Southwest Border

07/08/2014

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U.S. Immigration 

The Obama Administration’s Agenda on Immigration

President Barack Obama outlined in his agenda five objectives in addressing immigration. They are:

1. Strengthen Border Control
2. Improve Our Immigration System
3. Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally
4. Bring People out of the Shadows
5. Work with Mexico

President Obama understands the importance and urgency in fixing the broken immigration system and outlined his vision for a 21st century immigration policy:

* Responsibility by the federal government to secure our borders:Today, our borders are more secure than at any time in the past several decades, and the Administration continues to refine and strengthen its strategy. Enforcement resources should be focused on preventing those who would do our nation harm from entering our country.

* Accountability for businesses that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers: Employers who deliberately hire and exploit undocumented workers must be held accountable. At the same time, we must give employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.

* Strengthening our economic competiveness by creating a legal immigration system that reflects our values and diverse needs: Our immigration laws should continue to reunify families and encourage individuals we train in our world-class institutions to stay and develop new technologies and industries in the United States rather than abroad. The law should stop punishing innocent young people whose parents brought them here illegally and give those young men and women a chance to stay in this country if they serve in the military or pursue higher education. A smart 21st century system should also provide farmers a legal way to hire the workers they rely on year after year, and it should improve procedures for employers who seek to hire foreign workers for jobs if U.S. workers are not available.

* Responsibility from people who are living in the United States illegally: Those people living here illegally must also be held accountable for their actions and get on the right side of the law by registering and undergoing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, and learning English before they can get in line to become eligible for citizenship. Being a citizen of this country comes not only with rights but also with fundamental responsibilities. We can create a pathway for legal status that is fair and reflects our values.

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For the immediate time President Obama has issued these  important policies for immigration:

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
President Obama’s new DREAM relief policy [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, or DACA] would allow undocumented youth who qualify to request temporary relief from deportation, making them eligible to receive work permits and a social security number. For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/06/15/remarks-president-immigration

Family Unity Immigration Policy Change
President Obama’s  final rule in the Federal Register that reduces the time U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives (spouse, children and parents), who are in the process of obtaining visas to become lawful permanent residents of the United States under certain circumstances. The process will be effective on March 4, 2013 and more information about the filing process will be made available in the coming weeks at http://www.uscis.gov/.

DHS Announces Proposals to Attract and Retain Highly Skilled Immigrants
As part of the Administration’s continuing commitment to attract and retain highly skilled immigrants, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced the publication of two proposed rules, including a rule to extend employment authorization to spouses of certain H-1B workers, and a proposal to enhance opportunities for certain groups of highly-skilled workers by removing obstacles to their remaining in the United States.

Issue Guidance for School Districts to Ensure Equal Access for All Children to Public Schools, Regardless of Immigration Status
Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder today announced updated guidance to assist public elementary and secondary schools to ensure enrollment processes are consistent with the law and fulfill their obligation to provide all children—no matter their background—equal access to an education.
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July 08, 2014

FACT SHEET: Emergency Supplemental Request to Address the Increase in Child and Adult Migration from Central America in the Rio Grande Valley Areas of the Southwest Border

While overall rates of apprehensions across our Southwest border remain at near historic lows, apprehensions and processing of children and individuals from Central America crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley have continued at high rates.  The Administration continues to address this urgent humanitarian situation with a whole-of government response which includes efforts by the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) to deploy additional enforcement resources — including immigration judges, Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorneys, and asylum officers — to focus on individuals and adults traveling with children from Central America and entering without authorization across the Southwest border.  Part of this surge includes detention of adults traveling with children, as well as expanded use of the Alternatives to Detention program, to avoid a more significant humanitarian situation.  DHS is working to secure additional space that satisfies applicable legal and humanitarian standards for detention of adults with children.  This surge of resources means that cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible, ensuring the protection of asylum seekers and refugees while enabling the prompt removal of individuals who do not qualify for asylum or other forms of relief from removal.  Finally, to attack the criminal organizations and smuggling rings that are exploiting these individuals, agencies are surging law enforcement task forces in cooperation with our international partners, with a focus on stepped-up interdiction and prosecution.

For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/07/08/fact-sheet-emergency-supplemental-request-address-increase-child-and-adu

 

July 09, 2014

Statement by the President on Immigration

Dallas Love Field
Dallas, Texas

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. I just had a good meeting with Governor Perry, local officials, and faith leaders to talk about the steps that we have taken and that we need to take to address the humanitarian situation on the border. And I want to thank everybody who’s been involved for taking the time to talk to me.

It’s important to recognize two things. First, the surge of unaccompanied children, and adults with children, are arriving at one sector of the border, and that’s the Rio Grande Valley. Second, the issue is not that people are evading our enforcement officials. The issue is that we’re apprehending them in large numbers. And we’re working to make sure that we have sufficient facilities to detain, house, and process them appropriately, while attending to unaccompanied children with the care and compassion that they deserve while they’re in our custody.

While we intend to do the right thing by these children, their parents need to know that this is an incredibly dangerous situation and it is unlikely that their children will be able to stay. And I’ve asked parents across Central America not to put their children in harm’s way in this fashion.

Right now, there are more Border Patrol agents and surveillance resources on the ground than at any time in our history. And we deport almost 400,000 migrants each year. But as soon as it became clear that this year’s migration to the border was different than in past years, I directed FEMA to coordinate our response at the border. Members of my Cabinet and my staff have made multiple trips to facilities there. And we’re also addressing the root of the problem. I sent Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry and Secretary Johnson to meet with Central American leaders, as well as working with our international partners to go after smugglers who are putting their kids’ lives at risk.

And earlier this week, Mexico announced a series of steps that they’re going to take on their southern border to help stem the tide of these unaccompanied children.

Last week, I sent a letter to Congress asking them to increase penalties on smugglers and to give us flexibility to move migrants through the system faster.

For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/07/09/statement-president-immigration

* Broder Security Overview
* Criminal Alien Program
* Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
* Delegation of Immigration Authority, 287(g)
* ICE Parental Interest Directive
* Rapid REPAT
* Removal Statistics
* Repatriation
* Secure Communities

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Victim of Immigration Crime?
Are you a U.S. citizens or detained wrongfully?
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Toll-free hotline – (855) 448-6903
Email

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Water Resources Reform and Development Act & Congressional Medal for The Borinqueneers

06/09/2014

Water Resources Reform and Development Act

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (H.R. 3080) is a water resources bill that would authorize the United States Army Corps of Engineers to do various water related projects, such as improvements to ports or flood protection. It was introduced into the United States House of Representatives during the 113th United States Congress.

Background

Typically, water resource bills are passed every few years, but one has not passed since 2007. One reason no other water bill has passed since 2007 is that there have been controversies about the bill’s use of earmarks to fund specific projects.

Provisions of the bill

The bill contains reforms intended to speed up “project delivery by eliminating duplicative studies and requiring concurrent reviews, and streamlining environmental reviews.” It also deauthorizes $12 billion worth of projects that have not been active over the last five years. The bill would also allow non-federal organizations and groups to provide funding for projects. If passed, the bill would set up a Congressional review process for approving projects, instead of letting the Army Corps of Engineers make all decisions about which project to pursue.

Congressional Budget Office report

This summary is based largely on the summary provided by the Congressional Budget Office, a public domain source. As ordered reported by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on September 19, 2013.

