Ending Pirate Fishing & Seafood Fraud & Protecting Alaska’s Bristol Bay

Seafood fraud can happen at any point in the supply chain, undermining law-abiding fishers and misleading consumers. (Photo credit: NOAA)
Seafood fraud can happen at any point in the supply chain, undermining law-abiding fishers and misleading consumers. (Photo credit: NOAA)

New Recommendations to End Pirate Fishing and Seafood Fraud

America’s fisheries drive coastal economies and put food on the tables of families across the country. Unfortunately, the twin global issues of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud undermine the economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries and fish stocks.

Global losses attributable to IUU fishing are estimated at $10 billion to $23 billion annually. Pirate fishing vessels take in fish without regard to the sustainability of ocean ecosystems. Not required to file trip plans or carry transponders, the ships roam the oceans in the shadows and become vectors for human, drug, and arms trafficking. Black-market fishing distorts legal markets and displaces law-abiding fishermen, ultimately serving as a drag on the global economy. These challenges can be compounded by seafood fraud — the mislabeling, misbranding, or falsification of product origins — which can occur at any point in the supply chain.

Today, the federal task force on combatting IUU fishing and seafood fraud released its final recommendations to tackle these complex challenges. President Obama announced the creation of the task force at the State Department’s Our Ocean conference in June, and for the last six months, under the leadership of NOAA Administrator Kathy Sullivan and Under Secretary of State Cathy Novelli, representatives from 14 agencies have come together to answer the President’s call to action.

The 15 recommendations being released by the task force today will:

  • Combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud at the international level by directing agencies to identify specific diplomatic, development assistance, and trade-related actions
  • Strengthen enforcement and enhance enforcement tools to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud by improving resource and information sharing and supporting risk-based targeting of illicit seafood shipments
  • Create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations to identify and eliminate seafood fraud and IUU seafood in U.S. commerce
  • Create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into the U.S. commerce to prevent entry of illegal product into the supply chain and better inform retailers and consumers.

For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/12/16/new-recommendations-end-pirate-fishing-and-seafood-fraud

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bristol baybristol bay - whale tail
President Obama Protects Alaska’s Bristol Bay From Future Oil and Gas Drilling

Published on Dec 16, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama designated the pristine waters of Bristol Bay as off limits to consideration for oil and gas leasing.  This action safeguards one of the nation’s most productive fisheries and preserves an ecologically rich area of the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska that is vital to the commercial fishing and tourism economy and to Alaska Native communities.

Bristol Bay is at the heart one of the world’s most valuable fisheries, helping to provide 40 percent of America’s wild-caught seafood and support a $2 billion annual fishing industry.  The beautiful and remote area is also an economic engine for tourism in Alaska, driving $100 million in recreational fishing and tourism activity every year. Bristol Bay hosts the largest runs of wild sockeye salmon in the world, and provides important habitat for many species, including the threatened Stellar’s eider, sea otters, seals, walruses, Beluga and Killer whales, and the endangered North Pacific Right Whale.

Today’s decision to withdraw the area from all future oil and gas leasing extends indefinitely a temporary withdrawal that President Obama issued in 2010 and was set to expire in 2017.  This action builds on decades of local efforts to protect Bristol Bay from oil and gas development by Alaska Native tribes and organizations, as well as local seafood and tourism businesses that create jobs and strengthen Alaska and the nation’s economy. It also honors the legacy of Alaska residents like Harold ‘Harvey’ Samuelsen, a salmon fisherman who is legendary for his lifelong dedication to Bristol Bay and to creating economic opportunities for Alaska Native and rural communities.

For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/16/president-obama-protects-alaska-s-bristol-bay-future-oil-and-gas-drillin


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5 Things You Need to Know About Alaska’s Bristol Bay

Tanya Somanader December 16, 2014 05:12 PM EST

1. BRISTOL BAY PROVIDES 40 PERCENT OF AMERICA’S WILD-CAUGHT SEAFOOD.
Bristol Bay is one of the world’s most valuable fisheries, providing 40 percent of America’s seafood and supporting up to $2 billion in commercial fishing every year.

