will use climate data, research, and assessments to guide education and actions that help create efficient, adaptable, and sustainable supply chains, as well as identify information gaps and needs to improve the resilience of the agricultural sector to climate change.
  • American Red Cross and Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre: To better help communities in East and Southern Africa prepare for climate and weather related events, the American Red Cross and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre are committing to scale up the distribution and use of their participatory games to communicate risk information. This scale-up will bring Climate Centre game designers, trainers, and facilitators to more places served by American Red Cross in the developing world. It will focus initially on a river basin in East or Southern Africa and will help to ensure that communities are better prepared to respond to flood warnings. This experience will be documented and made publicly available on the Climate Centre website and the Global Disaster Preparedness Center website. 
  • Mars, Incorporated: Mars, Incorporated, will continue to make major investments in science, including in areas such as food safety and plant science, to create resilience across its agricultural supply chains, improve safety, quality, resource management, and yields. Mars, Inc. will also continue to invest in renewable energy resources. For example, the company has recently invested in a 200 megawatt wind farm in Lamesa, Texas that will provide energy equal to the needs of its North America offices and factories.
  • Walmart. Walmart is committing to the ongoing use of data to help set priorities for future actions to reduce greenhouse gases, including meeting the company’s 2020 goal of driving the production or procurement of 7 billion kWh of renewable energy globally every year and reducing the kWh/sq. ft. energy intensity required to power Walmart’s buildings globally by 20 percent compared to 2010 levels. Walmart will use data-driven tools such as the Sustainability Index to measure, track, and identify hot spots in its overall supply chain and provide buyers with transparency into the key impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions, of the products they source. In addition, Walmart recently announced a partnership with eight of the largest food companies to help ensure that tomorrow’s food supply is more sustainable, including by bringing an additional eight million acres of farmland into sustainability agriculture programs.
  • UN Global Pulse: In May 2014, United Nations Global Pulse hosted its first Big Data Climate Challenge, calling for cutting-edge examples of how scientists, researchers, and citizens are using big data and analytics to address social, economic and environmental challenges. Submissions were received from 40 countries, representing over 20 disciplines, including agriculture. UN Global Pulse will fly winners of the Challenge to the upcoming Climate Summit on September 24th in New York City and their work will be showcased prominently in front of media, decision-makers and civil society. In addition, Global Pulse will work with partners to summarize the results of the Big Data Climate Challenge in a report that maps the intersection of big data and climate change to build global understanding of how big data can reveal critical insights for strengthening resilience, including in the agriculture sector. 

Climate Data in Action:

In addition to the food- and agriculture-focused commitments launching today, a host of new and ongoing efforts continue to broadly advance the President’s Climate Data Initiative, including:

  • iSeeChange and Berkeley Atmospheric C02 Observation Network collaboration: The public media platform iSeeChange and the Berkeley Atmospheric CO2 Observation Network (BEACO2N) are launching a new collaborative project to develop a pilot citizen-science story-corps to help monitor carbon emissions in the San Francisco Bay area and Oakland. Combining BEACO2N’s network of carbon sensors, most mounted atop local schools and museums in the Bay Area, and iSeeChange’s digital platform and public media partners, the collaboration will create an information network to monitor local carbon emissions, produce stories that effectively match data and local impacts over time, and more. The partnership will kick off its work at the AAAS Citizen Science Workshop scheduled for February 2014.
  • UCLA Luskin Center and EDF: The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) are releasing the newest version of the Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report (LASER)—a data-driven mapping tool designed to help communities identify opportunities to invest in projects that will save households money, create clean energy jobs and strengthen climate resilience. The tool illustrates existing pollution and climate change impacts at a community level, and illustrates “hot spots” ripe for rooftop solar investment and energy efficiency building potential at the parcel level.
  • Trust for Public Land: The Trust for Public Land will commit new organizational resources through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to help America's cities lessen their vulnerability to climate-related heat events. Specifically, over the next two years the Trust for Public Land will help fill national gaps in heat-risk spatial data and modeling for cities, expand its Urban Heat Risk Explorer App to new cities, and develop a heat risk reduction GIS toolkit to help cities strategically target green infrastructure for heat resilience.    

For more information about steps the Obama Administration is taking to act on climate change, please visit

White House Report: The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change

With our country already experiencing the effects of climate change, the President has taken action to cut carbon pollution by moving to cleaner sources of energy and improving the energy efficiency of our cars, trucks and buildings. But further steps are urgently needed to ensure that we leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged.

The White House today released a new report from the Council of Economic Advisers that examines the economic consequences of delaying action to stem climate change. The report finds that delaying policy actions by a decade increases total mitigation costs by approximately 40 percent, and failing to take any action would risk substantial economic damage. These findings emphasize the need for policy action today.

Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice to the National Jewish Leaders Assembly

National Press Club
Washington, DC
Monday, July 28, 2014
As Delivered

Good afternoon everyone.  Thank you so much Bob for that incredibly generous introduction.  I also want to thank my friend Malcolm and express my personal gratitude for this invitation.  And it’s good to be back at the Conference of Presidents and seeing so many friends and familiar faces.  Many of you have come from Jewish communities across this country in a strong show of support for Israel. 

These are indeed difficult days. Today, together, all of us who care about the State of Israel are again confronted with the challenges of a dangerous and imperfect world: Of sirens and shelters.  Young people called yet again to war. (Audience interruption). Of a land where, in the haunting phrase of Yitzhak Rabin, “parents bury their children.” 

Today is the first day of Av, the month when Jews commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples.  It’s a reminder that the Jewish people have endured much worse than rockets and survived much stronger enemies than Hamas.  You have been tested by tragedy and time, by history and hatred.  But each time, am yisrael chai: the people of Israel live. 

This is a time of worry for all who care about Israel.  But, here’s one thing you never have to worry about: America’s support for the State of Israel.   As President Obama declared before the Israeli people in Jerusalem:  “so long as there is a United States of America … you are not alone.” 

That’s why, from the moment that terrorist rockets began to rain down on Israel, this Administration, from President Obama on down, has made it clear:  Israel has the same, unequivocal right to self-defense as every other nation.  No nation can accept terrorists tunneling into its territory or rockets crashing down on its people. 

President Obama has been equally clear about who has been responsible for the violence.  Hamas fired the rockets.  Hamas deliberately targeted Israeli citizens, particularly civilians. Hamas refused an early plan for a ceasefire.  Hamas, in a time of glaring human need, instead of investing in the future of Gaza’s children, built tunnels to kidnap and kill Israelis.  So Hamas initiated this conflict. And, Hamas has dragged it on. 

But, America and Israel are also united by a shared belief we each strive to honor:  that every person is created equal and “b’tzelem elokim”—in the image of God. 

I know we all share deep concern about the suffering and deaths of innocent people that arise from a conflict like this one – in Gaza as well as in Israel.  The people of Gaza, many of whom disapprove of Hamas and suffer under its misrule, are trapped in the crossfire. The loss of children has been particularily heartbreaking.

As President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed yesterday, the United States supports an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire.  That humanitarian ceasefire should lead to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.  For the sake of innocents on both sides, the rockets must stop.  We need to bring the violence and civilian casualties to an end, and we are concerned that continued fighting could further destabilize the West Bank.  We need to protect Israel’s security and help it reach an arrangement where it will not be attacked again in another year or two. We also believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must result in the disarmament of terrorist groups.  So we will work closely with Israel, regional partners, and the international community to achieve this goal once a sustainable ceasefire is agreed.

Let me also take a moment to acknowledge, as Ambassador Dermer did, the extraordinary efforts of Secretary Kerry.  I must tell you: we’ve been dismayed by some press reports in Israel mischaracterizing his efforts last week to achieve a ceasefire.  We know these misleading reports in turn raise concerns here at home in America.

The reality is that John Kerry on behalf of the United States has been working every step of the way with Israel, in support of our shared interests.  Both in public and in private, we have strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets and tunnel attacks, and we’ve engaged together in sensitive negotiations.  We will continue to do so.  And, we’ll continue to set the record straight when anyone distorts the facts. 

As we pursue diplomacy, we are grateful that the amazing Iron Dome anti-rocket system – researched and funded jointly by Israel and America – stands watch over Israel’s cities. 

During my most recent visit to Israel in May, I saw first-hand the technology at Palmachim Air Force Base.  I met the young Israelis who operate the system—dedicated men and women now working around the clock.   In recent weeks, on average, over 100 rockets a day have been fired at Israel.  Iron Dome has literally meant the difference between life and death.  And I’m deeply proud that President Obama helped make it possible.   And, I’m proud that – with his enthusiastic support—the United States will more than double our investment in Iron Dome.  The President also instructed the Secretary of Defense to inform Congress last week that we support an additional $225 million to accelerate the production of Iron Dome components in Israel this year and maintain Israel’s stockpile of interceptor missiles. Now, Congress has a critical opportunity this week to fund the President’s supplemental request, so that Israel can remain secure.

Iron Dome makes it clear yet again: America has Israel’s back.  We have always had a truly special relationship—ever since President Truman made America the first nation in the world to recognize the State of Israel in May 1948, just 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence.  The seeds of friendship planted that day have grown into a mighty oak– strong, sturdy, and enduring. 

Our governments have never been in closer touch, including through the delegation of senior officials from the Departments of State, Treasury, and Defense, and the CIA that I led to Israel, on behalf of the President, in May.  We are in constant contact, constant consultation, constant cooperation.  And by the way, that’s why I was late getting here—I was on the phone in the basement with my Israeli counterpart.  So it is constant, it is daily and it is highly constructive.   

