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Saturday, May 3, 2014


Statement of US Secretary of Labor Perez on April employment numbers

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement about the April 2014 Employment Situation report released today:
"This morning's report demonstrates that the economy continues to rebound after a brutal recession that began in 2007. The economy generated 288,000 new jobs in April. The 273,000 created by private employers brings us to 9.2 million total new private-sector jobs over the last 50 months. Unemployment fell to 6.3 percent, the lowest since September 2008.

"I'm encouraged by this report, but we can't let one month of strong numbers diminish our sense of urgency or distract us from helping people who are still hurting. I meet too many working families who are barely getting by, let alone getting ahead. Their hard work and responsibility aren't being rewarded with the opportunity they deserve.

"To expand opportunity and ignite further economic growth, we need willing and engaged partners on Capitol Hill. But Congress continues to choose obstruction over action. While long-term unemployment remains near historic highs, it is now four months and counting since Congress took the unprecedented step of letting emergency unemployment benefits expire. Just two days ago, a minority of senators blocked a federal minimum wage increase embraced by a majority of Americans.

"President Obama is working every day to help more people climb ladders of success and punch their ticket to the middle class. He's fighting for infrastructure investment, immigration reform and other job-creating initiatives that enjoy broad public support. At the Labor Department this year, we will put on the street roughly $1 billion in new, targeted job-driven training funds that will help more people acquire the skills they need to succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow.
"The president is committed to making this a year of action. He and I are eager to work with members of both parties to create more jobs, a stronger recovery and opportunity for all."



Weekly Address: The President's Year of Action

WASHINGTON, DC – In this week’s address, the President provided an update on the work his Administration has done to strengthen the economy and expand opportunity for hardworking Americans in this Year of Action. While Republicans in Congress are setting records in obstruction, the President is making progress for the American people and has taken more than 20 executive actions since January. The President vowed to continue taking action on his own wherever possible, but underscored that much more progress could be made if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck in favor of those at the top, and more interested in expanding opportunity for all.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
May 3, 2014
Hi, everybody.  My number one priority as President is doing whatever I can to create more jobs and opportunity for hardworking families.  And yesterday, we learned that businesses added 273,000 jobs last month.  All told, our businesses have now created 9.2 million new jobs over 50 consecutive months of job growth.
But we need to keep going – to create more good jobs, and give middle-class families a sense of security.  And I want to work with Congress to do it.
But so far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked or voted down every serious idea to create jobs and strengthen the middle class.  They’ve said “no” to raising the minimum wage, “no” to equal pay for equal work, and “no” to restoring the unemployment insurance they let expire for more than two million Americans looking for a new job. 
That’s not what we need right now.  Not when there are still too many folks out of work and too many families working harder than ever just to get by. 
That’s why, in my State of the Union Address, I said that in this Year of Action, whenever I can act on my own to create jobs and expand opportunity for more Americans, I will.  And since January, I’ve taken more than 20 executive actions to do just that.
I acted to raise more workers’ wages by requiring that workers on new federal contracts earn a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – and as long as Republicans in Congress refuse to act, I’ll keep working with cities, states, and businesses to give more Americans a raise.  I acted to encourage more pay transparency and strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws, so that more women have the tools they need to earn fair pay.  And I’m modernizing regulations to make sure that more Americans who work overtime get the pay that they’ve earned.  I’ve launched new hubs to help attract more high-tech manufacturing jobs to America – and ordered a reform of job training programs to make sure more Americans can earn the skills that employers need right now.  I’ve brought together business leaders to help us connect more classrooms to high-speed internet, and give more of the long-term unemployed a better shot at finding a job. 
Each of these steps will make a difference.  You can check out the full list at
But we could do a lot more if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck in favor of those at the top, and more interested in growing the economy for everybody.  They’ve now voted more than 50 times to take apart the Affordable Care Act – imagine if they voted 50 times on serious jobs bills.
That’s why I’m going to take action on my own wherever I can.  To grow our economy from the middle-out, not the top down.  To give every American who works hard a chance to get ahead. 
That’s what this Year of Action is all about, and that’s what I’m going to keep fighting for. 
Thanks, and have a great weekend.



Commitment to Africa

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Gullele Botanic Park
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
May 3, 2014

Hallelujah, thank you very much for a spectacular introduction. Thank you for even getting out of the city and up into the mountains. And everything is so beautiful. This is an extraordinary building, and I just had the pleasure of walking out on the veranda here and enjoying the view. I understand this is the first green building, totally green building. So I congratulate the Gullele Botanical Gardens, and I particularly congratulate the University of Addis Ababa. Thank you, Mr. President, for being here. And thank you, all of you, for treading up the hill to join me this morning. I saw a couple of donkeys out there. Did some of you come up on the donkeys? (Laughter.) But a lot of buses and cars, and I am very, very appreciative.

It’s really good to be back in Addis, and I want to thank the Prime Minister and -- Foreign Minister Tedros and Prime Minister Hailemariam for a very generous welcome. And I want to thank them particularly for their terrific support in efforts not just with our development challenges and the challenges of Ethiopia itself, but also the challenges of South Sudan, the challenges of Somalia, the challenges of leadership on the continent and beyond.

I was here last spring to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the African Union and it was an appropriate time to take note of the meaning behind the AU’s significant emblem, the red rings that remind us all of the blood that was shed for an Africa that is free, and the palm leaves that remind us of the fact that the blood was not just shed for freedom, but it was shed for peace. And then the gold that symbolizes the promise of natural resources and economic potential. Today, as I come here to this hilltop, it’s important to understand how we will fulfill the promise of still another symbol of the African Union’s crest, the interlocking rings of green that embody all of Africa’s hopes and dreams.

These are the dreams I believe absolutely can be realized if we are, all of us, together, prepared to make the right choices. And it is a matter of choice. There is no pre-determined destiny out there that pushes us in a direction; this is up to the will of the people, and the will of leaders. We need to make certain that we grab the choice that seizes the future, and we need to refuse to be dragged back into the past.

I have absolutely no doubt that this could be an inflection point for the new Africa, a time and a place where Africans bend the arc of history towards reform, and not retribution; towards peace and prosperity, not revenge and resentment. And it’s important to acknowledge -- at least I feel it's important to acknowledge candidly -- that for too long the ties between the United States and Africa were largely rooted in meeting the challenges and the crises of a particular moment. But we’re discovering that, at the beginning of the 21st century, we both want a lasting and more grounded relationship, one that is not reflective, but visionary and strategic.
And for many Americans, Africa was too long a faraway place on a map, a destination for philanthropy, an occasional and harrowing image on the TV screen of starvation and war, a place of distance and some mystery. The fact is that today Africa is increasingly a destination for American investment and tourism, that African institutions are increasingly leading efforts to solve African problems. All of this underscores that dramatic transformations are possible, that prosperity can replace poverty, that cooperation can actually triumph over conflict.
But even as we celebrate this progress, we are also meeting at a time of continued crisis. Conflicts in South Sudan, which I visited yesterday, Central African Republic, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the events that we've just seen in Nigeria, these are among some of the things that are preventing millions of Africans from realizing their full potential. And in some places they are plunging the continent back into the turmoil of the past.

Now, some things are absolutely certain as we look at this panorama: Africa has the resources; Africa has the capacity; Africa has the know-how. The questions that Africa faces are similar to those confronting countries all over the world: do we have the political will, the sense of common purpose, to address our challenges? Are we prepared to make the hard choices that those challenges require?

The continent’s course is ultimately up to you. It's up to Africans. But we firmly believe that the United States is Africa’s natural partner. One thing we know for sure, the United States could be a vital catalyst in this continent’s continued transformation, and President Obama is committed to that transformation.

The United States is blessed to be the world’s epicenter for innovation. Africa is home to many of the fastest-growing economies in the world. There is no limit to what we can accomplish together by working together, and cooperating, and setting out a strategy, and agreeing to have a vision, and join it in common purpose. And though we never forget -- we never forget -- how our first ties were forged in some of the darkest chapters of human history, we still start from a strong foundation.

Now, I’m sure that some of you have seen that in your travels, hopefully across the United States. Whether it is Little Senegal in Los Angeles, or the Somali community in Minneapolis, or the Ethiopian community in Washington, DC, Africans are making American culture richer, and our economy stronger, and contributing to the future chapters of American history. It’s time to make sure that we build on this deep connection; it’s time that we take these connections to the next level by investing in the future of this continent.

And when we know, as we do, that Africa will have a larger workforce than India or China by 2040, then it is time for us to get ahead of the curve, to invest in education for the vast numbers of young people, and the increasing numbers of people demanding their part of that future. It is time to build a more open exchange of ideas and information that leads to partnership and innovation. President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative -- I had a chance to meet a number of them, they will be coming to Washington in August -- YALI, is designed to harness this energy, and it’s one example of how some of these efforts are already well underway. YALI is bringing leadership and networking to thousands of young people across the continent. And I am very, very pleased that many of you who are here today are participating in YALI, and that four of you will come and join us this summer as part of the first class of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

I was particularly impressed, frankly, by one of the stories of these young women, Haleta Giday. Perhaps it’s because Haleta is a prosecutor, and I used to be a prosecutor in my early career. But she graduated from Jimma University, which you all know is one of the best schools in Ethiopia. And the fact is that she had her pick of any lucrative job that she wanted to do, right here in the capital. Instead, she chose to represent women and children who were victims of violence. And when Haleta saw how many widows went bankrupt after they lost their husbands, she began a campaign to educate women about their legal and financial rights.