H.R. 3080 would authorize the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to construct water projects for mitigating storm and hurricane damage, restoring ecosystems, and improving flood management. The legislation also would authorize the agency to assist states and local governments with levee safety programs and to assist Indian tribes with planning and technical assistance for water resources projects. Finally, H.R. 3080 would direct the Corps to implement a pilot program to enter agreements with nonfederal partners to manage and construct certain projects. Those agreements would be subject to appropriation of all federal costs.

For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_Resources_Reform_and_Development_Act_of_2013_(H.R._3080;_113th_Congress)

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Water Resources Reform and Development Act

May 15, 2014 transportation.house.gov

The Conference Report to H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), was filed in the House of Representatives today. WRRDA was introduced in the House by Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Committee Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-WV), Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Bishop (D-NY).

H.R. 3080 passed the House by a vote of 417 to 3 on October 23, 2013. House and Senate conferees reached agreement on a final measure last week, and now both Houses of Congress must approve the Conference Report in order to send it to the President to be signed into law.

“This measure will strengthen our Nation’s transportation network, keep America competitive in the global marketplace, and reform and streamline the way we move forward with improvements to our ports, locks, dams, and other water resources infrastructure,” Shuster said. “This legislation is about jobs and our country’s economic prosperity, and I look forward to bringing it back to the House for a final vote.”

“This bill will advance the modernization of America’s waterways and ports—critical corridors of commerce that enable the efficient transport of American-produced commodities, including West Virginia coal,” Rahall said. “The investments made possible by this bill support jobs throughout the nation, on our waterways, our farms and fields, on shop floors and in our mines. WRRDA will lay the foundation for economic growth for many years to come, and I am grateful to my colleagues—House and Senate, Democratic and Republican—who worked so diligently to get us to where we are today. This bill proves that bipartisanship is still alive on Capitol Hill.”

Source: http://transportation.house.gov/wrrda/conference.htm

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WRRDA Conference Report

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Water Resources Bill Helps Achieve Development and Conservation Goals – 5/15/14 Nature Conservancy

Soldiers of the 65th, North of the Han River, Korea, June 1951.

Soldiers of the 65th, North of the Han River, Korea, June 1951.

The Congressional Gold Medal awarded to The Borinqueneers

The Congressional Gold Medal will be the highest award granted by Congress to a Hispanic active duty unit in U.S. history. The Borinqueneers will be only the second Latino individual or group to receive a Congressional Gold Medal. This recognition of their service and sacrifice is long overdue and I thank the authors, the Governor of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans and veterans from Florida to New York, to Illinois to Colorado who have made sure the accomplishments of the Borinqueneers are preserved and celebrated.

The Borinqueneers served during WWI, WWII, and the Korean War.  The unit was segregated through most of the Korean War and composed primarily of soldiers from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, but also included recruits from other Latino backgrounds.  In the face of discrimination and segregation, these brave soldiers performed many remarkable military accomplishments and are known for waging the final battalion-sized bayonet assault in U.S. Army history.

These soldiers fought valiantly on behalf the U.S. and served our nation honorably with great skill and courage.  General Douglas MacArthur said of the Borinqueneers, “The Puerto Ricans forming the ranks of the gallant 65th Infantry give daily proof on the battlefields of Korea of their courage, determination and resolute will to victory, their invincible loyalty to the United States and their fervent devotion to those immutable principles of human relations which the Americans of the Continents and of Puerto Rico have in common.  They are writing a brilliant record of heroism in battle and I am indeed proud to have them under my command.  I wish that we could count on many more like them.”

Throughout the course of the Korean War, Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment suffered more casualties than did the vast majority of mainland states and according to Department of Defense records, 2,700 soldiers received the Purple Heart for wounds received while in battle, and the Regiment lost 740 Borinqueneers in Korea.  The Borinqueneers selflessly served and many gave their lives for our democracy and have earned this recognition from Congress. They have inspired new generations of Puerto Ricans who have continued to answer the call to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States.

Source: https://gutierrez.house.gov/press-release/borinqueneers’-congressional-gold-medal-recognition-sacrifices-puerto-rico’s-famed

 

Tuesday, June 10th
President Obama signs H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform & Development Act of 2014
and H.R. 1726, an Act to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment, known as the Borinqueneers
South Court Auditorium, White House

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D-Day – 70th Anniversary

06/04/2014
Omaha Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944

Omaha Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944

The Normandy landings, also known as Operation Neptune were the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy, in Operation Overlord, during World War II. The landings commenced on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 (D-Day), beginning at 6:30 AM British Double Summer Time (GMT+2). In planning, D-Day was the term used for the day of actual landing, which was dependent on final approval.

The assault was conducted in two phases: an airborne assault landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6:30 AM. There were also decoy operations mounted under the codenames Operation Glimmer and Operation Taxable to distract the German forces from the real landing areas.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing on 6 June 1944.

Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normandy_landings

70th Anniversary - 6.6.1944

The 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy

From June 5th to August 21st 2014, Normandy will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy with due splendor and emotion. This year’s anniversary will be a time of national and international contemplation and communion.

Traditionally, annual commemorations of the Landings of June 6th 1944 have always been major events for Basse-Normandie, all the more so on the occasions of quinquennial and decennial anniversaries, where the international aspect is especially prominent.

And because this will likely be the last decennial anniversary to take place in the presence of actors in and witnesses to those momentous events, it will be a particularly special occasion; welcoming a still large number of the remaining men and women who act as guardians of this “living memory” – probably for the last time and in celebration of a great anniversary – will indeed be cause for heartfelt emotion.

The anniversary will also provide a fitting opportunity for transmission of memory and the sharing of those fundamental values for which so many young men were willing to make the supreme sacrifice: peace, freedom, brotherhood and the dignity of humankind.

The presence of the liberators of Normandy, France and Europe will be a fresh occasion for us to show them our undying gratitude, and to stand alongside them in associating our young people with the various commemorative actions so as to make the event an essential step in transmission of memory. A range of educational initiatives are already underway across the region.

The June 6th Landings are of cardinal importance in the collective memory of the English-speaking world, which is why the 70th anniversary will also include a message of thanks and unfailing friendship from the French people to the British, American and Canadian peoples.

We shall be no less committed to expressing our unbounded gratitude to the Poles, Dutch, Belgians, Australians, Greeks, Luxembourgers, Norwegians, Czechs, Slovakians, New Zealanders and Danes, all of them France’s liberators, who will also have a place of honor in the commemorations and remembrance initiatives.

The choice of the Sword Beach sector for holding the international ceremony on June 6th 2014 will also enable fitting tribute to be paid to the 177 men of Kieffer’s Commando Battalion, who were the only French soldiers to take part in ground operations on D-Day, alongside their British comrades.

In addition, as in 2004, this anniversary will also be a milestone in the process of Franco-German reconciliation, keeping alive the spirit of the Élysée Treaty.

And finally, it will be an occasion to remember the heavy price that the civilian population had to pay for the liberation of Normandy and France, and to pay tribute to the heroism shown by the Norman people in 1944. Alongside the necessary tribute paid to the soldiers that lost their lives, we should also remember those who found themselves at the mercy of military strategy and caught up in a rain of fire in the midst of the fighting.

In the spring and summer of 2014, the eyes of the world will be on Normandy; it will be an occasion for the region to show the world its dynamism, its many assets, and its determination to build a future without forgetting the past.