Our commitment to protect Israel’s qualitative military edge remains absolute. Just ask Israel’s generals. Our security assistance to Israel is at a record high. 

The relationship is even stronger between our peoples.  Just last week, 30,000 Israelis came to the funeral of Max Steinberg, a young man from Los Angeles who joined the Israel Defense Forces and was killed in Gaza.  Another 20,000 came to pay respects to Sean Carmeli, from Texas. 

Israel is not alone—not in war, not in peace. 

And because America staunchly supports Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state, we’ll also continue doing what we can to bring about a just, comprehensive, and secure peace between Israelis and Palestinians –two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace and security.  We are committed to strengthening Israel’s security in achieving this goal –and cementing Israel’s rightful place among the community nations.

Which brings me to my next point.  We don’t just fight for Israel’s security.  We also fight for Israel’s legitimacy. 

As President Obama said in Jerusalem, “those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.” 

No country is immune to criticism – nor should it be.   But when that criticism takes the form of singling out just one country unfairly, bitterly, and relentlessly—over and over and over—that’s just wrong, and we all know it. 

I saw this firsthand during my years at the United Nations, where America always has Israel’s back when its basic right of self-defense is challenged. Believe me, I remember all too well the fight against the deeply flawed Goldstone Report. So, last week, when the United Nations Human Rights Council again passed a one-sided resolution calling for a commission of inquiry that will have no positive impact and should never have been created– the United States stood with Israel and said “no.”   We were the lone vote in the Human Rights Council.   Even our closest friends on the Council abstained.  It was 29-1.  But the “1”, as usual, was America.  That’s what we mean when we say “you are not alone.” 

We take that stand on principle. It’s important not just for Israel, but for the credibility of the United Nations itself.  The UN does exceptional, lifesaving things around the world: empowering women and girls, keeping the peace in far-flung conflict zones, providing humanitarian aid whether in Gaza, Syria, or Congo and around the world.  The world needs the United Nations.  So when countries single out Israel for unfair treatment at the UN, it isn’t just a problem for Israel.  It’s a problem for all of us. 

And, today, we also see anti-Semitism flaring up around the world, including in Europe.  The pretext is the passions coming out of the current conflict, but we all know it has its roots in something ancient and ugly—and we should not shy away from calling it by its name.

It’s one thing to use the right of free expression to criticize particular policies of a particular government.  No nation is immune from criticism, fair and otherwise, including our own—take it from me as a former UN ambassador. But an anti-Jewish riot is not a policy critique. It’s not free expression when a protest turns into a mob that attacks a synagogue and a kosher grocery store. It’s one thing when the message is “end the fighting,” but when the message is “Death to the Jews,” it’s an outrage.   And it’s dangerous when the mayor of a major city takes to Twitter to invoke Hitler and incite hostility against the Israeli Embassy, which he called “the despicable murderers’ consulate.”  That’s just hate, and it’s got to stop. As the late Tom Lantos used to say, “the veneer of civilization is paper thin.  We are its guardians, and we can never rest.”  

And so when leaders in Tehran talk openly about ending the State of Israel, that’s just one more reason why America is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  

Under President Obama’s leadership, we have marshaled unprecedented economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran. We have brought Iran to the negotiating table and signed a Joint Plan of Action that halted Iran’s progress on its nuclear program—and rolled it back in key respects for the first time in nearly a decade.   This interim agreement has given us the time and space to try to negotiate a comprehensive solution.  To date, we have made meaningful progress on some key issues, although we remain far apart on several others.  As a result, we decided – along with the European Union, Germany and the other permanent members of the Security Council – to extend the agreement until November 24th

Our goal remains clear: a comprehensive, verifiable deal that can assure the world that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that will offer confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.  But let me be blunt about two things—maybe I should say two other things. First, we will not accept a bad deal under any circumstances—even if that means no deal. And second, we will do what we must to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  

All this is rooted in a very special friendship between the United States and Israel, stretching back from before Israel’s birth to today. And, for me, it’s rooted in powerful personal experience.  I will never forget my very first visit to Israel.  I was just 14, and I went with my younger brother and my beloved late father, who was then on the Board of Directors of Trans World Airlines.  On that trip, we bowed our heads at Yad Vashem, floated in the Dead Sea, walked the lanes of the Old City, climbed Masada, and picked fruit at a kibbutz. I learned by heart the words of the Sh’ma. 

And here’s something that has always stayed with me: to go on that first trip, I was privileged to take one of the very first flights from Cairo to Tel Aviv, just after Israel and Egypt had signed the Camp David Accords. That peace seemed impossible for so long—but it wasn’t. That peace, enduring to this day, reminds us that human conflict and human problems can be resolved by human courage.  You know that.  It’s why you’re here today, and it’s why I came too. 

My friends, these are difficult days. But as Israel’s former president, my friend Shimon Peres, likes to say: “There are no hopeless situations, just hopeless people.” We all know a few of them.  So let us remember, especially in troubled times, that despair is a sin, and service is a duty. America doesn’t lose hope. The Jewish people don’t lose hope. And the State of Israel doesn’t lose hope. That’s why Israel’s national anthem is “Hatikvah”— the hope. And that’s why, in this imperfect and dangerous world, we ask together for God’s blessing and help.  We pray for security and for peace — but we know that it’s not enough just to pray for it. We’ve got to work for it—together, united, and determined. Because, as President Kennedy once said, “here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”  And that is what we strive to do together every day. Thank you.

Readout of the Vice President's Call with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk

Vice President Joe Biden spoke today with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk about Ukraine’s economic reforms, the situation in the east, the investigation into the MH-17 tragedy, and U.S. bilateral assistance to Ukraine. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk underscored Ukraine’s commitment to advancing economic reforms in keeping with its IMF agreement. The two leaders discussed Russia’s continued support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine following the shootdown of MH-17, and the humanitarian tragedies in those communities that have fallen victim to separatist violence and looting. The Prime Minister and the Vice President discussed the reconstruction needs in eastern Ukraine, and the Vice President shared U.S. plans to provide almost $7 million in assistance to respond to immediate needs in the newly liberated areas in the east, which includes $1 million in new support. This includes contributions to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UNHCR to support efforts to restore access to potable water and provide medical treatment, as well as funding to support small infrastructure and rebuilding projects in these communities. 

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, 7/28/2014

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

**Please see below for a correction marked with an asterisk.

1:10 P.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Hope you all enjoyed your weekend.  It’s nice to see you on this Monday afternoon.

We are starting pretty close to on time today, which is a nice, new trend, hopefully that we’ll be able to continue.  The reason for that is I have alongside with me here today the President’s Deputy National Security Advisor, Tony Blinken, who is going to talk to you about a telephone call that the President convened with some of our allies in Europe today. 

I know that over the last couple of weeks you guys have had a lot of questions about what the President is doing in terms of leading the international community’s response to the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jetliner a couple of weeks ago now.  There have also been, obviously, a series of coordinated efforts to increase international pressure on Russia for the actions that they have taken in Ukraine.

So Tony is here to give you a detailed readout of that telephone conversation that the President convened today and answer any questions you may have about our ongoing efforts to coordinate the imposition of economic costs on the Russian regime.  He probably only has 10 or 15 minutes here, so we'll go through that part of it relatively quickly and then I’ll be around to answer remaining questions you may have.

But I would encourage you, as you're thinking about the questions you want to ask Tony, to focus on the Russia and Ukraine situation.  I know that there are a lot of newsy developments in Gaza as well, so he can take one or two of those before departing.  But we have to limit this to 10 or 15 minutes. 

So with that, I present Tony Blinken.

MR. BLINKEN:  Josh, thank you. 

Good afternoon.  Let me start by giving you a readout of the President’s videoconference with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom, President Hollande of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, and Prime Minister Renzi of Italy.  I should add that Chancellor Merkel was actually on the phone; the others were on a videoconference.

The primary focus of the conversation today was to talk about Ukraine, and they discussed next steps concerning the crisis there, but also efforts to achieve a cease-fire in Gaza, and the situations in Iraq and Libya.

On Ukraine, they stressed the continued need for unrestricted access to the shoot-down site of Malaysia Air Flight 17 to allow for the recovery of the victims’ remains and for international investigators to proceed with their efforts.  They agreed on the importance of coordinated sanctions measures on Russia for its continued transfer of arms, equipment and fighters into eastern Ukraine, including since the crash, and to press Russia to end its efforts to destabilize the country and instead choose a diplomatic path for resolving the crisis. 

Concerning Gaza, the President noted that Israel has the right to take action to defend itself.  The leaders agreed on the need for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire, noting shared concern about the risk of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life.

On Iraq, they discussed the security challenges, welcomed developments in the political process, and urged the swift completion of government coordination and hopefully an inclusive government that results from that.

And then, with respect to Libya, they agreed on the need for an immediate cease-fire among the militias of Tripoli, calling for the seating of the newly elected Council of Representatives, and underscoring support for the U.N. in seeking a resolution to the conflict.  They condemned any use of violence to attack civilians, intimidate officials, or disrupt the political process.

Having said that, let me just spend a few minutes if I can on Ukraine to put this in context.  This was, I think by our count, about the 50th call or videoconference the President has had with his European counterparts since the beginning of this crisis.  And ever since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its campaign to destabilize Ukraine, the President has led the international effort to isolate Russia for its actions in Ukraine, to support Ukraine itself, and to reassure our allies.

