Remembering Rachel Corrie on the anniversary of her death

contact@ifamericansknew.org

 

 

Dear Friend,

On this day 13 years ago, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by Israeli soldiers driving a military bulldozer. She was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home. According to numerous witnesses and photographic documentation, she was killed intentionally.

Representative Brian Baird from Washington State introduced a resolution in Congress calling on the federal government to “undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation” into Rachel’s death. The bill was co-sponsored by 77 representatives, but Congress took no action. 

The Corrie family then filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc in 2005, alleging that Caterpillar supplied Israelis with bulldozers even though they knew they were being used to commit war crimes. The lawsuit was dismissed.

The Corrie family’s appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was also dismissed. The court acknowledged that the U.S. government paid for the bulldozer that killed Rachel, but said that they didn’t have the jurisdiction to rule on the “political question” of U.S. military aid to Israel. 

In 2010, the Corrie family filed a lawsuit in Israel against the Israeli Defense Forces. Israeli officials prevented the physician who had examined Rachel’s wounds from testifying in the case. The court ruled that Rachel was responsible for her own death. In 2014, the Corrie family’s appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of Israel, and the IDF was absolved of any wrongdoing.

Keep Rachel’s message alive by sharing her story with your community. We have cards, a booklet of Rachel’s letters, and posters available for download and order.

#SupportPalestineInDC2016

U.S. taxpayers send Israel over $3 billion a year in military aid with virtually no strings attached, and now the prime minister of Israel wants $5 billion a year.

The majority of Americans oppose taking sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, but virtually all Democratic and Republican members of Congress continue to supply Israel with more and more weapons each year (Palestinians do not receive military aid).

American taxpayer dollars have enabled Israel to continue its decades-long illegal occupation of Palestinian land and deny Palestinians basic legal and human rights. With our money, Israeli forces have killed over 9,200 Palestinians as well as numerous international journalists and peace activists since 2000.

We are driving the violence in this region, and we must stop it.

This weekend, AIPAC kicks off its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump scheduled to give speeches. We hope you will join us this Sunday at noon at the White House to protest AIPAC’s influence on American politics and support Palestinian human rights. Your voice is urgently needed!

As always, thank for your commitment to peace, justice, and equality for all people.

The If Americans Knew team

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President Obama SUED

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RAPID RESPONSE: Denounce the Republican lawsuit against President Obama >>

A federal judge just ruled that Congressional Republicans can officially SUE President Obama. Unless something changes, Obamacare could be destroyed forever.

We need to collect 1OO,OOO signatures denouncing this frivolous lawsuit before it goes any further. Will you add your name right now?

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Republicans just scored a MAJOR win in their lawsuit against President Obama.

Yesterday, a federal judge ruled the GOP’s case can proceed– potentially gutting Obamacare and undermining the President’s legacy.

Destroying Obamacare was a key part of the Koch Brothers’ agenda when they spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect Republicans last year. Here’s what happened:

  • FIRST: The Koch Brothers spent MILLIONS to deceive Americans about Obamacare — and help put Republicans in charge of Congress.
  • THEN: Republicans in the majority SUED President Obama.

We can’t stand for it. If the Kochs win… Republicans will overstep their bounds once again to undermine the President’s legacy.

SIGN YOUR NAME: Denounce the Republican lawsuit against the President before it’s too late >>

Thanks to Citizens United, the Koch Brothers network of shady right-wing organizations have infiltrated every level of government.

We need your help to expose everything they’re doing to undermine our Democracy.

Please add your name:

http://act.endcitizensunited.org/Republican-Lawsuit

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STATEMENT: U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 25, 2015

 

U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change

 

In November 2014, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping stood together in Beijing to make a historic U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change, emphasizing their personal commitment to a successful climate agreement in Paris and marking a new era of multilateral climate diplomacy as well as a new pillar in their bilateral relationship. On the occasion of President Xi’s State Visit to Washington, D.C., the two Presidents reaffirm their shared conviction that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humanity and that their two countries have a critical role to play in addressing it. The two Presidents also reaffirm their determination to move ahead decisively to implement domestic climate policies, to strengthen bilateral coordination and cooperation, and to promote sustainable development and the transition to green, low-carbon, and climate-resilient economies.

