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So I just found out that NJ is cutting off my food stamps because I’m considered able-bodied. Food stamps has literally been the only thing feeding my family right now and the only way for me to continue getting food stamps is if I go to a 20 hour a week work program. I tried to go to the program and had to make an appointment for orientation months ago and they were so mean and dismissive of me. They wanted me to miss my doctor appointment to go to their orientation and I told them I couldn’t miss it. I was sick, I needed to see a doctor. So they wouldn’t schedule me for another day and that was that.
I can get out of the requirement if I’m caring for someone in my family, which I am, my mother who has been unwell. But why is she unwell, because without warning her health insurance was terminated because she was deemed to make too much money. My mom makes $800 a month from alimony payments. That’s it! How is that too much money? Because she doesn’t have health insurance, she can’t afford her meds and hence has not been the greatest lately. The only way to prove that I’m caring for my mother is if she gets evaluated by a doctor and deemed disabled. Again, something we cannot afford. And if she never had her insurance terminated to begin with, she’d have her meds and she wouldn’t need someone to look after her. It’s a flawed system and I’m so embarrassed and sad and scared. I don’t know how to feed my family.
I’ve been trying to get a job for a year and a half now with no luck. I have a BA and two MAs. I’m clearly educated and should be capable of getting a job but no one wants to give me a chance despite my 10 years of experience. I really don’t know what to do. I really hate to ask, but I need help. I haven’t paid my credit cards off, we’re charging everything on credit and I’ve reached my credit limit. We’re not using the heat even though it’s so cold, bc we can’t afford to make the payment. I don’t have a cell phone line because we can’t afford it. How is my family going to eat? What am I supposed to do? Like we can’t even afford to pay rent this month. Literally, I have no idea what to do or how to keep us from being hungry and homeless. And I could kick myself for ending up in this situation.
I keep trying to crawl us out of this hole, but I keep failing.
This is so embarrassing, but I need help and I don’t know where to turn. I’m so embarrassed to ask and hate myself for getting to this point. If you could spare anything, even just $1, I would appreciate it so much. https://www.paypal.me/hebavsreason I swear, I’ll never forget your generosity and 100% promise to pay it forward. I’m just so scared and so unsure of how to make ends meet. I’m so embarrassed and I’m so sorry for asking. Maybe you could pass this around, reblog it. Any help would be so important and I’d be so thankful.
Are you a Daily Mail reader? I won’t lie, I usually read the Daily Mail for a laugh. Some of these stories they come up with… they’re just interesting and chuckle-worthy to say the least. I do, however, know that I should never read an article concerning a serious matter on the Daily Mail website. But alas, I torture myself every time and even worse, I always scroll down to the comments section to read the vile things people feel so confidently typing, but rarely say in person.
Some of the worst things I’ve read include:
Comments about how “Real” refugees shouldn’t have phones- Many refugees are fleeing war. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have possessions. Cell phones are no longer a first world standard. Get over it because I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of refugees don’t have these fancy contracts and money to spend speaking hours on the phone.
Comments about how “real” refugees shouldn’t be allowed to wear makeup- First of all, I saw the video this ignoramus was commenting on and the woman did not have makeup up. She was and is naturally gorgeous. Perfect contours, skin and thick eyebrows. She’s prettier than all of us put together. That comment was pure jealousy. Plus, considering everything these refugees have been through, so what if she gets to put on a tiny bit of makeup. She deserves to feel beautiful and like her normal self after the torment of fleeing her country and home.
Comments about how refugees are only in it for the benefits- You know what benefit they really want. The benefit of life!!! I can’t entertain that nonsense.
Comments about how Syrians should fight for their country- This is the silliest comment of all. Syrians have been fighting for their country for years. They’re not only fighting against ISIS, you know. They’re fighting against the Assad regime and the US and Russia and the whole list of countries that have been striking Syria. What weapons do these innocent civilians have that they can use against a whole world? The numbers don’t add up. The worst part is so many refugees are children. Do we really expect children to fight? Because if we allowed that the Daily Mail commenters would comment about how child soldiers are wrong.