For more: http://www.the70th-normandy.com/?lang=en

C-SPAN Full Video: http://www.c-span.org/video/?319831-1/dday-70th-anniversary-international-ceremony

D-Day 70th Anniversary

RENDER HONORS - U.S. President Barack Obama and World War II veterans render honors as the U.S. Army Color Guard presents its colors at the Normandy American Cemetery during the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, June 6, 2014. DOD photo by Marvin Lynchard

RENDER HONORS – U.S. President Barack Obama and World War II veterans render honors as the U.S. Army Color Guard presents its colors at the Normandy American Cemetery during the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, June 6, 2014. DOD photo by Marvin Lynchard

U.S. Department of Defense
70th Anniversary of D-Day and The Invasion of Normandy Tribute


POTUS Europe Travel to Poland, Belgium and France

06/02/2014

US Polish flagsUS Belgium flagsUS French flags

 

 

 

pbo europe 2014

April 30, 2014

Statement by the Press Secretary on the President’s Travel to Europe in June 2014

As part of the United States’ ongoing consultations with our allies, President Obama will travel to Poland, Belgium, and France in June 2014. While in Warsaw, the President will hold bilateral meetings and join other world leaders in commemorating the Polish Day of Freedom, marking the 25th anniversary of Poland’s emergence from Communism. From Poland, the President will travel to Brussels for the June 4-5 G-7 Leaders’ Summit, which was moved to Brussels after the G-7 Leaders agreed to cancel the G-8 Summit in Sochi due to Russia’s illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea. The Leaders will discuss their broad shared economic, security, and development agenda and follow up on their March 24 discussion in The Hague on the situation in Ukraine. The President then will continue on to France to participate in commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The President appreciates the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families, and he looks forward to honoring them, along with the contributions of all the Allies. Further details will be provided at a later time.

US – EU Trade Agreement

FACT SHEET: The United States and Poland: Strong and United

FACT SHEET: European Reassurance Initiative and Other U.S. Efforts in Support of NATO Allies and Partners

FACT SHEET: The United States and Central and Eastern Europe: Enduring Cooperation

FACT SHEET: U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine

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President Obama’s European Travel Itinerary

Monday, June 2

President Obama departs Washington DC for Warsaw, Poland

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Tuesday, June 3

President Obama arrives in Warsaw, Poland
Warsaw Chopin Airport, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama is welcomed by Polish President Komorowski
Warsaw Chopin Airport, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama and Polish President Komorowski meet with American and Polish airmen who are supporting our aviation mission
Okecie Military Airport, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama arrives at Belweder Palace
Belweder Palace – Warsaw, Poland

President Obama and Polish President Komorowski hold a bilateral meeting
Belweder Place, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama and Polish President Komorowski hold a joint press conference
Belweder Palace, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama arrives at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister
Chancellery of the Prime Minister – Warsaw

President Obama and Polish Prime Minister Tusk hold a bilateral meeting
Belweder Place, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk deliver statements to the press
Chancellery of the Prime Minister, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowsk greet participants of the meeting with Central and Eastern European Leaders
Koniecpolski Palace, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski host a meeting with Central and Eastern European Leaders
Koniecpolski Palace, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama joins the Central and Eastern European Leaders for a photo opportunity
Koniecpolski Palace, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama attends a Solidarity Dinner with other Polish leaders to paying tribute to people who have played a critical role in advancing democracy and human rights
Royal Castle, Warsaw, Poland
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Wednesday, June 4

President Obama and President-elect Poroshenko of Ukraine hold a bilateral meeting
Marriot, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama and President-elect Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine deliver remarks after their bilateral meeting

President Obama and Polish President Komorowski hold a joint press conference

President Obama meets with US embassy staff and family members
Marriot, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama participates in a family photo with leaders
Royal Castle, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama attends and delivers remarks at the Day of Freedom Event ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of Poland’s first free elections
Royal Castle, Warsaw, Poland

President Obama travels to Brussels, Belgium

President Obama and Belgian King Philippe hold a bilateral meeting
Royal Palace, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama attends the Group of 7 Summit
The Hague, Justus Lipsius Building, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama and the G7 leaders hold a working dinner on foreign policy issues
The Hague, Justus Lipsius Building, Brussels, Belgium

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Thursday, June 5

President Obama attends G7 meetings on the global economy, and energy and climate issues
The Hague, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama and the G7 leaders hold a working lunch on development issues
The Hague, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama and United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Cameron hold a bilateral meeting
The Hague, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama and United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Cameron hold joint press conference
The Hague, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama travels to Paris, France

President Obama and French President Hollande have a private dinner

President Obama over nights in Paris

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Friday, June 6

President Obama travels to Normandy, France

President Obama meets with WWII and post-9/11 U.S. veterans
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France

President Obama participates in the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France

President Obama delivers remarks at the French-American commemoration, D-Day ceremony
Normandy American Cemetery Memorial, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France

President Obama participates in a Leaders Family Photo
Bénouville, Normandy, France

President Obama attends a Heads of State Lunch hosted by President Hollande
Bénouville, Normandy, France

President Obama attends an international Ceremony with all the leaders of the various belligerent countries in World War II
Sword Beach, Normandy, France

President Obama meets with embassy staff and family members
Paris Orly International Airport

President Obama returns to Washington, D.C


G7 Countries BannerG7 Brussels 2014G7 Countries Banner

 Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, US, European Council & European Commission


Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, US, European Council & European Commission

 

Brussels G7 Summit 2014 - 4-5 June 2014

The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission (G7 leaders) will meet in Brussels on 4-5 June 2014 in the G7 format.

G7 leaders will discuss foreign policy issues, and in particular the situation in Ukraine and the relations with Russia, as well as the global economy and trade, energy, climate change and development.

The European Union is a full member of the G8 (and the G20) and is jointly represented by the European Council President and the European Commission President.

It is the first time that the EU hosts a summit and that it takes place in Brussels. The two-day meeting, at the Council of the European Union – Justus Lipsius building, will begin at 8 p.m. on Wednesday 4 June and end on Thursday 5 June around 3 p.m.

 

Agenda

  • Wednesday 4 June

10.00 EU bilateral meeting with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe

15:00 Pre-summit press briefing by Presidents Van Rompuy and Barroso

19:30 Arrival of participants and official welcome

20:00 Working dinner on the situation in Ukraine, relations with Russia and other foreign policy topics

  • Thursday 5 June

09:30 – 10:40 First working session on global economy and trade

10:40 Family photo

10:50 – 12:00 Second working session on energy security and climate change

12:00 – 14:00 Working lunch on development

Exact time TBC Closing press conference by Presidents Van Rompuy and Barroso

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G7 Summit

The HagueBrussels, Belgium
June 4-5, 2014

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 Live Stream: http://video.consilium.europa.eu

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2015 US Government Budget

04/01/2014

gopbudget

Why Paul Ryan’s Budget Is A Fantasy

Rep. Paul Ryan, the chair of the House Budget Committee, released the fiscal-year 2015 House Budget proposal on Tuesday, a largely political document that will help shape the partisan debate ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.

As with some of his past budget proposals, Ryan will have trouble explaining the details and the means that get to the end — a balanced budget. This year, the consensus on the most implausible parts of his plan comes on two fronts.

The first are the levels at which non-defense discretionary spending is set in the budget. Discretionary spending is comprised of  spending on programs that have to be reauthorized by Congress every year, not including entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The second is an accounting trick that is likely to be controversial, and that some call a gimmick.

The last year of the budget window, 2024, gives a good example of what Ryan does to balance the budget:

  • He ups non-defense discretionary cuts by $50 billion in 2024.
  • He assumes lower war spending by about $25 billion that same year.
  • He still needs a trick to get the budget to complete balance. Ryan uses a “dynamic” scoring method that helps balance his budget — one that could generate controversy. The “macroeconomic feedback effect” assumes the macroeconomic effects of cutting deficits will lead to about $74 billion in savings in 2024.