 

Vision for the Paris Climate Conference:

·         The two Presidents reaffirm the U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change of November 12, 2014. Recalling the Durban mandate to adopt a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, they strengthen their resolve to work together and with others toward an ambitious, successful Paris outcome that furthers the implementation of the objective of the Convention, mindful of the below 2 degree C global temperature goal.

 

·         They reaffirm their commitment to reach an ambitious agreement in 2015 that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances. They further consider that differentiation should be reflected in relevant elements of the agreement in an appropriate manner.

 

·         Both sides support the inclusion in the Paris outcome of an enhanced transparency system to build mutual trust and confidence and promote effective implementation including through reporting and review of action and support in an appropriate manner. It should provide flexibility to those developing countries that need it in light of their capacities.

 

·         The United States and China welcome the enhanced actions reflected in the intended nationally determined contributions communicated by each other and by other Parties.

 

·         The two sides recognize that Parties’ mitigation efforts are crucial steps in a longer-range effort needed to transition to green and low-carbon economies and they should move in the direction of greater ambition over time. Further, the United States and China underscore the importance of formulating and making available mid-century strategies for the transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the below 2 degree C global temperature goal. Both sides also emphasize the need for global low-carbon transformation during the course of this century.

 

·         Both sides stress the importance of adaptation. The Paris agreement should accord greater prominence and visibility to adaptation, including by recognizing that it is a key component of the long-term global response to climate change, in terms of both preparing for the unavoidable impacts of climate change and enhancing resilience. The agreement should encourage Parties to work at both the national and international levels to build resilience and reduce vulnerability. It should provide for regular, high-level focus on adaptation.

 

·         The two sides reaffirm that, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, developed countries committed to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries and that this funding would come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance. They underscore the importance of continued, robust financial support beyond 2020 to help developing countries build low-carbon and climate-resilient societies. They urge continued support by developed countries to developing countries and encourage such support by other countries willing to do so.

 

·         The two sides also recognize the crucial role of major technological advancement in the transition to green and low-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable development and affirm the importance of significant increases in basic research and development in the coming years both within their own economies and globally.

 

Advancing Domestic Climate Action:

·         The United States and China are committed to achieving their respective post-2020 actions as announced in last November’s Joint Announcement. Since that time, both countries have taken key steps toward implementation and are committing to continue intensifying efforts, which will substantially promote global investment in low-carbon technologies and solutions.

·         Since last November’s Joint Announcement, the United States has taken major steps to reduce its emissions, and it is announcing important additional implementation plans today. In August 2015, the United States finalized the Clean Power Plan, which will reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. In 2016, the United States will finalize a federal plan to implement carbon emission standards for power plants in states that do not choose to design their own implementation plans under the Clean Power Plan. The United States commits to finalize its next-stage, world-class fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles in 2016 and implement them in 2019. In August 2015, the United States proposed separate standards for methane emissions from landfills and the oil and gas sector, and commits to finalize both standards in 2016. In July 2015, the United States finalized significant new measures to reduce use and emissions of HFCs through the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, and commits today to continue to pursue new actions in 2016 to reduce HFC use and emissions. Finally, in the buildings sector, the United States commits to finalize over 20 efficiency standards for appliances and equipment by the end of 2016.

 

·         China is making great efforts to advance ecological civilization and promote green, low-carbon, climate resilient and sustainable development through accelerating institutional innovation and enhancing policies and actions. China will lower carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60% to 65% from the 2005 level by 2030 and increase the forest stock volume by around 4.5 billion cubic meters on the 2005 level by 2030. China will promote green power dispatch, giving priority, in distribution and dispatching, to renewable power generation and fossil fuel power generation of higher efficiency and lower emission levels. China also plans to start in 2017 its national emission trading system, covering key industry sectors such as iron and steel, power generation, chemicals, building materials, paper-making, and nonferrous metals. China commits to promote low-carbon buildings and transportation, with the share of green buildings reaching 50% in newly built buildings in cities and towns by 2020 and the share of public transport in motorized travel reaching 30% in big- and medium-sized cities by 2020. It will finalize next-stage fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles in 2016 and implement them in 2019. Actions on HFCs continue to be supported and accelerated, including effectively controlling HFC-23 emissions by 2020.