This effort has produced major strategic gains.  We’ve created space for Ukraine to hold successful presidential elections despite Russian efforts to disrupt them.  And that’s produced the strongest leadership Ukraine has seen since the end of the Cold War.  We’ve created space for Ukraine to sign an association agreement with the European Union despite Russian efforts to prevent that.  And recall that the former President Yanukovich’s last-minute about-face on signing that association agreement is exactly what precipitated this crisis in the first place.  And we’ve forged a robust financial support package for Ukraine led by the IMF.

None of these things just happened.  They were the result of a major, sustained effort by the President to lead the international community.

All of that said, the challenge to Ukraine remains acute.  Ukrainian forces are right now making major gains to regain sovereignty in the east, but at the same time, Russia is doubling down on its own efforts to support the separatists and destabilize the country.  Indeed, it is cynically using all of the attention focused on the crash of MH17 as a cover and distraction for its own efforts.  It’s increased the provision of heavy weaponry across the border.  We’ve seen convoys of tanks, multiple rocket launchers, artillery and armored vehicles.  There’s evidence it’s preparing to deliver even more powerful multiple rocket launchers. 

It is firing from positions inside of Russia into Ukraine -- something that we documented this weekend.  And we’ve seen a significant re-buildup of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peacekeeping intervention in Ukraine.

So there’s urgency to arresting these developments, to ending the efforts to destabilize Ukraine.  And the urgency is this:  First, everything we’re seeing is a real drag on the Ukrainian economy.  The military expenditures that Ukraine has to make are a drag, and the fact that Luhansk and Donetsk, which represent 15 percent of Ukrainian GDP and about 25 percent of its manufacturing exports, are basically taken out of the Ukrainian economy equation is also a drag on the economy.

Second, the longer this goes on there’s the risk of further outrageous actions by the separatists or by Russia that deepen the international crisis.  So there’s a need to take further action now to convince Russia to change course and cease its efforts to destabilize Ukraine. 

On the call, the European leaders clearly shared this assessment and a determination to act.  We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week, including in key sectors of the Russian economy.  In turn, and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself.

Our purpose here, again, is not to punish Russia, but to make clear that it must cease its support for the separatists and stop destabilizing Ukraine.

Let me just finish by putting this in a larger context.  Everything we've seen as a result of Russia’s actions and the actions that the President has led in the international community over these many months has turned what is happening in Ukraine into a strategic loser for Russia.  First, we've seen a dramatic impact on the Russian economy by the sanctions that the United States, Europeans and others have taken. 

These are acknowledged by the Russian Finance Minister and, indeed, the Deputy Prime Minister, even Putin himself.  Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia and a proxy for the larger economy, a month ago, in announcing a steep decline in profits, said, “In particular, recent events in Ukraine significantly impacted the dynamics of the Russian economy.”

We've seen the financial markets go up and down, the ruble hitting lows, the Central Bank has had to spend $37 billion to defend the ruble, about 8 percent of its foreign exchange holdings.  The result is higher borrowing costs and a decrease in the value of Russian savings. 

Capital flight -- $70 billion in the first half of this year, more than all of 2013 combined.  And projections for the entire year put it at between $100 billion and $200 billion. 

Foreign investment is drying up.  Investors are looking for stability; they’re looking at countries that keep their international commitments; they’re looking at countries that have connected to the international economy.  On all three counts, Russia is giving them great pause.  The credit rating for Russia was cut to just above the junk level; financing yields are frozen; Russian companies are not issuing bonds to raise capital. And as we've seen overall, Russia is heading for economic contraction, not growth, a significant reversal from just a few months ago.

Let me add as well, there’s talk that Russia has “won Crimea.”  But the fact of the matter is what’s happened is it's lost Ukraine.  Ukraine is more united in a Western orientation than ever before and has a much greater sense of national identity.  We've produced, as I mentioned before, the space for elections and the signing of the association agreement with the European Union. 

Crimea itself is becoming a dead weight on the Russian economy -- $7 billion a year at least in budget and pension support; $50 to $60 billion required over the next several years for critical infrastructure.  And Russians themselves are asking why this money is being spent in Crimea and not in Russia.  There’s downward pressure on defense spending; there’s downward pressure on discretionary spending as a result of this.

We've seen the actions in Ukraine reenergize NATO.  There’s a deeper commitment to Article 5.  NATO itself, it now has a virtual regular presence, a continuous air, land and sea presence on the territory adjacent to Russia.  And we'll see what happens at the NATO summit, but there’s at least the prospect now for reversing the downward trend in defense spending.

We've seen on energy reform a jolt to the Europeans to take real steps to decrease dependence, to diversify supply, to upgrade infrastructure, to develop new sources.

And then, finally, I would say this:  For the Russians and for President Putin, power equals a combination of geopolitical influence and economic strength to provide for the Russian people.  There was a recent survey in Russia -- the top two priorities of the Russian people were evenly split:  international influence and creating the conditions for individual prosperity.  As a result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and as a result of the leadership we've exerted, both of those are in jeopardy.  And so is President Putin’s compact with his own people.

There is a way out:  Integrate Russia with the international economy, diversify away from fossil fuels, and play by the rules. That is still on offer.  That is still a possibility.  We would like nothing better than to resolve this crisis in Ukraine diplomatically.  And that's now up to President Putin.

Q    Thank you very much for this update.  Could you also update us on the U.S. response to the criticism that Senator Kerry has come under in Israel after his attempts to implement a cease-fire there?  Is that damaging to the U.S.-Israel relationship?

MR. BLINKEN:  Let me say this about Secretary Kerry:  Israel has no better friend, no stronger defender.  No one has done more to help Israel achieve a secure and lasting peace.  He has been tireless in his efforts.  And I think that Israel and many countries and friends around the world recognizes exactly that.

Q    Has the President raised this in his call with the Prime Minister yesterday?  Or have U.S. officials been complaining about the criticism to counterparts in Israel?

MR. BLINKEN:  No.  Look, what you see, I think, unfortunately on a regular basis, are people leaking things that are either misinformed or attempting to misinform.  And in particular, with regard to criticism that was levied by undisclosed sources about the proposal for a cease-fire, the proposal that was criticized was not a U.S. proposal, it was a draft to illicit comments from the Israelis.  It was basically a discussion paper based on the original Egyptian initiative.  Virtually every element that unidentified sources complained about was in the initial Egyptian proposal and agreed to by Israel 10 days before.

In that, there was no mention of the need for disarmament. The document underscored the need for discussion between Israel and Palestinian factions.  It called for the opening of border crossings.  It did not make mention of tunnels.  All of this, again, in the Egyptian proposal that the Israelis had accepted and unfortunately Hamas did not.  The document also reflected the strong view that we have that demilitarization as well as reconstruction in Gaza are critical agenda items for any negotiations that follow a cease-fire.

So the bottom line on this is that what was leaked, unfortunately, was I think an effort to misinform or was just misinformed.

Q    The sanctions that we've seen so far have been fairly targeted against Russia.  Would you describe the sweeping nature of what you're talking about later this week being coordinated between Europe and the United States?

MR. BLINKEN:  I don't want to get ahead of where the Europeans are or where we are, and we'll see that in the days to come.  But what we know is this:  The Europeans made clear last week that they were prepared to act in key sectors of the Russian economy, including the financial sector, the arms sector, the energy sector.  And so I think you can anticipate actions in those areas.  Similarly, they’re looking to broaden criteria by which they can sanction people or entities.  And I think one of the things they’re looking at is to bring in some of the cronies of President Putin. 

So we've already seen with the sanctions to date, as I went through a few moments ago, a very serious impact on the Russian economy.  And indeed, it's the sanctions themselves and then the climate of tremendous uncertainty they create, even with the prospect of more sanctions, that has led to capital flight, investment drying up and the growth projections going down to basically zero.

Q    And when you talk about this force that's building up  -- the Russians are building up, are they preparing a Russian invasion of Ukraine?

MR. BLINKEN:  One of the things that we believe Russia has been trying to do is, for example, to get the Ukrainians to take some action that they can then use as “justification” for some kind of intervention -- so-called humanitarian intervention, or so-called peacekeeping intervention.  So that's one of the things that we think is in the potential Russian playbook.

The other thing they’re doing, most significantly, is increasing the supply of heavy equipment, weapons and fighters to the separatists across the border.  And this is well documented in what we've seen; it's well documented in social media.

Q    In talking about that buildup and the heavier artillery, are we talking about more surface-to-air missile capability?

MR. BLINKEN:  We are talking about multi-rocket launchers -- that's one of the things we're seeing -- artillery pieces, tanks, armored vehicles, and the concerns, as I said at the outset, about increasingly heavy weaponry.  And I think there’s a reason for this, and the reason is that on the battlefield itself the Ukrainians are doing very well against the separatists in trying to regain the sovereignty of their entire country.  So Russia’s proxies are right now on the losing end of the fight.  And that's why we think Russia is doubling down.

Q    Do you think there are still Buk missile launchers within Ukraine at this point?

MR. BLINKEN:  We believe that there are SA-11s that are still within Ukraine, including potentially in separatists’ hands.

Q    A two-parter.  How did you arrive at $37 billion spent to defend the ruble?  And second, are there any other security things you're looking at besides rocket launchers and tanks and heavy equipment? 

MR. BLINKEN:  I think the $37 billion has actually been fairly well documented in the financial press and by other statements that have been made.  We can get you the backup for that.

And in terms of the military equipment that the Russians are providing, again, those are the main elements, but there are certainly other things that are going in.  But in terms of heavy weaponry, those are the critical elements.