Just consider what Haleta has witnessed over the course of her young life: she spent her first years in a nation traumatized by famine. Today, Ethiopia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Since Haleta arrived on her first day of school, the number of democratic governments in Africa has tripled. Since she left high school, banking assets have more than doubled. And since Haleta graduated from university, Africa’s telecommunications market has doubled in size. She has already lived a remarkable life, and she’s doing amazing work here in Ethiopia. What’s more remarkable is she is one of many young leaders across this continent who are proving their mettle by taking on some of the toughest challenges.

So this is clearly a moment of opportunity for all Africans. It is also a moment of decision, because it’s the decisions that are made or the decisions that are deferred that will ultimately determine whether Africa mines the continent’s greatest natural resource of all, which is not platinum, it's not gold, it's not oil, it is the talent of its people. Africa’s potential comes from the ability of its citizens to make a full contribution, no matter their ethnicity, no matter who they love, or what faith they practice. This continent is strong because of the diversity and the dynamism of the people. The nations in Africa, like nations all over the world, are strongest when citizens have a say, when citizens' voices can be a part of the political process, when they have a stake in their nation's success.

Over the next three years, 37 of the 54 African nations will hold national elections, including 15 presidential elections. Millions of Africans will be going the polls, selecting their leaders in free and fair elections, and that will have a dramatic impact and show the world the power of this moment for Africa. These elections, I promise you, are vitally important. But elections cannot be the only moment, the only opportunity, for citizens to be able to help shape the future. Whether a citizen can engage with their government, not just on Election Day, but every day, whether or not they can engage with their fellow citizens in political discussion and debate and dialogue every week, every month, these are the questions that matter profoundly to Africa’s future.
The African Union is working to answer “yes” to all of these questions. “Good governance, democracy, and the right to development,” these are enshrined in universal rights, and the African Union’s charter represents that and reflects that. The AU has also gone to great lengths in order to highlight the corrosive effect of corruption, both in the public square, as well as corruption in the marketplace. To the AU’s great credit, they have reported that corruption costs Africans tens of billions of dollars, if not more. And that money -- every one of you knows that money could build new schools, new hospitals, new bridges, new roads, pipes, power lines. That’s why it is a responsibility for citizens in Africa and in all nations to demand that public money is providing services for all, not lining the pockets of a few.

And that is why it is so important for all of us everywhere, in our country, your country, and elsewhere, to fight against public corruption and corruption in the marketplace. Our cooperation is essential in order to protect economic growth that is shared by everybody in order to provide opportunity for all individuals in Africa. And, as you well know, fighting corruption is difficult. It takes courage. It sometimes has its risks. But fighting corruption lifts more than a country's balance sheet. Transparency and accountability attract greater investment. Transparency and accountability create a more competitive marketplace, one where ideas and products are judged by the market and by their merits, and not by backroom deals or bribes. That is an environment where innovators and entrepreneurs flourish, I promise you.

The United States has learned through its own experience that entrepreneurship is an essential driver of prosperity and of freedom. That’s why President Obama launched the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which this fall will bring some of the world’s brightest minds to Morocco. Last year I had the pleasure of being in Kuala Lumpur for that meeting, for the same meeting. And I was stunned by the 15,000 young people screaming like they were in a rock concert or something, all challenged by the prospect of themselves becoming or being the next Steve Jobs or the next Bill Gates. It was unbelievable to feel their energy and enthusiasm.
And they are all connected, all these kids are connected. Everybody shares everything with everybody else in the world, all of the time. And that changes politics, and it changes business, and it changes perceptions. It changes hopes and dreams and aspirations. And every political leader needs to be tuned in to that reality, because that's what we saw in Tunisia, that's what we saw in Egypt. That's what we're still seeing in Syria, where young people came out, asking for a future.

We want to make certain that every country can provide young people the ability to be able to take an idea and turn it into a business. And we know beyond any doubt that the places where people are free not just to develop an idea, but to debate different ideas, to transform the best ideas into a reality, those are the societies that are most successful. Now, this success is not a mystery, and it's not something that is hard to achieve, if you make the right choices. This success is possible for all of Africa. This new Africa is within everybody's reach. But a new Africa will not emerge without becoming a more secure Africa.

In too many parts of the continent, a lack of security, the threat of violence, or all-out war prevent the shoots of prosperity from emerging. The burdens of past divisions might not disappear entirely, my friends. But they must never be allowed to bury the future. The African Union’s commitment to silence the guns of Africa by 2020 is an ambitious goal. It is the right goal. It is a vision worth fighting for, and one that we will do everything in our power to help you achieve, and that’s why we will continue to provide financial and logistical support to African Union-led efforts in Somalia, where al-Shahaab is under significant pressure. That’s why we will continue to support the African Union Regional Task Force against the Lord’s Resistance Army, where LRA-related deaths have dropped by 75 percent, and hundreds of thousands have returned to their homes. And that’s why we are working to strengthen Nigeria’s institutions and its military to combat Boko Haram, and their campaign of terror and violence.

Let me be clear. The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime, and we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to hold the perpetrators to justice. I will tell you, my friends, I have seen this scourge of terror across the planet, and so have you. They don't offer anything except violence. They don't offer a health care plan, they don't offer schools. They don't tell you how to build a nation, they don't talk about how they will provide jobs. They just tell people, "You have to behave the way we tell you to," and they will punish you if you don't.
Our responsibility and the world’s responsibility is to stand up against that kind if nihilism. That is the reason that we have committed up to $100 million to support AU and French forces in Central African Republic to push back, as well as $67 million in humanitarian assistance. It’s why we support wholeheartedly the Framework Peace Process and the leadership of Angola and the 10 other African nations to resolve the root causes of conflict in the Great Lakes. Through our Special Envoy to the Great Lakes, a former Senator, a friend of mine that I appointed, Russ Feingold, the United States has been supporting the burgeoning dialogue that is now taking place, and we have already helped to broker the demobilization of M23. We stand ready to support all efforts that help the parties stay on a peaceful path.
Yesterday I was in South Sudan. I was there at the birth of the nation, at the referendum. I know President Kiir, I know the hopes and aspirations of the people there. And I saw yesterday how a nation that once had a hopeful vision for the future can be challenged by old grudges degenerating into violence by personal ambition, by greed that gets in the way of the hopes of all of the people.

I expressed my grave concerns to President Kiir about the deliberate killings of civilians on both sides of the conflict and he agreed to embark on negotiations to form a transitional government that can lead the nation back from the abyss. I congratulate him for his willingness to do that, and I look forward, as the world will, to watching him lead the nation back from this abyss. I also called the former Vice President, Riek Machar, and I urged him to do the same, to come to Addis Ababa in the near term, and to engage in these direct talks in order to move South Sudan to its rightful future.

If both sides do not take bold steps to end the violence, they risk plunging South Sudan into greater desperation and even famine. And that famine could be right around the corner if we don't turn the corner ourselves in the next days. They will completely destroy what they claim they are fighting for if we do not make a difference now. Both sides must do more to facilitate the work of those providing humanitarian assistance. The UN, UNMIS, and all organizations that are urgently providing aid must be supported and protected and not demonized, the way they have been.

Once again, African nations are all working hard to try to forge a regional solution through the AU's Commission of Inquiry and IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanisms. And in the days to come I will continue my personal engagement with both sides, and it is imperative that both sides abide by the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, and implement it as fully as possible. The international community must stay committed to the people of South Sudan and see them through this time of incredible difficulty.

Preventing new conflicts also requires coordination to confront the causes of conflict, including food insecurity and famine and, obviously, poverty. Africa has 60 percent of the world’s arable land. Just think about that. That is a tremendous opportunity for the future, not just to feed Africa’s people, but to feed the world. The United States wants to help Africa seize this opportunity by making investments in agribusiness and in crops with greater yields and greater resistance to extreme weather.

With Feed the Future, which was built on the foundation that was laid by the African Union with your own Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program, the United States is investing several billion dollars to improve seed quality, to enhance farming methods, to protect against soil erosion, and link small farmers to the marketplace. To underscore the importance of these commitments, the AU has made 2014 the year of agriculture and food security.
But it is no exaggeration to say that the greatest risk to African agriculture, and even to our way of life, not just in Africa but on this planet, comes from the potential ravages of climate change.
According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, portions of Mombasa, Dakar, Monrovia, and dozens of other coastal cities could be under water by the middle of this century. Yields from rain-fed agriculture in parts of Africa could decline by 50 percent. An additional 100 million people or more will be living without water or under greater water duress as a result of the changes from climate.