The non-defense discretionary spending levels, especially in the last year, seem to be the most implausible part of the budget. In 2024, per the budget, the non-defense discretionary spending levels would be $467 billion — a 22 percent cut from post-sequester levels.  In raw dollars, that’s lower than it was in 2005. It’s also much lower than the 2013 level of $576 billion.

Loren Adler, a research director at the  at  Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told Business Insider it would “c ertainly be one of the toughest pieces to feasibly achieve.”

In inflation-adjusted terms, it amounts to about a 29 percent cut from current levels. According to a Senate Democratic aide, it’s also 28 percent below the average amount of the non-defense discretionary spending levels during the Bush administration.

By 2024, the Ryan budget adds $483 billion to defense spending beyond sequester-set spending caps. But to get overall savings, the budget cuts $791 billion from non-defense discretionary spending.

“NDD levels by end of budget window totally implausible — damage to safety net as well,” Jared Bernstein, a former Obama administration economist and now a senior fellow at the left-leaning  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said in an email.

Ryan also uses the accounting trick to achieve balance. It’s a method he hasn’t employed in past budgets, and one that usually isn’t used by the Congressional Budget Office when scoring legislation. Ryan says the “macroeconomic feedback effect” of the deficit-cutting provisions in his budget will amount to $175 billion in savings over the 10-year budget window. And about $74 billion of that will come in the last year — coincidentally providing the U.S. with a $5 billion surplus.

Here’s Ryan’s reasoning for doing so:

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated several times over nearly 20 years that congressional action to reduce deficits will ultimately result in lower interest rates and faster economic growth by freeing up savings for use in productive investment. In addition, CBO has estimated that the positive economic effects of deficit reduction will feed back into the budget and further reduce deficits and debt over the medium and longer term.

Ryan notes the CBO used such dynamic scoring, for example, in 1998, when analyzing the 1998 bipartisan budget resolution that planned to balance the budget. But in general, the CBO says it does not usually analyze the macroeconomic effects due to several reasons (emphasis added):

Doing macroeconomic analysis of all proposed legislation would not be feasible; nearly all legislation analyzed by CBO would have negligible macroeconomic effects anyway (and thus negligible feedback to the federal budget); and estimates of macroeconomic effects are highly uncertain.

In his budget last year, Ryan included guidance about the macroeconomic effects to argue how his budget would be even better for deficits than the numbers showed. However, he did not employ the scoring method to achieve a balanced budget.

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Republican budget proposes deep cuts in domestic programs

4/1/14 2 hours ago By David Lawder – Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Representative Paul Ryan, the leading Republican voice on budget policy, rolled out a new fiscal blueprint on Tuesday that calls for deep cuts in domestic programs, increased defense spending and a goal of erasing annual deficits in 10 years.

Ryan’s budget, called the “Path to Prosperity,” has almost no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate but is expected to serve as a campaign manifesto for Republicans in November’s congressional elections.

It proposes to kill President Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare reforms and revives cuts in social programs such as the popular Medicare entitlement for the elderly that Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, has proposed in other recent budgets.

The plan calls for savings of $5.1 trillion over a decade, with the goal of reaching a balanced budget by 2024 with no new tax revenues but increased defense spending.

Nearly $2.1 trillion would be saved over a decade by the proposal to kill Obamacare, according to the plan.

A sweeping overhaul of Medicare has been slightly revised, with phased-in changes applying to workers 55 years old and younger, compared to last year’s proposal which affected workers who were 54 and younger.

The document aims to bolster Republicans’ credentials as the party of fiscal prudence, but could open them up to fresh attacks from Democrats, who are calling for steps to reduce the gap between the rich and poor.

For more: http://news.yahoo.com/republican-budget-proposes-deep-cuts-social-programs-143537137–business.html;_ylt=AwrTWVVA.TpT_kMAeebQtDMD

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Pelosi Statement on Ryan Republican Budget

April 1, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today after Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released this year’s version of the House Republican budget:

“Today, Republicans have laid out their vision for a less prosperous America, demonstrating, yet again, the weakness of their arithmetic and the strength of their indifference to the concerns of struggling middle class families across the country.  They are proving the lengths they will go to protect the special interests at the expense of the public interest.  They are undermining seniors, students, and the middle class, crippling our economic competitiveness, and gutting our nation’s investments in the future – all to protect loopholes for the wealthy few and corporations that ship jobs overseas.

“Under this Republican budget, the wealthy and well-connected wouldn’t be asked to pay even a little more.  But seniors would be asked to pay more for preventive services and prescription drugs and see the end of the Medicare guarantee.  Families would witness devastating cuts to research, innovation, education, clean energy, and manufacturing, ceding economic leadership to other nations.  All Americans would see a budget that rejects comprehensive immigration reform, with its promise of job creation, stronger small businesses, a growing economy, and a shrinking deficit.

“Democrats have a better approach: creating jobs, strengthening the middle class, investing in our infrastructure and our children’s education, closing the opportunity gap, and responsibly reducing the deficit.  Together, we can reignite the American Dream and build an economy that works for everyone.”

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Hoyer Statement on Republican Budget for Fiscal Year 2015

April 1, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today in response to the House Republican budget for Fiscal Year 2015:

“No one ought to be surprised at the budget unveiled by Chairman Paul Ryan and House Republicans today, which once again asks those with less to give more and those with more to give less.  This year’s Republican budget builds on the disastrous approach Republicans have followed over the past three years, embracing the painful and irrational sequestration cuts and slashing funding that supports investments in opportunity, growth, and security.

“While anyone who looks at the FY2015 Republican budget can readily see that it would do serious damage to our economy and society, Republicans do their best to hide the extent of the damage.  As in previous years, Chairman Ryan relies on gimmicks, magic asterisks, and spurious accounting assumptions to presume that his budget will achieve its anticipated deficit savings.  Additionally, his budget ends the Medicare guarantee as we know it, turns Medicaid into a block grant, repeals the Affordable Care Act [aka ObamaCare], fails to invest in job creation, and does not include any new revenue.  His budget simply doesn’t work – and would lead to significant harm for our country.

“Last week, I delivered a speech in which I called on both parties in Congress to maximize every opportunity to move us closer toward the long-term fiscal sustainability that our country needs.  Our budget process is just such an opportunity; unfortunately, House Republicans chose to make it a partisan messaging exercise rather than a real effort to achieve balanced deficit savings and invest in the programs that strengthen our economy, grow our middle class, and help more of our businesses and families Make It In America.”

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Statement by the White House Press Secretary on the House Republican Budget

April 01, 2014

To build real, lasting economic security for the middle class, the President and Democrats in Congress have a plan to grow our economy from the middle out, not the top down, and create more opportunities for every hardworking American to get ahead. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress do not have a plan that works for the middle class and the House Republican Budget is the same old top-down approach. Because of a stubborn unwillingness to cut the deficit in a balanced way by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and well connected, the House Republican Budget would slow the economy, stack the deck against the middle class, and threaten the guaranteed benefits seniors have paid for and earned.