2. BRISTOL BAY HOSTS ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST WILD SALMON RUNS.
While remote, this area is also an economic engine for tourism in Alaska. Bristol Bay drives $100 million in recreational fishing and tourism activity every year.

3. BRISTOL BAY IS HOME TO MULTIPLE THREATENED SPECIES.
Bristol Bay provides important habitat for many species, including the threatened Stellar’s eider, sea otters, seals, walruses, Beluga and Killer whales, and the endangered North Pacific Right Whale.

4. THE PRESIDENT’S ACTION PROTECTS MILLIONS OF ACRES FROM DRILLING.
The North Aleutian Basin Planning Area that includes Bristol Bay consists of about 32.5 million acres. The previous Administration set in motion a new lease sale for 2011 that would have opened approximately 5.6 million acres — about one-fifth of the planning area — for drilling. In 2010, President Obama temporarily withdrew the Bristol Bay area from oil and gas development, and today’s action extends that protection indefinitely.

5. PRESIDENT OBAMA IS NOT THE ONLY PRESIDENT TO USE HIS EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY TO PROTECT LANDS.
The President issues his temporary withdrawal in 2010 using his authority under section 12 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which gives the president authority to withdraw offshore areas from potential oil and gas leasing. President Eisenhower was the first to exercise the authority in 1960, withdrawing an area now included in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Since then, presidents on both sides of the aisle have acted to withdraw areas of the Outer Continental Shelf from oil and gas leasing.

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Reaction to President Obama’s Presidential Memorandum

Oceana Hails Announcement as Huge Victory for Our Wallets, Health & Oceans – Oceana

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President Obama Calls on Congress to Protect Arctic Refuge as Wilderness

John Podesta, Mike Boots January 25, 2015 11:00 AM EST

Each year, as the darkness of the Arctic winter brightens into spring, as the snow melts and the hills and valleys slowly turn green, the tens of thousands of members of the Porcupine caribou herd begin their great migration — traveling some 1,500 miles through Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to their calving grounds on the Coastal Plain.

This far northern region is known as “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins” to Alaska Native communities. The Refuge sustains the most diverse array of wildlife in the entire Arctic — home not only to the Porcupine caribou, but to polar bears, gray wolves, and muskoxen. Bird species from the Coastal Plain migrate to all 50 states of the country — meaning that no matter where you live, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is part of your landscape.

But the majority of the Refuge is not protected as wilderness, including the Coastal Plain. For more than three decades, some voices have clamored to drill for oil in the Coastal Plain — a move that could irreparably damage this ecological treasure and harm the Alaska Native communities who still depend on the caribou for subsistence.

Today, the Department of the Interior released a revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan to better sustain and manage the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — and President Obama took it a step further and announced his plans to ask Congress to designate the Coastal Plain and other core areas of the refuge as wilderness:

For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/01/25/president-obama-calls-congress-protect-arctic-refuge-wilderness

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24 thoughts on “Ending Pirate Fishing & Seafood Fraud & Protecting Alaska’s Bristol Bay

  1. WH

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    All Times Eastern

    President Obama receives the presidential daily briefing

    7:00 AM
    8:00 AM
    9:00 AM
    10:00 AM
    11:00 AM
    12:00 PM
    President Obama delivers a Statement on Cuba
    Cabinet Room

    1:00 PM
    1:30 PM
    Press Briefing by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest

    2:00 PM
    3:00 PM
    4:00 PM
    4:15 PM
    President Obama and First Lady Michelle hosts a Hanukkah reception
    Grand Foyer, White House

    5:00 PM
    6:00 PM
    7:00 PM
    8:00 PM
    9:00 PM
    10:00 PM

    • New Recommendations to End Pirate Fishing and Seafood Fraud

      John Podesta, Mike Boots December 16, 2014 01:24 PM EST
      America’s fisheries drive coastal economies and put food on the tables of families across the country. Unfortunately, the twin global issues of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud undermine the economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries and fish stocks.