When 97 percent of scientists agree that the climate is changing, and that humans are responsible for much of the change, and that it is happening faster than predicted, let me tell you something: We need to listen to that 97 percent, and we need to act. And when this continent produces less carbon than almost any other nation, when the continent produces less carbon than almost any other nation, but has the most to lose climate change, it is true there is an inherent unfairness to that equation. And there can be no doubt about it: greater prosperity in Africa is going to demand greater energy supply. So, citizens in Africa will have to make certain that the mistakes that we make, the mistakes that other developed nations have made, that those are not repeated, that the mistakes that created this moment of urgency for the world are not repeated on this continent.

The United States wants to support Africa’s efforts to develop more sustainably, even as we move to do so ourselves, and move to curb our emissions. And that’s why, as part of the President’s bold Power Africa Initiative, a partnership that will pump billions of dollars into the continent’s energy sector, we are working with programs such as the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative. We’re leveraging public resources and private resources to support $1 billion in clean energy investment from the private sector. Climate change is a global challenge, and it's going to threaten this continent and all continents in profound ways if it is not matched by global cooperative action.

We will -- we face this challenge remembering that we’ve come together before to confront a borderless, generational crisis, one in which I am proud to say we are now winning. So when someone suggests that we are impotent to combat climate change here on Africa’s soil, remind them that we already turned back armies of indifference and denial in the fight against AIDS.

I’ve worked with some of you in this battle since the 1990s. It was 15 years ago when I co-authored the first Africa AIDS legislation which later became the foundation for PEPFAR. Back then, what I saw this week at Gandhi Memorial Hospital that I visited a couple days ago, that would have been unthinkable back then. Because of the commitment of local doctors and healthcare professionals, and with PEPFAR’s sustained support, we have dramatically reduced the number of young children infected with HIV. And the fact is that we have -- we are -- I think we were about, what, 15,000 children were receiving antiretroviral drugs back in 2004. Today, there are more than 330,000 receiving them. The number of people living with HIV has been reduced by one-third. And, remarkably, we are on the cusp of witnessing the first generation of children who will be born AIDS-free because of what we have learned to do.
There was a sign I saw yesterday at the hospital -- or the day before yesterday. It was -- it read, “Ethiopia and the United States of America investing in a healthy future together.” My friends, that sign tells it all. It tells us what's possible, it tells us what we're doing together. It tells us what’s possible in all of our endeavors together.

Achieving President Obama’s goal for an AIDS-free generation would have been the most distant dream. I tell you it was back when we first started talking about doing something about AIDS. Back then it was a death sentence, and back then it was almost a death sentence for politicians talking about it. They didn't want to hear about it. But despite the difficulties that lie ahead -- and there are still difficulties -- this goal is now within our reach. So don't let anybody tell you we can't do something about climate change or these other things.

In fact, in so many ways, Africa is on the move. And that is why investment is moving here from all over the world. IBM has invested $100 million in Big Data on the continent. IBM’s initiatives are helping Africans to find ways to streamline the work of their businesses and governments, to provide more effective and efficient services. Microsoft is investing in what it calls “Mawingu,” the Swahili word for cloud, to develop cloud computing and storage in Kenya that could be expanded to additional African nations. Google is exploring ways to develop underused spectrum in order to deliver broadband Internet access to remote communities.

And it was here in Addis Ababa that we launched a formal review of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, in order to determine where to take AGOA for the future. President Obama is committed to a seamless renewal of AGOA, as it continues to serve as a vital link in order to facilitate trade between our countries.

I say this unabashedly, too: we want more American companies to be here, to invest, both to unleash the power of the private sector in Africa, and, yes, to create jobs in America at the same time. Now, we’ve seen time and again: when we help nations stand on their own two feet, we share in their success. Out of our 15 largest trading partners today, 11 are former recipients of American aid. They are now donor countries. That is the transformation that can be made.
The transformation from aid to trade has been a powerful driver of American prosperity, as well as global growth. And that’s what we saw take root from our partnerships in Europe after World War II, when America came in and we helped to rebuild Germany (inaudible) before the war, helped to rebuild Japan (inaudible) before the war, helped to rebuild Europe that was crushed by the war. We have seen this same kind of resurgence in Asia, where American investment and partnership helped underwrite their incredible rise. And today, that’s what we’re beginning to see here Africa.

When people say that the kind of development that happened in Europe and Asia can’t happen here, we just plain disagree: it’s already happening. Africans are shaping their future for themselves. You are shaping it for yourselves. And we want to share in your effort and help to provide and drive for a shared prosperity that reaches these millions of young people who need education and jobs. That’s one of the reasons I’ve come to Addis today, and why I’m traveling across the continent from the Horn of Africa to the Atlantic coast in the next couple of days.
So this is a very important time for us both. This summer we will further advance the vital work that we are undertaking together with the Africa Leaders’ Summit. This summit will be the first of its kind. Never before will so many leaders from such a diverse cross-section of the African Continent come together with the President of the United States and leaders from all across American society in the United States. It’s an historic gathering that matches the remarkable importance of this particular moment.

The theme of this Summit will be “Investing in the Next Generation.” And I am pleased to see that generation is so well represented here today, with the younger participants from YALI that I mentioned earlier. These young African leaders are the future. And I have to tell you, when we introduced YALI, we were stunned by the response. We put out this notion of young African leaders and invited people to come to Washington. And guess what, 50,000 young people responded and applied to be a part of this program. We could only take 500. So, what we need to do is make sure those other 49,500, and for millions beyond them, are able to be reached.
That is the kind of commitment that actually inspired a young Bobby Kennedy. Some of you may remember when he came to South Africa during some of that country’s darkest days. And he challenged the young audience at Cape Town University to muster the courage and the determination to confront their generation’s most daunting challenges. He said: “The world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.”

It’s that spirit, it’s those qualities, it’s that appetite that I guarantee you will propel the next generation of Africans to tackle today’s greatest challenges. And as they do so, the United States of America will stand beside them, bound together by a shared future, a common purpose, and a shared destiny.

So, I say to you, thank you. (Speaks in foreign language.) Thank you very much. (Applause.)



Right:  Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is greeted by Army Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command East and of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, upon his arrival on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 1, 2014. Dempsey is in Afghanistan to visit troops and commanders. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton.  

American Units Adapting to New Missions in Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, May 2, 2014 – As you walk into the headquarters for Regional Command East here, you see a photo of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Underneath the photo is an inscription: “Never again.”

“Our soldiers understand why they are here,” said Army Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the commander of Regional Command East and of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. “International terrorists will never use this country to launch attacks on the United States or our allies again.”

Townsend spoke during a break in meetings with Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is visiting here to confer with senior leaders.

But the mission American and coalition service members perform has changed from one in which Americans did the combat operations to one in which U.S. and coalition forces train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

When he does battlefield circulations, Townsend said, he tells the U.S. and coalition service members that the mission is to “get the Afghan national security forces stood up, so we can stand down.”

This, the general said, is the biggest change he has seen since his last deployment to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, American and coalition forces conducted about 95 percent of the operations. A few Afghan soldiers accompanied them, he said.

“Now, it’s exactly the opposite, with 95 percent of the operations led by the Afghans,” he said. “In fact, between 80 and 85 percent of those operations are Afghan unilaterals. There’s nobody from the coalition with them at all.”
This does not mean that American and coalition forces are out of danger. Last week, two 10th Mountain Division soldiers were killed conducting force-protection patrols.

Veterans of multiple deployments understand what is happening, Townsend said. “They are very happy to advise the Afghans and help train them and encourage them as they leave the gate on a mission,” he said. “They stand by as part of a quick-reaction force if needed.”

But they understand that “victory has an Afghan face,” the general said.
The mantra now is to train the trainer. U.S. forces train Afghan officers and sergeants, who in turn train Afghan privates. “That’s the only way we can build an institution that can sustain itself,” Townsend said.

The effort also is transitioning from unit-based security force assistance to functionally based assistance. In the past, American soldiers have been covering down on Afghan kandaks, or brigades, to train all aspects of what that unit needed to function effectively. “Now we are shifting our lens to functions -- critical functions,” he said.

Logistics and intelligence are two of these critical functions. Training now strives to connect kandaks through the chain of command to the Afghan Defense Ministry. “A lot of the Afghan units are functioning just fine,” Townsend said. But they do need things from outside the unit to perform best, he added.

Spare parts, replacements and intelligence sharing are examples of functions outside a unit that are critical to the unit’s success, he explained. “We’re trying to get the Afghans to push their intelligence down through channels to the unit that needs it,” he said. “We’re trying to make that pipe work.”

With logistics, the Afghans have no historical data to forecast what spares will be needed. As a result, they are still buying bulk parts. This is inefficient, the general said, because “you end up buying too many of one widget and too few of another.”
“They don’t have enough money to be inefficient and wasteful,” he added. “They have to be very efficient. We’re trying to help them maximize their bang for the buck.”