Q    You’ve been talking about actions that have been taken this week by the EU and U.S.  I want to go back to something that Josh said from the podium Friday about Russia and Putin were culpable for the downing of Flight 17.  Is there a chance, is there a possibility that Putin could be charged in the International Crimes Court with war crimes, by any chance, with all of this that's going on right now?

MR. BLINKEN:  When it comes to Russian culpability, I think the record is clear.  The Russians have been directly supporting the separatists with the provision of weapons.  We believe that the SA-11 that was used to shoot down the Malaysian airliner came from Russia.  We don't know who was operating it.  We believe the weapon itself came from Russia.  The three top leading separatist leaders are all Russian nationals.  So it's clear that Russia has a significant influence over the separatists and could, if it so desired, get them to cease and desist.

So, in that sense, there is a clear and ongoing culpability by Russia for events in eastern Ukraine and for a failure to de-escalate the situation, and indeed, for the context in which all of this is happening, including the shoot-down of the airliner.

In terms of pointing to exactly who pulled the trigger, that we don't know yet and we'll see if we can develop that information.  But the bottom line is this:  Through its ongoing support and increasing support for the separatists, Russia bears responsibility for everything that's going on in eastern Ukraine.

Q    So you’re saying technically he could be brought before the International Crimes Court?

MR. BLINKEN:  Look, I don't want to get ahead of anything.  Again, the main point is to emphasize that Russia bears responsibility and has the ability to actually de-escalate this crisis by moving it onto a diplomatic track.  That is what we’d most like to see.

Q    I don't know if you’re aware of reports that just came now that Gaza Central Hospital has been hit, and 10 more dead Palestinian children.  You said that the United States is Israel’s best friend, which I tend to agree with you.  You also provide them with $3 billion a year, and you give them the Iron Dome that saved countless lives.  How come you don't have any leverage over Israel to extract a humanitarian cease-fire that would last for seven days?  Does that mean that you basically have no influence over them, or that just Israel doesn't care?

MR. BLINKEN:  First, I haven’t seen those specific reports. Second, the record is clear:  Israel has repeatedly accepted cease-fires that Hamas has rejected.  So the bottom line on that is clear.

Let me say more generally, no country can abide rockets raining down on its people or terrorists tunneling underground to kill or kidnap its people.  We have consistently and repeatedly defended Israel’s right to defend itself.  Hamas intentionally targets civilians.  And indeed, Iron Dome, thankfully, is there and has protected many of those civilians.  And it uses the Palestinian people as human shields, wrapping them around its weapons and strategic sites. 

In contrast, Israeli policy is to avoid civilian casualties. Indeed, it holds itself to the highest standards to take every precaution to avoid those casualties.  But the fact is, despite its efforts, the civilian suffering in Gaza is great and growing every day.  So the practical reality is that it is difficult for Israel to meet its own high standards.  Civilian casualties are increasing.  It’s especially heartbreaking to see children suffering in this crisis.

This is a problem we have grappled with in Iraq and then in Afghanistan because we, too, hold ourselves to these standards.  It’s incredibly difficult to sustain them.  But I think this underscores the urgency of getting an unconditional, immediate, humanitarian cease-fire.

Q    -- said yesterday -- just a quick a follow-up -- that he wants Gaza demilitarized.  What does that mean in terms of a long-term strategy or a peace negotiation or now as we talk in the next week or so?

MR. BLINKEN:  As I said, we support an immediate, unconditional, humanitarian pause leading, we hope, to a sustainable cease-fire.  We also believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must also lead to the disarmament of terrorist groups.  And what we intend to do is to work closely with Israel, regional partners and the international community to achieve this goal.
MR. EARNEST:  Ann, I’ll give you the last one, then we’ll let Tony go.

Q    Thank you very much.  On Russia, if all the impact of all of these sanctions and all the threat of sanctions are as dire as you’ve described, why hasn’t Putin blinked?

MR. BLINKEN:  He has to make a strategic decision.  And you’re exactly right, he hasn’t made it yet.  We’ve seen him on a regular basis pull back tactically, say the right things in public while he’s doing the wrong things behind the scenes.  So he’s clearly sensitive to the pressure that's being exerted.  But it’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures.  And that's what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Tony.

MR. BLINKEN:  Thanks, Josh.  Thank you.

Q    Thank you, Tony.

MR. EARNEST:  All right before we move on to other topics, I do want to do one thing at the top.  And I believe we have a slide that goes along with this -- there it is.  Today we got some very good news about Medicare’s financial future.  In the President’s first year in office in 2009, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security trustees projected the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would not be able to pay its bills in 2017, just three years from now.  Today’s new date is 2030 -- 13 years later than that projection in 2009, an improvement that is thanks in part to the reforms of the Affordable Care Act, such as efforts to reduce hospital spending on preventable readmissions.  And today’s date, you’ll note, is actually even four years later than was projected just last year.

A couple other relevant statistics that are included in the report:  Furthermore, per-capita growth, or the amount spent per Medicare beneficiary has slowed dramatically in recent years, falling to one-third of what it was, and to nearly zero last year -- helping to restrain overall growth in Medicare spending even as millions of baby boomers enter the program. 

In addition, the trustees project that the Medicare Part B premium will not increase, which would make 2015 the second year in a row that premiums in Medicare stay flat.

While today’s report focuses on Medicare, it reflects broader trends in the health care system toward much slower growth in costs, a trend that has continued into 2014.  Over the 50 months since enactment of the Affordable Care Act, health care prices have risen at a slower rate than over any comparable period in 50 years. 

So that is a report that is being released as we speak, and so there will obviously be some more details included in that report later today when you get a chance to review it.

So with that, Nedra, do you have any additional questions today?

Q    I do.  Can you give us your response to the VA deal?  Does the President think it does enough to solve the problem with the health care system?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Nedra, this compromise has been announced between House Republicans and the chair of the Senate Veterans Committee.  We certainly welcome that announcement.  There are a couple of reasons based on published reports that we’re encouraged by that compromise.

The first is, as you even heard me mention on Friday, there are much-needed reforms that need to be implemented into the Veterans Administration.  The President and others have called for those important management reforms to be implemented, and again, based on press reports, the indications of those reforms are that many of them are included in this bill.

The second thing -- and this is really important -- on July 16th, Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson called for Congress to provide VA the additional resources necessary to deliver timely, high-quality care to veterans through a strengthened VA system while also temporarily using care in the community to help ensure veterans can get the care they need when they need it.

When he asked for those additional resources to address some very specific concerns that he had laid out, that was something that had previously not been part of the debate as it relates to this VA reform package.  So the inclusion of these additional resources at the strong urging of the Acting Secretary is a positive step in the right direction, and something that we think will be very important to the success of some of the reforms that are contemplated by this bill.

In addition, this proposal for on a temporary, as-needed basis to allow some veterans to get some access to care in the community is also the kind of thing that could address the immediate need that many veterans have, but by adding these additional resources over the long term, we feel like those are benefits and care that can be provided through the VA.

So the details of this compromise have yet to be unveiled, so I don’t want to get ahead of the announcement that is planned for Capitol Hill later today.  But the early reports are positive.


Q    Josh, Susan Rice was on MSNBC a while ago.  She talked about a grave and deepening concern at the civilian casualties in Gaza.  What exactly would you like the Israelis to do?  Are you calling on them to call off the offensive?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Steve, we have said many times -- I think Tony just had the opportunity to say that we defend Israel’s right to defend themselves.  In fact, you could make a case, and many Israeli political leaders do, that they have a responsibility to make sure that they’re taking steps militarily to account for the safety of civilians on the Israeli side of the border.  This is, after all, the Israeli population that elected them, and they are in the best position to determine what steps are necessary to protect their citizens.  That is their right.

At the same time, Israel leaders often say that they have in place very high standards to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians on the other side of the border, as well.  That stands in stark contrast to the strategy that is deployed by Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza that are intentionally targeting civilians on the other side of the border.  They are also intentionally using civilians on their side of the border to try to essentially shield their equipment and their personnel from Israeli military activities.  So there is a stark contrast in the approach that’s taken by the Israelis and taken by Hamas and other extremist groups. 

That said, as I mentioned, Israel and their political leaders often talk about the high standards that they put in place for their military operations to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians -- innocent civilians on the Palestinian side of the border.  Based on published reports, it’s apparent that there is more that they should do to live up to those standards that they have set.  And that is something that we routinely encourage them to do, while defending their right to defend themselves.  The President reiterated that in his phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.


Q    For months, we’ve been talking about increasing sanctions against Russia, and sort of the ultimate would be these sweeping sectoral sanctions.  So can you explain why that hasn’t happened now?  Why is this not the time to go that far, and still do these kind of slow, incremental building sanctions?

MR. EARNEST:  I would say that the sanctions regime that the President rolled out about a week and a half ago, the day before the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jetliner, did take a step in that very direction.  These were sectoral sanctions that were aimed at specific entities in the defense, financial and energy sectors. 

There was an indication from our European partners that they were taking the preliminary steps necessary to implement similar sanctions in their own right, but those steps have not yet been taken by the Europeans.  That is something that was discussed by the President and his counterparts in Western Europe earlier today, as Tony mentioned.

So there have been some steps that the United States has taken to put in place and impose economic costs against President Putin and the Russian regime.  Tony detailed the economic impact that those sanctions were having.  But as Ann rightly pointed out in her question, it is true that the costs have not yet led to the kind of strategic re-evaluation that we would like to see the Russians undertake.  That is why the international community is actively considering imposing additional costs by having the Europeans increase the amount of sanctions that they have currently levied.  It’s also why the United States is considering additional steps that we could take that would pose additional economic costs on Russia and on President Putin.