Comments about how refugees desire to continue their education makes them economic migrants and not refugees- You realize that these people have had their entire lives come to a complete halt. They’ve literally been sitting around starving and waiting to die. A whole generation of young Syrians is growing up illiterate and unable to do basic math or know much about anything other than war. These refugees aren’t coming over just so they can take advantage of university education. No, if they could have stayed in Syria and continued their education they would have. But there are no teachers left in schools in Syria because there are no schools left. The schools that are left get used as shelters and makeshift community centers.
Comments about how “we” should bomb “them all”- That is an incitement of terror and makes you complicit in murder. Just putting that out there, you horrible human being. I have no problem with seeing ISIS and Assad terrorist thugs get blasted off this earth, however the legal thing to do would be to capture them and try them in a court of international law, in which they would be found guilty and live a long and tortuous life in maximum security prisons. But there is nothing casual about bombing an entire city, killing innocent civilians and calling them casualties.
Comments about how everyone in Raqaa is an ISIS terrorist and that if they weren’t they would have left- Yes, Raqaa is an ISIS headquarter. Yes, ISIS controls the city, but is everyone there a supporter of ISIS, no? But to openly oppose it would leave you dead or tortured. Why don’t people leave? They don’t have the money. Sure smugglers could get you out, but where would you go? The smugglers will take all your money, risk your life and leave you penniless on a raft in the Mediterranean or in the desert on the way to a desolate refugee camp or in some other destroyed part of Syria.
Comments judging refugees for being separated from their families- Seriously? Is this the Olympic category for most vile comment made? Because if it is, you win. People get separated from their families in all sorts of ways that most people would find inconceivable. But it happens all the time. Talk to anyone whose family has been through a war or some sort of catastrophe: I can guarantee you that a majority of people will tell you they have at least one family member that ended up alone or separated from the rest.
Comments about how refugees have “such nice tents”- This dude commented on how her tent was so nice that she couldn’t possibly be a “real” refugee and that she probably has all this money stashed away. How deep in the dirt is your head exactly? Much of this type of supplies has been provided by aid workers, charity organizations and normal human people with hearts that donated much needed goods, such as tents. Do you want to live on a tent on a street corner when it’s raining and cold? No, especially since winter is nearing. You’re just a horrible person for thinking this
Comments stating the run of the mill stereotypes- The long list of racial slurs, insults, and stereotypes that I won’t humor by listing. You know the type orientalist rubbish that is slanderous, libel, disgusting and horrible filth, but Facebook won’t take it down because they’re too worked up taking pictures down of women’s bodies.
My conclusions: Firstly, humans are awful. I don’t know how people can be awful. I doubt most of these hateful commenters could handle day in the life of a refugee. If you really think “we don’t owe them anything,” then you clearly have no idea how complicit our governments are in making Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the world, the situation that they are in today.
Secondly, we haven’t learned from history one bit. These comments– ugh just look at some of the things people said during WWII about refugees. Please and compare those comments to now.
And lastly, I can’t be the only one who sees comparison in 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq with the Paris Attacks and the subsequent bombing of Raqaa.
Civilians, particularly children are innocent and pay the highest toll in wartime situations. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I know what the answers to terrorism, racism, discrimination and bigotry are. Offhand I would say education, but we all know the world isn’t that simple.
All I want is for people to think for 30 seconds before they type these horrible comments. I pray your ignorant minds become enlightened with knowledge, wisdom and empathy.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release October 15, 2015
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
11:04 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Last December — more than 13 years after our nation was attacked by al Qaeda on 9/11 — America’s combat mission in Afghanistan came to a responsible end. That milestone was achieved thanks to the courage and the skill of our military, our intelligence, and civilian personnel. They served there with extraordinary skill and valor, and it’s worth remembering especially the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.
I visited our troops in Afghanistan last year to thank them on behalf of a grateful nation. I told them they could take great pride in the progress that they helped achieve. They struck devastating blows against the al Qaeda leadership in the tribal regions, delivered justice to Osama bin Laden, prevented terrorist attacks, and saved American lives. They pushed the Taliban back so the Afghan people could reclaim their communities, send their daughters to school, and improve their lives. Our troops trained Afghan forces so they could take the lead for their own security and protect Afghans as they voted in historic elections, leading to the first democratic transfer of power in their country’s history.