When Townsend speaks with U.S. and coalition troops, he said, they ask him about the status of the bilateral security agreement that would allow a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan beyond this year. They also ask if the United States will leave a residual force in Afghanistan, and what it will do. “They may operate at the foxhole-and-rifle squad level, but they think at a national level,” he said.
The general said he believes Americans should know about the work his troopers are doing here.

“We lost a soldier, … and I read a post on the Internet from an American that said, ‘I thought we were out of there,’” Townsend said. “The American people need to know we are still here and doing the nation’s mission.”


NPT Cluster 2: Nonproliferation and Safeguards - U.S. Statement
Adam Scheinman, Senior Advisor, International Security and Nonproliferation
Third Meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference
New York City
May 1, 2014
(As Prepared)

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The United States emphasizes the importance of a balanced approach to implementation of the NPT. The three NPT pillars are mutually reinforcing. The nonproliferation pillar plays a central role by strengthening the other two. Together, nonproliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses are complementary not competing goals. We pursue each with equal vigor and in all aspects.

A strong nonproliferation regime contributes to the security conditions that make disarmament easier to achieve, and progress on disarmament helps create political conditions to strengthen the nonproliferation regime. All parties share in the mutual security that derives from a strong nonproliferation regime.

Safeguards, export controls, and other important nonproliferation measures build the mutual confidence that enables the fullest possible cooperation among parties. This in turn helps to realize the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy for all parties. The robust nuclear cooperation that results demonstrates the value of a strong nonproliferation regime.

The United States remains fully committed to the Action Plan that was adopted by consensus in 2010, including those actions related to nonproliferation. A complete listing of U.S. implementation of this pillar can be found in our national report to the PrepCom.

U.S. Support for IAEA Safeguards and the Additional Protocol

Mr. Chairman, the Action Plan emphasizes the importance of compliance with IAEA safeguards, which are the established international verification mechanism under the NPT. These safeguards are essential to help ensure that nuclear activities remain in peaceful uses and that material and technology is not diverted to produce nuclear weapons. These safeguards are essential to help ensure that states are not diverting nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons. Only twelve NPT parties have yet to bring the required safeguards agreement into force. We should aim to reduce that number to zero by next year’s Review Conference, and we encourage states that have not yet done so to update any small quantities protocols.

A comprehensive safeguards agreement together with an Additional Protocol is now recognized as the strengthened safeguards standard. We have learned time and again that the IAEA needs the essential tools provided by the Additional Protocol in order to respond to possible undeclared nuclear activities and provide assurances of their absence. We should redouble efforts to make the Additional Protocol universal. Between now and the Review Conference, states that have signed the Additional Protocol should bring it into force. Those states yet to sign should start the work now to take this forward.

Some states may need assistance in implementing – or preparing to implement – those safeguards measures. The United States devotes considerable resources to this effort, and we encourage those who are in a position to help to offer their support to other states and to the IAEA. We should make sure that all interested states are aware and take advantage of such assistance.

The IAEA should seek to continuously improve the way it implements safeguards by using new technology and taking advantage of all safeguards-relevant information. In doing so the Agency must maintain its objectivity, impartiality, and the technical foundation of its work. This deserves our full financial, technical, and political support. In this regard, we note the IAEA’s development of the state-level concept (SLC), which is the next logical phase in the evolution of IAEA safeguards. We support the Agency’s efforts to transition to the SLC in order that IAEA safeguards remain both effective and efficient.

Thirty-seven years ago, the United States was the first state to establish a Member State Support Program to provide technical and financial assistance to the IAEA for safeguards. Last year alone, we provided $40 million to the IAEA to support its safeguards mission. This figure does not include significant efforts to revitalize our own technology base and work with other international partners to support IAEA safeguards. We also take great encouragement from the contributions of 20 other active Support Programs for IAEA safeguards, a concrete affirmation of the importance those states place in IAEA safeguards.

The United States remains ready to accept the same safeguards on our civil nuclear facilities and activities that non-nuclear-weapon states Parties are required to accept, both under comprehensive safeguards agreements and Additional Protocols to those agreements, subject only to a national security exclusion. We have made roughly 300 civil nuclear facilities eligible for IAEA safeguards under our “voluntary offer” safeguards agreement. We have welcomed IAEA verification of the downblending of excess U.S. highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium for use in power reactors. Each of our annual reports under the U.S. Additional Protocol since 2010 has included over 300 entries.

Nuclear Security

Mr. Chairman, in addition to the risk of nuclear proliferation by states, we need to address the risks from non-state actors, including the risks of unauthorized removal or sabotage of dangerous nuclear and radiological materials. We welcome the outcome of the Nuclear Security Summit last month in The Hague and take note of the accomplishments made through commitments made at earlier summits by a diverse group of world leaders representing 53 states and four international organizations. This concerted international action, some of which predates the Summits, has enabled 26 states plus Taiwan to rid themselves entirely of an aggregate of over five metric tons of highly enriched uranium.

But more remains to be done not only to secure and eliminate the most dangerous materials, but to promote best practices in securing nuclear and radiological material. We are pleased that two thirds of the countries participating in this year’s Summit, on the initiative of the hosts of all three Summits, pledged to implement robust measures to strengthen their nuclear security practices. As we approach the 2016 Summit, we look forward to further progress as states work to meet the additional commitments undertaken at The Hague, as well as to further progress on nuclear security actions in the three communiqués and the 2010 Action Plan.

Proliferation Challenges

Mr. Chairman, since the early 1990s, we have seen several instances of NPT Parties that failed to comply with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations. Some of these cases have been resolved successfully. But other cases remain unresolved and those states stand in violation of their obligations today because they have not taken sufficient action to resolve the underlying compliance concerns. Unresolved cases of noncompliance erode confidence in the NPT as a foundation for international security and for efforts to reduce global nuclear dangers. NPT parties should continue to give utmost attention to these challenges in order to maintain and reinforce the integrity and effectiveness of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Non-compliant states or non-state actors will not hesitate to take advantage of weaknesses in the nonproliferation system. They will import critical nuclear-related equipment on the black market or traffic in dangerous materials. None of us is immune to these risks. Illicit commerce has taken advantage even of states with the strongest nonproliferation commitments, and its results affect all of us.

This underscores the need for concerted action to shore up our existing controls. We therefore encourage states in position to do so to join us in offering assistance, in export control, border security, safeguards, nuclear and radiological security; we encourage those who need assistance to avail themselves of these offers.

Strengthening the Treaty

Mr. Chairman, universality of the NPT remains our long-term objective, even as we recognize the challenges we face in pursuing that goal. This goal will not be achieved quickly, but it remains an essential element in achieving the broader vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

We welcome the heightened attention to the issue of withdrawal from the NPT. While we do not challenge the right of NPT parties to withdraw in accordance with Article X of the Treaty, nor do we seek to amend that provision in any way, we share the concerns many countries have regarding the potential for states to abuse this right.

Mr. Chairman, the United States encourages all NPT parties to do all they can to strengthen the nonproliferation pillar of the Treaty. This is urgent if we are to preserve the security benefits that derive from our shared commitment to nonproliferation and to all pillars of the NPT regime.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



Commemorating World Press Freedom Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 2, 2014

May 3 we commemorate World Press Freedom Day at a time when for too many, a free press is under assault, and the journalists, bloggers, photographers, essayists, satirists, and essayists who give life to the words “free press” are in danger.

People everywhere count on a free press to keep us informed, hold leaders accountable, filter fact from fiction, and unmask false narratives masquerading as truth.

The danger of the work journalists do in pursuing the truth was driven home for me during my trip to Kyiv in March. I’ll never forget when our Ambassador pointed out a makeshift memorial on the side of the road where a journalist who dared to criticize the regime was pulled from her car and beaten within an inch of her life by thugs allied with then-President Yanukovych. These abuses are happening in too many places: journalists are intimidated into self-censorship or arrested without cause. They’re imprisoned without judicial recourse or killed with outright impunity.

I am in awe of the courage of those who risk their lives to tell the stories the world needs to hear. In Syria, the world’s most dangerous place to be a journalist, reporters risk torture, detention, abduction, and death to expose the truth and depict the horrors unfolding across the country.

I still remember the reporters who sometimes rode with us on our boat in Vietnam. They didn’t carry a gun. They carried a pen. Sometimes, that’s more powerful.

So today we pay tribute to all our truth tellers in a noble cause: The people who put their lives and liberties on the line to tell the stories the world would otherwise never know. We reaffirm our commitment not only to stand by them, but to stand up for them this day and every day the world over.



Remarks During Visit to Gandhi Memorial Hospital

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Gandhi Memorial Hospital
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
May 1, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Good morning,
everybody. How are you?

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

SECRETARY KERRY: What an incredible, incredible energy I can feel here. You all are amazing in the work that you are doing. And in the small little spaces that I just walked through, I saw how much is going on every single day. So you are maximizing each moment and you’re maximizing every bit of space, and I congratulate you on that.