The House Republican Budget would raise taxes on middle class families with children by an average of at least $2,000 in order to cut taxes for households with incomes over $1 million. It would force deep cuts to investments in our roads and bridges, scientific research to cure diseases like Alzheimer’s and at every level of education from early childhood to community college. It would end Medicare as we know it, turning it into a voucher program and risking a death spiral in traditional Medicare. Instead of ensuring that Americans earn a fair wage for a hard day’s work and lifting millions of people out of poverty, the House Republican approach undermines Americans working hard to support their families by slashing food stamps and Medicaid. And rather than expanding health coverage for all Americans and making it more affordable, it would repeal the Affordable Care Act, raising health care costs on families and businesses and eliminating coverage for the 3 million young adults who have gained coverage by staying on their parent’s plan, the millions of people who have signed up for private insurance plans through the Marketplaces, and millions more who can continue to gain coverage through Medicaid.

The House Republican Budget stands in stark contrast to the President’s Budget, which would accelerate economic growth and expand opportunity for all hardworking Americans, while continuing to cut the deficit in a balanced way. The President has put forward a Budget that rewards hard work with fair wages, equips all children with a high-quality education to prepare them for a good job, puts a secure retirement within reach, and ensures health care is affordable and reliable, while at the same time asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share and making tough cuts to programs we can’t afford. And by paying for new investments and tackling our true fiscal challenges, the President’s Budget builds on the progress we’ve already made to cut the deficit by more than half since 2009 and cuts the deficit as a share of the economy to 1.6 percent by 2024. It also stabilizes the debt as a share of the economy by 2015 and puts it on a declining path after that.

Budgets are about choices and values. House Republicans have chosen to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest rather than create opportunities for middle class families to get ahead. The President believes that is the wrong approach and that we should instead be making smart investments necessary to create jobs, grow our economy, and expand opportunity, while still cutting the deficit in a balanced way and securing our nation’s future.

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A State-by-State Breakdown of the Damage That Would Be Caused by the House Republican Budget

Amy Brundage April 09, 2014 05:13 PM EDT

House Republicans this week are voting on a budget that protects tax breaks for the wealthiest rather than create opportunities for middle-class families to get ahead. It is the same old top-down approach and would raise taxes on middle-class families with children by an average of at least $2,000 in order to cut taxes for households with incomes over $1 million.

As in previous years, the House Republican Budget proposes deep funding reductions that would result in severe cuts to critical areas that are needed to support job creation, economic growth, a strong middle class, and assistance for lower income individuals, especially when compared to the overall level of investment in the President’s budget. Since House Republicans aren’t willing to identify specifically what they actually want to cut, one way to assess the potential damaging impact is to look at what would happen to key programs if the cuts compared to the President’s budget were applied evenly across the board.

The results show the potential extent of the damage across the country. Within a few years:

  • In Florida, 290,000 seniors benefited from the closure of the Medicare Part D prescription drug donut hole in 2013 alone and at least that many likely would have to pay more for their needed medications in future years.
  • In California, more than 50,000 fewer students would receive Pell Grants to help them pay for college.
  • In Ohio, the proposed Medicaid block grant would cut federal Medicaid funding for the state by more than $30 billion over the next decade, likely resulting in more uninsured individuals and less care for those still covered.
  • In Texas, 12,000 fewer children would receive Head Start services.
  • In Pennsylvania, more than 100,000 people would lose job search assistance.
  • In Missouri, 1,700 fewer victims of domestic violence would be served through the STOP Violence Against Women Program.

A full list of state-by-state impacts can be found here.

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President Obama’s 2015 Budget Proposal

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Pres Obama’s European Travel: NS Summit, EU-US Summit & NATO

03/22/2014

2014 Nuclear Security Summit The Netherlands, the organising country, will focus on the following achievable and visible goals:

  1. Optimal security for and, if at all possible, a reduction in the use of highly enriched uranium and plutonium.
  2. Ratification of the amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material by more countries to ensure that the amendment enters into force as soon as possible.
  3. More frequent reviews of state security structures by IAEA advisory missions.
  4. National registration and protection of highly radioactive sources (e.g. medical equipment).
  5. Greater role for industry in nuclear security, to enhance the security culture and existing regulations.States should provide information to their own people and the international community to demonstrate that they are taking appropriate measures to maintain the security of their nuclear material and facilities.
  6. These confidence-building measures will increase trust in the international protection system.

For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Nuclear_Security_Summit http://youtu.be/IA-iJtNNir0

NSS  2014 2014 Nuclear Security Summit

2014 NSS Family Photo

2014 Nuclear Security Summit
24-25 March 2014
World Forum Convention Center The Hague, Netherlands

Website: https://www.nss2014.com

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President Obama’s European Travel Itinerary

March 24, Monday

President Obama arrives in the Hague, Netherlands

President Obama meets with Dutch Prime Minister Rutte
Amsterdam, Netherlands

President Obama tours the Rijksmuseum with Dutch Prime Minister Rutte
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

President Obama and Dutch Prime Minister Rutte hold a bilateral meeting
U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama and Dutch Prime Minister Rutte deliver remarks
U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a bilateral meeting
U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama attends opening Nuclear Security Summit sessions
World Forum Convention Center , The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama attends first plenary Nuclear Security Summit sessions
World Forum Convention Center , The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama attends Nuclear Security Summit scenario-based policy seasons
World Forum Convention Center , The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama attends a G-7 meeting
Dutch Prime Minister Rutte’s residence, Catshuis, The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama meets with Dutch King Willem-Alexander
Royal Palace of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands

President Obama participates in a family photo
Royal Palace of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands

President Obama and Dutch King Willem-Alexander hold a working dinner
Royal Palace of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands

March 25, Tuesday

President Obama meets with Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev
U.S. Ambassador’s residence, The Netherlands

President Obama holds a joint press conference with Dutch Prime Minister Rutte
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama attends plenary Nuclear Security Summit sessions
World Forum Convention Center , The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama attends additional Nuclear Security Summit sessions
World Forum Convention Center , The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama speaks at the closing session of the Nuclear Security Summit 
World Forum Convention Center , The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan hold a bilateral meeting
United States Ambassador’s residence, The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe hold a trilateral meeting
United States Ambassador’s residence , The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama meets with U.S. Embassy members
United States Ambassador’s residence , The Hague, Netherlands

President Obama travels to Brussels, Belgium

March 26, Wednesday

President Obama meets with Belgian King King Philippe and Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo
Flanders Fields Cemetery, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama attends a wreath laying
Flanders Fields Cemetery, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama tours battlefield
Flanders Fields Cemetery, Brussels, Belgium

President delivers remarks
Flanders Fields Cemetery, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama attends the US-EU Summit
Council of the European Union, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama meets with European Commission Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy – US-EU Summit
Council of the European Union, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama attends a US-EU Summit working lunch
Council of the European Union, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama, European Commission Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy hold a press conference – EU-US Summit
Council of the European Union, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama meets with employees and family members of the U.S. Tri-Mission to Belgium
The Hotel, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama meets with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
The Hotel, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama in Address to European Youth
The Palais des Beaux-Arts (BOZAR) aka Paleis voor Schone Kunsten (PSK) The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium

President Obama departs for Rome

March 27, Thursday

President Obama meets with His Holiness Pope Francis
The Holy See Vatican City, Italy

President Obama meets with Cardinal Secretary of State Parolin
The Holy See, Vatican City, Italy

President Obama participates in a restricted bilateral meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy
Quirinal Palace, Rome, Italy

President Obama participates in a extended bilateral meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy

President Obama and Italian President Napolitano hold a working lunch
Quirinal Palace, Rome, Italy

President Obama and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy participates in a bilateral meeting
Villa Madama, Rome, Italy

President Obama and Italian Prime Minister Renzi hold a press conference
Villa Madama, Rome, Italy

President Obama tours the Colossum
Rome, Italy

President Obama meets with members of The Holy See,The Holy See, and the UN Agencies in Rome
U.S. Ambassador’s residence, Rome, Italy

March 28, Friday

President Obama and His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of His Majesty hold a bilateral meeting
Rawdat Khuraim,  Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

President Obama spends the night
Ritz Carlton, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

March 29, Saturday

President Obama Presents to Dr. Maha Al Muneef the State Department’s 2014 Women of Courage Award
Ritz Carlton, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

President Obama meets and greets with Embassy personnel
Ritz Carlton, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

President Obama departs Saudi Arabia for the White House

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North American Leaders’ Summit 2014

02/16/2014

n-america-leaders-summit

Canada's Prime Minister Harper, President Obama and Mexico's President Pena Nieto hold a press conference

Canada’s Prime Minister Harper, President Obama and Mexico’s President Pena Nieto hold a press conference

On February 19. 2014, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto will host President Obama and  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the 2014 North American Leader’s Summit (NALS) to be held in Toluca, Mexico.