Today, American forces no longer patrol Afghan villages or valleys. Our troops are not engaged in major ground combat against the Taliban. Those missions now belong to Afghans, who are fully responsible for securing their country.
But as I’ve said before, while America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures. As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again. Our forces therefore remain engaged in two narrow but critical missions — training Afghan forces, and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda. Of course, compared to the 100,000 troops we once had in Afghanistan, today fewer than 10,000 remain, in support of these very focused missions.
I meet regularly with my national security team, including commanders in Afghanistan, to continually assess, honestly, the situation on the ground — to determine where our strategy is working and where we may need greater flexibility. I have insisted, consistently, that our strategy focus on the development of a sustainable Afghan capacity and self-sufficiency. And when we’ve needed additional forces to advance that goal, or we’ve needed to make adjustments in terms of our timetables, then we’ve made those adjustments. Today, I want to update the American people on our efforts.
Since taking the lead for security earlier this year, Afghan forces have continued to step up. This has been the first fighting season where Afghans have largely been on their own. And they are fighting for their country bravely and tenaciously. Afghan forces continue to hold most urban areas. And when the Taliban has made gains, as in Kunduz, Afghan forces backed by coalition support have been able to push them back. This has come at a very heavy price. This year alone, thousands of Afghan troops and police have lost their lives, as have many Afghan civilians.
At the same time, Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be. They’re developing critical capabilities — intelligence, logistics, aviation, command and control. And meanwhile, the Taliban has made gains, particularly in rural areas, and can still launch deadly attacks in cities, including Kabul. Much of this was predictable. We understood that as we transitioned, that the Taliban would try to exploit some of our movements out of particular areas, and that it would take time for Afghan security forces to strengthen. Pressure from Pakistan has resulted in more al Qaeda coming into Afghanistan, and we’ve seen the emergence of an ISIL presence. The bottom line is, in key areas of the country, the security situation is still very fragile, and in some places there is risk of deterioration.
Fortunately, in President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah there is a national unity government that supports a strong partnership with the United States. During their visit earlier this year, President Ghani and I agreed to continue our counterterrorism cooperation, and he has asked for continued support as Afghan forces grow stronger.
Following consultations with my entire national security team, as well as our international partners and members of Congress, President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, I’m therefore announcing the following steps, which I am convinced offer the best possibility for lasting progress in Afghanistan.
First, I’ve decided to maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, 2016. Their mission will not change. Our troops will continue to pursue those two narrow tasks that I outlined earlier — training Afghan forces and going after al Qaeda. But maintaining our current posture through most of next year, rather than a more rapid drawdown, will allow us to sustain our efforts to train and assist Afghan forces as they grow stronger — not only during this fighting season, but into the next one.
Second, I have decided that instead of going down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, we will maintain 5,500 troops at a small number of bases, including at Bagram, Jalalabad in the east, and Kandahar in the south.
Again, the mission will not change. Our troops will focus on training Afghans and counterterrorism operations. But these bases will give us the presence and the reach our forces require to achieve their mission. In this sense, Afghanistan is a key piece of the network of counterterrorism partnerships that we need, from South Asia to Africa, to deal more broadly with terrorist threats quickly and prevent attacks against our homeland.
Third, we will work with allies and partners to align the steps I am announcing today with their own presence in Afghanistan after 2016. In Afghanistan, we are part of a 42-nation coalition, and our NATO allies and partners can continue to play an indispensable role in helping Afghanistan strengthen its security forces, including respect for human rights.
And finally, because governance and development remain the foundation for stability and progress in Afghanistan, we will continue to support President Ghani and the national unity government as they pursue critical reforms. New provincial governors have been appointed, and President Ghani is working to combat corruption, strengthen institutions, and uphold rule of law. As I told President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah yesterday, efforts that deliver progress and justice for the Afghan people will continue to have the strong support of the United States. And we cannot separate the importance of governance with the issues of security. The more effective these reforms happen, the better off the security situation is going to be.
We also discussed American support of an Afghan-led reconciliation process. By now it should be clear to the Taliban and all who oppose Afghanistan’s progress the only real way to achieve the full drawdown of U.S. and foreign troops from Afghanistan is through a lasting political settlement with the Afghan government. Likewise, sanctuaries for the Taliban and other terrorists must end. Next week, I’ll host Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan, and I will continue to urge all parties in the region to press the Taliban to return to peace talks and to do their part in pursuit of the peace that Afghans deserve.