As I was walking in here, I asked about some of the other activities, and I learned that 25 babies are born here every day – 7,000 or so babies a year, right? And 30 – about 35 percent of those babies are born by cesarean section, so you can imagine how much work is going on here every single day. It’s really quite extraordinary.

And this part of the hospital, the Gandhi Memorial Hospital, is really special. The sign that is back here – you’re just sort of hiding it – but it talks about Ethiopia and the United States of America investing in a healthy future together. And there’s a lot of power in those words, “investing in a healthy future together.” We are doing it together. You’re doing the day-to-day hard work every single day. We’re trying to provide as much medical expertise and as much insight, knowledge as we can to help. But this is your – this is really your program and it’s about your future.

And I am so impressed by the way in which people in Ethiopia have grabbed onto this, and you are making a difference everywhere. Back in 2004, there were about 2.7 million Ethiopians who were HIV-positive, living with the disease. That has been cut by at least a third, but most importantly, for young children, for the children coming into the world, because of the progress that we’ve been able to make, those children now have the chance of being able to live HIV-free. And we are learning how to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child, from generation to generation, or from wife to unaffected husband or vice versa. This is a huge advance.

There were about, I think, 15,000 children being able to receive antiretroviral drugs back in 2004. Today, it’s about 335,000 who are receiving antiretroviral drugs, and today, there’s an incredible new program in place, the sort of – I guess it’s Plan B+. And through Plan B+, we are now able to guarantee that a mother or a pregnant girl, woman, will be able to receive lifetime antiretroviral drugs if they take part in the program and we are able to be able to make sure that child is born, as a result, HIV-free. That program is taking hold and that’s the promise that is coming through because of PEPFAR, so that we can actually defeat this disease. It’s a huge impact.

Now, I know a story about this hospital. I know that there was a young woman named Ababa who was diagnosed HIV-positive. And she was, after her diagnosis, trying to get to a health center, and she was out in the rain and she was exhausted and tired and she didn’t know – she didn’t have the strength to be able to get where she was going. But some health workers saw her. They didn’t just drive past her. They didn’t ignore her. They helped her. They brought her to the health center. And they were able to find housing for her, they were able to give her treatment, and today, she is one of the people who’s out on the cutting edge of helping other people to know that there is a better alternative, there’s help, there are people there who are ready to be able to make a difference.

So on behalf of every American, I can tell you that Americans are very, very proud to be able to help in this. We’re really – this is the best of countries working together and the best of people working across big oceans and big continents, but coming together because we believe in something for each other. And I think all of you are really amazing leaders in your own right because you’re doing the hardest work every single day. You are working here to make a difference in the lives of other people. And the example of what you’re achieving here in Ethiopia is an example that we can take all over the world.

So I hope you feel very proud of it. I want you to know how pleased I am to be able to come here today and learn something about the Gandhi Memorial Hospital and to meet all of you who are working so hard. So thank you very, very much for everything you are doing, and congratulations to all of you. Thank you. (Applause.)


Study suggests survival isn't always about competition

New research findings contradict one of Darwin's hypotheses, which encourages prioritizing species for conservation based on evolutionary or genetic uniqueness
May 1, 2014

One of Charles Darwin's hypotheses posits that closely related species will compete for food and other resources more strongly with one another than with distant relatives, because they occupy similar ecological niches. Most biologists have long accepted this to be true.

Thus, three researchers were more than a little shaken to find that their experiments on fresh-water green algae failed to support Darwin's hypothesis.

"It was completely unexpected," says Bradley Cardinale, an associate professor in the University of Michigan's school of natural resources and environment. "We sat there banging our heads against the wall. Darwin's hypothesis has been with us for so long, how can it not be right?"

The researchers--who also included Charles Delwiche, a professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, and Todd Oakley, a professor in the department of ecology, evolution and marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara--were so uncomfortable with their results that they spent the next several months trying to disprove their own work. But the research held up.

"The hypothesis is so intuitive that it was hard for us to give it up. But we are becoming more and more convinced that he wasn't right about the organisms we've been studying," Cardinale says. "It doesn't mean the hypothesis won't hold for other organisms, but it's enough that we want to get biologists to rethink the generality of Darwin's hypothesis."

Preserving species

The assumptions underlying Darwin's hypothesis are important for conservation policy, since they essentially encourage decision-makers to prioritize species preservation based on how evolutionarily or genetically unique they are. "We don't have enough time, people or resources to save everything," Cardinale says. "A large number of species will go extinct and we have to prioritize which ones we will save.

"Many biologists have argued that we should prioritize for conservation those species that are genetically unique, and focus less on those species that are genetically more similar," he adds. "The thinking is that you might be able to tolerate the loss of species that are redundant. In other words, if you lost a redundant species, you might not see a change."

But if scientists ultimately prove Darwin wrong on a larger scale, "then we need to stop using his hypothesis as a basis for conservation decisions," Cardinale says. "We risk conserving things that are the least important, and losing things that are the most important. This does bring up the question: How do we prioritize?"

The scientists did not set out to disprove Darwin, but, in fact, to learn more about the genetic and ecological uniqueness of fresh-water green algae so they could provide conservationists with useful data for decision-making. "We went into it assuming Darwin to be right, and expecting to come up with some real numbers for conservationists," Cardinale says. "When we started coming up with numbers that showed he wasn't right, we were completely baffled."

The National Science Foundation is supporting the work with $2 million over five years, awarded in 2010.

Experiments with green algae

The researchers sequenced 60 species of algae most common in North America and can describe with a high certainty their evolutionary relationships. "We know which ones are ancient and have become genetically unique, and which are new and recently diverged," he says.

Their experiments involved taking closely related species and putting them into competition, and taking evolutionarily ancient distantly related species and similarly pitting them against each other.

They also sent graduate students into natural lakes to gather samples, including one lake with "the most spectacular group of green algae," as well as something else, prompting the nickname "Leech Lake."

When the students stood in the water to collect their samples, "the entire bottom of the lake would start moving toward them," Cardinale says. "They would congregate on their boots, and start crawling up their legs. The challenge was to get the samples before the leeches got into their waders."

Samples obtained, they put species that have different evolutionary histories into bottles and measured how strongly they competed for essential resources such as nitrogen, phosphorus and light.

"If Darwin had been right, the older, more genetically unique species should have unique niches, and should compete less strongly, while the ones closely related should be ecologically similar and compete much more strongly – but that's not what happened," Cardinale says. "We didn't see any evidence of that at all.” They found this to be so in field experiments, lab experiments and surveys in 1,200 lakes in North America.

"If Darwin was right, we should've seen species that are genetically different and ecologically unique, doing unique things and not competing with other species," he adds. "But we didn't."

Traits and the quality of competition

Certain traits determine whether a species is a successful competitor or a poor competitor, he says. "Evolution does not appear to predict which species have good traits and bad traits," he says. "We should be able to look at the Tree of Life, and evolution should make it clear who will win in competition and who will lose. But the traits that regulate competition can't be predicted from the Tree of Life."

The scientists have a few ideas of what may be going on, and why Darwin's hypothesis is incorrect, at least for this group of organisms.

"Organisms like algae can be plastic. Maybe they all have the same genes that do the same things and can turn them off and on at different times," he says. "Maybe they sometimes can flip a switch for nitrogen on or off, or all at the same time. If we are correct, and they are not diverging in the genes that control competition, maybe they are diverging in other genes."

Darwin "was obsessed with competition," Cardinale says. "He assumed the whole world was composed of species competing with each other, but we found that one-third of the species of algae we studied actually like each other. They don't grow as well unless you put them with another species. It may be that nature has a heck of a lot more mutualisms than we ever expected.

"Maybe species are co-evolving," he adds. "Maybe they are evolving together so they are more productive as a team than they are individually. We found that more than one-third of the time, that they like to be together. Maybe Darwin's presumption that the world may be dominated by competition is wrong."

Cardinale's broad research goal is to gain a better understanding of how human alteration of the environment affects the biotic diversity of communities and, in turn, the impact of this loss on fluxes of energy and matter required to sustain life. "I focus on this because I believe that global loss of biodiversity ranks among the most important and dramatic environmental problems in modern history," he says.

