Search This Blog

Translate

White House.gov Press Office Feed

Saturday, September 13, 2014

PRESS AVAILABILITY: SECRETARY KERRY AND EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAMEH SHOUKRY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Joint Press Availability With Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry
Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Cairo, Egypt
September 13, 2014

FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter) Today we had discussions, (inaudible) long discussions during which the U.S. Secretary met President Abdelfattah al-Sisi, and this was an opportunity for them to discuss bilateral relations in details and openly. And they addressed several issues regionally and on the global (inaudible), the situation in Iraq or Syria or Libya, in addition to developments related to the cease-fire in Gaza.

They also discussed the meeting that they held in – concerning terrorism and joint and common action in order to address the phenomena of terrorism in general, and also with respect to the spread of ISIS throughout Syria and Iraq. They also discussed the importance of the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Egypt, and they agreed on the importance of continuing this relationship and further enhancing in the service of the interests of both countries on the basis of mutual respect and also the status of the U.S. as a major global power and Egypt as a regional power. And they focused on the political scene and the ability of each party to positively impact the situation and reach a positive resolution to several issues in the region.

The discussions also addressed the Palestinian question, which is a central problem in the Middle East region, and there was agreement in opinion over the importance of resuming the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations leading up to the founding of a Palestinian state on Palestinian territory with Jerusalem – East Jerusalem as its capital. And there was agreement that resolving this problem will result in stability and the removal of several of the root causes of tension at the regional and global levels.

I would welcome Secretary Kerry, and I have had the opportunity to discuss several issues with him here in Egypt and also through the constant communication that we have together, and I would like to thank him for his cooperation, and I hope there would be certainly more opportunities in the future to continue our joint work in the interest of both countries. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Foreign Minister Shoukry, my friend Sameh. I’m very appreciative for that. I’m very appreciative for the welcome here. And indeed, Foreign Minister Shoukry and I are constantly in touch with each other, and I think we have a very strong working relationship which is now defining itself even in more initiatives that we will be working on together. I’m very pleased to be back here in Cairo and I’m very grateful to Foreign Minister Shoukry and President al-Sisi for their invitation to come back here in order to talk about the coalition that we are building to deal with ISIL, but also to deal with a number of other very complicated and important issues in the region, ranging from Gaza-Palestine to the Iran nuclear negotiations, Libya, and other issues.

I had an opportunity to meet this morning also with Secretary General Nabil Eraraby of the Arab League, and I want to thank the Secretary General for his continued commitment to peace and to security within the Arab world. The relationship that the United States and Egypt share has long been a critical part of the United States relationship with the entire region. And today, I reiterated to President al-Sisi and to Foreign Minister Shoukry the United States commitment and desire to see Egypt succeed in the many transitions that it currently faces. We will support Egypt as it undertakes significant economic reforms, as it holds parliamentary elections at near term, and as it works to follow through on its pledge to protect human rights, which we believe is an essential ingredient of stability.

We also pledged to continue to work closely with Egypt to advance our common strategic interests, a number of which were the centerpiece of our discussions here today. I reiterated to President al-Sisi and to Foreign Minister Shoukry how appreciative we are of Egypt’s leadership in brokering the Gaza cease-fire. Together, our nations and other international partners will continue to discuss the path forward for the two parties to be able to reconvene in Cairo, to work through the critical underlying issues that have stood in the way of an enduring cease-fire, and frankly have prevented it for too long.

We also discussed the clear need to support the elected government next door in Libya. Both Egypt and the United States understand that while our nations must continue to push for a peaceful resolution, ultimately, the Libyan people and their elected representatives are the only ones who can decide that it is time to resolve their conflicts through constructive political dialogue. And we hope they will make that decision as swiftly as possible. What we both know is they had an election, the election had an outcome, and everyone should respect the outcome of that election.

Our conversations also focused extensively on our shared fight against terrorism and extremism. Egypt is on the front lines of extremist threats, particularly when it comes to the extremist groups in the Sinai. And that is why, in an effort to support the Egyptian Government’s work to counter those threats, last month we announced our intention to deliver 10 Apache helicopters to the Egyptian military. The fact is that in today’s globalized world, it’s only a matter of time before the threat of terrorism anywhere becomes a threat of terrorism everywhere.

That has certainly been proven true in the case of ISIL. It is an organization whose brutality and sheer evil knows no bounds. ISIL claims to be fighting on behalf of Islam, but it actually has nothing to do with Islam. It is increasingly clear that its message of hate is rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims all around the world. I have heard this loud and clear from leader after leader in Muslim states that I have visited, and it is clear in the pronouncements of religious leaders around the world in meetings that I have had throughout the region this week, including the conference in Jeddah where I met with the leaders from Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and the GCC states. And we all met with the sole goal of discussing the global effort to take on ISIL and to continue to fight against terrorism.

As an intellectual and cultural capital of the Muslim world, Egypt has a critical role to play in publicly renouncing the ideology that ISIL disseminates. This was a very important feature of our discussions in Jeddah and again today here in Cairo. And it is something that the Egyptian religious establishments at Al Azhar and Dar al-Ifta – they both fully support and understand.

As President Obama explained earlier this week, we believe the only way to eliminate the ISIL threat is by building a global coalition that will support the Iraqi Government across a number of critical efforts, including by providing military support, but also – importantly, because this won’t be done by military alone – importantly, humanitarian aid, by addressing the illicit funding streams that come to ISIL, by stopping the flow of foreign fighters which all countries can become engaged in, and by repudiating the gross distortion of Islam that ISIL is spreading to whoever will listen.

So we’re very grateful that both Egypt and the Arab League have supported this coalition every step of the way. And in each of the meetings that I had today, we discussed how we could better accelerate the efforts in bringing more nations on board and in dividing up the responsibilities. We also discussed the urgent need to engage our international partners as well as Iraq’s diverse groups in supporting the new, inclusive Iraq Government. And this needs to be at the forefront of every aspect of the global coalition’s work.

Today, we discussed with President al-Sisi steps that Egypt can and will take with respect to Iraq. And I’m very pleased to say that today, Prime Minister Abadi, the new prime minister of Iraq, announced that they are taking some very specific steps to minimize the potential for any civilian casualties as they take on ISIL in populated areas.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Shoukry, Secretary General Elaraby, and I will meet again in Paris for the International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq. And there, we will continue our work to move the coalition forward. Almost every country has an ability to play some kind of a role in this fight against ISIL, and to join this coalition one way or the other. And we are committed to working with nations in every corner of the globe to figure out in what way they can constructively contribute to the effort to push back against terrorism.

The bottom line is that terrorists like ISIL have no place in the modern world, but it’s up to the world to enforce that truth. Engaging the global community of nations in that effort is our goal in Paris, and it will be our goal at the United Nations General Assembly in several different events that will focus on Iraq and on ISIL and on foreign fighters. And it will be our goal, I am convinced, from our meetings today and over the last week – it will be our goal, in every meeting that we have on the international basis together, working to degrade and ultimately to defeat ISIL wherever it exists. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (In Arabic.)

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible.) My question is to John Kerry. U.S.-Egyptian relations have witnessed perhaps some (inaudible). But what is the future of these relations and what’s the strategic dimension in this relationship?

And my question to Minister Shoukry: There are meetings that are taking place (inaudible) countries and most of the UN. What is Egypt’s vision regarding what’s going on? And also what is its position towards the situation in Iraq and fighting terrorism? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Do you want me to go first now?

FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: Please.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you for the question. As I think you know, I served in the United States Senate for 29 years, and many times as a senator, I came here to Egypt, to Cairo. So for many years, I have had a sense of the importance of Egypt. Egypt is one quarter of the population of the Arab world. And as I said in my comments a moment ago, Egypt is a cultural, an intellectual center as well as a critical leader with respect to this part of the world, and obviously, with its history, carries great importance on a global basis.

Egypt has been going through an enormous transition itself in these last few years. Most importantly, the people of Egypt have had a chance to vote and define their future. And President al-Sisi is now trying to work hard to implement that future, and the United States wants this government to succeed, because its success is important to the region, important to all Egyptians, obviously, and important to the world. Egypt is an ally, an important partner in regional security. Egypt had the courage to make peace years ago with Israel, and that brought great pain and suffering to Egypt, but it was a courageous act. It was the right thing to do. And today, Egypt is helping to broker a cease-fire to make peace a leader for stability and for the region.

So we have great hopes that this economic transition, this cultural, this political transition taking place will grow in its dimensions. And President al-Sisi reaffirmed to me today the commitment of Egypt to hold the parliamentary elections, the importance of moving forward on any number of fronts to stabilize, to attract capital, to bring business in, to create jobs, and to focus on the real business of governing. The United States will work with Egypt in that process because of our longstanding friendship of importance.