Q    Well, so the question was really -- I mean, we all know that it’s sort of these very precise, let’s pick this bank or that bank; it’s not on the entire Russian banking system.  Do you think there’s still any leverage left in doing it that way?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m certainly not an expert in terms of the way that these tools are deployed.  But it is our view that there is additional leverage that can be gained.  That is certainly why they’re being contemplated both by leaders in Western Europe, but also by those who do have an expertise in this field in this country. 

As Tony documented, there are a number of economic consequences that Russia has already had to bear in terms of the outflow of private capital, in terms of the downward revisions in their economic projections.  We’ve also seen Russia expend significant sums of money to try to shore up the strength of their own currency.

So there are a number of steps that Russia has taken, and a number of outside evaluators who have reviewed the situation to confirm our suspicion that the economic costs have taken a toll on the Russian economy but they have not yet led President Putin to re-evaluate his strategy in Ukraine.  And that ultimately is our goal.


Q    Josh, a quick follow-up on the VA bill.  Is $10 billion enough?  They’ve unveiled it up on the Hill, so is $10 billion enough to take care of the system with its deep, deep troubles right now?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we’re still evaluating the specifics and details of their package, so I don’t want to get -- I don’t want to say any more than I already have.  But in the next couple of days, we may be in a position to comment on that a little further.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  The House and Senate are very divided on the border supplemental right now.  If they can’t come to agreement by the end of the week, what is the practical effect?  Can you wait until September?

MR. EARNEST:  Cheryl, I would refer you to the individual agencies for the impact that Congress’s failure to pass the supplemental appropriations request would have on their ability to perform the functions that they are required to perform. 

We are hopeful that Congress will take the kind of action that is required.  Both Democrats and Republicans have spoken quite publicly about their concerns about the situation at the border.  This administration has been really clear about what we feel like we need in terms of resources to deal with the influx that we saw of those who were apprehended at the border earlier this summer.

So there’s a detailed package that we’ve put forward.  As I mentioned last week, the Speaker, at a news conference at the end of the week, said that he was still discussing this matter with members of his own caucus.  That was a pretty disappointing development in the part of this administration.  We put forward a detailed package -- I happened to bring it with me right here -- it includes very detailed numbers about what we feel is necessary.

I noticed that the new Republican Whip was on one of the Sunday shows yesterday and noted that the administration was asking for a -- what he described as a blank check.  It makes me think he’s not sure -- that he doesn’t know what a blank check is.  We’ve actually been very specific about the numbers that we feel are necessary to deal with this problem and to address the range of concerns that many people have raised about those who have been apprehended at the border.

So we hope that there will be prompt congressional action on this that is in line with their rhetoric on this issue.

Q    Can I follow on that?

MR. EARNEST:  Sure, Wendell, go ahead.

Q    Why isn’t the change in the 2008 law on non-contiguous migrants’ deportation part of that package?  The President had indicated that he supported a change and his advisors say that changing that law would be necessary to send the kids at least from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador back as rapidly as those from Canada and Mexico.  So why is that not a part of that package?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, you would have to talk to members of Congress about how they want to put this all together.  What we believe is most important is ensuring that the federal government has the resources necessary to address the range of challenges that are posed by this situation.  Remember, it includes some additional security at the border in the form of surveillance equipment.  It also includes the ability of the federal government to open and operate additional detention centers so that we can detain those individuals who have been apprehended at the border.  It includes some funding for HHS that would allow them to evaluate the basic health needs of those individuals who have been apprehended, both to meet their humanitarian needs, but also to ensure the safety of the broader communities in which they're detained.

It also includes funding that would allow these repatriation flights to take place so that we could more quickly return those individuals that have been apprehended here to their home countries.  It also, of course, includes additional resources to ensure that those who are apprehended at the border receive the due process to which they're entitled.  So this means hiring new judges and prosecutors and asylum officials to ensure that that can take place.

Q    But notwithstanding Democrat and Republican differences over the amount of funding, the Republicans say in order to approve some, they're going to need to change that 2008 law.  Does the President support that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it is unfortunate that you would see them take an absolutist position on this.  We certainly do support Congress taking the necessary steps to give the Secretary of Homeland Security the flexibility he needs and the discretion that he can use to more efficiently and effectively enforce the law.  That is a priority of this administration.

But we should not allow the debate around what should be included in that language to hold up something that everybody agrees is necessary, which is additional resources that can be used by the federal government to meet the basic humanitarian needs of those individuals who are apprehended, but also provide funding that can be used to more quickly return those who are found by the courts to not have a legal basis for remaining in the country.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  Some members of the Republican Whip team on that have suggested that they’ve gotten surprising support for what is a much smaller check than the one that the White House is asking for, and the $2.7 billion being put forth by the Senate is getting some pushback from Democrats like Joe Manchin, Mary Landrieu and doesn't seem to have a lot of support on the Republican side.  And you also have a situation where Congress is in session for three and a half days this week.  So with the clock ticking, what do you see as the prognosis and what happens if none of this goes through?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there are those here in town and probably those of you here in this room that have a little bit more experience in evaluating congressional action than I do.  So I will leave that analysis and prognostication to the experts.  I’ll simply observe that this administration three weeks ago today put forward a very detailed request before Congress, and asking for those additional resources to address a problem that I think to a person every single member of Congress agreed existed. And what we have seen in Congress is a lot of talk, particularly from Republicans, but not a lot of willingness to act.  And that is rather unfortunate.

And we are hopeful that in the pivotal week that remains before Congress departs Washington for the traditional five-week recess that they’ll take the important steps that are necessary to ensure the federal government has the resources to deal with a problem that, again, I think every single member of Congress agrees exists.

Q    Can I also ask you about a Reuters’ report that just came out?  I don't have any more details than this, that Netanyahu says Israel “must be prepared for protracted Gaza campaign.”  And I wonder if it’s possible that there could be a military victory for Israel, but a loss for them in both the political realm and the court of public opinion.  Can I get your reaction to that statement by Benjamin Netanyahu?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s hard to react to a statement that occurred while I was standing up here.  But let me say that it is the position of the United States that it is in the best interests of people on both sides of the border for a cease-fire to take effect.  And the reason for that is pretty simple, that as long as the violence continues across the border, there are going to be innocent civilians in harm’s way.  And having those innocent civilians face that extreme danger has already had terribly tragic consequences for both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people.  And that's why we want to see that cease-fire put in place. 

There will be an opportunity once that cease-fire is in place for us to have discussions around the kinds of concerns that have legitimately been raised by the Israelis, in particular about Hamas’ repeated willingness to use tunnels and to fire rockets aimed squarely at doing harm to innocent civilians.

So it is the priority of this administration for a cease-fire to be put in place.  That is why you’ve seen Secretary Kerry doggedly pursue diplomacy to protect the lives of innocent civilians on both sides of that border.

Q    Moving on --

MR. EARNEST:  Sure, Ann.

Q    What are the two or three, maybe three or four absolute necessities that the President thinks Congress has to get done by the end of this week?  Would he ask them to delay their recess?  And would he ever consider skipping Kansas City?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, as we always say with the President’s travel, his trip to my hometown notwithstanding -- (laughter) -- as is always the case with the President’s travel, if there is a critically important function of the presidency that cannot be performed from the road, the President will not hesitate to change his schedule in order to fulfill those functions.  So I do not anticipate that anything that's happening in Congress would require that at this point.  But if something does emerge, something unexpected does emerge, I’m sure that is something that the President would consider.

Q    Will he ask Congress to delay its break?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’ll let him speak to that.  If he decides that that's what they should do, then he will say so.  At this point it’s the responsibility of the leaders in Congress to determine their own schedule.

There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of important work that needs to get done this week.  That includes continuing to follow through on these VA reforms on which an agreement was announced over the weekend.  So hopefully that can move forward without any delay or incident.

We certainly would like to see a step taken in terms of passing the supplemental appropriations request that this administration put forward several weeks ago to ensure that the administration has the resources necessary to deal with the problem at the border.

That being said, we could certainly address many of the problems at the border if Congress -- if the House were to take action on comprehensive immigration reform legislation that's already passed the Senate.  The Senate did their work more than a year ago.  Just by taking one simple vote, the House of Representatives could approve that legislation.  The President would sign it.  That would do more to improve our economy, create jobs and reduce the deficit than so many other things that Congress is debating right now.

I think what is the source of particular disappointment on this end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and I think of people in both parties across the country is to see that Congress -- House Republicans in particular -- are using this very valuable time to debate a piece of legislation that would allow House Republicans to file a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the President of the United States.  I certainly don't think that rises to the level of a priority that so many of these other things Congress is ignoring right now. 

Let’s move around a little bit.  Leslie.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  With Secretary Kerry unable to get a cease-fire during his trip, and the President talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu last night in what sounded like pretty blunt terms -- what are the next steps for the White House?  And do you -- to follow up on a previous question, do you believe that there is any leverage left for the United States with Israel?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the United States remains deeply engaged in this effort.  Secretary Kerry has been leading that effort over the last week in terms of the dogged diplomacy that he’s been pursuing.  He’s been meeting with his counterparts not just in Israel and among the leaders of the Palestinian people, but also with his counterparts in Egypt and Qatar and Turkey and the Arab League, the U.N.  He’s been deeply engaged in these conversations in pursuit of a multilateral, international effort to try to bring both sides together and reinstate the terms of the 2012 cease-fire, to try to get those civilians who right now are in harm’s way into a safer position.  That's been the focal point of our efforts, and we remain engaged in it. 