In closing, I want to speak directly to those whose lives are most directly affected most by the decisions I’m announcing today. To the Afghan people, who have suffered so much — Americans’ commitment to you and to a secure, stable and unified Afghanistan, that remains firm. Our two nations have forged a strategic partnership for the long term. And as you defend and build your country, today is a reminder that the United States keeps our commitments.
And to our men and women in uniform — I know this means that some of you will rotate back into Afghanistan. With the end of our combat mission, this is not like 2010, when nearly 500 Americans were killed and many more were injured. But still, Afghanistan remains dangerous; 25 brave Americans have given their lives there this year.
I do not send you into harm’s way lightly. It’s the most solemn decision I make. I know the wages of war in the wounded warriors I visit in the hospital and in the grief of Gold Star families. But as your Commander-in-Chief, I believe this mission is vital to our national security interests in preventing terrorist attacks against our citizens and our nation.
And to the American people — I know that many of you have grown weary of this conflict. As you are well aware, I do not support the idea of endless war, and I have repeatedly argued against marching into open-ended military conflicts that do not serve our core security interests.
Yet given what’s at stake in Afghanistan, and the opportunity for a stable and committed ally that can partner with us in preventing the emergence of future threats, and the fact that we have an international coalition, I am firmly convinced that we should make this extra effort. In the Afghan government, we have a serious partner who wants our help. And the majority of the Afghan people share our goals. We have a bilateral security agreement to guide our cooperation. And every single day, Afghan forces are out there fighting and dying to protect their country. They’re not looking for us to do it for them.
I’m speaking of the Afghan army cadet who grew up seeing bombings and attacks on innocent civilians who said, “because of this, I took the decision to join the army, to try and save innocent people’s lives.” Or the police officer training to defuse explosives. “I know it’s dangerous work,” he says, but “I have always had a dream of wearing the uniform of Afghanistan, serving my people and defending my country.”
Or the Afghan commando, a hardened veteran of many missions, who said, “If I start telling you the stories of my life, I might start crying.” He serves, he said, because, “the faster we bring peace, the faster we can bring education, and the stronger our unity will grow. Only if these things happen will Afghanistan be able to stand up for itself.”
My fellow Americans, after so many years of war, Afghanistan will not be a perfect place. It’s a poor country that will have to work hard on its development. There will continue to be contested areas. But Afghans like these are standing up for their country. If they were to fail, it would endanger the security of us all. And we’ve made an enormous investment in a stable Afghanistan. Afghans are making difficult but genuine progress. This modest but meaningful extension of our presence — while sticking to our current, narrow missions — can make a real difference. It’s the right thing to do.
May God bless our troops and all who keep us safe. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Q Mr. President, can you tell us how disappointing this decision is for you? Is this — can you tell us how disappointing this decision is for you?
THE PRESIDENT: This decision is not disappointing. Continually, my goal has been to make sure that we give every opportunity for Afghanistan to succeed while we’re still making sure that we’re meeting our core missions.
And as I’ve continually said, my approach is to assess the situation on the ground, figure out what’s working, figure out what’s not working, make adjustments where necessary. This isn’t the first time those adjustments have been made; this won’t probably be the last.
What I’m encouraged by is the fact that we have a government that is serious about trying to deliver security and the prospects of a better life for the Afghan people. We have a clear majority of the Afghans who want to partner with us and the international community to achieve those goals. We have a bilateral security arrangement that ensures that our troops can operate in ways that protect them while still achieving their mission. And we’ve always known that we had to maintain a counterterrorism operation in that region in order to tamp down any reemergence of active al Qaeda networks, or other networks that might do us harm.
So this is consistent with the overall vision that we’ve had. And, frankly, we anticipated, as we were drawing down troops, that there would be times where we might need to slow things down or fill gaps in Afghan capacity. And this is a reflection of that. And it’s a dangerous area.
So part of what we’re constantly trying to balance is making sure that Afghans are out there, they’re doing what they need to do, but that we are giving them a chance to succeed and that we’re making sure that our force posture in the area for conducting those narrow missions that we need to conduct, we can do so relatively safely. There are still risks involved, but force protection, the ability of our embassies to operate effectively — those things all factor in.