And yes, sometimes friends have a disagreement over one thing or another, but friends also understand the roots of their relationship and the reason for continuing to work for those things that are of common interest. That’s exactly what the United States and Egypt will continue to do.

FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) responsibility with respect to achieving stability in the Middle East and at a global level. This is an immediate interest to Egyptian national interest and reflects the desire of the Egyptian people to create a framework that would respond to its own needs and development and (inaudible), also to build a modern democratic state that would positively respond and react on its regional and international (inaudible).

The (inaudible) have put forward a vision for fighting terrorism and the rise of – and also to fight ISIL because Egypt believes that it’s very important for the world to continue their efforts strongly to fight this extremism and these terrorist actions that take Islam as a cover, when in reality, they seek to realize political gains and use military methods and barbaric methods. This cannot be in line with the (inaudible) of the modern times or the interest of the peoples of the region. We support all international effort to fight terrorism and we support these efforts and we will take all measures that are intended to eliminate this phenomena altogether, whether in Libya or any other part of the Arab world or in the African continent in particular.

With respect to the Libyan issue, on the 13th, we will hold a conference on Libya with the participation of our European partners who also look at the political structure that Egypt has proposed to find a resolution – political solution to the situation in Libya, and to also alert people to the threats associated with the use of military action. We are also considering the interests of the Libyan people and we hope that the conflicting parties would come together for a political solution. At the same time, we will also continue to support the legitimacy of the Libyan Government and parliament, because it’s the only true reflecting, of course, of the desire of the Libyan people who have elected, and that has been recognized also by the international community.

We hope that this support will assist the Libyan people and institutions in restoring their ability to control the future of Libya.

MODERATOR: And (inaudible), Jason from Reuters.

QUESTION: My first question is for Mr. Foreign Minister. Is there any evidence of Islamic states or ISIL linking up with Ansar either through teaching or other forms of cooperation, and is this a concern? And I just have a follow-up: From your perspective, should the coalition against ISIL be brought in doubt – or, sorry, be limited to Sunni Arabs? Should it include Iran?

And, sorry, one last follow-up question for Mr. Secretary: You keep raising human rights issues and Egypt’s leaders keep disregarding you, most notably when three Al Jazeera journalists were jailed a day after you called for their release. Isn’t it clear the Egyptians are disregarding your concerns because they understand you want their cooperation in counterterrorism?

FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter) With respect to the first part of the question and the relations between terrorist organization, we definitely monitor these relationships between the various organizations, and in the end, this – ideologically speaking, this organization is linked and these organizations share that common vision, and we don’t believe there’s a different – perhaps just in the tactics used by these organizations and the way they depict themselves to the international community.

But we believe that this extremist, exclusionary ideology is common among all terrorist organizations, and the cooperation is something we monitor, and we realize that they cross borders and defeat the idea of the national state, and they want to eliminate these states so that this extremist ideology will prevail. We believe also that this action and the elimination of terrorism is a collective responsibility for members of the international community, and we will take honest and credible steps in order to achieve this goal to prevent any form of funding or communication any (inaudible) between these organizations, and also to fight the ideas of these extremist organization. There should be agreement between members of the international community to eliminate these phenomena wherever they may be.

SECRETARY KERRY: Look, let me be clear. The United States doesn’t ever trade its concern for human rights for any other objective. It is always a concern. It’s an honest concern. And we had a frank discussion today about the concerns that have been expressed. I believe that President al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Shoukry and others are well aware of concerns that have been expressed and are, in fact, working at a number of things, including reviewing the demonstration law and other things that have been expressed as part of those concerns.

Now, just as in the United States, we have a separation of powers, so they have a separation of powers here with an independent judiciary. And I am personally confident that over the course of the next weeks, months, days – on an appropriate schedule that is controlled by Egyptians, not by me or anybody else complaining – that issues will be addressed as they ought to be. And I am confident that this is a concern shared by this government, and let’s just see how things play out in the months and days ahead.


Weekly Address: We Will Degrade and Destroy ISIL

NASA VIDEO: SCIENCECASTS: VISIT TO PLUTO

FTC CHARGES LEAD TO BAN AGAINST MARKETER OF 'FAT BURNER' DIET PILLS

 FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
FTC Settlement Bans Marketer Behind ‘Fat Burner’ Diet Pills from Manufacturing, Marketing Weight-Loss Products

The former CEO and co-founder of an Atlanta-based marketing operation has agreed to settle FTC charges that he deceived consumers with promises that they would “Get High School Skinny” by taking Healthe Trim supplements that supposedly burned fat, increased metabolism, and suppressed appetite.

John Matthew Dwyer III, the co-founder of HealthyLife Sciences, LLC, has agreed to be banned from the weight-loss industry to settle FTC charges of deceptive advertising.

Dwyer and HealthyLife Sciences advertised that their Healthe Trim supplements – which were sold online and at CVS, GNC, and Walgreens for up to $65 for a month’s supply – would cause rapid and substantial weight loss of as much as 165 pounds, according to the FTC. HealthyLife Sciences sold an Original Formula that purportedly contained hoodia gordonii as well as formulas containing raspberry ketone, green coffee bean, and garcinia cambogia. The advertising relied heavily on consumer testimonials, which portrayed losing weight as easy.

“Losing weight is rarely easy, and it would be a miracle if a pill made it so,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Consumers should be skeptical when a product like this one claims to make weight loss easy.”

In radio and television ads, Dwyer and HealthyLife Sciences claimed Healthe Trim was clinically proven to cause weight loss, and would suppress users’ appetites and boost their metabolisms to help them lose weight without exercising or changing their daily routine. They used the tagline “Get High School Skinny,” and included testimonials from consumers who claimed that the weight was just “falling off.”

Under the settlements, Dwyer is banned from manufacturing and marketing weight-loss products. HealthyLife Sciences is banned from advertising that its products cause weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise; cause substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the user eats; cause permanent weight loss; block the absorption of fat or calories to enable the user to lose substantial weight; safely enable users to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks; cause substantial weight loss for all users; or cause substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin. The FTC has previously issued guidance that these “gut check” claims are always false when made for dietary supplements, over-the-counter drugs, or patches, creams, wraps, and similar products worn on the body or rubbed into the skin.

The settlement with HealthyLife Sciences also requires that the company have two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trials to support other claims relating to weight loss, increased metabolism, or appetite suppression. Both Dwyer and HealthyLife Sciences are prohibited from claiming that any dietary supplement, food, or drug is effective unless they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up the claims. They also are prohibited from misrepresenting the results of any tests, studies, or research. And they are required to retain data from human clinical trials used to support their advertising claims.    

Consumers should carefully evaluate advertising for weight-loss products and for products that claim to cure diseases. For more information, see: Weight Loss & Fitness and Miracle Health Claims. Publishers, broadcasters, and marketers should consult Gut Check: A Reference Guide for Media on Spotting False Weight-Loss Claims.

The Commission vote to accept the proposed administrative consent orders for public comment was 5-0.

The FTC will publish a description of the consent orders in the Federal Register shortly. The orders will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through October 14, 2014, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent orders final. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in  the “Supplementary Information” section of the Federal Register notice.

The FTC is a member of the National Prevention Council, which provides coordination and leadership at the federal level regarding prevention, wellness, and health promotion practices. This case advances the National Prevention Strategy’s goal of increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.

NOTE: When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

ARMY GEN. JACOBY'S REFELCTIONS ON 9-11

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 

Right:  Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, addresses nearly 700 service members and community leaders from across Colorado Springs at the 9/11 Commemoration held at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Sept. 11, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Bellamy  

ISIL Fight Fitting Backdrop to 9/11 Reflections, Jacoby Says
By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2014 – International efforts of the United States to deal effectively and decisively with the scourge of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists is a fitting backdrop to reflections taken on a mountain in Colorado on the 13th anniversary of 9/11, the commander of U.S. Northern Command said today.

President Barack Obama unveiled a plan last night for the United States, along with an international coalition, to defeat the terrorist group.

Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., the commander of the 56-year-old North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, and U.S. Northern Command, established after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, spoke this afternoon during the first Colorado Springs Combined Military 9/11 Commemoration at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs.
NORAD is a binational military command formally established in 1958 by the United States and Canada to monitor and defend North American airspace. A maritime warning mission was added in 2006.

Canadian Defense Minster Rob Nicholson also spoke at the event, along with Melodie Homer, widow of United Airlines Flight 93 pilot LeRoy W. Homer Jr.
“As we work to build a coalition to confront the ISIS threat,” Jacoby said in his opening remarks, using an acronym by which the terrorists also are known, “we also reflect on how, on 9/11, America’s friends and allies stood by us shoulder to shoulder, and we can say with certainty that no one has stood by us closer than our Canadian partners.”