      Global losses attributable to IUU fishing are estimated at $10 billion to $23 billion annually. Pirate fishing vessels take in fish without regard to the sustainability of ocean ecosystems. Not required to file trip plans or carry transponders, the ships roam the oceans in the shadows and become vectors for human, drug, and arms trafficking. Black-market fishing distorts legal markets and displaces law-abiding fishermen, ultimately serving as a drag on the global economy. These challenges can be compounded by seafood fraud — the mislabeling, misbranding, or falsification of product origins — which can occur at any point in the supply chain.

      Today, the federal task force on combatting IUU fishing and seafood fraud released its final recommendations to tackle these complex challenges. President Obama announced the creation of the task force at the State Department’s Our Ocean conference in June, and for the last six months, under the leadership of NOAA Administrator Kathy Sullivan and Under Secretary of State Cathy Novelli, representatives from 14 agencies have come together to answer the President’s call to action.

      The 15 recommendations being released by the task force today will:

      Combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud at the international level by directing agencies to identify specific diplomatic, development assistance, and trade-related actions

      Strengthen enforcement and enhance enforcement tools to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud by improving resource and information sharing and supporting risk-based targeting of illicit seafood shipments

      Create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations to identify and eliminate seafood fraud and IUU seafood in U.S. commerce

      Create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into the U.S. commerce to prevent entry of illegal product into the supply chain and better inform retailers and consumers.
      For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/12/16/new-recommendations-end-pirate-fishing-and-seafood-fraud

    • President Obama Protects Alaska’s Bristol Bay From Future Oil and Gas Drilling

      Published on Dec 16, 2014

      WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama designated the pristine waters of Bristol Bay as off limits to consideration for oil and gas leasing. This action safeguards one of the nation’s most productive fisheries and preserves an ecologically rich area of the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska that is vital to the commercial fishing and tourism economy and to Alaska Native communities.

      Bristol Bay is at the heart one of the world’s most valuable fisheries, helping to provide 40 percent of America’s wild-caught seafood and support a $2 billion annual fishing industry. The beautiful and remote area is also an economic engine for tourism in Alaska, driving $100 million in recreational fishing and tourism activity every year. Bristol Bay hosts the largest runs of wild sockeye salmon in the world, and provides important habitat for many species, including the threatened Stellar’s eider, sea otters, seals, walruses, Beluga and Killer whales, and the endangered North Pacific Right Whale.

      Today’s decision to withdraw the area from all future oil and gas leasing extends indefinitely a temporary withdrawal that President Obama issued in 2010 and was set to expire in 2017. This action builds on decades of local efforts to protect Bristol Bay from oil and gas development by Alaska Native tribes and organizations, as well as local seafood and tourism businesses that create jobs and strengthen Alaska and the nation’s economy. It also honors the legacy of Alaska residents like Harold ‘Harvey’ Samuelsen, a salmon fisherman who is legendary for his lifelong dedication to Bristol Bay and to creating economic opportunities for Alaska Native and rural communities.

      For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/16/president-obama-protects-alaska-s-bristol-bay-future-oil-and-gas-drillin

    • Native Alaskans Laud Environmental Protection Agency’s Nixing of Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay

      3/3/14 ICTMN Staff

      The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is nixing, for now, a mining proposal that would replace the world’s biggest sockeye salmon spawning grounds with the world’s largest open pit mine, pending further study.

      Alaska Native groups, environmentalists and fishermen are lauding the EPA’s decision not to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a permit for the mine, proposed by the Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

      “Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement on February 28. “It’s why EPA is taking this step forward in our effort to ensure protection for the world’s most productive salmon fishery from the risks it faces from what could be one of the largest open pit mines on earth. This process is not something the Agency does very often, but Bristol Bay is an extraordinary and unique resource.”

      The move came after the agency released its environmental assessment and after 360 scientists signed an open letter urging the EPA to turn down the proposal.