And so we’ve got to constantly review these approaches. The important thing I want to emphasize, though, is, is that the nature of the mission has not changed. And the cessation of our combat role has not changed.
Now, the 25 military and civilians who were killed last year, that always weighs on my mind. And 25 deaths are 25 too many, particularly for the families of the fallen. But understand, relative to what was involved when we were in an active combat role and actively engaged in war in Afghanistan was a very different scenario.
So here, you have a situation where we have clarity about what our mission is. We’ve got a partner who wants to work with us. We’re going to continually make adjustments to ensure that we give the best possibilities for success. And I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next President. And as conditions improve, we’ll be in a position to make further adjustments.
But I’m absolutely confident this is the right thing to do. And I’m not disappointed because my view has always been how do we achieve our goals while minimizing the strain and exposure on our men and women in uniform, and make sure that we are constantly encouraging and sending a message to the Afghan people, this is their country and they’ve got to defend it, but we’re going to be a steady partner for them.
Thank you, everybody.
END 11:22 A.M. EDT
The White House · 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW · Washington DC 20500 · 202-456-1111
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
Secretary of State John Kerry
At a Dinner in Honor of Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye
October 14, 2015
SECRETARY KERRY: Madam President, thank you for gracing us with your presence this evening. We are delighted to welcome you here. And I know your government is as proud as we are of Ambassador Mark Lippert, and we are deeply appreciative for his service and to have him here today. (Applause.) And we thank him and you for helping to keep our bilateral ties so strong.
I want to thank all of you for coming tonight. And this is an extraordinary group assembled here. I appreciate the opportunity to share a few words. Thank you for the generous welcome a moment ago. I want to make it absolutely crystal clear that I am not running – (laughter) – and if elected, I would not serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Laughter.) I must say though, looking around the tables here, there are a few good candidates here – of either party. I also see some very, very dear friends, a number of ex-secretaries, Secretary Cohen, Secretary Powell, Secretary – I don’t know if Chuck is still here.
Madam President, we are really delighted to welcome you here. The warm reception that you and Foreign Minister Yun gave to me during my visit last spring to Seoul is something that I will remember forever. And I just was chatting with my friend Byung-se about the wonderful tree that he gave me. And I’ve been able to reciprocate today, ladies and gentlemen, by giving to the foreign minister of the Republic of Korea a tree that comes directly from Mount Vernon – a Tulip Tree that has been grown there – in America – since the 1680s. It grows to 300 feet and for 300 years, so I told him, ‘Don’t put it in your living room.” (Laughter.)
I want to thank you, Madam President, for laying a wreath today earlier at the very striking Memorial to the American military men and women who served in Korea – 19 statues representing a squad in full combat gear, on patrol, ever watchful, always prepared to stand in defense of our shared values. And those figures call to mind years of shared sacrifice when American and Korean troops fought shoulder to shoulder on the Pusan perimeter, on the beaches of Inchon, and in the bitter cold surrounding the Chosin Reservoir.
It’s a tragedy that, unlike other conflicts that are commemorated on America’s National Mall, this one has never formally ended. And the need for vigilance, we all know, continues. And through the combined efforts of our two great countries, that vigilance is being met.
We also have much to celebrate this evening, and that is much less solemn and much more joyful, because our alliance cannot be explained simply by the alignment of security and material interests – although, obviously, that helps – but is based much more on the discovery long ago and repeated over and over again that when Americans and Koreans get together, good things happen.
Together we have built a dynamic two-way commercial relationship and an academic partnership that enables thousands of U.S. students in Korea and Korean students in America to bond over late night chats over Kakao Talk and to sing their lungs out in noraebang rooms. (Laughter.)
And we have also literally become part of one another. Today there are more than 2 million Koreans and Korean Americans living in the United States of America, and they can be found in every single corner of our land, not to mention at our gathering tonight. And their economic and social contributions to America and to our bilateral relationship are profound.
In addition, we have two governments that each day consult and work closely with one another on issues of vital importance to both of our countries. These imperatives include the fight against violent extremism and terror, the pursuit of peace, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and efforts to promote strong and sustainable economic growth.