Jacoby introduced the Canadian defense minister by noting that Canada is leading the way in the world response to what he called “the latest manifestation of murderous extremist ideology.”

Truly, the general added, “we know no better friends than our Canadian neighbors.”

“Today we remember more than 2,700 Americans, 24 Canadians and more than 350 other victims from around the world who tragically lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001,” Nicholson said. Canadians were shocked at the audacity and cruelty of the attacks and horrified by the invasion of North America, the defense minister added, “a continent we believed was relatively safe and distant from the threat of terrorism.”

Swift reaction

The Canadian sense of security was shattered, but NORAD’s reaction was swift, he said. Nearly 200 armed aircraft were deployed into U.S. skies, and all nonessential U.S. air traffic was grounded. Canada responded by receiving 293 flights that were to have landed in the United States until the grounding order came.

“Canadians across the country opened up their hearts and homes to more than 33,000 stranded travelers,” Nicholson said, “offering them shelter, food and comfort. The actions of Canadians that day stand as a powerful example of the Canadian-U.S. relationship.”

U.S.-Canadian defense cooperation grew stronger during years of military engagement in Afghanistan, he added, and by the time Canada withdrew from Afghanistan in March, 40,000 of its men and women had fought there – the largest deployment of Canadian military personnel since World War II.
The two nations also work together to bring peace to the region during Russia’s aggressive military actions and provocation of Ukraine, and as participants in NATO’s reassurance measures to promote security and stability in central and eastern Europe, Nicholson said.

Both nations also work together at home, the defense minister added, intensifying their joint training and exercise regime and making important investments in counterterrorism and intelligence capabilities to better detect, prevent and address potential threats.

“This is why it is especially meaningful to be here at NORAD to mark the 13th anniversary of Sept. 11,” Nicholson said. “Seeing Canadian and American military personnel working side by side at this impressive facility is a testament to the fact that our defense partnership accords us greater security than we could ever achieve alone. We pledge to continue our work to reinforce our joint defense of the continent so that we may never see such a terrible day again.”
A widow remembers

Next, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, introduced Melodie Homer, widow of Leroy W. Homer Jr., first officer of United Airlines Flight 93.

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the crew and passengers of his flight attempted to overtake four hijackers before crashing into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, rather than its intended target, the U.S. Capitol.

Homer founded the Leroy W. Homer Foundation in 2002 in memory of her husband, a 1987 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. The foundation encourages young adults who wish to pursue aviation careers by awarding flight scholarships.

She’s president and founder of the foundation, works as a clinical nursing instructor and has 20 years of nursing experience in the United States and Canada, where she was born.

In her remarks, Homer described the day 13 years ago that her husband of more than three years left for work and never came home. Their daughter was 10 months old.

“To this day, I think it’s hard for us to conceptualize the loss of 2,973 lives,” she said. “Using airplanes as weapons of mass destruction to take innocent lives and destroy symbols of this country’s freedoms was unimaginable.”

Gratitude for protection

Both governments worked quickly, Homer added.

“Homeland Security was created, NORAD was working with the Canadian government to keep the airspace safe for North America, and I say on behalf of both countries, we are grateful for your protection and for keeping us safe for the past 13 years,” she said.

“On occasions such as this we are reminded that we do have to continue to be vigilant,” Homer added. “Those who wish to harm our way of life will never stop trying.”

As Homer finished her remarks, Jacoby stepped forward and presented her with a piece of granite that he described as “blasted from the heart of our beautiful Cheyenne Mountain.” He said the rock “represents the Cold War generation that had the strength and courage to prevail against the threat of that era, and it provides us strength and inspiration to prevail against the threats today.”

Honoring those lost

Sharing his own thoughts, the general said that the 700 U.S. and Canadian service members and state and local leaders were there today first to remember and honor the lives lost on September 11, 2001, “as are millions of others across the country and around the world. We have done that every year, and we’ll always do it, and we always must.”

Jacoby added, “Today as we continue to fight against another ideological extremist terrorist organization, I would argue that remembering how we felt on 9/11, remembering our commitment, has never been more relevant.”
The general said Americans may have lost feelings of invulnerability and innocence but gained things as well.

“We rolled up our sleeves as nations of strong communities and we committed to doing whatever it took to answer the challenges to our safety, to our security and to our pride, like generations before us have done,” he said.

A dangerous world

The world has changed significantly in the 13 years since 9/11 but it remains a very dangerous place, Jacoby added. “You only need to watch the morning news or attend my daily intel brief to know that’s true.”

The faces and locations of extremism have changed but the senseless violence and hatred in its heart has not, he said, “and the families of James Foley and Steven Sotloff are in our thoughts today.”

The free nations of the world are more vulnerable than ever, the general said, “even while our hearts and our spirit remain as they were on Sept. 10, inclined toward peace and cooperation.”

The fights of the last 13 years have been difficult and the challenge remains, but there are more fights ahead, Jacoby added.

“We must look to the inspiration as well as the tragedy of 9/ll to keep us faithful to our values, firm in our commitments and steadfast in our hopes,” he said.

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL'S REMARKS AT UN SECURITY COUNCIL ON MINUSTAH

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at the Security Council Debate on MINUSTAH
AS DELIVERED 

Thank you, Special Representative Honoré, for your briefing and for your leadership. And thank you to all the dedicated women and men who are serving in MINUSTAH, who are working with you to build a more secure and stable Haiti.

The troop and police contributors to Haiti, many of whom we have heard from – several of whom we will soon hear from – have made a world of difference in the lives of the Haitian people. The whole international community is grateful.

When the Council met to discuss Haiti in March, there was cautious optimism that the signature of the El Rancho Accord and the dialogue mediated by the Episcopal Conference would help break the country’s political stalemate, and lead to long-overdue elections. So it is deeply disappointing, as other Council members have pointed out, that five months later, so little progress has been made toward that goal. Haiti still doesn’t even have an electoral law, leading the country’s provisional electoral council to declare recently that Haiti will not be able to hold elections on October 26, 2014, the date the government had set.

Many of Haiti’s elected leaders have worked tirelessly to seek a political compromise and have offered meaningful concessions toward that end, including with regard to the composition of the electoral council and the cabinet. But a group of six senators seems intent on holding elections hostage to partisan concerns, even going so far as to prevent a debate on the electoral law. Legislators in a democracy have a responsibility to defend their constituents’ rights. But when elected officials take advantage of democracy’s checks and balances to cynically block debate and elections altogether, they stand in the way of addressing citizens’ real needs.

And the needs of Haiti’s citizens, as we all know, are real – very, very real. Massive progress has been made to find homes for the one and a half million people displaced by the 2010 earthquake, but 70,000 people are still displaced. And much work remains to be done to provide for citizens’ basic needs – like electricity, quality schools, and access to doctors. Haitians expect their government to provide for these needs, and are understandably frustrated when they are not met.

So our message to all of Haiti’s politicians is clear: come together to pass an electoral law, and hold free, fair, and inclusive elections in respect of constitutional deadlines. Every UN member state should join that call and we are heartened that so many have done so.

Despite the political deadlock in Haiti, there has been encouraging progress on other fronts. We welcome the ongoing expansion and professionalization of the Haitian National Police. Police have shown an increased capacity to maintain public order while respecting people’s rights. We also recognize MINUSTAH’s efforts to strengthen Haiti’s justice sector, such as seeking to improve the capacity of judges and prosecutors, and increasing access to legal aid. Haiti’s prison system needs urgent fixing. Haiti’s prisons, which have a capacity of around 6,000 people, currently house over 10,000. And nearly 80 percent are awaiting trial.

Let us be clear: our work in Haiti is not finished. But just because significant development and political challenges persist does not make MINUSTAH the solution to all of them, nor does it mean that the mission should be kept just as it is. We have to right-size MINUSTAH to fit Haiti’s evolving needs. We agree with our colleagues that decisions about the size and configuration of the force should be conditions-based. And like our friends in the region who have given so much to Haiti’s recovery, we are a neighbor of Haiti’s and we have a deep and demonstrated interest in Haiti’s security and the growth and success of its democracy. The United States agrees with the Secretary General’s determination – based on a thorough review – that conditions support further consolidating MINUSTAH’s military component in the upcoming mandate. We agree with the Special Representative that support from MINUSTAH’s robust police component to Haiti’s National Police is still critically necessary. And a smaller military component must stand ready to assist – on short notice – anywhere that unrest overwhelms the combined capacity of Haitian and UN police. With continued, robust MINUSTAH support, we look to Haiti’s government to assume greater responsibility for security, including for elections.