This meeting  built on wide-ranging and ongoing cooperation among the United States, Canada, and Mexico with a particular focus on economic competitiveness, energy and the environment, and defence and security cooperation. They will also have the opportunity to exchange views on a number of important regional and global security issues.

Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have a successful history of cooperation on environmental issues. This cooperation includes efforts to safeguard North America’s natural resources and ecosystems, as well as efforts to address the global challenges posed by climate change.

The United States, Canada and Mexico celebrate the 20th anniversary of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Other successful cooperative agreements like the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) , the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) safeguard the natural resources of North America.

U.S.-Canada Trade http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/americas/canada

U.S.-Mexico Trade  http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/americas/mexico

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North American Leaders’ Summit 2014
February 19, 2014
Toluca, Mexico

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President Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Harper and Mexico’s President Pena Nieto hold a bilateral meeting
Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Mexico, Toluca, Mexico

President Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Harper and Mexico’s President Pena Nieto hold a working lunch
Cosmovitral, Botanical Gardens, Toluca, Mexico

President Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Harper and Mexico’s President Peña Nieto meet with North American Business, Civil Society and Education Leaders
Salon del Pueblo, Palacio de Gobierno, Toluca, Mexico

President Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Harper and Mexico’s President Pena Nieto participates in the Trilateral North American Leaders Summit Meeting
Courtyard, Palacio de Justicia, Toluca, Mexico

President Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Harper and Mexico’s President Pena Nieto hold trilateral meetings
Courtyard, Palacio de Justicia, Toluca, Mexico

President Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Harper and Mexico’s President Pena Nieto hold a press conference
Patio Cental, Palacio de Gobierno, Toluca, Mexico

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Intelligence Programs Reforms

01/16/2014

nsa

Obama Announces Steps to Advance Surveillance Debate

Aug. 9, 2013 By Cheryl Pellerin - American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON– President Barack Obama today announced four steps that he said would move the public debate forward about classified government surveillance programs that gather data about the telephone records of Americans and others.

During an hour-long press conference at the White House, Obama said it is right to ask questions about surveillance, particularly as technology reshapes every aspect of people’s lives.

“I’m also mindful of how these issues are viewed overseas …,” he said. “In other words, it’s not enough for me as president to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them as well.”

Over the past few weeks the president said he has consulted with members of Congress, asked the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review tensions between counterterrorism efforts and American values, and directed the national security team to be more transparent and pursue reforms of laws and practices.

“Today,” Obama said, “I’d like to discuss four specific steps — not all inclusive, but some specific steps that we’re going to be taking very shortly to move the debate forward.”

These include the following –

1. The president will work with Congress to pursue reforms to Section 215 of the 2001 Patriot Act, the program that authorizes collects the collection telephone records.

Obama called the program an important tool in the effort to disrupt terrorist plots that does not allow the government to listen to phone calls without a warrant.

“But given the scale of this program,” he said, “I understand the concerns of those who would worry that it could be subject to abuse.”

After speaking with members of Congress and civil libertarians, Obama said he thinks there are steps that can be taken to give Americans more confidence that there are safeguards against abuse.

“For instance,” he said, “we can take steps to put in place greater oversight, greater transparency and constraints on the use of this authority.”

2. The president will work with Congress to improve public confidence in oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC.

Congress created this court to provide judicial review of certain intelligence activities so a federal judge must find that federal actions are consistent with the Constitution.

But to build greater confidence, Obama said, “I think we should consider some additional changes to the FISC. One of the concerns that people raise is that a judge reviewing a request from the government to conduct programmatic surveillance only hears one side of the story — may tilt it too far in favor of security, may not pay enough attention to liberty.”

The president said looking at such issues from the perspectives of security and privacy might provide greater assurances to the public.

Specifically, he said, “we can take steps to make sure civil liberties, concerns, have an independent voice in appropriate cases by ensuring the government’s position is challenged by an adversary.”

3. The president said the government can and must be more transparent.

The president said he’s directed the intelligence community to make public as much information about these programs as possible.

“We’ve already declassified unprecedented information about the [National Security Agency] but we can go further,” he said. “So at my direction the Department of Justice will make public the legal rationale for the government’s collection activities under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.”

The NSA is taking steps to put in place a full-time civil liberties and privacy officer, Obama said, and release information that details its mission, authorities and oversight.

The intelligence community is also creating a website that will serve as a hub for further transparency, the president said.

“This will give Americans and the world the ability to learn more about what our intelligence community does and what it doesn’t do, how it carries out its mission and why it does so,” Obama said.

4. The president is forming a high-level group of outside experts to review all intelligence and communications technologies.

“We need new thinking for a new era,” Obama said. “We now have to unravel terrorist plots by finding a needle in a haystack of global telecommunications. And meanwhile, technology has given governments, including our own, unprecedented capability to monitor communications.”

The president is tasking the independent group to review U.S. capabilities, particularly surveillance technologies.

“They’ll consider how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used, ask how surveillance impacts our foreign policy, particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public,” Obama said.

The group will provide an interim report in 60 days and a final report by year’s end, he said, “so we can move forward with a better understanding of how these programs impact our security, our privacy and our foreign policy.”

To others around the world, Obama said he wants to make clear that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people.

“Our intelligence is focused above all on finding the information that’s necessary to protect our people — and in many cases, protect our allies,” he said.

“It’s true, we have significant capabilities,” he added. “What’s also true is we show a restraint that many governments around the world don’t even think to do …. That includes, by the way, some of America’s most vocal critics.”

This is how the United States will resolve its differences, the president said. “Through vigorous public debate guided by our constitution, with reverence for our history as a nation of laws, and with respect for the facts.”

President Obama and various members of Congress are currently working to change laws on survelliance that were introduced by the 2001 Patriot Act:

Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Feinstein (D)

ANNA ESHOO (D) INTRODUCES BILL TO END SURVEILLANCE OF AMERICANS BY U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Bill to Reform NSA Spying Policies

Potential Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) - House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rogers (R)

USA Freedom Act  - Rep. Sesenbrenner (R)

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1/17/14 President Obama delivers remarks on Intelligence Programs Reforms 

Key Points From President Obama’s 1/17/14 Speech:

“today, I can announce a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my Administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress.

First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities, at home and abroad. This guidance will strengthen executive branch oversight of our intelligence activities. It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances; our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of America’s companies; and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis, so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by my senior national security team.