We also recognize that ours has to be a dynamic partnership that focuses, as our citizens do, on issues of the future and particularly issues like clean energy, the need to address the challenge of climate change, and ensuring that we have smart rules in place to guarantee the preservation of open space and also a reliable and secure internet. Madam President, you showed precisely that kind of commitment to the future today when you visited NASA’s Goddard Space Center.
And one of the many characteristics that Koreans and Americans have in common is the desire always to be looking ahead and looking up, getting ready for the next big thing.
In times that are good and in those that are not so good, our countries have always had each other’s back. That is a pretty worthwhile tradition to continue, and from the feeling in this room tonight and the presence of so many important and distinguished guests, I have no doubt that we will continue.
Madam President, once again, thank you so much for honoring us with your visit. I know President Obama is looking forward to his meeting with you. And thanks to all of you in this hall tonight for supporting – probably I should say really for embodying – the deep and lasting friendship between the American and Korean people. We celebrate that tonight, and we’re delighted to have you here. Thank you. (Applause.)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
Secretary of State John Kerry
At the Rollout of the 2014 Report on International Religious Freedom
Press Briefing Room
October 14, 2015
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, today we present the department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2014.
And I particularly want to thank David Saperstein and his entire team for producing a report that reflects a vast amount of objective research and that will provide a uniquely valuable resource for anybody who cares about religious freedom in all of its aspects. And I am very grateful for David’s willingness to come on board. He has provided important new energy and focus on this, is building a terrific team, and I think you’re going to hear more and more from the Department with respect to our fight to protect people’s right to exercise religious freedom.
The message at the heart of this report is that countries benefit when their citizens fully enjoy the rights to which they are entitled. And this is not a hopeful theory; this is a proven reality. No nation can fulfill its potential if its people are denied the right to practice, to hold, to modify, to openly profess their innermost beliefs.
I should emphasize that the concept of religious freedom extends way beyond mere tolerance. It is a concept grounded in respect for the rights and beliefs of others. It is deeply connected to our DNA as Americans – to everything that we are and everything that we came from. It’s a concept that is based on respect, and respect, in turn, demands legal equality. It demands that the practitioners of one faith understand that they have no right to coerce others into submission, conversion, or silence, or to literally take their lives because of their beliefs.
The purpose of this annual report is to highlight the importance of religious freedom not by lecturing but through advocacy and through persuasion. Our primary goal is to help governments everywhere recognize that their societies will do better with religious liberty than without it. The world has learned through very hard experience that religious pluralism encourages and enables contributions from all; while religious discrimination is often the source of conflicts that endanger all.
By issuing this report, we hope to give governments an added incentive to honor the rights and the dignity of their citizens; but the report also has the benefit of equipping interested observers with an arsenal of facts.
And one of the more consequential facts of our era has been the convergence – really, the development of a sort of new phenomenon of non-state actors who, unlike the last century and the violence that we saw and persecution that we saw that emanated from states, are now the principal persecutors and preventers of religious tolerance and practice. Most prominent, and most harmful, obviously, has been the rise of international terrorist groups such as Daesh, al-Qaida, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram. And all have been guilty of vicious acts of unprovoked violence.
Under their control, captives have been given a choice between conversion or slavery or death. Children have been among the victims, and also among those forced to witness or participate in executions – sometimes even of their own family members. Entire populations of religious minority groups have been targeted for killing. Terrified young girls have been separated out by religion and sold into slavery.
The repugnance of these acts is only multiplied when the perpetrators seek to justify themselves by pointing a finger at God and claiming somehow that God licensed these acts. We are, and we will continue, to oppose these groups with far more than words of condemnation that are contained in this report.
We will also continue to help the survivors. In the Middle East, and in Africa, we are assisting local partners in responding to the needs – both physical and psychological – of women and girls who have escaped or been released after having been held captive by terrorist groups. Each victim, each nightmare, each wound is another reason to urgently address the root causes of violent extremism.
And before closing, I just want to make three general points.
First, as much as we oppose the actions of terrorists, we do not agree with governments that use those crimes as a pretext for prohibiting religious activities that are in fact nonviolent and legitimate. Those who misuse the terms “terrorist” and “extremist” are not fooling anybody, and trying to dictate an artificial conformity of religious expression is not a prescription for harmony. It is a prescription for frustration, anger, and rebellion. And we have learned time and again that if citizens are denied the rights to practice and express their beliefs peacefully, they are far more likely to explore other and more often than not dangerous alternatives.