We are committed to discussing with partners how MINUSTAH should be adjusted. We believe that the Secretariat, the SRSG, and the Force Commander have taken the facts on the ground into account, and they have concluded that conditions support the adjusted force levels recommended by the Secretary-General.

In conclusion, Haiti has real needs. It has been through so much and it faces tremendous challenges. We as an international community continue to experiment and to learn and to adjust around the most effective ways to help the Haitian people address those very real needs. We will continue to do so as Haiti continues to move along the path to self-sufficiency. Thank you.

STATE DEPARTMENT TESTIMONY ON ISIL'S PERSECUTION OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN IRAQ AND SYRIA

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
ISIL's Persecution of Religious Minorities in Iraq and Syria
Testimony
Tom Malinowski
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
As-Prepared Opening Statement
House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations and the Middle East and North Africa
Washington, DC
September 10, 2014

Chairman Smith, Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member Bass, Ranking Member Deutch and Members of the Subcommittees, thank you for holding this hearing on such a timely and important issue. We, like you, are outraged by the violence waged by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against Iraqis of all sects, ethnicities, and religions. The U.S. government is very focused on ending ISIL’s reign of terror and ensuring protection and access to humanitarian assistance for all its victims. We are particularly appalled by ISIL’s targeted and systematic efforts to drive out and potentially eradicate entire religious communities from their historic homelands in the Ninewa plains area and Sinjar district. Among ISIL’s clear ambitions is the destruction of Iraq’s rich religious heritage and ethnic diversity and absolute subjugation of all people within its reach.

The Iraqi people need and deserve a government that not only represents all of their voices but also provides basic government services and security, paving a stable and prosperous path forward for all the people of Iraq, regardless of religion or ethnicity. The State Department was very pleased to see the new government formed earlier this week, and we are urging them to quickly demonstrate their commitment to be responsive to the ongoing threat against minority populations, including the abduction of and sexual violence against women and children. We are also working with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government and with a wide array of international partners, to address the urgent needs of Iraqi forces, including Kurdish forces, as they continue to battle ISIL.

When ISIL took Mosul on June 9, the world once again was made witness to the heartbreaking human cost of this group’s brutality. Beyond the mass evictions and forced migrations perpetrated against Christians, Yezidis, Shia Muslims including Shabak and Turkmen, and others, we have seen reports of extrajudicial and mass killings, beheadings, abductions, forced conversions, torture, rape and sexual assault, using women and children as human shields, and people being burned or buried alive. Women and girls as young as 12 or 13 have been taken captive, to be sold as sex slaves or put into forced marriages with ISIL fighters.

Meanwhile, we realize that ISIL’s recent assault on northern and western Iraq is an extension of its brutal acts in Syria, where it has conducted a similar campaign of violence and atrocities against the Syrian population, targeting broad swathes of the population. There have been reports of mass killings in Christian and Alawite villages, conversion at gunpoint, beheadings, kidnappings, and extreme oppression and abuse of women from all communities. Two Syrian bishops and a priest were kidnapped by extremists in early- and mid-2013, and their fates remain unknown. And in February, ISIL announced that Christians in Raqqa, Syria must convert, pay a special tax administered during medieval times, or face death—just as it later did in Mosul, Iraq. This, Mr. Chairmen and Ranking Members, to say nothing of the unspeakable atrocities they have committed against members of their own sect, Sunni Muslims, who we’ve seen ISIL crucify in public squares and stone to death Sunni women accused of adultery, proudly tweeting and posting these horrific acts on Youtube and other social media.

The interconnected aspects of ISIL’s campaign of terror in both countries have the potential to further destabilize the region and dramatically increase gross violations of human rights.

Iraqi ethnic and religious minority populations suffer acutely. While exact numbers are not known, many organizations working with displaced Iraqis, as well as religious leaders and activists, believe nearly all of the Christian and Yezidi population in areas controlled or contested by ISIL have been displaced. These are communities that have lived on these lands for thousands of years, forced to flee their ancestral homeland. Shabak and Turkmen Shia have been significantly affected as well, with Turkmen leaders, reporting an estimated 300,000 Turkmen Shia were displaced. My colleagues from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and USAID will address the issue of displaced persons more thoroughly, so I will focus my testimony on ISIL’s brutality and persecution. But I do want to note the immensity of the needs the displaced now face, even to meet their most basic of necessities—clean water, something to feed their children, shelter from the scorching heat as well as the looming winter. These are the challenges my PRM and USAID colleagues are grappling with.

After about a week in Mosul, ISIL began ramping up the pace of religious persecution. Christians were barred from receiving work at public sector jobs and wage stipends. Christian churches and offices were looted and occupied by ISIL. Meanwhile, further west near the Syrian border, dozens of Yezidis were kidnapped for a $50,000 ransom to avoid execution. A group of Yezidi men held captive had their eyes gouged out for refusing to convert to Islam. They were then reportedly burned to death.

In addition to their attacks on religious minorities, ISIL targeted religious leaders of any group that opposed its unconditional and absolute dominance. According to UN officials, in June ISIL murdered at least 13 Sunni Muslim clerics in Mosul who had encouraged their followers to reject ISIL. They paid the ultimate sacrifice for refusing to submit to ISIL’s hateful ideology.

By mid-July, ISIL had destroyed hundreds of mosques and shrines throughout the territory it controlled, destroyed Christian statues of the Virgin Mary, and took sledgehammers to the tomb of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul.

Then we learned of the ultimatum against Christians, Yezidis, and at least some Shia groups in Mosul, that they must convert, pay a special tax I mentioned earlier, or vacate the city by July 19—or face execution. This ultimatum prompted a wave of hundreds more displaced families, robbed of all possessions as they fled the city. We received reports that ISIL took a reported five Christians unable to flee due to disability or illness to a mosque and forced them to profess acceptance of Islam.

ISIL’s second major offensive, on August 2 and 3 led to another wave of displaced people from Ninewa—again, many of them from towns with predominantly Christian or other minority populations. Some were fleeing for the second time. We heard heart-breaking reports of a 3-year old child taken from her mother by an ISIL fighter as the family was forced to continue on.

Concurrently, ISIL also advanced into Sinjar district near the Syrian border, a predominantly Yezidi region. With little warning, Kurdish forces retreated in the face of ISIL’s advance and the Yezidi population was left with almost no means of defending itself. Hundreds, if not thousands, were killed, and tens of thousands were stranded on Mount Sinjar where they sought refuge from the immediate onslaught, only to find themselves at risk of perishing from thirst or exposure.

Representatives of the Yezidi community in the United States contacted my bureau, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) immediately to share the terrible stories of suffering they were hearing from relatives trapped on the mountain, communicating via mobile phones they were sometimes able to charge using car batteries. As the crisis on Sinjar unfolded, my staff organized meetings with high-level officials at the State Department and the White House for representatives of the Yezidi community in the United States and we heard firsthand their stories and requests for assistance. They talked about hearing children crying for water in the background of phone calls with relatives. One man told us how he was on the phone with his brother as the family was fleeing ISIL fighters, and when he called back five minutes later no one answered because, as he learned from another relative, his brother had been shot in the back of the head as he was trying to shepherd his family to safety. One woman described how she had heard a woman being raped by ISIL fighters in the background of a call with another woman.

As you know, on August 7, in addition to authorizing operations to protect U.S. personnel, President Obama authorized a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who were trapped on Mount Sinjar without food and water, facing almost certain death. This effort was reinforced by a series of targeted airstrikes to assist forces in Iraq as they fought to break ISIL’s siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there. The U.S. military conducted seven nightly humanitarian air drops between August 8-13, delivering more than 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of water to those displaced on Mount Sinjar. Detailed information—and even GPS coordinates—provided by the Yezidi community in the U.S. on where the people were sheltered on Mount Sinjar helped inform decisions about where to drop aid. Targeted airstrikes helped protect the evacuation route as people were escaping. Our contacts in the Yezidi community also provided us information about where ISIL fighters were advancing or firing on evacuees as they escaped, and we shared this information immediately with the military. During that week, most civilians were able to evacuate from Mount Sinjar.

But not everyone in the surrounding area was able to flee. For example, residents of the village of Kocho were trapped in their village, held hostage for almost two weeks under the threat of death if they refused to convert to ISIL’s brutal, twisted version of Islam. On August 15, residents were rounded up at the village schoolyard, where women and children were loaded onto buses and taken away. The men were taken to the outskirts of town and executed, shot in the back of the head at the edge of shallow ditches.