In terms of our relationship with Israel, the United States remains a strong ally of the nation of Israel.  American leaders say that; Israeli leaders say the same thing.  The best evidence that I have of that is the assistance that the United States has provided to the Israeli government to construct the Iron Dome system that right now is, thankfully, protecting so many Israeli civilians from these rockets that Hamas is firing.  So that relationship remains strong. 

And the reason that Secretary Kerry remains so committed to this effort is that -- or at least is in part that we believe it is clearly in the interest of Israel’s long-term security for this cease-fire [violence]* to be brought to an end, and for negotiations between the Palestinian leaders and Israeli leaders to get started in terms of trying to eventually down the line reach this broader, two-state solution.


Q    I want to go back to what Tony was saying about the sanctions and the outlook for them.  Is that -- if I understood it correctly, the EU is going to go first with their sanctions and probably -- or possibly this week, is that correct?

MR. EARNEST:  I don't know that he was in a position to talk about the sequencing of the announcement.  But I do think that he committed to our expectation that we would see Europe act before the end of the week.

Q    Would the U.S. act before the end of the week?

MR. EARNEST:  Our position is that the options like that remain on the table, that the United States is prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for their destabilizing activities in Ukraine.  I’m not in a position to confirm for you whether any decisions have been made about carrying out that action or what those actions might look like.   As we’ve talked before, it would be a strategically unwise thing to do to talk about the details of those sanctions before they're implemented. But I am in a position to confirm that those kinds of options remain on the table when it comes to the United States.

Q    One final -- would the U.S. concentrate on any particular sector?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, if we have additional sanctions to announce, then we will be able to get into those kinds of details.  But at this point, it would be preliminary for me to do so.

Q    Josh?

MR. EARNEST:  Goyal. 

Q    Thank you.  Two questions.  One, some people in the Congress want to close down the 84-year-old Export-Import Bank.  And many small businesses are saying that it is helping small businesses export U.S. goods abroad and also creating thousands of jobs in the U.S.  My question is that some people in the Congress are saying that it is helping only the big companies.  What is the President’s action -- or reaction about this bank?  Next month will expire the --

MR. EARNEST:  The President does believe that Congress should take steps to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.  That's not just the view of this administration and many Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, it’s also the view of organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce.  Those are two organizations that don't often agree with the President when it comes to some aspects of American economic policy.

But that is an area where this administration agrees that the Export-Import Bank plays a positive role in creating jobs and creating opportunities for American businesses to succeed by opening up markets around the world.

Q    Second question -- oh, by the way, it has also created jobs between India and U.S. trade.  Second question is that as far as U.S. ambassador to India is concerned, you think U.S. will have an ambassador before Prime Minister Modi visits the White House end of September?  And second, what is happening as far as Mr. Modi’s address to the Congress?  Is White House is supporting it?

MR. EARNEST:  I don't have any personnel announcements at this time, Goyal.  But when we have any updates in terms of appointing an ambassador to India, we’ll let you know.

Q    And address -- U.S. address, Mr. Modi’s address to the U.S. Congress, is White House supporting it, the President?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of those conversations.


Q    Josh, there was an unusual editorial in The New York Times yesterday, I’m sure you saw, urging the lifting of the prohibition against -- the federal prohibition against marijuana. What is the White House’s position on that?  Would you endorse that?  It’s been there for 44 years.  Maybe too long and time to change it?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I did read the editorial yesterday, Bill.  The administration’s position on this issue has not changed.  We remain committed to treating drug use as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice problem. 

In light of state laws that legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults in Colorado and Washington, the Department of Justice issued updated guidance last August to federal prosecutors in all states.  That guidance reiterates that marijuana remains an illegal substance based on the laws that Congress has passed.  But it also recognizes that we have limited enforcement resources, and that those resources are best used to address the most significant threats to our communities.

That was the policy before The New York Times editorial, and it continues to be our policy today.

Q    So does that mean that if other states follow Colorado and Washington, the administration would also give them a green light to go ahead and legalize marijuana without federal interference?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not sure a green light is the technical term that the Department of Justice has used.  (Laughter.)  But in terms of the guidance that might be offered to those states, I’d refer you to the Department of Justice.

Q    “Blessing” or whatever word you’d want to use.

MR. EARNEST:  The Department of Justice issued guidance like that.  So if there are other states that are contemplating these kinds of steps, you should check with the Department of Justice about that.

Yes, ma’am.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  Yesterday, North Korea military member had announced that North Korea will attack United States, and especially they point to the White House and Canada with using their nuclear missiles.  What is your comment on their threatening like this?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I have not seen the reports of those specific threats.   I would encourage you to check with my National Security Council colleagues about that.  The United States remains very committed to our alliance with the Republic of Korea, and that alliance allows us to have a strong military-to-military relationship with South Korea to ensure their security.  The United States remains committed as ever to the safety and security of the Republic of Korea.

Q    So you don’t have a strong reaction to them?  Because this is the first time they mentioned the White House and Pentagon specifically.

MR. EARNEST:  Again, I’m not in a position to comment specifically in reaction to those comments because I have not seen them. 

Q    Can I follow on Israel please?

MR. EARNEST:  Let’s move around a little bit.  Zeke. 

Q    Thanks, Josh.  Just with regards to the President’s trip tomorrow, can you give us any reason why is he staying an extra night in your hometown if he’s not doing a fundraiser as you said on Friday?

MR. EARNEST:  At my own personal recommendation.  (Laughter.)  No, look, we’ll have a little bit more about the President’s trip tomorrow.  This will be an opportunity for the President to spend some time in that wonderful community.  He’s going to spend some time talking to individuals who have written him a letter.  You’ve seen on the last couple of trips the President has taken across the country, he’s spent a little extra time in the community to visit with those who have written him letters about the way that individuals in these individual communities are benefiting from some of the policies the President is putting forward and how they could benefit from some of the policies the President is pushing on Congress to implement.  So we’ll have some more detail on that tomorrow.

Q    Tuesday night or Wednesday?

MR. EARNEST:  The President is departing tomorrow.  He’ll remain --

Q    -- the letters segment, when he’s going to visit people, is that going to be --
MR. EARNEST:  I believe he’ll have the opportunity to do that both Tuesday evening, as well as on Wednesday. 

Q    One other real quick, just on Secretary Kerry.  Those leaked conversations or however you want to categorize them, is that jeopardizing the U.S. government’s ability to have candid conversations with the Israeli government?  Or do you envision any sort of lasting impact on sort of the relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government as a result of these leaks?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think Tony made clear that we were disappointed to read them.  But I do not anticipate that they are going to have much of an impact on the very strong, robust relationship that exists between the United States and our allies in Israel.

Q    And, finally, does Secretary Kerry coming back to the United States and the President conducting that phone call yesterday and the one today, is this a shift -- is the President going to take a more active personal role now that Secretary Kerry’s efforts have at least temporarily failed?  Is the President going to try to use his own convening authority?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I do anticipate that the President will continue to be in regular touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  That has been the case over the last several weeks of this crisis that has been ongoing in Gaza.  And I do anticipate the President will continue to get regularly briefed by his team and will continue to be on the phone with his counterparts in the region who have concerns about the outcome here.  So I do think that the President will continue to be engaged in this. 

In terms of the next steps, those conversations will continue.  But ultimately, as we’ve said in similar circumstances as it relates to situations like this, it’s ultimately the responsibility of the two sides to come together.  What the international community and what the United States can certainly do is use our influence with both sides to press them to come to an agreement that’s in the best interest of their citizens.

As we’ve pointed out many times, we believe that a cease-fire is in the best interest of civilians on both sides of this conflict.  We just need the leaders of both sides to take the kinds of steps that will impose a cease-fire and allow the leaders to sit around the table and try to broker an agreement here.  And that’s what we’re going to continue to be focused on.

Q    But over the last week, Secretary Kerry was the point person in trying to bring those two sides together.  Has that changed this week?  Will the President be trying to bring the two sides to a multilateral agreement together?

MR. EARNEST:  I guess what I would say -- the point that I’m trying to make, Zeke, is that I think there have been a range of officials who have been actively engaged in trying to resolve the situation -- the President, first and foremost among them.  It was, however, the case last week that Secretary Kerry was the most senior U.S. official on the ground in the region trying to roll up his sleeves and broker an agreement between those who were involved in this situation. 

So those efforts will continue, even though Secretary Kerry is not actually in the region.  But if he needs to return, I’m sure that he will not hesitate to hop back on the plane and get back to work.


Q    Josh, while you were at the podium, the Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.  It’s the third federal court appeals ruling and the latest in an unbroken string in rulings against the marriage ban since the Supreme Court ruling against DOMA last year.  Any thoughts on this latest decision and the unanimous string of these decisions against marriage bans?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Chris, I haven’t -- as you pointed out, the decision was handed down while I was up here, so I have not had an opportunity to talk to anybody on our team who was able to analyze the decision.  But based on the way that you’ve described it, it does sound like the kind of decision that is consistent with the President’s views on this topic.  I think that’s the best I can do. 

All right, guys, we’ll see you tomorrow. 

2:04 P.M. EDT


Economics Daily Digest: Companies look to turn off the tap on free water
Economics Daily Digest by the Roosevelt Institute banner

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Companies Proclaim Water the Next Oil in a Rush to Turn Resources into Profit (The Guardian)

As the CEO of Nestle publicly declares that any water beyond survival needs should be paid for, Suzanne McGee considers the potential horror story of commodifying water.