Second, the right to religious freedom is not contingent on having a large number of followers. Religious minorities – including those who profess no faith – should have the same rights as religious majorities, and that is a fundamental belief. Sadly, the pages of this report that is being released today are filled with accounts of minorities being denied rights in countries like Burma, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, many others.
And finally, I want to emphasize the importance and urgency of the work that is being carried out by Ambassador Saperstein and his office, including the addition of a new special advisor on religious minorities. Among their initiatives is a groundbreaking effort to build a coalition of likeminded nations to uphold the international standard of religious freedom for all.
In that connection, I urge the release of men and women detained or imprisoned anywhere in the world for the peaceful expression and practice of their religious beliefs. This includes Mr. Zhang Kai, a Chinese Christian human rights lawyer who was detained in late August just prior to a scheduled meeting with Ambassador Saperstein, and whose present whereabouts are unknown.
In closing, I note that religious bigotry is present to a degree in every continent and every country, and sadly, even including our own. It may be expressed through anti-Semitism or prejudice against Muslims; through the persecution of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others; or it may come in the guise of attacks against religion itself, as we saw so tragically in Oregon at the beginning of this month.
In response, we all have a responsibility to affirm our faith in the principles of religious freedom that the world community has endorsed so many times and that have helped to uplift America and define our country since the 17th century, when Roger Williams issued his call for soul liberty, and when, some years later, Seneca chief Red Jacket told a missionary delegation from Boston, “Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion. We only want to enjoy our own.” That’s the fundamental principle of tolerance that guides us, and it is a value worth fighting for.
With that, I am pleased to yield the floor to Ambassador David Saperstein, who will give you a little more detail about the report. Thank you all.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
STATEMENT BY MARK TONER, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON
October 13, 2015
The Dutch Safety Board’s Final Report on the Shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17
We welcome the important findings of the Dutch Safety Board in its final report on the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. This report is the result of an independent, transparent, and rigorous 15-month investigation completed in accordance with Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, and includes contributions from a wide array of experts from many countries, including the United States.
This report validates what Secretary Kerry first said more than a year ago, MH17 was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile. Secretary Kerry also made clear that the United States detected a missile launch from separatist-controlled territory at the moment of the shootdown and drew attention to verified conversations among separatist leaders bragging about shooting down an aircraft in the immediate aftermath of this tragic event.
We also take note of the finding of the Dutch Safety Board’s recommendations regarding the handling of airspace during armed conflicts, and we are studying them.
Our sympathy and thoughts remain with the families and friends of the MH17 victims.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2015
Statement by the President on the Trans-Pacific Partnership
I’ve spent every day of my presidency fighting to grow our economy and strengthen our middle class. That means making sure our workers have a fair shot to get ahead here at home, and a fair chance to compete around the world. My approach to trade has been guided by a unifying principle: leveling the playing field for American workers and businesses, so we can export more products stamped Made in America all over the world that support higher-paying American jobs here at home.
Over the summer, Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together to help the United States negotiate agreements for free and fair trade that would support our workers, our businesses, and our economy as a whole. When more than 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders, we can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy. We should write those rules, opening new markets to American products while setting high standards for protecting workers and preserving our environment.
That’s what the agreement reached today in Atlanta will do. Trade ministers from the 12 nations that make up the Trans-Pacific Partnership finished negotiations on an agreement that reflects America’s values and gives our workers the fair shot at success they deserve.
This partnership levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products. It includes the strongest commitments on labor and the environment of any trade agreement in history, and those commitments are enforceable, unlike in past agreements. It promotes a free and open Internet. It strengthens our strategic relationships with our partners and allies in a region that will be vital to the 21st century. It’s an agreement that puts American workers first and will help middle-class families get ahead.
Once negotiators have finalized the text of this partnership, Congress and the American people will have months to read every word before I sign it. I look forward to working with lawmakers from both parties as they consider this agreement. If we can get this agreement to my desk, then we can help our businesses sell more Made in America goods and services around the world, and we can help more American workers compete and win.