The women and children from Kocho joined the hundreds upon hundreds of others being held captive by ISIL in various cities in northern Iraq. Hundreds of families have reportedly been pressured to convert, in some cases with severe coercion by, for example, forcing mothers to watch their young children beaten until they could no longer stand. In most cases, girls and unmarried women as young as age 12 are separated from mothers and children. We regularly receive blood-chilling reports of girls distributed to ISIL fighters as spoils of war, sold in markets in the cities as sex slaves, or held in houses in small groups where they are raped by a daily rotation of ISIL fighters. We have seen reports that ISIL trafficked hundreds of Yezidi women to Syria for its fighters there. We recently heard reports that a few dozen Christian women from Qaraqosh who had been unable to flee before ISIL’s recent offensive were taken to Mosul, likely to same fate as ISIL’s other women captives.

Truly, this brutality is beyond imagination, but despite the odds, a few captives have managed to escape, often when their ISIL guards are distracted, for example by airstrikes in the area. One woman shared her reaction after making a 50 kilometer hike from the village where she and her family had been held captive, through the wilderness, to get back to Mount Sinjar and the safe evacuation route the other IDPs had used: “My family—my husband, my two children, and I—were on the run from ISIS. After 20 hours of walking from the town of Til Azir to Mt. Sinjar, everyone was terrified, everyone was shaking, crying. We could only calm down after hearing U.S. jets above us. We felt, ‘There is still someone there to save us.’”

Officials throughout the Administration have been closely tracking developments on the ground, and in Washington we are in regular communication with representatives of the Iraqi Yezidi, Christian, and other religious communities in Iraq. They are sharing helpful information with us about ISIL abuses against their community members in northern Iraq and about humanitarian conditions their displaced community members are facing. These reports are invaluable as the entire U.S. government examines all the viable options for protecting Iraq’s minority vulnerable communities and halting the parade of atrocities ISIL is committing. My staff in DRL hears regularly from contacts in the Iraqi Christian diaspora in the U.S. and Iraqi Christians in Iraq with information about where aid is reaching IDPs and where more assistance or coordination is needed, which we share with colleagues in PRM and USAID, who also share information they hear from these communities with us. We’ve met with church leaders like the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church, advocacy and aid groups like International Christian Concern and Catholic Relief Services, and human rights organizations like Yezidi Human Rights Organization—International. Our diplomats in Iraq have the same kinds of meetings regularly. Likewise, we collect reports from our contacts in religious minority groups facing discrimination about cases of abuse against minorities by local Iraqi or Kurdish security forces.

In Syria, after sustained engagement by U.S. officials, the Syrian Opposition Coalition has committed itself to “the protection and inclusion of all the constituent groups of the Syrian people,” including religious minorities, and to meeting its obligation to “ensure the rights, integration, and participation of all Syrians, regardless of religion…” in the transition process and in the new government. We have received assurances from a number of armed opposition leaders that they understand and are committed to these principles, and we continue to closely monitor the situation.

In Iraq we have repeatedly emphasized to both the Iraqi government and the KRG the need to take measures to protect all Iraqis, including Iraq’s vulnerable religious and ethnic minority communities. During these formative days for the new government, we are continuing to urge political party leaders and lawmakers to be inclusive in their governance, responsive to the needs and concerns of all Iraq’s people. In a phone call with President Obama on Monday, the new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, expressed his commitment to work with all communities in Iraq. We will continue to press Iraqi and Kurdish regional government officials to take appropriate action to ensure the security and rights of members of ethnic and religious minority communities are respected.

The Government of Iraq has continued to send equipment to the Kurdish forces - the cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil on this effort is at historic levels and we hope to continue to build on that. The Iraqi Air Force continues to provide direct support to Kurdish forces engaged in combat against ISIL. We are also working closely with the Government of Iraq to expedite Foreign Military Sales that will help Baghdad resupply Iraqi forces, including Kurdish forces in the north.

At the same time, we have been and will continue to invest in measures to address the underlying causes of and motivations for violent extremism, religious intolerance, societal polarization, and elected officials. We are working with NGOs, civil society groups, and religious leaders to build relationships between religious communities, combat terrorist propaganda about religious minorities, and administer programs that promote tolerance and empower minorities to better advocate for their interests and rights.

In conclusion, ISIL’s systematic persecution of religious minorities in northern Iraq, and their brutal and oppressive ideology in general, is of utmost concern to the Department and to the Administration. We are painfully aware of the suffering of so many people in Iraq, and in Syria, simply because their beliefs differ from those of these ruthless, inhuman terrorists.

Mr. Chairmen, members of the Committee, thank you again for the opportunity to address you today and for your engagement on this important issue. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have. Thank you.

NSF VIDEO: COMPUTER-EQUIPPED DOGS LEAD WAY IN SEARCH-AND-RESCUE: SMARTMART AMERICA EXPO

Friday, September 12, 2014

9/12/14: White House Press Briefing

SECRETARY KERRY MAKES REMARKS IN ANKARA, TURKEY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Press Availability in Ankara, Turkey
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ankara, Turkey
September 12, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you for being patient. I appreciate it very, very much. And good evening to all.

I’m very pleased to be back here in Turkey, where I have had a series of productive meetings through the course of the day with President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu and my new counterpart, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, who I’ve actually gotten to know pretty well in a frequency of meetings in the last week or so beginning with the Wales summit, and then we met in Jeddah at the coalition meeting yesterday and then again today.

The importance of coming here to Turkey to follow up on the meeting yesterday should be obvious to all because we confront very significant challenges in Iraq and Syria, and obviously the border of Turkey, the numbers of refugees coming into Turkey and Turkey’s role is very, very critical. We share a partnership with Turkey that is essential, and Turkey plays a key role in bolstering security and stability in the entire region, and together we literally work to pursue those goals every single day.

There are few countries, also, that have felt the ripple effect of the crises in Syria and Iraq as much as Turkey has. Since 2011 Turkey has opened its doors to roughly 1.3 million Syrian refugees, and more recently they’ve had a huge influx of Iraqi refugees who are fleeing ISIL.

The United States and indeed the entire international community are very grateful for Turkey’s generosity in providing shelter and care, food, to these refugees. We’re committed to helping to provide relief for the millions of people who have lost their homes, their health, their dignity, in the Syrian conflict. And we have contributed very significant amounts of humanitarian assistance, and today I am proud to announce that we are going to contribute even more to the 2.9 billion that we have already contributed to the United States – to the UN since the conflict started. And today we’re announcing an additional $500 million, about 50 million of which will come here to Turkey in order to assist Turkey in providing the humanitarian assistance that I described.

Today’s announcement marks the single largest tranche of funding that we have contributed to date, and the reason for this is that this is the largest humanitarian crisis in recent history. But even with this initial assistance from the United States, the humanitarian response to the Syrian crisis remains largely underfunded. And with the international community preparing to meet in New York to convene for the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings, and with the Syrian donors conference in Kuwait on the horizon in October, we hope very, very much that other nations will follow our lead and contribute even more to improving what is unquestionably one of the worst humanitarian disasters in history.

In the meetings that we had today we also discussed the U.S. commitment to protecting Turkey’s security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We agreed that today ISIL is one of the greatest threats to Turkey’s security and the security of the entire region and beyond. I have reiterated the United States commitment to working with the broadest coalition of international partners possible to eliminate the ISIL threat once and for all.

So let me be very clear about the U.S.-Turkey relationship in this coalition. Turkey and the United States will stand together against any challenges in the region, including all terrorism. Within the coalition there are many ways that Turkey can help in this effort, and we will continue our conversations with our military and other experts spending time to define the specific role that Turkey will play.

In the meantime, I’m very happy to make an announcement: that the United States has asked one of our most respected and experienced military experts, General John Allen, to join the State Department to serve as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. In this role, General Allen will help build and sustain the coalition so it can operate across multiple lines of effort in order to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. General Allen is a patriot and a remarkable leader. He is a Marine and by “is,” I mean “is,” because as a Navy man I have to admit that retired or not once a Marine, always a Marine. His extraordinary career in the military speaks for itself. Whether as the top commander of NATO’s ISAF forces in Afghanistan during a critical period from 2011-2013, or as a deputy commander in Anbar during the Sunni awakening, or as a thinker, scholar, and teacher at the U.S. Naval Academy. And he has done significant public service out of uniform since he returned to civilian life. His commitment to country and to service has really been enduring.

Most recently we worked together very closely in designing new approaches to meet the long-term security needs of the state of Israel, and I could not be more pleased than to have General Allen coming on board now fulltime at the State Department. He’ll be joined by a terrific team, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk who is here with us now, who will serve as General Allen’s deputy senior envoy with the rank of ambassador. Not only has Brett been back and forth to Baghdad and Erbil almost every single month this past year, but he has also spent a number of years over the past decade posted in Iraq as a top advisor to three different ambassadors. And he has been a partner to even more. He’s one of our most – our foremost experts really on Iraq, and he will be integral to this effort’s success. And both General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will work very closely with Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson, who is not just a three-time ambassador and an ambassador of recent time to both Pakistan and to Egypt, but also one of our nation’s top diplomats deeply respected in the region, and she will continue to lead our diplomacy throughout the Middle East.