      At least 31 Alaska Native villages are located in the Bristol Bay watershed region as well, and many have opposed the project, making the EPA decision welcome.

      Read more : http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/03/03/native-alaskans-laud-environmental-protection-agencys-nixing-pebble-mine-bristol-bay

    • President Obama Calls on Congress to Protect Arctic Refuge as Wilderness

      John Podesta, Mike Boots January 25, 2015 11:00 AM EST

      Each year, as the darkness of the Arctic winter brightens into spring, as the snow melts and the hills and valleys slowly turn green, the tens of thousands of members of the Porcupine caribou herd begin their great migration — traveling some 1,500 miles through Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to their calving grounds on the Coastal Plain.

      This far northern region is known as “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins” to Alaska Native communities. The Refuge sustains the most diverse array of wildlife in the entire Arctic — home not only to the Porcupine caribou, but to polar bears, gray wolves, and muskoxen. Bird species from the Coastal Plain migrate to all 50 states of the country — meaning that no matter where you live, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is part of your landscape.

      But the majority of the Refuge is not protected as wilderness, including the Coastal Plain. For more than three decades, some voices have clamored to drill for oil in the Coastal Plain — a move that could irreparably damage this ecological treasure and harm the Alaska Native communities who still depend on the caribou for subsistence.

      Today, the Department of the Interior released a revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan to better sustain and manage the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — and President Obama took it a step further and announced his plans to ask Congress to designate the Coastal Plain and other core areas of the refuge as wilderness:

      For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/01/25/president-obama-calls-congress-protect-arctic-refuge-wilderness

  2. Obamacare enrollments are outpacing last year’s sign-up period

    December 16 at 4:13 PM By Jason Millman – washingtonpost

    Nearly 2.5 million people picked new health plans through HealthCare.gov during the first month of Obamacare’s second-ever enrollment period, according to the Obama administration — far outpacing enrollment during the law’s glitch-filled first year of expanded coverage.

    The enrollment update, which didn’t include 14 state-run exchanges, was the first provided by the administration since the deadline for obtaining coverage starting Jan. 1 ended for most consumers. The update provides enrollment figures for 37 states using the HealthCare.gov enrollment platform through last Friday, so it does not include the final days leading up to the Dec. 15 deadline for obtaining Jan. 1 coverage.

    “We did have an extremely busy weekend,” said Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the health insurance marketplaces. Slavitt declined to say how many people signed up on Dec. 15, but administration officials said the federal call center received more than 1 million calls on Monday.

    For more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/12/16/obamacare-enrollments-are-outpacing-last-years-sign-up-period/

  3. Hi CR,

    Each time I think that I have a handle on the good things this Admin. is doing something else new and great pops up. I had no idea all this illegal stuff was going on in the fishing industry and PBO had set-up a task force to look into it. That was a great Presidential MO that PBO signed protecting Bristol Bay. Not surprising that the Torture Admin. was willing to open up the Bay for drilling Also, it’s interesting that the first Presidential MO signed to protect land and wild life was a Republican.

  4. Consumer Prices in U.S. Decline by Most in Six Years on Fuel

    Dec 17, 2014 5:53 AM PT By Shobhana Chandra – bloomberg

    The cost of living in the U.S. fell in November by the most in almost six years, depressed by falling energy prices that signal inflation will stay below the Federal Reserve’s goal well into 2015.

    The consumer-price index dropped 0.3 percent, the most since December 2008, after being little changed the prior month, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 84 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.1 percent fall. Costs rose 1.3 percent over the past year, the least since February. Excluding volatile food and fuel, the so-called core measure rose at a slower pace than in October.

    Persistently low inflation allows Fed policy makers, scheduled to end a two-day meeting today, to exercise patience in raising the benchmark interest rates that they’ve held near zero since 2008 to spur growth and trim unemployment. Plunging fuel costs also will free up money that households can spend on other goods and services, bolstering the economic expansion.

    “There really aren’t any inflationary pressures, even outside of energy,” Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Pittsburgh, who is among the most accurate CPI forecasters over the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “Time is still on the Fed’s side.”