Paid Leave Encourages Female Employees to Stay (NYT)

Federally mandated paid maternity leave could be one of the most powerful tools to reverse the decline of women's participation in the U.S. labor force, says Claire Cain Miller.

One More Clue that the Obamacare Lawsuits Are Wrong (TNR)

In light of current legal fights over health care exchange subsidies, Jonathan Cohn looks back to a 2010 e-mail from an influential House staffer for proof of Congress's intentions.

History Suggests Ryan Block Grant Would Be Susceptible to Cuts (Off the Charts)

Richard Kogan points out the vulnerability of block grants, which have less obvious impacts than individual programs. Of 11 major anti-poverty block grants, nine have faced cuts since 2001.

A Bill to Get the Labor Movement Back on Offense (The Nation)

George Zornick reports on a proposal by House Democrats that would make labor organizing a civil right and allow workers to take their complaints outside the National Labor Relations Board.

Fast Food Convention Portends Escalation in Strikes (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff writes that workers at this weekend's fast food convention pushed for more radical tactics as well as cross-movement collaboration with groups like Moral Mondays in North Carolina.

New on Next New Deal

After the End of the Innovation Era

Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, envisions a future of slowed technological growth in his speculation for the Next American Economy project.

Global confidence in President Obama much higher than Bush
With the overlapping crises in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel, Republicans trying to pin the blame on President Obama are singing the same sound bite in unison. As Mitt Romney put it earlier this year:
Our esteem around the world has fallen. I can't think of a major country, it's hard to think of a single country that has greater respect and admiration for America today than it did five years ago when Barack Obama became president. And that's a very sad, unfortunate state of affairs.
Of course, what's really sad (sadder even than candidate Romney's inability to tell CNN's Donna Brazile and PBS's Gwen Ifill apart) is that Obama's would-have-been replacement has reality exactly backward. As it turns out, polls have shown that almost every major country has more respect for Barack Obama now than for his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

George Zimmerman has a new job. Working as a security guard. For an ammunition store. For real.
George Zimmerman in court, June 24, 2013
I'm sure the people of DeLand, Florida, feel safer already:
According to a DeLand police report, George Zimmerman has found work as a security guard at Pompano Pats in DeLand.

Pompano Pats is a locally owned store on South Woodland Boulevard that sells firearms, ammunition and motorcycles.

The report stated that the owner of the business asked Zimmerman to guard the store due to a recent burglary.

Rep. Mike Kelly compares EPA regulations to terrorism
Rep. Mike Kelly appearing on Fox Business. Chyron: 'Rep. Kelly: The Admin's War on Coal is a War on American Jobs, Livelihoods''
Rep. Mike Kelly
Oh c'mon:
Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly (R) had choice worlds for the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule on power plant emissions Monday, moving beyond the usual “war on coal” language and likening the proposed regulations to an act of terrorism. [...]

“You talk about terrorism — you can do it in a lot of different ways,” he said. “But you terrorize the people who supply everything this country needs to be great — and you keep them on the sidelines — my goodness, what have we become?”

So first we were told that efforts to control carbon emissions is like the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, now the same regulation amounts to "terrorism". Anything else? Anybody else want to weigh in with their deeply held pet theory about why we must continue to destroy the atmosphere of the planet at the fastest possible rate, some new thought on why turning the only planet mankind currently exists on into an Easy-Bake Oven, for freedom? Your starting bid is "because Hitler" and "because terrorism." Anyone else? reports on a press conference delivered by officials from the Alabama Public Service Commission and the Republican National Committee yesterday at which they argued against new EPA coal plant regulations by claiming that “coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God's plan.”

“Who has the right to take what God's given a state?" asked commissioner-elect Chip Beeker.

Oh f--k you, guy. That's it, I'm out. If anyone needs me I'll be out back building a Mars-capable escape rocket from a bunch of old apple crates.

McCain calls Obama most lawless president ever, but says Senate wouldn't convict him if impeached
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) smiles as he talks to reporters after a Republican Senate caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington October 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Via TPM, John McCain says that Republicans won't remove President Obama from office "even if we believed that it was warranted" because they don't have enough votes:
The fact is that we're not going to impeach the president because we don't have 67 votes in the United States Senate in order to do so.
McCain mangled his terminology there, because the Senate doesn't vote on impeachment—that's up to the House. Instead, the Senate would hold an impeachment trial if the House voted to impeach the president. Convicting Obama would require 67 votes, and nobody has ever suggested that there's any chance he'd be convicted. So while McCain did manage to get the headline he probably wanted, he didn't actually say anything that wasn't already universally accepted as obviously true.

But he did support the House's decision to sue the president:

But I do think a lawsuit filing, about the president's abuse of power, which he has clearly done—some 55 times, or whatever it is, on Obamacare alone—I think that's a good idea.
And he also said he believes Obama is the biggest lawbreaker ever to sit in the Oval Office, at least that he can remember:
I do believe that this president has broken more laws, by executive order—well, let me put it this way: I believe that he has abused the executive branch in a way that I don't recall any other president doing.
So on the one hand, McCain told us what we already knew: That there aren't enough votes in the Senate to convict Obama of impeachment. But he also added something we didn't know: That he believes Obama is the most lawless president that he can remember.

Good to know.

McDonald's is responsible for working conditions in franchise restaurants, labor board says
McDonald's worker Keyana McDowell, 20, (L) strikes outside McDonald's in Los Angeles, California, December 5, 2013. Organizers say fast food workers will strike in 100 U.S. cities, and there will be protests in 100 more, to fight for $15 an hour wages and
In a move that could have far-reaching implications for franchised businesses and low-wage workers, the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel said Tuesday that McDonald's would be treated as a joint employer along with franchisees in 43 unfair labor practices cases. Setting this precedent would make it harder for the company to deny responsibility for wage theft and other abuses—like the cases that raised this question in the first place, with workers alleging they were fired in retaliation for participating in legally protected strikes. McDonald's, like other franchise businesses, has traditionally claimed that it has nothing to do with labor practices in its restaurants, but the tight control the company exerts over every aspect of management of its franchisee-owned restaurants points to a different conclusion:
...  advocates argue that the fast-food giant's franchise agreement and actual business practices are so restrictive and pervasive that franchise owners have little latitude with their staffing arrangements and no choice but to keep labor costs as low as possible. In a somewhat unusual arrangement, McDonald's even controls its own real estate and extracts exorbitant rents from its franchisees, who are on the hook for expensive renovations. All that has driven profit margins down to the point where former McDonald's executive Richard Adams, now a consultant, estimates that about a quarter of franchises don't even generate positive cash flow for the owner. That doesn't give them many options.
Steven Greenhouse flags another important detail in figuring out whether McDonald's exerts control as an employer over workers at franchise restaurants:
McDonald’s has even warned some franchisees that they were paying their workers too much.
If McDonald's thinks it's the company's business to correct when workers are being paid too well, shouldn't it be held responsibly when they're not paid enough, or are fired illegally? It seems that the NLRB agrees. McDonald's is, of course, challenging that.

Another record-breaking election: $2 billion for an off-year campaign
Demonstrator holding sign saying

This is going to be an unprecedented campaign year in a few ways, all of which boil down to the obscene amounts of money that outside groups can spend to try to influence the vote in this post-Citizens United world. The New York Times has analyzed data provided by Kantar Media/CMAG through mid-July of this year, and finds earlier ad spending, more spending, and more outside spending than ever before. They predict the final price tag for political ad spending for 2014 to reach more than $2 billion.
“They have become a shadow party that’s effectively impossible to dislodge, and they will shape, if not control, the dialogue in key races and therefore nationally,” said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director for the Center for Responsive Politics. “All of this sets the stage for 2016.”

The phenomenon, which is playing out in races across the country, is particularly pronounced in several competitive Senate contests — in places like Alaska, Colorado and North Carolina, among others. In the Senate races alone, the number of political television spots from outside groups is nearly six times as much as it was at the same point in the 2010 cycle. In fact, more political ads from outside groups have already aired during the relatively slow summer period of the 2014 Senate contests—roughly 150,000 spots through mid-July—than ran throughout the entire 2010 Senate elections.

As we've seen so far in this campaign though, all that money isn't doing a whole hell of a lot to change voter minds. Particularly for the Koch brothers, where their Americans for Prosperity has been pouring millions and millions into races without moving the polling needle a bit. That's not a big surprise to the strategists.
“The irony is that the more political ads air on TV, the more voters tune them out,” said Mark McKinnon, a veteran Republican strategist and ad maker. “It just becomes a white noise. The return on investment is absurd.”
The Kochs will set the pace for spending, the Democrats will try to keep up, and the American electorate will become even more fed up and disgusted with politics than ever, having been subjected to the onslaught of ads that won't ever end. The Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon don't just destroy democracy by giving an incredibly outsized voice to corporate and obscenely wealthy voters. It also locks people who don't have access to that kind of money out of running for federal office and it multiplies the cynicism and the disengagement of the voters.

At the rate we're going, we're not only going to see campaign spending records fall, we're on track to break another record for low voter turnout in an off-year election.

Senate Dems suggest they'll link immigration reform to House bill on deporting refugee children
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) addresses reporters after meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, October 10, 2013. Reid expressed caution on Thursday about a short-term debt ceiling increase plan that Republica
Politico reports:
If House Republicans pass a pared-down funding bill for the border crisis, Senate Democrats are warning they may try to attach the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill to the package.

Obviously, there's no chance the House will pass immigration reform, so if this report is accurate, it's really more about positioning than trying to achieve a deal. In fact, with Senate Republicans already filibustering Democratic attempts to pass legislation dealing with just the refugee children, the House probably doesn't even need to worry about what would happen if the Senate passed a new border bill with immigration attached—because with Republicans saying they'd oppose any such effort, it won't.