So we have a superb team in place to lead our work in the coalition to take on ISIL and to help the innocent people of Iraq and Syria and elsewhere to be able to rebuild their lives. And we will continue to consult closely with our partners In the days and weeks ahead, including in the very near term at the UN General Assembly later this month where Foreign Minister Cavusoglu and I will co-chair the fifth ministerial meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Fund and one of the biggest contributors to the ISIL threat happens to be the steady flow of foreign fighters making their way into Iraq and Syria in order to fight alongside ISIL. These people who are deciding to make that choice to go there and fight are men and women who regrettably carry passports from countries all over the world, which entitles them therefore to travel without a visa.

So a primary focus of that taskforce meeting in New York at UNGA will be on building the political and the financial support throughout the international community in order to track, stop, and prevent foreign fighters from joining ISIL.

Let me close by again thanking the Government of Turkey for their ongoing partnership, not only on Syria and Iraq but also on the other areas that we discussed today. We had a very broad discussion about the region, including some of the frozen conflicts and other challenges that we face, and particularly about Libya, with an agreement that we will all meet again in New York at the United Nations General Assembly with a broader group of people in order to focus on the Libya situation.

We look forward to continuing our work with Turkey and with others in order to promote peace, security, and stability in this region, as well as around the world. And we particularly look forward to the efforts in the days ahead to define and finalize the steps that each country will take in concert with others in order to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.

I’d be happy to take a few questions.

MS. PSAKI: The first question is from Barbara Plett of BBC.

QUESTION: Thanks. Mr. Kerry, could you tell us what specific commitments Turkey has made as part of its role in the coalition? And in particular, could you clarify the status of the Incirlik base? Will the Americans be allowed to use the base to launch military operations in this campaign or have the Turks said no, you can’t?

And then a completely different question to round this up. We have reports on American networks that the Foley family was pressured by the U.S. Government, including the State Department, not to pay ransom. Is that true?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me deal, first of all, with the question of not just Turkey but any country at this point. It is entirely premature and frankly inappropriate at this point in time to start laying out one country by one country what individual nations are going to do. We are, as I said, continuing the conversation because this needs to be coordinated and there needs to be clear definition and a lot of details are being worked out by the experts in each of the sectors where they need to be worked out – that includes financial, closing off routes of finance, which involves treasury departments and finance ministers of various countries. The intel community obviously has a component in this, the Department of Defense has a component in it, the State Department, in terms of diplomacy and communications, and all of that is being coordinated. That’s precisely why I announced General John Allen today and Ambassador Brett McGurk, who will assume their roles immediately to help coordinate that.

At the appropriate time, every role will be laid out in detail, but I can tell you that the full range of activities that are necessary, that President Obama articulated in his speech are being addressed and all of the participants are defining the ways in which they’re going to contribute to this effort to degrade and defeat ISIL.

Let me just say that I am really taken aback – surprised, I guess, is the word, by this comment with respect to the Foley family. And I can tell you that I am totally unaware and would not condone anybody that I know of within the State Department making such statements. So I don’t know about it. But I will tell you this: Diane Foley and John Foley are extraordinary people. They’re an extraordinary family. And she did an amazing job on behalf of her family to try to do everything possible, leaving no stone unturned in order to try to bring Jim back safely. I worked previously in the effort to help Jim get freed when he was previously taken hostage. And everybody is heartbroken that we were not able to do it.

I and others in the government worked as hard as we know how to reach out to country after country – dozens of countries were talked to in an effort to try to create some avenue of success. And as everybody knows, President Obama ordered a risky but very important and necessary effort to try to rescue these hostages. I sat through that mission, watching every moment of it, waiting for word of a rescue and holding our breath because our people were on the ground performing very difficult tasks.

Tragically, obviously, we were not successful in finding them. So my heart goes out to the family. I know how difficult this is, and all I can say to you is I know of no one who issued such a construction. I have no knowledge of it.

MS. PSAKI: All right. The next question will be from Nicolas Revise from AFP.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. I’d like to ask you about ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Who is on board with the United States among its European partners, not only for military action in Iraq but also for possible strikes in Syria? We have conflicting report of statements already from the British about what they are willing to do in Syria, and we have not very clear position from the French saying that they are ready to, if needed, to strike in Iraq but not in Syria. So what kind of military assistance can you expect from your European allies, or are you going to continue to take action alone?

And related to the – if I may, to the upcoming conference in Paris, there is no consensus yet on Iran’s presence. Is the U.S. going to accept to have Iran at the table to continue your diplomatic conversation, or is the U.S. opposing to Iran’s presence in Paris? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, again, let me repeat what I said earlier with respect to any announcements about countries. I think France has publicly made clear its willingness to take action in Iraq, as you said, and to use force. And there are other countries that are currently making up their minds, making decisions. But as I said a moment ago with respect to Turkey and other countries, it’s just not appropriate to start laying out, as we are in the process of talking to all these countries, which country is doing what. Next week I’ll be testifying before Congress and we’ll have more of the reports back in as others are talking to various countries and we’ll have a better sense of where we stand on that.

I will tell you this: More than 40 countries had already offered assistance of one kind or another before I left Washington. And those are the – that’s the work that we had done in the previous days in communicating with a host of countries around the world. I think Australia has made it clear that it’s prepared to do things, Canada’s prepared to do things, other countries. But we will lay out what country is doing what, who’s doing what within the coalition, when we have the work done that we just hired General John Allen and Brett McGurk to do. And we will continue to coordinate effectively over the course of the next days.

I have been very, very pleased by the meetings that we’ve had. I read a report today suggesting somehow that there was less than a full-throated measure of support from the Arab nations that were there yesterday. I just don’t agree with that. Last night, I sat for two and a half hours with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and we could not have heard a more fulsome commitment to doing anything that is necessary going forward. Similarly, I have heard that and you heard it yesterday and reiterated by other countries who signed the communique in the course of yesterday. And there are others who will continue to sign up over the course of the next days.

So I’m comfortable that this will be a broad-based coalition with Arab nations, European nations, the United States, others contributing to every single different facet of what President Obama laid out as a strategy and fully embracing the need to degrade and destroy ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) with respect to Iran?

SECRETARY KERRY: No one has called me and asked me with respect to the presence of Iran, but I think under the circumstances, at this moment in time, it would not be right for any number of reasons. It would not be appropriate, given the many other issues that are on the table with respect to their engagement in Syria and elsewhere. But – so that would be my answer, but I haven’t been asked with respect – and I don’t know specifically where that stands in terms of the French invitations.

QUESTION: Would you mind if I did a quick follow-up on that? I know it’s against the rules, but --

MS. PSAKI: You just did an entire interview yesterday. I think we can --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I’m sorry, but this has been an issue with Iran that has gone on with many of these types of conferences. I mean, I understand that they – that you have problems with their behavior, but don’t you think engaging them is part of --

SECRETARY KERRY: We are engaged with Iran. We’re engaged in a very deep, serious conversation about their nuclear program with high hopes that it will be possible to change the relationship through an agreement that would meet the international standards that have been set at the United Nations and the questions that have been raised not just at the UN, but by the International Atomic Energy Association[1]. So it’s not the United States; it’s the world that is asking serious questions about Iran’s nuclear program.

Now, Iran has been deeply involved with its forces on the ground in Syria. IRGC forces are on the ground. So there would have to be much greater clarity and understanding of exactly what the purpose was and what the meaning was of any kind of presence, which is the only thing that stands in the way, as well as they’re a state sponsor of terror in various places.

So these are serious issues, and that’s why they need to be approached in a proper way, not a conference like this at this moment, but through a process which we are entirely prepared over a period of time to engage in, or we wouldn’t be engaged in the negotiations that we’re engaged in today.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Would you boycott if they were invited?

STAFF: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not going to answer hypotheticals.

QUESTION: Do you oppose them just --

STAFF: Thanks, everybody. Thank you very much.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: -- being in this conference or the coalition as a whole. Are you opposed to them being – just being in this conference or in the coalition?

SECRETARY KERRY: There’s no issue with the coalition. That’s not even been raised.


[1] International Atomic Energy Agency

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS WITH TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER CAVUSOGLU

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Remarks With Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu Before Their Meeting
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ankara, Turkey
September 12, 2014

FOREIGN MINISTER CAVUSOGLU: (In Turkish.)