    For more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-17/consumer-prices-in-u-s-decrease-by-most-in-six-years-on-fuel.html

  5. December 17, 2014

    Readout of the President’s Call with Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia

    The President called Prime Minister Abbott last night regarding the Sydney hostage tragedy. The President expressed condolences on behalf of the American people to the families that lost loved ones, and his wishes for a speedy recovery to those who were injured. He conveyed admiration for the strength, resilience, and compassion of the Australian people and his confidence that they will emerge from this tragedy stronger. Noting the Australian public’s embrace of #Illridewithyou and the Muslim leaders who have disavowed the actions of the hostage taker, the President also praised Australia’s rejection of any violence taken in the name of religion and the fear this violence seeks to stoke. Finally, as close and strong allies, the President reiterated that the United States stands ready to provide assistance as Australia moves forward in the aftermath of the hostage situation.

  6. December 17, 2014

    Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes

    Cabinet Room

    12:01 P.M. EST

    THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.

    In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.

    There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba. I was born in 1961 –- just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism. We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.

    Meanwhile, the Cuban exile community in the United States made enormous contributions to our country –- in politics and business, culture and sports. Like immigrants before, Cubans helped remake America, even as they felt a painful yearning for the land and families they left behind. All of this bound America and Cuba in a unique relationship, at once family and foe.

    Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these five decades. We have done so primarily through policies that aimed to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that Americans can enjoy anyplace else. And though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions, and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people. Today, Cuba is still governed by the Castros and the Communist Party that came to power half a century ago.

    Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born. Consider that for more than 35 years, we’ve had relations with China –- a far larger country also governed by a Communist Party. Nearly two decades ago, we reestablished relations with Vietnam, where we fought a war that claimed more Americans than any Cold War confrontation.

    That’s why -– when I came into office -– I promised to re-examine our Cuba policy. As a start, we lifted restrictions for Cuban Americans to travel and send remittances to their families in Cuba. These changes, once controversial, now seem obvious. Cuban Americans have been reunited with their families, and are the best possible ambassadors for our values. And through these exchanges, a younger generation of Cuban Americans has increasingly questioned an approach that does more to keep Cuba closed off from an interconnected world.

    For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/17/statement-president-cuba-policy-changes

    • December 17, 2014

      FACT SHEET: Charting a New Course on Cuba

      Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people. We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba.

      It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

      We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state. With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities. In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.

      Today, we are renewing our leadership in the Americas. We are choosing to cut loose the anchor of the past, because it is entirely necessary to reach a better future – for our national interests, for the American people, and for the Cuban people.

      For more:http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/17/fact-sheet-charting-new-course-cuba

    • The Cuba Breakthrough
      Biggest Change In 50 Years

      DECEMBER 17, 2014, 11:01 AM EST By DYLAN SCOTT – The Hill

      The United States intends to open an official embassy in Cuba in the coming months, the White House announced Wednesday, part of a broader normalizing of diplomatic relations after the countries exchanged prisoners.

      In a conference call with reporters, a senior administration official called the developments “the most significant changes to our Cuba policy in more than 50 years.”

      “What we are doing is beginning the normalization of relations of the United States and Cuba,” the official said. “President Obama has long believed that engagement is a better tool than isolation and nowhere is that clear than in Cuba, where we have seen a policy of isolation fail for the last 50 years.”

      The White House said that Obama would order Secretary of State John Kerry to begin discussions with Cuban officials on re-establishing diplomatic relations and high-level discussions and visits between the countries are expected to follow. The opening of the embassy will happen “as soon as possible,” an official said, noting that “the decision has been made” to normalize relations. The main issues to be resolved are logistical, the official said.

      Other expected changes include increased travel permission for Americans to visit Cuba, an official review of Cuba’s current designation as a state sponsor of terrorism and increased coordination between the United States and Cuba on issues like disaster response and drug trafficking.

      As for the Cuban embargo, officials said that the White House supports efforts to end it, but knows congressional approval for lifting it is unlikely in the immediate future.