 

Enhancing Bilateral and Multilateral Climate Cooperation:

·         Building on the robust bilateral cooperation initiatives that support the achievement of ambitious domestic actions, the two sides commit to further deepen and enhance these efforts through the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG), the premier mechanism for facilitating constructive U.S.-China dialogue and cooperation on climate change. The two sides have made concrete progress in each of the initiatives, including heavy-duty and other vehicles, smart grids, carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), energy efficiency in buildings and industry, collecting and managing greenhouse gas emissions data, climate change and forests, industrial boilers efficiency and fuel switching, and climate-smart/low-carbon cities, and will continue to work together on green ports and vessels and zero emission vehicles, as well as the enhanced policy dialogue and cooperation on HFCs. Furthermore, a new Domestic Policy Dialogue was established this year to share information on respective domestic actions. The two sides will continue to devote significant effort and resources to the existing initiatives. On the CCUS project agreed to in the 2014 Joint Announcement, the two countries have identified the project site in Yan’an-Yulin, Shan’xi Province, China, operated by Shan’xi Yanchang Petroleum. The two sides will continue to collaborate to demonstrate the utilization of CO2 for enhanced water recovery. 

 

·         The United States and China recognize and appreciate the critical role of cities, states and provinces in addressing climate change, supporting the implementation of national actions and accelerating the long-term transition to a low carbon and livable society. The Presidents welcome the outcome of the First Session of the U.S.-China Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities Summit, held in Los Angeles on September 15-16, 2015, and look forward to a successful Second Session to be held in Beijing in 2016. The Presidents support the U.S.-China Climate Leaders Declaration, signed by 24 provinces, states, cities, and counties of the United States and China, as well as the climate actions listed in the Declaration, including an initiative by provinces and cities in China for peaking pioneers and the medium and long-term greenhouse gas reduction targets of states, counties and cities in the United States. The United States and China also emphasize that businesses can play an important role in promoting low-carbon development, and will make continued efforts to encourage and incentivize actions by businesses.

 

·         The United States and China recognize the importance of mobilizing climate finance to support low-carbon, climate-resilient development in developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, small island developing states, and African countries. In this connection, the United States reaffirms its $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and China announces that it will make available ¥20 billion for setting up the China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund to support other developing countries to combat climate change, including to enhance their capacity to access GCF funds. Going forward and through these steps and other actions, the two sides are determined to work constructively and cooperatively together and along with all Parties to the UNFCCC to support developing countries to transition to green and low-carbon development and build climate resilience.

 

·         The United States and China consider that their bilateral investments in other countries should support low-carbon technologies and climate resilience and commit to discussing the role of public finance in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Both countries are to use public resources to finance and encourage the transition toward low-carbon technologies as a priority. As part of an ongoing and serious commitment to strengthen low-carbon policies and regulations, the United States has ended public financing for new conventional coal-fired power plants except in the poorest countries. China will strengthen green and low-carbon policies and regulations with a view to strictly controlling public investment flowing into projects with high pollution and carbon emissions both domestically and internationally.

 

·         The United States and China will strengthen their dialogue and cooperation to advance climate change related issues in relevant fora complementary to the UNFCCC, such as the G-20, Montreal Protocol, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Maritime Organization, World Trade Organization and Clean Energy Ministerial.

 

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FACT SHEET: Advancing Shared Values for A Better World

 

 

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 23, 2015

 

FACT SHEET: Advancing Shared Values for A Better World

 

Today the President hosted His Holiness Pope Francis at the White House and thanked him for the ways in which he is inspiring people around the world to embrace justice, mercy, and compassion, particularly toward those who have been marginalized.  The President and Pope Francis discussed their shared values and commitments on a wide range of issues, including our moral responsibility to provide refuge for people who are forced to flee from their homelands; the belief that we have an obligation to seize the historic opportunity to end extreme poverty within a generation; the conviction that all members of the human family have equal value and infinite worth and should have the opportunity to realize safe and productive futures for themselves; the belief that reconciliation can happen not only between people but also between nations; the conviction that we must secure the unalienable right of all people to practice their faith according to the dictates of conscience, standing against those who would target people for violence, persecution, or discrimination based on their religion; and the duty to manage the resources of the earth today in such a way that will allow our children and grandchildren to live their lives abundantly tomorrow.  