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a privilege to have my dear friend and colleague in Ankara. This is third meeting, it’s going to the third meeting of us after Wales and Jeddah. And we have spoken on the phone several times again. And you know the issues that you can imagine on what issues we are going to focus during the meetings, particularly what’s going on in the Middle East and particularly in the Syria and Iraq and challenges and the threats. And since we got this chance, of course we would like to discuss some other issues besides the bilateral one – Middle East – I mean, the peace process over there, cease-fire, and maybe Armenia, Cyprus, definitely Ukraine.

Once again, I would like to welcome my dear friend. I’m looking forward to having (inaudible) to discuss all these issues. John, would you like to say something, both in English and Turkish, please? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. It’s a great privilege for me to be back in Ankara. I’m happy to be here in Turkey, and happy to be here with Mevlut. He and I have gotten to know each other quickly. We’ve had very in-depth conversations about all of the subjects on which Turkey and the United States are deeply involved. And we are important partners, obviously, in NATO, but not just in NATO. We have concerns with respect to what’s happening from Libya to Mali to the Horn of Africa and throughout the Middle East, and of course, now the events in Iraq. So we have a great deal to talk about.

Over the last year and a half I grew to have one of my closest relationships in foreign policy with Ahmet Davutoglu, now prime minister. And we worked extremely closely, talking frequently. So far in my relationship with Minister Cavusoglu, we are already engaging in that kind of discussion. We met in Wales, we talked about the urgency of dealing with ISIL and the urgency of dealing with the support for the Government of Iraq. And of course, together we will be chairing a counterterrorism forum and the United Nations General Assembly in a few days.

So we have a very full agenda and I look forward to constructive conversations both with him, with the new prime minister, and with the new president and my old friend, President Erdogan. Thank you all very much.

9/11/14: White House Press Briefing

NASA VIDEO | TARGETING MARS

NSF VIDEO: RESEARCHERS DISCOVER NEW SPECIES OF DINOSAUR IN TANZMANIA

SEC CHARGES FORMER EXEC WITH FRAUD FOR FAILING TO REPORT HIS INSIDER STOCK SALES

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 
SEC Announces Fraud Charges Against Biotech Company and Former Executive Who Failed to Report Insider Stock Sales
09/10/2014 12:05 PM EDT

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a Massachusetts-based biotech company and its former CEO with defrauding investors by failing to report his sales of company stock.

The federal securities laws require certain corporate executives to report their transactions in the company’s stock in order to give investors the opportunity to evaluate whether the purchases and sales by an insider could be indicative of the prospects of the company.  An SEC investigation found that after Gary H. Rabin became CEO, CFO, and chairman of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) in 2010, he repeatedly failed to report his sales of company stock for the next few years.  Subsequently, ACT’s annual reports and proxy statements during that period were inaccurate because they failed to report that Rabin was not complying with his obligation to disclose his substantial sales of ACT stock.

ACT and Rabin agreed to settle the SEC’s charges.

“It’s not merely a technical lapse when executives fail to report their transactions in company stock, because investors are consequently denied important and timely information about how an insider is potentially viewing the company’s future prospects,” said Michele Wein Layne, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office.  “Instead of reporting his numerous company stock sales within two days as typically required, Rabin waited more than two years and compromised Advanced Cell Technology’s financial reporting obligations.”

According to the SEC’s order instituting a settled administrative proceeding, Section 16(a) of the Securities Exchange Act and underlying SEC rules require officers and directors of a company with a registered class of equity securities to file reports of their securities holdings and transactions.  The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and additional SEC regulations accelerated the reporting deadline for most insider transactions to two business days and mandated that all reports be filed electronically with the SEC to facilitate rapid dissemination to the public.

The SEC’s order finds that Rabin’s sales would have been viewed by a reasonable investor as significantly altering the total mix of available information about ACT given his executive position as well as the size and frequency of his sales of the company’s stock.  However, it wasn’t until May 2013 that Rabin eventually reported his 27 sales of $1.5 million worth of ACT stock from 2010 to 2012.  ACT and Rabin violated the anti-fraud provisions of the securities laws by failing to file reports of these transactions and holdings in a timely and accurate manner.  Rabin signed and ACT filed annual reports and proxy statements during this period that were false and misleading due to Rabin’s missing Section 16(a) reports.

Rabin, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., and left the company earlier this year, agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by paying a $175,000 penalty.  ACT agreed to pay a $375,000 penalty and retain an independent consultant to conduct a review of its Section 16(a) reporting and compliance procedures.  They neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s findings while consenting to orders that charge ACT with violations of Sections 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Sections 13(a) and 14(a) of the Exchange Act as well as Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, and 14a-9, and charge Rabin with violations of Sections 17(a)(2) and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act and Sections 14(a) and 16(a) of the Exchange Act as well as Rules 14a 9 and 16a-3.  Rabin also is charged with causing ACT’s violations of Exchange Act Section 13(a) as well as Rules 12b-20 and 13a-1.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Leslie A. Hakala and C. Dabney O’Riordan in the Los Angeles office.

MILLIONS OF U.S. CHILDREN NOT RECEIVING PREVENTIVE CARE SERVICES

FROM:  CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION 
Millions of children not getting recommended preventive care

Millions of infants, children and adolescents in the United States did not receive key clinical preventive services, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Supplement.

Clinical preventive services are various forms of important medical or dental care that support healthy development. They are delivered by doctors, dentists, nurses and allied health providers in clinical settings. These services prevent and detect conditions and diseases in their earlier, more treatable stages, significantly reducing the risk of illness, disability, early death, and expensive medical care.
The CDC report focuses on 11 clinical preventive services: prenatal breastfeeding counseling, newborn hearing  screening and follow-up, developmental screening, lead screening, vision screening, hypertension screening, use of dental care and preventive dental services, human papillomavirus vaccination, tobacco use screening and cessation assistance, chlamydia screening and reproductive health services.

The findings offer a baseline assessment of the use of selected services prior to 2012, before or shortly after implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Sample findings include:

In 2007, parents of almost eight in 10 (79 percent) children aged 10-47 months reported that they were not asked by healthcare providers to complete a formal screen for developmental delays in the past year.

In 2009, more than half (56 percent) of children and adolescents did not visit the dentist in the past year and nearly nine of 10 (86 percent) children and adolescents did not receive a dental sealant or a topical fluoride application in the past year.
Nearly half (47 percent) of females aged 13-17 years had not received their recommended first dose of HPV vaccine in 2011.

Approximately one in three (31 percent) outpatient clinic visits made by 11-21 year-olds during 2004–2010 had no documentation of tobacco use status; eight of 10 (80 percent) of those who screened positive for tobacco use did not receive any cessation assistance.

Approximately one in four (24 percent) outpatient clinic visits for preventive care made by 3-17 year olds during 2009-2010 had no documentation of blood pressure measurement.

“We must protect the health of all children and ensure that they receive recommended screenings and services. Together, parents and the public health and healthcare communities can work to ensure that children have health insurance and receive vital preventive services,” said Stuart K. Shapira, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer and associate director for science in CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Increased use of clinical preventive services could improve the health of infants, children and teens and promote healthy lifestyles that will enable them to achieve their full potential.”
The report reveals large disparities in the receipt of clinical preventive services. For example, uninsured children are not as likely as insured children to receive these services and Hispanic children were less likely than non-Hispanic children to have reported vision screening.

The Affordable Care Act expands insurance coverage, access and consumer protections for the U.S. population and places a greater emphasis on prevention. Through implementation of the Affordable Care Act, new opportunities exist to promote and increase use of these valuable and vital services. This report is the second of a series of periodic reports from CDC to monitor and report on progress made in increasing the use of clinical preventive services to improve population health.

“The Affordable Care Act requires new health insurance plans to provide certain clinical preventive services at no additional cost – with no copays or deductibles," said Lorraine Yeung, M.D., M.P.H., medical epidemiologist with CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Parents need to know that many clinical preventive services for their children, such as screening and vaccination, are available for free with many health plans.”
CDC has a long history of monitoring the use of clinical preventive services to provide public health agencies, health care providers, healthcare organizations and their partners with information needed to plan and implement programs that increase use of these services and improve the health of the U.S. population. CDC documents the potential benefits of selected clinical preventive services for infants, children and adolescents; the challenges related to their underuse; and effective collaborative strategies to improve use.

CDC is the nation's health protection agency, working 24/7 to protect America from health and safety threats, both foreign and domestic. CDC increases the health security of our nation.

REMARKS BY ANNE C. RICHARD AT INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Democracy, Human Rights, Refugees: The International Conference on Population and Development: A 20 Year Review
09/10/2014 12:55 PM EDT
The International Conference on Population and Development: A 20 Year Review
Remarks
Anne C. Richard
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Plenary Session on the ICPD +20, Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
September 9, 2014

It is an honor to be here on this the 20th anniversary of one of the great milestones in the history of global development. The International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo changed the whole conversation. Instead of just counting people we recognized how each person counts, has rights, and should be empowered to make his or her own choices.