      For more: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/obama-united-states-cuba-embassy

    • WH: Pope Francis helped secure Cuba deal

      12/17/14 12:04 PM EST By Justin Sink – TheHill

      Pope Francis was a key player in helping secure a historic deal between the Obama administration and Cuba to begin normalizing relations, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

      In a letter sent to both President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro over the summer, Francis “personally issued an appeal” to both leaders to pursue a closer relationship.

      The pope called on Cuba to “resolve” the case of Alan Gross, an American aid worker who had been jailed for five years after bringing telecommunications equipment to the Island, and implored President Obama to release three Cubans convicted of spying on anti-Castro groups in Miami.
      All four were released as part of a broader deal Obama is expected to announce Monday, which will also significantly scale back travel and trade restrictions on Cuba and see the U.S. establish an embassy in Havana.

      According to the senior administration official, the Pope’s letter “gave us greater impetus and momentum for us to move forward” with preliminary talks first authorized by President Obama in 2013.

      • Raul Castro gives Obama ‘very emotional’ apology

        April 11, 2015, 03:05 pm By Mark Hensch – TheHill

        Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday expressed remorse that President Obama had inherited the hostile relationship between Cuba and the U.S. during his time in office.

        The Lebanon Daily Star reported that the Communist leader apologized to Obama during the seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama City. He also absolved the president of any role increasing tensions between the two nations during his remarks.

        “I apologize to President Obama and the others here,” Castro told an assembly of Latin and North American leaders.

        “I apologize to him because President Obama has no responsibility for this,” he continued, citing the standoff between Cuba and the U.S., which has lasted for over half a century.

        Castro added his government perceives many past American leaders poorly for their treatment of the island nation. The foreign leader said he did not list Obama among their ranks.

        “I have told President Obama that I get very emotional talking about the revolution,” Castro said.

        “In my opinion, President Obama is an honest man,” he added.

        President Obama declared diplomatic progress between the two nations a “turning point” for the region during his own remarks Saturday. He added that meeting Castro was a “historic occasion” for both countries.

        “I’m not interested in having battles that frankly started before I was born,” Obama said. “The Cold War’s been over for a long time.”

        Obama and Castro will meet Saturday evening in a monumental encounter. American and Cuban leaders have not had so direct a dialogue in more than 50 years.

        The pair displayed their newfound respect for one another by shaking hands at the summit late Friday evening. They also spoke on the phone Wednesday before traveling to Panama.

        President Obama will soon decide whether Cuba will remain on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. The agency formally requested he remove it from the blacklist on Wednesday evening.

        State concluded its official review of Cuba’s status Thursday. It said Cuba has not supported terrorist acts during the last six months or more.

        President Obama first announced he would normalize relations with Cuba late last December. His administration detailed eased restrictions on American trade and travel there January 15.

      • April 11, 2015

        Remarks by President Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba Before Meeting

        ATLAPA Convention Center
        Panama City, Panama

        2:46 P.M. EST

        PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is obviously a historic meeting. The history between the United States and Cuba is obviously complicated, and over the years a lot of mistrust has developed. But during the course of the last several months, there have been contacts between the U.S. and the Cuban government. And in December, as a consequence of some of the groundwork that had been laid, both myself and President Castro announced a significant change in policy and the relationship between our two governments.

        I think that after 50 years of policy that had not changed on the part of the United States, it was my belief that it was time to try something new, that it was important for us to engage more directly with the Cuban government and the Cuban people. And as a consequence, I think we are now in a position to move on a path towards the future, and leave behind some of the circumstances of the past that have made it so difficult, I think, for our countries to communicate.

        Already we’ve seen majorities of the American people and the Cuban people respond positively to this change. And I truly believe that as more exchanges take place, more commerce and interactions resume between the United States and Cuba, that the deep connections between the Cuban people and the American people will reflect itself in a more positive and constructive relationship between our governments.

        Now, obviously there are still going to be deep and significant differences between our two governments. We will continue to try to lift up concerns around democracy and human rights. And as you heard from President Castro’s passionate speech this morning, they will lift up concerns about U.S. policy as well.