Editor's Note: This Behind the Scenes article was first provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

-- Marlene Cimons, National Science Foundation
Todd Oakley
Xiaoxia Lin
Phillip Savage
Bradley Cardinale
Related Institutions/Organizations
University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Friday, May 2, 2014



Remarks by President Obama and German Chancellor Merkel in Joint Press Conference

Rose Garden
12:07 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, good morning, everybody.  It is always a great pleasure to welcome my friend Chancellor Merkel to the White House.  Germany is one of our strongest allies, and Angela is one of my closest partners.  And with her indulgence, I want to start by making two brief comments.
First, as President, my top priority is doing everything that we can to create more jobs and opportunity for hardworking families -- for our economic strength is a source of strength in the world.  And this morning, we learned that our businesses created 273,000 new jobs last month.  All told, our businesses have now created 9.2 million new jobs over 50 consecutive months of job growth.
The grit and determination of the American people are moving us forward, but we have to keep a relentless focus on job creation and creating more opportunities for working families.  There’s plenty more that Congress should be doing, from raising the minimum wage to creating good construction jobs rebuilding America.  And I want to work with them wherever I can, but I keep acting on my own whenever I must to make sure every American who works hard has the chance to get ahead.
Second point -- I also want to say on behalf of the American people that our thoughts are with the people of Afghanistan, who have experienced an awful tragedy.  We are seeing reports of a devastating landslide, on top of recent floods.  Many people are reported missing; rescue efforts are underway.  Just as the United States has stood with the people of Afghanistan through a difficult decade, we stand ready to help our Afghan partners as they respond to this disaster.  For even as our war there comes to an end this year, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people will endure. 
Now, Angela, I’m still grateful for the hospitality that you and the German people extended to me, Michelle and our daughters last year in Berlin.  It was an honor to speak at the Brandenburg Gate.  You promised me a warm welcome and delivered an unbelievable 90-degree day in Berlin. 
This morning, our work touched on the range of issues where the United States and Germany are vital partners.  We agreed to continue the close security cooperation -- including law enforcement, cyber, and intelligence -- that keeps our citizens safe.  We reaffirmed our strong commitment to completing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership -- T-TIP -- which is critical to supporting jobs and boosting exports in both the United States and in Europe.
We discussed energy security, including the importance of Europe diversifying its energy sources.  The United States has already approved licenses for natural gas exports, which will increase global supply and benefit partners like Europe.  And T-TIP would make it even easier to get licenses to export gas to Europe.
At our working lunch, we’ll review our negotiations with Iran and our shared determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  We’ll discuss Syria, where we continue to support the moderate opposition and provide humanitarian relief to the Syrian people.  I look forward to briefing Angela on my trip to Asia, a region where both our nations can help ensure that all countries in the Asia Pacific adhere to international law and international norms.
Of course, most of our time was spent on the situation in Ukraine.  Angela, I want to thank you for being such a strong partner on this issue.  You’ve spoken out forcefully against Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine.  And you’ve been a leader in the European Union, as well as an indispensable partner in the G7.  And your presence here today is a reminder that our nations stand united.
We are united in our determination to impose costs on Russia for its actions, including through coordinated sanctions.  We’re united in our unwavering Article 5 commitment to the security of our NATO allies, including German aircraft joining NATO patrols over the Baltics.  We’re united in our support for Ukraine, including the very important IMF program approved this week to help Ukraine stabilize and reform its economy.  And as Ukrainian forces move to restore order in eastern Ukraine, it is obvious to the world that these Russian-backed groups are not peaceful protestors.  They are heavily armed militants who are receiving significant support from Russia.  The Ukrainian government has the right and responsibility to uphold law and order within its territory, and Russia needs to use its influence over these paramilitary groups so they disarm and stop provoking violence. 
Let me say that we’re also united in our outrage over the appalling treatment of the OSCE observers who have been detained in eastern Ukraine.  Pro-Russian militants are still holding seven observers, including four Germans, as well as their Ukrainian escorts.  They’ve been paraded in front of the media and forced to make statements at the barrel of a gun.  It is disgraceful and it’s inexcusable.  Russia needs to work to secure their immediate release, and the international community is not going to be satisfied until Colonel Schneider and his fellow captives come home.
Finally, as both Angela and I have repeatedly said, we want to see a diplomatic resolution to the situation in Ukraine.  But we’ve also been clear that if the Russian leadership does not change course, it will face increasing costs as well as growing isolation -- diplomatic and economic.  Already, the ruble has fallen to near all-time lows, Russian stocks this year have dropped sharply, and Russia has slipped into recession.  Investors are fleeing, and it’s estimated that $100 billion in investment will exit Russia this year.  Russian companies are finding it harder to access the capital they need, and Russia’s credit rating has been downgraded to just above “junk” status.  In short, Russia’s actions in Ukraine are making an already weak Russian economy even weaker.
Moreover, if Russia continues on its current course, we have a range of tools at our disposal, including sanctions that would target certain sectors of the Russian economy.  And we’ve been consulting closely with our European and G7 partners, and we’re stepping up our planning.  Angela and I continued these consultations today.  The Russian leadership must know that if it continues to destabilize eastern Ukraine and disrupt this month’s presidential election, we will move quickly on additional steps, including further sanctions that will impose greater costs.  But that is a choice facing the Russian leadership. 
Our preference is a diplomatic resolution to this issue.  And the Ukrainian government has already shown itself more than willing to work through some of the issues that would ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are respected, that you have a representative government.  They’ve shown themselves willing to discuss amendments to their constitution that devolve power to a local level.  They have gone through with their commitment to potentially provide amnesty for those who lay down arms and who are willing to abandon the buildings that they’ve occupied.  The Ukrainian government in Kyiv has followed through on the commitments that it made in Geneva.  We need Russians to do the same.   
So, Angela, I want to thank you again for being here and, as always, for your friendship and partnership.  These are challenging times.  Russia’s actions in Ukraine pose a direct challenge to the goal that brought Europe and the United States together for decades -- and that is a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.  Just as our predecessors stood united in pursuit of that vision, so will we. 
Chancellor Merkel.  
CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  (As interpreted.)  Well, thank you very much, Barack, for this gracious hospitality and this very warm welcome that you accorded to me.  And I’m very glad to be able to be back in Washington to have an opportunity to address all of these different issues with you. 
I think priority really is on the current issue of Ukraine and that looms very large on our agenda.  It showed how important the transatlantic partnership is also in today’s times.  And I think it’s a very good thing that all of those steps that we’ve taken so far, we’ve taken together.  And today, in our talk, we yet again underlined that we fully intend to go ahead as we did in the past.  What happened on Ukraine, what happened on the Crimean Peninsula?  Well, the post-war order has been put into question that rests on the acceptance of territorial integrity by all, and this is why it was so important for us to react in concord.
And what is at stake here is that people in Ukraine can act on the basis of self-determination and can determine themselves which road they wish to embark on into the future.  The 25th of May is a very crucial date in order to ensure that, and we will see to it that elections can take place.  The OSCE will play a central role in all of this.  We talked about this.  And together with the OSCE, we shall do everything we can in order to bring Russia -- that is, after all, a member of the OSCE -- to do the necessary steps so as the 25th of May bringing about some progress in stabilizing Ukraine. 
The 25th of May is not all that far away.  Should that not be possible to stabilize the situation, further sanctions will be unavoidable.  This is something that we don’t want.  We have made a diplomatic offer, an offer for a diplomatic solution.  So it’s very much up to the Russians which road we will embark on, but we are firmly resolved to continue to travel down that road.
Now, secondly, we addressed issues that have a bearing on the work of the intelligence services here.  Let me underline yet again for the German side -- we have always enjoyed a very close cooperation with our American partner on this front.  And anyone in political responsibility is more than aware, looking at the challenges of the modern world today, that obviously in fighting terrorism, the work of the intelligence services is not only important, it is indeed indispensable. 
I am firmly convinced that our cooperation in this area is a very helpful one, yet there are differences of opinion on what sort of balance to strike between the intensity of surveillance, of trying to protect the citizens against threats, and on the other hand, protecting individual privacy and individual freedom, and rights of personality.  And that will require further discussion between our two countries in order to overcome these differences of opinion. 
We have these discussions incidentally also on the European front.  We are talking about Safe Harbor agreement, for example, about a privacy protection agreement.  And I take back the message home that the U.S. is ready to do that, is ready to discuss this, although we may have differences of opinion on certain issues.
Thirdly, T-TIP, I think particularly in the overall context of further intensifying our trade relations, of global growth, but also in the context of diversification of our energy supply -- this is a very important issue.  It will be very important for us to bring the negotiations very quickly to a close on T-TIP.  We are firmly convinced that for the European Union, for Germany and for the United States, this offers a lot of opportunities for the future.  And it’s so important for us to bring this agreement to a successful conclusion.  There are a number of discussions, I know; a number of skeptical remarks.  People have doubts.  But these doubts, this skepticism can be overcome and it needs to be overcome.  Just look at the many partners all over the world that have bilateral trade agreements.  I mean, it’s simply necessary.  Looking at the intensity of a transatlantic partnership and the closeness of our partnership, for us to have this agreement, this transatlantic trade agreement, and we are fully at one on this one.
So we had very intensive talks and we are going to build on this over lunch.  Thank you very much, Barack, for giving me this opportunity and also thank you for your gracious hospitality.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think we’re going to take two questions from the U.S. press and two questions from the German press.  We’ll start with Lesley Clark.