This had profound consequences. 179 governments pledged to make access to reproductive healthcare and family planning services a basic right, to fight infant, child, and maternal mortality and to do a better job of educating women and girls.

Civil society deserves a lot of credit for this. Non-governmental organizations were there in force. Not just outside, or as adversaries, but as full participants. This was unprecedented. You had a master plan, common messaging, and even a daily bulletin that delegates themselves used to stay on top of the conference and to find out what was going on.

Two decades later you continue to drive progress. When political will ebbs, and back sliding is a real possibility, civil society holds the line. Universal access to reproductive health became a target under the Millennium Development Goals, only after you pushed hard and long for this. During the recent UN Open Working Group meetings on post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, sexual and reproductive health was a low priority for some. You leapt in, alerted friendly governments and helped us get sexual and reproductive health into the health goal and reproductive rights into the gender goal, linked to women’s empowerment and equality. We believe these could be some of the most transformative goals in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

We also count on you at the annual meeting of the UN Commission on Population and Development, as it carries out its responsibility to review our progress in implementing the ICPD Program of Action. There, you and non-governmental organizations from the global south remind us, again and again that enlightened policies and effective programs are a matter of life and death. Your work has been instrumental in coaxing governments to make the additional commitments needed to keep the promises made in Cairo.

You were right to argue, as you have for years, that clinics treating pregnant women for HIV/AIDS should also offer contraceptive services, and that family planning services tailored only for married couples may put young, single people at risk. The CPD resolutions reflect these realities.

Civil society helps us inside the U.S. government as well. One reason the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report now covers reproductive rights is because advocates and service providers convinced top officials that this was needed.

Your research is as essential as your advocacy. The Guttmacher Institute demonstrated that access to modern contraception does not just save lives, empower women, and reduce poverty. It also saves money! Guttmacher’s research found that the $4 billion spent annually on contraceptive care in developing countries actually saves $5.6 billion on the cost of medical care for mothers and newborns. This makes not just health ministries, but influential finance ministries sit up and take notice. Another widely accepted figure that came from Guttmacher is that an estimated 222 million women in the developing world want to avoid or delay pregnancy but still lack the means to do this.

The barriers are geographic, economic, practical and cultural. And we need civil society’s help to overcome them. You are in the field, figuring out what women need and how they can get it.

Take the case of injectable contraceptives. These once had to be administered by doctors and nurses. With USAID’s support, FHI360 conducted research in Uganda and Madagascar showing that community health workers with minimal education could provide them safely. As a result, thirteen African countries now permit this practice.

Civil society groups figure out how to help at-risk, underserved populations including youth. In Liberia, Population Services International developed tools and provided training for family planning and reproductive clinics. Participating clinics were able to serve 15 times more young people and distribute 36 times more contraceptives to youth than they had before.

You also reach the hardest-to-reach places. Marie Stopes International brings family planning services to women and men in 30,000 isolated urban shanty towns and remote rural locations in 26 countries. It has even transported supplies by mule and camel train. MSI offers temporary “Saturday” family planning clinics advertised in local markets and by word of mouth. Women stream in, voluntarily seeking everything from short term methods, to sterilization.

Marie Stopes also helps poor communities set up their own high quality clinics and pharmacies, by explaining what’s needed, training local staff, and offering discounted contraceptives and medical supplies. Last year, while I was in Ethiopia for the International Family Planning Conference, I learned more about this when I visited the Alemu Blue Star Clinic.

On an earlier trip to Burkina Faso, I visited a Rama Foundation recovery center for women and girls ravaged by obstetric fistula. I heard their heartbreaking stories, and met women who had suffered for decades, abandoned by their husbands and families. The Rama Foundation arranges surgery, and gives women a place to stay, learn a trade and rebuild their lives.

As you know, many girls develop obstetric fistula because they give birth before their bodies are ready. Every year, two million girls under age 14 become mothers and most of these girls are married.

NGOs and civil society groups do more than offer medical treatment and contraceptive services. You work to change the attitudes that imperil girls’ bodies, their dreams, and their rights.

Civil society groups know that you cannot end centuries old traditions like child, early and forced marriage by just showing up and saying “don’t do that.” In eight countries across West Africa, an award winning NGO called Tostan sends locally based facilitators who stay in communities for three years. They help people speak openly about what happens when very young girls are forced to marry. Communities discuss the reasons for this practice, like the fear that unmarried girls will be raped or bring dishonor to their families. And together they think of other solutions.

Tostan and other NGOs figure out how to educate and communicate in ways that respect local cultures and make sense to people who cannot read and know little of the wider world. They work with community gatekeepers – traditional and religious leaders – who can empower communities to use family planning, just by signaling their approval.

We need your extraordinary reach, your patience, your passion, your grass-roots connections and experience to make the vision of Cairo real. We promised empowerment and that is not so simple. Enabling people to decide if and when to have children is just part of it. Empowerment happens not in conference rooms but out in the real world in the communities where you work.

On behalf of our government, I want to thank you for being such formidable allies and valued partners now and in the years ahead.

SEC SETTLES HEART TRONICS, INC., FRAUD CHARGES AGAINS FORMER CEO

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 

Litigation Release No. 23081 / September 10, 2014

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Heart Tronics, Inc., et al., Civil Action No. SACV11-1962-JVS (C.D. Cal. filed Dec. 15, 2011)

SEC Settles Fraud Charges Against Former Heart Tronics CEO and Former Registered Representative.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that J. Rowland Perkins, II and Mark C. Nevdahl have settled charges arising out of their involvement with Heart Tronics, Inc., a microcap company formerly known as Signalife, Inc. that the SEC has alleged engaged in a series of frauds between 2006 and 2009.  As part of the settlement, Perkins will pay a penalty of $42,500 and is now barred for three years from serving as an officer or director of a public company or engaging in an offering of penny stock.   He also consented to the full injunctive relief sought by the SEC.  Nevdahl, in his settlement, will pay a civil penalty of $13,000 and was ordered to cease and desist from aiding or abetting or committing any future violations.  Nevdahl also was suspended for six months from associating with certain regulated entities and from participating in any offering of penny stock.  The SEC’s litigation against Heart Tronics, its co-CEO, Willie Gault, and a former attorney, Mitchell Stein, is continuing.  Stein is currently incarcerated while awaiting sentencing, after a jury returned a verdict in May 2013 convicting him of fourteen felonies for his role.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Perkins, acting as CEO in 2008, signed and certified pursuant to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 three quarterly reports Heart Tronics filed with the SEC that contained material misstatements about the company’s sales orders, potential customers, and internal accounting and disclosure controls.  The SEC alleged, among other things, that Perkins knew of significant red flags indicating that Heart Tronics’ purported sales orders in 2007 and 2008 were fictional yet allowed the orders to be publicly disclosed without taking adequate steps to determine their validity.  Neither admitting nor denying the SEC’s allegations, Perkins consented to a final judgment ordering him to pay a civil penalty of $42,500 and enjoining him from violating Sections 10(b) and 13(b)(5) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and 13a-14 thereunder, or aiding and abetting violations of Exchange Act Section 13(b)2)(B).  He also consented to court-imposed, three-year officer and director and penny stock bars. The court entered a final judgment against Perkins on September 4, 2014.

The SEC’s complaint also alleged that Nevdahl, who, at the time, was a registered representative of an SEC-registered broker-dealer, served as the trustee for a number of nominee accounts and blind trusts that Mitchell Stein and his wife used to secretly and unlawfully sell millions of dollars’ worth of Heart Tronics stock.  According to the complaint, the trusts were designed to create the façade that the shares were under the control of Nevdahl as an independent trustee, but Nevdahl met the Steins’ regular demands for cash by continually selling Heart Tronics stock on the public market and in transactions negotiated by Stein.  Without either admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Nevdahl consented to pay a penalty of $13,000 to resolve the SEC’s action.  Nevdahl also consented to the institution and settlement of administrative cease-and-desist proceedings in which the SEC issued an order finding that he willfully violated Section 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act, ordering him to cease and desist from aiding or abetting or committing any future violations, and suspending him from participation in any penny stock offering for a period of six months.  The order also suspended Nevdahl for six months from associating with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer, municipal advisor, transfer agent, or nationally recognized statistical organization, and from serving or acting as an employee, officer, director, member of an advisory board, investment adviser or depositor of, or principal underwriter for, a registered investment company.  The court entered a final judgment against Nevdahl on August 29, 2014, and the Commission issued its Order on September 5, 2014.

For further  information, see Litigation Release No. 22204 (Dec. 20, 2011).