 

To mark this historic meeting and advance these shared values and objectives, the President is pursuing the following initiatives:

 

Solidarity with People in Crisis

 

The human toll of the world’s humanitarian crises is staggering.  Over 100 million people around the world are beset by conflict, food insecurity, and natural disasters.  Around the world, the people at greatest risk include religious minorities and people persecuted for their political beliefs.  In the Middle East alone, 36.5 million people require humanitarian aid due to the conflicts in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.  South Sudan and Yemen are on the brink of famine.  In an instant 750,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the Nepal earthquake, and families and communities in West Africa are still recovering from the social and economic impacts of Ebola.  We have a collective responsibility not only to help those in need, but to work together to address the root causes of conflict and to ensure that all people have access to economic opportunity.  The United States has a long history of assisting people in times of crisis.  As the world’s largest humanitarian donor, the U.S. Government has provided over $6.5 billion in life-saving food, healthcare, water, and shelter this year, not including our response to the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.  United Nations (UN) appeals have surpassed $19 billion in 2015, and have received only 40 percent of the required funding to address basic humanitarian needs.  The United States urges the international community to contribute more robustly to UN humanitarian appeals and to non-governmental organizations responding to these crises, and work together to coordinate assistance.  

 

·         Providing Refuge to the Most Vulnerable:  Since its founding, the United States has offered freedom and opportunity to refugees fleeing the world’s most dangerous and desperate situations.  The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program reflects the core values of the United States and our strong tradition of providing a safe haven for the oppressed.  In response to the historic levels of refugee displacement around the world, the United States intends to increase the number of refugees the nation resettles annually, up from the 70,000 level of recent years.  In Fiscal Year 2016, the United States aims to admit at least 85,000 refugees, including at least 10,000 Syrian refugees.  In Fiscal Year 2017, the United States projects further expanding the program to a minimum of 100,000 refugees.  In order to broaden access to the program, the United States will also expand the number of processing locations to include Erbil, Iraq, and work to add other locations with high numbers of refugees and other displaced persons.   

 

·         Helping Support Syrians:  The United States is committed to providing humanitarian relief to those in crisis, including Syrians displaced within their own country, and those sheltering in neighboring countries.  As the single largest donor to address the Syrian crisis, we are committed to continuing to provide relief to Syrians, and on September 21 announced an additional $419 million in humanitarian assistance.  Since the beginning of the crisis, the United States has provided over $4.5 billion in humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict.  This assistance provides healthcare, food, water, and basic necessities to people suffering in all 14 Governorates of Syria and with nearly $2.3 billion directly supporting Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.

 

·         Protecting Minorities in the Middle East:  In Iraq and Syria, where ISIL has brutally targeted minority groups in particular, including religious minorities, the United States is leading a global coalition that seeks to degrade, defeat, and ultimately destroy ISIL.  Beyond the military campaign, we are working to enable minorities and other displaced individuals to return to their homes in areas reclaimed from ISIL.  On September 15, the Department of Defense approved up to $75 million for relief supplies to help address immediate lifesaving needs for displaced Iraqis, including minorities.  The Administration has appointed a Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South and Central Asia, who will help ensure that the urgent needs of these communities are taken into consideration in our military and humanitarian planning, and our multi-pronged efforts to assist in the return of these communities to their ancestral homes are implemented as expeditiously and efficiently as possible.  The United States is advocating for international stabilization assistance to address the specific needs of minority-populated areas reclaimed from ISIL.  We are working to create greater security for minority communities as part of our overall security assistance to the Government of Iraq, and will support the integration of these communities’ self-defense units into the formal national security architecture in cooperation with Iraqi and Kurdish authorities.  The United States is also designating a Special Coordinator for Iraq’s Minorities, based at U.S. Embassy Baghdad, providing a high-level U.S. advocate for minority communities to support the inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups in formal security structures, post-ISIL reconstruction, and reconciliation programs.  The United States, alongside over 50 countries and numerous NGOs, participated in the September 8 Paris Conference on Victims of Religious and Ethnic Violence in the Middle East, which recognized a pressing necessity to protect and preserve those communities and cultures threatened in Iraq and Syria.