Second, we will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities, and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Since we began this review, including information being released today, we have declassified over 40 opinions and orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which provides judicial review of some of our most sensitive intelligence activities – including the Section 702 program targeting foreign individuals overseas and the Section 215 telephone metadata program. Going forward, I am directing the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Attorney General, to annually review – for the purpose of declassification – any future opinions of the Court with broad privacy implications, and to report to me and Congress on these efforts. To ensure that the Court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I am calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Third, we will provide additional protections for activities conducted under Section 702, which allows the government to intercept the communications of foreign targets overseas who have information that’s important for our national security. Specifically, I am asking the Attorney General and DNI to institute reforms that place additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search, and use in criminal cases, communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702.

Fourth, in investigating threats, the FBI also relies on National Security Letters, which can require companies to provide specific and limited information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation. These are cases in which it is important that the subject of the investigation, such as a possible terrorist or spy, isn’t tipped off. But we can – and should – be more transparent in how government uses this authority. I have therefore directed the Attorney General to amend how we use National Security Letters so this secrecy will not be indefinite, and will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy. We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders they have received to provide data to the government.”

For the entire speech: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/read-obama-s-full-remarks-on-nsa-surveillance-reforms

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January 17, 2014

FACT SHEET: Review of U.S. Signals Intelligence

In the latter half of 2013 and early 2014, the United States Government undertook a broad-ranging and unprecedented review of our signals intelligence programs, led by the White House with relevant Departments and Agencies across the Government. In addition to our own intensive work, the review process drew on input from key stakeholders, including Congress, the tech community, civil society, foreign partners, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communication Technologies, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and others.  The Administration’s review examined how, in light of new and changing technologies, we can use our intelligence capabilities in a way that optimally protects our national security while supporting our foreign policy, respecting privacy and civil liberties, maintaining the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosures. On January 17, 2014, the President delivered a speech at the Department of Justice to announce the outcomes of this review process.

For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/17/fact-sheet-review-us-signals-intelligence

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March 27, 2014
Fact Sheet: The Administration’s Proposal for Ending the Section 215 Bulk Telephony Metadata Program

 

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President Obama – Our Civil Rights Advocate

11/05/2013

President Obama is a civil rights advocate as well as a guardian for America’s safety and his choice of James Comey for FBI Director reflects that.

President Obama nominated James Comey in June 2013 to head the FBI because of his intergrity and fight for justice for all.

In 2004 James Comey threatened to resign as Acting Attorney General if the then White House under President George W. Bush (R) ignored the Department of Justice’s legal conclusions on the wiretapping under the Patriot Act which Preisdent George W. Bush signed into law  on October 26, 2001.

Here is the Wikipedia section on James Comey’s NSA Domestic Wiretapping:

NSA domestic wiretapping
In early January 2006, The New York Times, as part of their investigation into alleged domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency, reported that Comey, who was Acting Attorney General during the March 2004 surgical hospitalization of John Ashcroft, refused to “certify” the legality of central aspects of the NSA program at that time. The certification was required under existing White House procedures to continue the program.

After Comey’s refusal, the newspaper reported, Andrew H. Card Jr., White House Chief of Staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and future Attorney General, made an emergency visit to the George Washington University Hospital to attempt to win approval directly from Ashcroft for the program. According to the 2007 memoir of Jack Goldsmith, who had been head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the time, Comey went to the hospital to give Ashcroft support to withstand the pressure from the White House.

Comey confirmed these events took place (but declined to confirm the specific program) in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 16 May 2007.FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, like Comey, also supported Ashcroft’s decision; both men were prepared to resign if the White House ignored the Department of Justice’s legal conclusions on the wiretapping issue. FBI director Mueller’s notes on the March 10, 2004 incident, which were released to a House Judiciary committee, confirms that he “Saw [the] AG, John Ashcroft in the room. AG is feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed.” Comey withdrew his threat to resign after meeting directly with President Bush, who gave his support to making changes in the surveillance program.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Comey#NSA_domestic_wiretapping

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New FBI pick condoned waterboarding, indefinite detention

7/07/13 11:00 PM Adam Serwer – msnbc

James B. Comey isn’t afraid to stand up to a president. So nominating him to replace Robert Mueller III as head of the FBI at a time when the Obama administration is facing hard questions over its civil liberties record is supposed to show that the president still prioritizes the rule of law and national security in equal measure.

“Jim understands that in time of crisis, we aren’t judged solely by how many plots we disrupt or how many criminals we bring to justice,” Obama said as he officially nominated Comey in June. “We’re also judged by our commitment to the Constitution that we’ve sworn to defend, and to the values and civil liberties that we’ve pledged to protect.”

Comey nearly resigned over domestic surveillance programs when he was deputy attorney general. But his reputation for defiance of Bush-era excesses in the fight against Al Qaeda may be overstated, and some civil liberties and human rights groups are considerably less impressed than the Obama administration.

“There are some very serious questions that need to be asked about the role that he’s played on various issues related to the detention, interrogation and surveillance of terrorism suspects during those years,” says Raha Wala, an attorney with Human Rights First, which hasn’t taken an official position on Comey’s nomination. “We’re certainly not attacking his character, but these are important questions that need to be asked.”

Comey was one of the few Bush-era officials willing to stand up to the Bush administration’s claim to near-unlimited power in the realm of national security. He considered resigning in 2004 over Bush’s warrantless surveillance program. But Comey’s service coincided with other Bush excesses in the war on terror, including torture and indefinite detention. An Inspector General’s report recently reviewed by The Guardian shows that even with warrantless surveillance, legal changes to the basis for secret bulk Internet metadata collection by the National Security Agency were enough to satisfy Comey, who stayed on as a Justice Department official for almost a year as the program continued as an exercise of unilateral power by the president.

“It seems to parallel the concerns with the torture memos, where it’s not so much that they’re offended by the conduct, or the legality of the conduct, but rather the sloppy legal opinions justifying the conduct,” says Mike German, a former FBI agent now with the ACLU, of the internal Bush administration arguments over warrantless surveillance. “In fact the illegal conduct was authorized to continue.” The ACLU does not take positions on nominations, but it is challenging the NSA’s current surveillance practices as unconstitutional.

For more: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/new-fbi-pick-condoned-waterboarding-indefini

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October 28, 2013

Remarks by the President and FBI Director James Comey
12:34 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, FBI. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Please, everybody, be seated — those of you who have seats. (Laughter.)

Well, good afternoon, everybody. I am so proud to be here and to stand once again with so many dedicated men and women of the FBI. You are the best of the best. Day in and day out, you work tirelessly to confront the most dangerous threats our nation faces. You serve with courage; you serve with integrity. You protect Americans at home and abroad. You lock up criminals. You secure the homeland against the threat of terrorism. Without a lot of fanfare, without seeking the spotlight, you do your jobs, all the while upholding our most cherished values and the rule of law.

Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity: That’s your motto. And today, we’re here to welcome a remarkable new leader for this remarkable institution, one who lives those principles out every single day: Mr. Jim Comey.

Before I get to Jim, I want to thank all the predecessors who are here today. We are grateful for your service. I have to give a special shout-out to Bob Mueller, who served longer than he was supposed to, but he was such an extraordinary leader through some of the most difficult times that we’ve had in national security. And I consider him a friend and I’m so grateful for him and Ann being here today. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Now, Jim has dedicated his life to defending our laws — to making sure that all Americans can trust our justice system to protect their rights and their well-being. He’s the grandson of a beat cop. He’s the prosecutor who helped bring down the Gambinos. He’s the relentless attorney who fought to stem the bloody tide of gun violence, rub out white-collar crime, deliver justice to terrorists. It’s just about impossible to find a matter of justice he has not tackled, and it’s hard to imagine somebody who is not more uniquely qualified to lead a bureau that covers all of it — traditional threats like violent and organized crime to the constantly changing threats like terrorism and cyber-security. So he’s got the resume.