        But I think what we have both concluded is that we can disagree with the spirit of respect and civility, and that over time it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship in our two countries.

        And some of our immediate tasks include normalizing diplomatic relations and ultimately opening an embassy in Havana, and Cuba being able to open an embassy in Washington, D.C. so that our diplomats are able to interact on a more regular basis.

        For more: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/04/11/emarks-president-obama-and-president-raul-castro-cuba-meeting

      • Recommendation to Rescind Cuba’s Designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism

        Press Statement
        John Kerry
        Secretary of State
        Washington, DC
        April 14, 2015

        In December 2014, as a critical component of establishing a new direction for U.S.–Cuba relations, the President directed the State Department to launch a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism and provide a report to him within six months. Last week, the State Department submitted a report to the White House recommending, based on the facts and the statutory standard, that President Obama rescind Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

        This recommendation reflects the Department’s assessment that Cuba meets the criteria established by Congress for rescission. While the United States has had, and continues to have, significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these concerns and disagreements fall outside of the criteria for designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. This review focused on the narrow questions of whether Cuba provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six months, and whether Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future, consistent with the statutory standard for rescission.

        Circumstances have changed since 1982, when Cuba was originally designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism because of its efforts to promote armed revolution by forces in Latin America. Our Hemisphere, and the world, look very different today than they did 33 years ago. Our determination, pursuant to the facts, including corroborative assurances received from the Government of Cuba and the statutory standard, is that the time has come to rescind Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

  7. December 19, 2014

    Remarks by the President in Year-End Press Conference

    James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

    1:53 P.M. EST

    THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. We’ve really got a full house today, huh? Well, all I want for Christmas is to take your questions. (Laughter.) But first let me say a little bit about this year.

    In last year’s final press conference, I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America. And it has been. Yes, there were crises that we had to tackle around the world, many that were unanticipated. We have more work to do to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not just for the few, but for the many. But there is no doubt that we can enter into the New Year with renewed confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.

    The steps that we took early on to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s. All told, over a 57-month streak, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs. Almost all the job growth that we’ve seen have been in full-time positions. Much of the recent pickup in job growth has been in higher-paying industries. And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.

    Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth also since the 1990s. America is now the number-one producer of oil, the number-one producer of natural gas. We’re saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas. And effectively today, our rescue of the auto industry is officially over. We’ve now repaid taxpayers every dime and more of what my administration committed, and the American auto industry is on track for its strongest year since 2005. And we’ve created about half a million new jobs in the auto industry alone.

    Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance just this past year. Enrollment is beginning to pick up again during the open enrollment period. The uninsured rate is at a near record low. Since the law passed, the price of health care has risen at its slowest rate in about 50 years. And we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds since I took office, bringing them to below their 40-year average.

    Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading. We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL — a coalition that includes Arab partners. We’re leading the international community to check Russian aggression in Ukraine. We are leading the global fight to combat Ebola in West Africa, and we are preventing an outbreak from taking place here at home. We’re leading efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China that’s already jumpstarting new progress in other countries. We’re writing a new chapter in our leadership here in the Americas by turning a new page on our relationship with the Cuban people.

    And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than any time in over a decade. Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend Christmas in harm’s way. And they should know that the country is united in support of you and grateful not only to you but also to your families.

    The six years since the crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody’s part. But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve accomplished — more jobs; more people insured; a growing economy; shrinking deficits; bustling industry; booming energy. Pick any metric that you want — America’s resurgence is real. We are better off.

    I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, and on that business, America has outperformed all of our other competitors. Over the past four years, we’ve put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined. We’ve now come to a point where we have the chance to reverse an even deeper problem, the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes, and to make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers our prosperity for decades to come.

    For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/19/remarks-president-year-end-press-conference

  8. *******************
    THIS POST IS NOW CLOSED NBLB

    Come on over to my newest post titled: ”President Obama Changes US – Cuba Relations ″

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