There will probably be some tsk-tsking from the media about how something is better than nothing, and at least House Republicans passed something—if indeed they do pass something—so why isn't the Senate doing something? But given that the bill House Republicans are hoping to pass would accomplish nothing other than accelerating the deportation of refugee children, this seems like a case of nothing is better than something. And maybe if Senate Democrats link action to immigration reform, it will remind at least a couple of reporters in D.C. that the Senate has already passed major legislation to deal with the border in comprehensive fashion—and that it's House Republicans who refuse to act.

Obama announces expanded sanctions on Russia over Ukraine conflict
President Barack Obama discusses Ukraine during a meeting with members of his National Security Staff in the Oval Office, Feb. 28, 2014.
On the heels of the European Union's approval of its first broad-based economic sanctions on Russia, President Obama today announced an expanded set of sanctions against Russia aimed at the country's energy, financial and military sectors. He also announced the suspension of programs to finance expanded trade with Russia or to increase economic development in Russia.

The president began his remarks by recalling the lives lost in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, which he blamed on "Russia-backed separatists." The president accused "Russia and its proxies in Ukraine" of refusing to cooperate in the crash investigation and continuing to kill Ukrainian civilians. He said Russia was training and arming the separatists, and that its own military was firing on Ukraine from Russia, which he said was a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty.

President Obama said he has worked with our European allies to form a united response to Russia and that as a result, "the sanctions we're announcing today will have an even bigger bite." He also said the sanctions reflected America's commitment to follow through on its promises.

"Today, Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of progress. [...] This is a choice that Russia, and President Putin in particular, has made." Instead of violating Ukrainian sovereignty, said the president, Russia should resolve its differences diplomatically, while recognizing the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine.

Asked by a reporter whether the sanctions marked the beginning of a new cold war, the president said they didn't. "It's not a new cold's a very specific issue," he said, naming Russia's refusal to recognize Ukraine's independent and sovereignty.

Asked about whether the U.S. would provide Ukraine with military support, the president said the issue "at this point" wasn't whether Ukraine could fight the separatists, but whether Russia would stop supporting them. He said that he felt economic sanctions would impose a sufficient penalty on Russia that it should change Putin's actions, but he ended by saying that ultimately, it was Putin who would have to decide to stop Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

Want to kick Rep. Steve King out of office? Help us elect Jim Mowrer
Democratic candidate for IA-04, Jim Mowrer
Goal ThermometerMeet Democrat Jim Mowrer, easily one of the hero candidates of the 2014 cycle. Why? Well, first he's a Fighting Dem, one of the many candidates Daily Kos has endorsed who served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Second, he's running as a real Democrat in a red district, Iowa's Fourth District. Third, he's taking on Rep. Steve King. You know King—the guy who regularly competes with Rep. Louis Gohmert to see who can most effectively combine bigotry, stupidity and flat-out crazy in his public pronouncements. Like this one:
"His vision of America isn’t like our version of America. That we know," King said of Obama. "Now I don't assert where he was born, I will just tell you that we are all certain that he was not raised with an American experience. So these things that beat in our hearts when we hear the National Anthem and when we say the Pledge of Allegiance doesn't beat the same for him."
That was just last week, meaning that the birther movement is alive and well in the Republican Party in the form of Steve King. Do you need to remember more about him? How about calves the size of cantaloupes? Yeah, that was him. The guy who thinks people being able to buy affordable private insurance is a government scheme to "take over our skin and everything inside it." And don't even get me started on the light bulbs. The best thing there is to say about King is that Gohmert might be worse.

Iowa would be doing a service to the entire nation to replace King with Jim Mowrer, an Iraq war veteran who returned to work at the Pentagon after his active service in the National Guard. He's an award-winning civil servant, in fact, having received the "Outstanding Civilian Service Award," the third-highest honor a civilian can get for helping increase the efficiency of the Army. Now that's an achievement.

But Mowrer's motivation continues to be serving Iowa, and doing so as a real Democrat. He left D.C. and took his family back to his Iowa hometown to take on this race. He won't shy away from marriage equality or from a woman's right to make her own medical decisions. And read what he has to say about being a Democrat in his questionnaire for Daily Kos.

When I was just 7 years old, my father died in a farming accident. We lost the farm and my mom moved into town and raised my sister and I on a small salary. If it weren't for Social Security survivor benefits, we would have fallen too far to get back up. This is why I'm a Democrat. This is why I'm running for office, because if our neighbors fall, they shouldn't fall so far they can't get back up.
King has so far been able to hold off challengers, but Mowrer is a new kind of candidate, with very deep roots in the district and a smart campaign. There are about 160,000 independent voters in the district, and at least some of them must be embarrassed on a daily basis by their "representation." PPP polled on King last October, and found significant problems for him: 47 percent disapproval to 40 percent approval, he loses 49-45 to a generic Democrat and the tea party is underwater in approval 48-37. King has had lackluster fundraising and at the end of the last quarter, trailed Mowrer in cash on hand.

Here's a chance to do a real service for Iowa, and for the nation, by replacing one of the GOP's worst—not just with a Democrat, but with a Fighting Dem. Chip in $3 today to help Daily Kos elect Jim Mower and defeat Steve King.


Georgia Democrat’s Senate Campaign Plan, Not Meant for Public Eyes, Is Published
The document said Michelle Nunn might be attacked as a “lightweight,” “too liberal” and “not a ‘real’ Georgian,” and laid out strategies to respond to criticism.

U.S. Says Russia Tested Cruise Missile, Violating Treaty
The United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials.

Ex-First Couple’s Defense in Virginia: State of Union
Lawyers for Former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, made clear in opening arguments for the couple’s corruption trial that they planned to rely on the sordid details of their unhappy union as the basis of their legal defense.

Man In the News: V.A. Chief Spent Career Seeking Out Tough Tasks
Robert McDonald, a former Army officer and Procter & Gamble executive, has held increasingly demanding leadership roles in his career. With his confirmation as secretary of veterans affairs, he may have been handed his biggest challenge.

House G.O.P. Plan on Migrants Falls Short of Obama’s Goal
House Republicans are proposing to spend $659 million to stem the surge of undocumented child migrants from Central America, a small fraction of the $3.7 billion President Obama seeks.

Impeachment, on G.O.P. Lips, Animates Base of Democrats
The Democratic Party has used Republican discussion of impeaching President Obama to raise money from concerned Democrats for the midterm elections.

National Briefing | Washington: Proposal to Move F.B.I.’s. Headquarters to Suburbs
The General Services Administration named two sites in Maryland and one in Northern Virginia as finalists for the new headquarters.

National Briefing | New England: Massachusetts: Lawmakers Finalize Bill Aimed at Protesters Outside Abortion Clinics
The bill would allow the police to disperse an assembly of one or more that “substantially impedes” passage to a clinic entrance.

Washington Prepares to Host Meeting of African Leaders
Before 50 African leaders arrive in the nation’s capital next week to discuss development on the continent, federal workers were urged to telecommute for concern over traffic jams.

Everyday Economics: What Debate? Economists Agree the Stimulus Lifted the Economy
Political discussions about economics have become largely unhinged from those among actual economists.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

60 MINUTES +/-

ALMA: Peering into the universe's past
A $1.3 billion radio telescope is allowing scientists to see parts of the universe they've seen never before, offering insight into how it all began

Jobs program aids Fortune 500 and underprivileged youth
"Year Up" trains thousands of disadvantaged youth for internships that often lead to corporate jobs -- jobs that companies have found hard to fill

Nile Crocodile: Diving with a deadly predator
Africa's Nile crocodiles can grow up to 20 feet long, weigh as much as a car, and bite as hard as a T-Rex. So why does Anderson Cooper get in the water with them?

Reinventing opera at the Met
Bob Simon reports on the Metropolitan Opera's mission: to make opera as popular -- and populist -- as it once was

Daring rescue days before the fall of Saigon
The little known story of a young, American banker's 1975 return to Vietnam to save his stranded Vietnamese colleagues and their families

The Giving Pledge: A new club for billionaires
Membership comes with just two requirements: You must be worth at least a billion dollars and be willing to give half of that away

Billion-dollar art battle steeped in WWII history
Morley Safer reports on the discovery of the largest cache of missing art since WWII -- including some pieces looted by the Nazis -- and the battle over its ownership

Who's minding the nukes?
Lesley Stahl gets rare access inside an American nuclear control center and meets the young airmen who watch over some of the world’s deadliest weapons

60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll: Etiquette
What's the worst way to break up with someone? Americans share their opinions on etiquette in the July edition of the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll

Malcolm Gladwell: The power of the underdog
David had an advantage over Goliath? Malcolm Gladwell talks with Anderson Cooper about the link between adversity and innovation.

Hollywood's Villain: Kim Dotcom
The U.S. government says Kim Dotcom is one of the world's biggest Internet pirates, but Dotcom insists he's a businessman

Lamborghini: 50 years of exotic supercars
After half a century, Lamborghini is still making the kind of cars that dreams are made of -- a precious handful a day

The Chameleon: Cate Blanchett
The versatile Australian actress is famous for morphing into her roles, but tells Lesley Stahl that each time she worries she won’t pull it off

Disability, USA
Steve Kroft reports on the alarming state of the federal disability program, which has exploded in size and could run out of money

Drones over America
Will the skies of the future be filled with buzzing drones? Morley Safer explores the new, hardly regulated world of commercial drones

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