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  With violence today in Ukraine, you’ve said today that Germany and the United States are united in efforts to deescalate.  But have you been able to reach any common ground with the Chancellor on sectoral sanctions, particularly the energy -- the Russian energy section -- sector?  What’s next if you’re unable to? 
And to Chancellor Merkel, reports in the U.S. press have suggested that you’ve said that you believed President Putin may not be in touch with reality.  Is that what you’ve said, is that what you believe?  And could you give us -- you talked to him earlier this week -- could you give us a little more insight into what he might be thinking?  And do you believe that he is a threat to Europe?  Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Obviously, every day we’re watching the events in eastern Ukraine and southern Ukraine with deep concern.  And I think that what you’ve seen over the course of the last several months in the midst of this crisis is remarkable unity between the United States and the European Union in the response. 
We have at the same time offered a diplomatic approach that could resolve this issue.  We have been unified in supporting the Ukrainian government in Kyiv -- both economically, diplomatically, and politically.  And we have said that we would apply costs and consequences to the Russians if they continued with their actions.  And that’s exactly what we’ve done.  And you saw just over the course of the last week additional sanctions applied both by the Europeans and the U.S.
The next step is going to be a broader-based sectoral sanctions regime.  And what we have said is, is that we want to continue to keep open the possibility of resolving the issue diplomatically.  But as Angela Merkel said, if, in fact, we see the disruptions and the destabilization continuing so severely that it impedes elections on May 25th, we will not have a choice but to move forward with additional, more severe sanctions.  And the consultations have been taking place over the course of the last several weeks about what exactly those would look like, and would apply to a range of sectors.  The goal is not to punish Russia; the goal is to give them an incentive to choose the better course, and that is to resolve these issues diplomatically.  And I think we are united on that front. 
Within Europe, within the EU, I'm sure there has to be extensive consultations.  You’ve got 28 countries and some are more vulnerable than others to potential Russian retaliation, and we have to take those into account.  Not every country is going to be in exactly the same place.  But what has been remarkable is the degree to which all countries agree that Russia has violated international law, violated territorial integrity and sovereignty of a country in Europe.  And I think there’s unanimity that there has to be consequences for that. 
How we structure these sectoral sanctions the experts have been working on, and we anticipate that if we have to use them, we can.  Our preference would be not to have to use them.  And I thank Chancellor Merkel’s leadership on this front.  She has been extraordinarily helpful not only in facilitating European unity, but she’s also been very important in helping to shape a possible diplomatic resolution and reaching out to the Russians to encourage them to take that door while it's still open.
Q    Do you feel confident you have German support on sectoral sanctions, particularly the energy sector?
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  You’ve got to keep in mind that when it comes to sectoral sanctions we're looking at a whole range of issues.  Energy flows from Russia to Europe -- those continued even in the midst of the Cold War, at the height of the Cold War.  So the idea that you're going to turn off the tap on all Russian oil or natural gas exports I think is unrealistic.  But there are a range of approaches that can be taken not only in the energy sector, but in the arms sector, the finance sector, in terms of lines of credit for trade -- all that have a significant impact on Russia.
I don't think it's appropriate for us to delve into the details at this stage because our hope is that we don't have to deploy them.  But what I can say is, is that our experts at the highest level, and not just bilaterally, but multilaterally through the European Commission and our diplomatic teams, have been working through all the possibilities, and we're confident that we will have a package that will further impact Russia’s growth and economy.  But again, our hope is that we shouldn’t have to use them.  We're not interested in punishing the Russian people.  We do think that Mr. Putin and his leadership circle are taking bad decisions and unnecessary decisions and he needs to be dissuaded from his current course.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  (As interpreted.)  It is, I think, obvious to all that there are very different assessments on what happens in Ukraine.  On the one hand, you have the United States and Europe -- we've always taken our decisions together -- and on the other hand, the Russian appreciation and appraisal of the situation.  I hope that Russia will live up better in the future to its responsibilities.  But we need to see deeds matching up their words. 
We don't have any release of the hostages of the OSCE, among them also four German hostages.  This is a very crucial step that needs to happen first.  We have not yet seen any implementation of the Geneva agreement by the Russian side.  The Ukrainian side has taken some steps in the right direction.  And the OSCE, too, is an organization to which we wish to accord a greater role so that they can prepare and pave the way for elections. 
And one word on sanctions.  I agree with the American President; they are not an end in itself, but combined with the offer that we want diplomatic solutions, it is a very necessary second component to show that we're serious -- we're serious about our principles.  And there is a broad base, a broad range of possibilities that are being prepared for in the European Union.  In Europe, we have taken a decision that should further destabilization happen, we will move to a third stage of sanctions. 
I would like to underline this is not necessarily what we want, but we are ready and prepared to go to such a step.  My main aim would be, first and foremost, to improve stabilization and to see to it that the elections can happen there.  We will work on this in the next few days, but we are also prepared to take further steps. 
What we are talking about here will be sectoral measures in the context of certain branches of industry.  The American President and I can only agree to this and said what is necessary as regards the dependency on gas, which is very strong in Europe, but we can also look ahead in the medium term what we can do in order to promote an energy union in the European Union, which we’re doing.  Looking at our dependencies in the next 10 to 15 years on Russian gas supplies, there are six countries right now in the EU that depend 100 percent on gas supplies.  We need to improve the reverse flow, as we call it.  We need to improve our grade of pipelines.  All of the countries need to share supplies.  And those are measures that we’re currently discussing in Europe.
We’re talking about short-term but also medium-term and long-term measures.  And then the free trade agreement, T-TIP, is also gaining more prominence in this respect.
Q    (As interpreted.)  Madam Chancellor, you said that time is of the essence and that it’s getting shorter, leading up to the 25th.  When would be the time when you would say a third phase -- moving to a third phase of sanctions is what you would promote?  And is a more energy-intensive initiative by the EU necessary, for example, on heads of state and government level?
And, President, can you understand the fact that also Mr. Putin needs to play a role in the solution, which is the position of the European Union, that also his arguments have to be weighed?  And after the Chancellor having made those several phone calls with Mr. Putin, do you think that the Chancellor also stands a chance to sort of work on this?
CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  Well, to answer the question, what about the next few days to come -- I think the meeting of foreign ministers of the EU on the 12th of May is going to play a very important role.  In this respect, one can sound out the possibilities there are in various directions.  We, from the German side, as we have agreed with our American friends, will do everything we can in order bring the OSCE into a situation, supported politically that is, to do what is necessary in order to bring matters forward in Ukraine. 
On the one hand, you have OSCE monitors for the elections, but also questions as regards a change of the constitution; reform towards further devolution or decentralization.  All of the different parts of the country obviously have to be at the same level as regards information on this, and the OSCE wants to do that.  We want to give them the necessary political backing.
When a certain point in time is there, it’s very difficult to predict.  I can only say that, for me, the elections on the 25th of May are crucial.  And should there be further attempts at destabilization, this will be getting more and more difficult.  But for now, I am working for elections to take place on that very date, and the heads of state and government are ready at any time should they be proved necessary to meet.
We’ve approved that over the past in other areas -- for example, the euro crisis.  And we will demonstrate this resolve yet again.  I am firmly convinced that the United States of America and the European Union need to act in concert here, and they have done so in the past and they are going to continue to do so.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I’ve said from the start that Russia has legitimate interests in terms of what happens next door in Ukraine.  Obviously there is a deep and complicated history between Russia and Ukraine, and so, of course, Mr. Putin’s views should be taken into account.  What can’t be taken into account is Mr. Putin’s suggestion, both through words and actions, that he has the right to violate the sovereignty of another country, to violate its territorial integrity, to dictate the economic policies or foreign policy of a sovereign country.  That’s not acceptable. 
Our view from the start has been that the Ukrainians should be able to make their own decisions.  And I’m very confident that if the Ukrainians are allowed to make their own decisions, then they will choose to have a good relationship with Russia as well as a good relationship with Europe; that they’ll want to trade with Russia and they’ll want to trade with Europe.  But what they cannot accept, understandably, is the notion that they are simply an appendage, an extension of Russia, and that the Kremlin has veto power over decisions made by a duly elected government in Kyiv. 
So if, in fact, Mr. Putin’s goal is to allow Ukrainians to make their own decisions, then he is free to offer up his opinions about what he would like the relationship to be between Ukraine and Russia.  And I suspect that there will be a whole lot of Ukrainian leaders who will take those views into consideration.  But it can’t be done at the barrel of a gun.  It can’t be done by sending masked gunmen to occupy buildings or to intimidate journalists. 
And one of the biggest concerns that we’ve seen is the Russian propaganda that has been blasted out nonstop suggesting somehow that the Ukrainian government is responsible for the problems in eastern Ukraine.  The Ukrainian government has shown remarkable restraint throughout this process.  The notion that this is some spontaneous uprising in eastern Ukraine is belied by all the evidence of well-organized, trained, armed militias with the capacity to shoot down helicopters.  Generally, local protestors don’t possess that capacity of surface-to-air missiles or whatever weapons were used to shoot down helicopters, tragically.