But, of course, Jim is also a famously cool character — the calmest in the room during a crisis. Here’s what a fellow former prosecutor said about him. He said, “You know that Rudyard Kipling line — ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’– that’s Jim.”

For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/10/28/remarks-president-and-fbi-director-james-comey

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Obama Announces Steps to Advance Surveillance Debate

Aug. 9, 2013 By Cheryl Pellerin - American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON– President Barack Obama today announced four steps that he said would move the public debate forward about classified government surveillance programs that gather data about the telephone records of Americans and others.

During an hour-long press conference at the White House, Obama said it is right to ask questions about surveillance, particularly as technology reshapes every aspect of people’s lives.

“I’m also mindful of how these issues are viewed overseas …,” he said. “In other words, it’s not enough for me as president to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them as well.”

Over the past few weeks the president said he has consulted with members of Congress, asked the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review tensions between counterterrorism efforts and American values, and directed the national security team to be more transparent and pursue reforms of laws and practices.

“Today,” Obama said, “I’d like to discuss four specific steps — not all inclusive, but some specific steps that we’re going to be taking very shortly to move the debate forward.”

These include the following –

1. The president will work with Congress to pursue reforms to Section 215 of the 2001 Patriot Act, the program that authorizes collects the collection telephone records.

Obama called the program an important tool in the effort to disrupt terrorist plots that does not allow the government to listen to phone calls without a warrant.

“But given the scale of this program,” he said, “I understand the concerns of those who would worry that it could be subject to abuse.”

After speaking with members of Congress and civil libertarians, Obama said he thinks there are steps that can be taken to give Americans more confidence that there are safeguards against abuse.

“For instance,” he said, “we can take steps to put in place greater oversight, greater transparency and constraints on the use of this authority.”

2. The president will work with Congress to improve public confidence in oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC.

Congress created this court to provide judicial review of certain intelligence activities so a federal judge must find that federal actions are consistent with the Constitution.

But to build greater confidence, Obama said, “I think we should consider some additional changes to the FISC. One of the concerns that people raise is that a judge reviewing a request from the government to conduct programmatic surveillance only hears one side of the story — may tilt it too far in favor of security, may not pay enough attention to liberty.”

The president said looking at such issues from the perspectives of security and privacy might provide greater assurances to the public.

Specifically, he said, “we can take steps to make sure civil liberties, concerns, have an independent voice in appropriate cases by ensuring the government’s position is challenged by an adversary.”

3. The president said the government can and must be more transparent.

The president said he’s directed the intelligence community to make public as much information about these programs as possible.

“We’ve already declassified unprecedented information about the [National Security Agency] but we can go further,” he said. “So at my direction the Department of Justice will make public the legal rationale for the government’s collection activities under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.”

The NSA is taking steps to put in place a full-time civil liberties and privacy officer, Obama said, and release information that details its mission, authorities and oversight.

The intelligence community is also creating a website that will serve as a hub for further transparency, the president said.

“This will give Americans and the world the ability to learn more about what our intelligence community does and what it doesn’t do, how it carries out its mission and why it does so,” Obama said.

4. The president is forming a high-level group of outside experts to review all intelligence and communications technologies.

“We need new thinking for a new era,” Obama said. “We now have to unravel terrorist plots by finding a needle in a haystack of global telecommunications. And meanwhile, technology has given governments, including our own, unprecedented capability to monitor communications.”

The president is tasking the independent group to review U.S. capabilities, particularly surveillance technologies.

“They’ll consider how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used, ask how surveillance impacts our foreign policy, particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public,” Obama said.

The group will provide an interim report in 60 days and a final report by year’s end, he said, “so we can move forward with a better understanding of how these programs impact our security, our privacy and our foreign policy.”

To others around the world, Obama said he wants to make clear that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people.

“Our intelligence is focused above all on finding the information that’s necessary to protect our people — and in many cases, protect our allies,” he said.

“It’s true, we have significant capabilities,” he added. “What’s also true is we show a restraint that many governments around the world don’t even think to do …. That includes, by the way, some of America’s most vocal critics.”

This is how the United States will resolve its differences, the president said. “Through vigorous public debate guided by our constitution, with reverence for our history as a nation of laws, and with respect for the facts.”

President Obama and various members of Congress are currently working to change laws on survelliance that were introduced by the 2001 Patriot Act:

Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Feinstein (D)

ANNA ESHOO (D) INTRODUCES BILL TO END SURVEILLANCE OF AMERICANS BY U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Bill to Reform NSA Spying Policies

Potential Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) - House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rogers (R)

USA Freedom Act  - Rep. Sesenbrenner (R)

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P5+1 Negotiations – Geneva 2013

10/14/2013

UN Geneva

The P5+1 is a group of countries which in 2006 joined the diplomatic efforts with Iran in regard to its nuclear program. The term refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, namely United StatesRussiaChinaUnited Kingdom,France and Germany. P5+1 is sometimes referred to as the E3+3 by European countries.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P5%2B1

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* Background Briefing on P5+1 Negotiations http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2013/10/215369.htm

P5+1 Meeting
October 15-16, 2013
Geneva, Switzerland

Secretary of State Department Under Secretary Wendy R. Sherman to lead the United States’ delegation

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UPDATE:   Iran, six world powers clinch breakthrough nuclear deal

11/23/13 1 hour ago By Parisa Hafezi and Justyna Pawlak – Reuters

GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough agreement early on Sunday to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a first step towards resolving a dangerous decade-old standoff.

The deal between the Islamic state and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia was nailed down after more than four days of negotiations.

“We have reached an agreement,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced on his Twitter feed. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also confirmed the deal.

Iran will get access to $4.2 billion in foreign exchange as part of the accord, a Western diplomat said. No other details of the agreement were immediately available.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers of the five other world powers joined the negotiations with Iran early on Saturday as the two sides appeared to be edging closer to a long-sought preliminary agreement.

The talks were aimed at finding a package of confidence-building steps to ease decades of tensions and banish the specter of a Middle East war over Tehran’s nuclear aspirations.

The Western powers’ goal had been to cap Iran’s nuclear energy program, which has a history of evading U.N. inspections and investigations, to remove any risk of Tehran covertly refining uranium to a level suitable for bombs.

For more: http://news.yahoo.com/iran-nuclear-deal-reached-geneva-021222943.html

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November 23, 2013

Statement By The President On First Step Agreement On Iran’s Nuclear Program

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Today, the United States — together with our close allies and partners — took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.

Since I took office, I’ve made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. As I’ve said many times, my strong preference is to resolve this issue peacefully, and we’ve extended the hand of diplomacy. Yet for many years, Iran has been unwilling to meet its obligations to the international community. So my administration worked with Congress, the United Nations Security Council and countries around the world to impose unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian government.

These sanctions have had a substantial impact on the Iranian economy, and with the election of a new Iranian President earlier this year, an opening for diplomacy emerged. I spoke personally with President Rouhani of Iran earlier this fall. Secretary Kerry has met multiple times with Iran’s Foreign Minister. And we have pursued intensive diplomacy — bilaterally with the Iranians, and together with our P5-plus-1 partners — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union.

Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure — a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.

While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back. Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges, which are used for enriching uranium. Iran cannot install or start up new centrifuges, and its production of centrifuges will be limited. Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor. And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.

These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb. Meanwhile, this first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program.

For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/23/statement-president-first-step-agreement-irans-nuclear-program


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