We’ve seen the attempts of OSCE monitors -- who were approved not just by Europe or the United States, but also by Russia -- being detained.  And somehow Russia is suggesting that Kyiv is responsible for that?  We’ve heard Mr. Putin say, well, Kyiv has to do a better job of reaching out to Eastern Europe -- or eastern Ukraine.  You’ve seen attempts by Kyiv in a very serious way to propose decentralization of power and to provide for local elections, and for them to offer amnesty to those who have already taken over these buildings.  None of that has been acknowledged by Mr. Putin or the various Russian mouthpieces that are out there. 
You’ve also seen suggestions or implications that somehow Americans are responsible for meddling inside Ukraine.  I have to say that our only interest is for Ukraine to be able to make its own decisions.  And the last thing we want is disorder and chaos in the center of Europe. 
So for the German audience who perhaps is tuning into Russian TV, I would just advise to stay focused on the facts and what’s happened on the ground.  A few weeks ago, Mr. Putin was still denying that the Russian military was even involved in Crimea.  Then, a few weeks later, he acknowledged, yeah, I guess that was our guys.  And so there just has not been the kind of honesty and credibility about the situation there, and a willingness to engage seriously in resolving these diplomatic issues. 
And our hope is, is that, in fact, Mr. Putin recognizes there’s a way for him to have good relations with Ukraine, good relations with Europe, good relations with the United States.  But it cannot be done through the kinds of intimidation and coercion that we’re seeing take place right now in eastern Europe [Ukraine].
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Earlier this week, an inmate died in Oklahoma in what critics have called an inhumane manner because of a seemingly botched execution.  Human rights groups put the United States in the devious company of China, Iran and Saudi Arabia when it comes to the prevalence of executions.  Some European countries have expressed their concerns as well.  What are your thoughts on this?  And does this raise moral questions about U.S. justice and global reputation?
And to Chancellor Merkel, after Edward Snowden’s revelations on U.S. surveillance of your own cell phone, you said that friends shouldn’t spy on friends.  Are you satisfied that the steps taken by the U.S. on NSA surveillance are now consistent with a healthy alliance?  Has the personal trust been rebuilt?  And I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit on this no-spy agreement that apparently couldn’t be reached.  Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  What happened in Oklahoma is deeply troubling.  The individual who was subject to the death penalty had committed heinous crimes, terrible crimes.  And I’ve said in the past that there are certain circumstances in which a crime is so terrible that the application of the death penalty may be appropriate -- mass killings, the killings of children.  But I’ve also said that in the application of the death penalty in this country, we have seen significant problems -- racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty, situations in which there were individuals on death row who later on were discovered to have been innocent because of exculpatory evidence.  And all these I think do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied.  And this situation in Oklahoma I think just highlights some of the significant problems there. 
So I’ll be discussing with Eric Holder and others to get me an analysis of what steps have been taken not just in this particular instance but more broadly in this area.  I think we do have to, as a society, ask ourselves some difficult and profound questions around these issues.
If you don’t mind, I’m going to also go ahead and maybe say something about NSA just because I know it’s of great interest in the German press as well.  Germany is one of our closest allies and our closest friends, and that’s true across the spectrum of issues -- security, intelligence, economic, diplomatic.  And Angela Merkel is one of my closest friends on the world stage, and somebody whose partnership I deeply value.  And so it has pained me to see the degree to which the Snowden disclosures have created strains in the relationship.
But more broadly, I’ve also been convinced for a very long time that it is important for our legal structures and our policy structures to catch up with rapidly advancing technologies.  And as a consequence, through a series of steps, what we’ve tried to do is reform what we do and have taken these issues very seriously.  Domestically, we’ve tried to provide additional assurances to the American people that their privacy is protected.  But what I’ve also done is taken the unprecedented step of ordering our intelligence communities to take the privacy interests of non-U.S. persons into account in everything that they do -- something that has not been done before and most other countries in the world do not do.  What I’ve said is, is that the privacy interests of non-U.S. citizens are deeply relevant and have to be taken into account, and we have to have policies and procedures to protect them, not just U.S. persons.  And we are in the process of implementing a whole series of those steps. 
We have shared with the Germans the things that we are doing.  I will repeat what I’ve said before -- that ordinary Germans are not subject to continual surveillance, are not subject to a whole range of bulk data gathering.  I know that the perceptions I think among the public sometimes are that the United States has capacities similar to what you see on movies and in television.  The truth of the matter is, is that our focus is principally and primarily on how do we make sure that terrorists, those who want to proliferate weapons, transnational criminals are not able to engage in the activities that they’re engaging in.  And in that, we can only be successful if we’re partnering with friends like Germany.  We won’t succeed if we’re doing that on our own. 
So what I’ve pledged to Chancellor Merkel has been in addition to the reforms that we’ve already taken, in addition to saying that we are going to apply privacy standards to how we deal with non-U.S. persons as well as U.S. persons, in addition to the work that we’re doing to constrain the potential use of bulk data, we are committed to a U.S.-German cyber dialogue to close further the gaps that may exist in terms of how we operate, how German intelligence operates, to make sure that there is transparency and clarity about what we’re doing and what our goals and our intentions are. 
These are complicated issues and we’re not perfectly aligned yet, but we share the same values and we share the same concerns.  And this is something that is deeply important to me and I’m absolutely committed that by the time I leave this office, we’re going to have a stronger legal footing and international framework for how we are doing business in the intelligence sphere. 
I will say, though, that I don’t think that there is an inevitable contradiction between our security and safety and our privacy.  And the one thing that I’ve tried to share with Chancellor Merkel is that the United States historically has been concerned about privacy.  It’s embedded in our Constitution, and as the world’s oldest continuous constitutional democracy, I think we know a little bit about trying to protect people’s privacy. 
And we have a technology that is moving rapidly and we have a very challenging world that we have to deal with, and we’ve got to adjust our legal frameworks.  But she should not doubt, and the German people should not doubt, how seriously we take these issues.  And I believe that we’re going to be able to get them resolved to the satisfaction not just of our two countries but of people around the world. 
CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  (As interpreted.)  Under the present conditions, we have, after all, possibilities as regards differences of opinion to overcome those differences in the medium term and in the long term.  One possibility is to enter into such a cyber dialogue, which is very important because that gives us a forum to have somewhat longer discussions as to where we stand individually, what the technical possibilities but also ramifications of technological advances are.
Secondly, there are two strands of negotiations with the European Union -- on the one hand, the Safe Harbor agreement and then the data protection -- privacy protection accord.  And in the course of the negotiations, it will come out very clearly what differences of opinion there are, what different perspectives there are.  And I think it’s of prime importance for us to bring these negotiations forward, the process, but also bring it to a successful conclusion. 
And something else comes into play.  I heard this, this morning when I had a breakfast meeting with people who are very closely in contact with the parliaments.  They suggested to me that our parliaments, too, ought to have closer contacts on this.  And that’s very important not only for the governments to talk about these things, but also for the broader public.  And these could be three possibilities as to how to address this further and also understand each other’s motivations and arguments better.
Q    Mr. President, could you explain to us from your point of view why it’s not possible to agree on a no-spy agreement, which was, as we understood, proposed by the U.S. government last summit?  What kind of assurances could you give Chancellor Merkel with regard not only to ordinary German citizens, but to government members -- some of them sitting here -- that they are not under U.S. surveillance anymore?
(As interpreted.)  And, Chancellor, the question addressed to you -- when the French President was here a couple of weeks ago, after his talk with President Obama, he said that trust as regards to the NSA discussion has been rebuilt.  Can you say the same thing?
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  It’s not quite accurate to say that the U.S. government offered a no-spy agreement and then withdrew it.  I think that what is accurate to say is, is that we do not have a blanket no-spy agreement with any country, with any of our closest partners.  What we do have are a series of partnerships and procedures and processes that are built up between the various intelligence agencies. 
And what we are doing with the Germans -- as we’re doing with the French, as we do with the British, or the Canadians, or anybody -- is to work through what exactly the rules are governing the relationship between each country and make sure that there are no misunderstandings.  And I think that we have gone a long way in closing some of the gaps, but as Chancellor Merkel said, there are still some gaps that need to be worked through.
But I think what we can be confident about is that the basic approach that we take with Germany is similar to the approach that we take with all our allies and all our friends, and that during the course of the last several years as technology advanced, I think there was a danger in which traditional expectations tipped over because of new technologies.  And what we’ve tried to do is make sure that our policies now reflect increased capabilities and, as a consequence, increased dangers of intrusions in privacy. 
But let me put it this way:  Our interest in working effectively with the Germans and to making sure that German governments as well as the German people feel confident about what we do is as important to us as any other country.  Germany is at the top of our list in terms of friends and allies and colleagues, and so we’re not holding back from doing something with Germany that we somehow do with somebody else.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL:  (As interpreted.)  I think the whole debate has shown that the situation is such that we have a few difficulties yet to overcome.  So this is why there’s going to be this cyber dialogue between our two countries, and this is also why there needs to be and will have to be more than just business as usual.  I mean, looking at the discussion not only in the German parliament but also among members of the German government and also in the German public, we need to do that. 
But it’s very good that we have taken these first steps, and what’s still dividing us -- issues, for example, of proportionality and the like -- will be addressed.  We will work on this, and it’s going to be on the agenda for the next few weeks to come.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much, everybody.
12:50 P.M. EDT