 

·         Conference on Religious Minorities in the Middle East and South and Central Asia:  The protection of religious minorities is not solely the province of governments.  Civil society, including faith-based groups, has an important role to play as well.  With this in mind, the Department of State will hold a conference on the Protection of Religious Minorities in the Middle East and South and Central Asia this winter.  The conference will bring together civil society and religious leaders with senior government officials to focus on mobilizing additional resources and developing practical steps to protect vulnerable religious communities, both those in areas currently convulsed by war, and those who remain vulnerable in countries still at peace.  No society can truly succeed unless it guarantees the rights of all its peoples, including religious minorities.

 

·         Promoting International Religious Freedom:  Promoting and protecting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.  In recognition of the increasingly important role that religion is playing in international affairs, and of the core importance of freedom of religion and conscience as a universal human right, the State Department is expanding training for its diplomats on how to monitor and advocate for religious freedom through both regional and Washington-based training opportunities.  Concurrent with the visit of Pope Francis to the White House, the first in a series of regional conferences on religious freedom for diplomatic personnel is taking place in Bangkok, Thailand, and additional conferences will be scheduled for other regions over the next couple of years.  The State Department is also working to expand content on protecting and promoting religious freedom around the world in training for mid and senior level career diplomats.  The United States will continue to stand for the universal right of all people to practice their faiths in peace and in freedom. 

 

·         Cooperation with Cuba on Haiti Health Care:  Pope Francis was instrumental in encouraging talks that led to the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement, and we will continue to seek his support as we proceed with the bilateral relationship.  As President Obama said, “The Pope’s moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is.”  The United States and Cuba share common interests, among them the health and welfare of the people of Haiti.  U.S. and Cuban medical professionals collaborated during the USNS Comfort’s stop in Haiti, including working together at a Catholic hospital.  As with our previous cooperation on Ebola, this provided a unique opportunity to engage with Cuban medical professionals and to discuss opportunities for future cooperation.  This cooperation demonstrates how our continued normalization of relations with Cuba can help us advance our interests in the Americas.

 

·         Helping At-Risk Youth in Central America:  Pursuant to a competitive awards process, the Department of Labor is making a $13 million grant to Catholic Relief Services for a project in El Salvador and Honduras providing critical skills to youth at risk of joining gangs so that they can instead join the workforce.  The four-year program, called Youth Pathways – Central America, will provide training and employment services to approximately 5,100 low-income individuals ages 14 to 20 who reside in communities with high rates of violence.  In addition, nearly 2,000 of the youths’ family members will benefit from training and holistic support services.  This award is at the heart of President Obama’s $1 billion request for the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America.  This strategy will aim to address the root causes of migration in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala and focus on three major pillars:  prosperity, governance, and security.

 

Promoting Sustainable Development

 

This year marks a pivotal moment for global development.  Global leaders will be gathering for three key negotiations – on development finance, a new development agenda, and climate change – which present the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to investing in a better future for the world’s children, and to ensure that all people are free from want and are able to live with dignity.  

 

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):  World leaders will gather in New York this week to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals – which sets out a vision and shared commitment by 193 countries to pursue a common path to reducing poverty and increasing opportunity over the next 15 years.  This Agenda represents an ambitious forward-looking vision to eradicate extreme poverty, expand peace and good governance, combat inequality and discrimination, and raise the living standards of the most vulnerable.  It enshrines our moral responsibility to ensure that all people have access to economic opportunity, the tools they need to change their lives, and the dignity that is possible when people can imagine and realize a productive and safe future.  The pursuit of these goals could dramatically reduce poverty, and reflects a commitment to live up to the ideals and aspirations of all of our people and is grounded in a commitment to local ownership and shared responsibility. 

 

Ending Extreme Poverty:  If we marshal our political will, we have the tools, knowledge, and technologies necessary to end extreme poverty within two decades.  There is progress upon which to build; aggregate poverty rates are now falling for every region of the world, and there are 700 million fewer people living in extreme poverty today than in 1990.  Nonetheless, the challenge is still enormous, with 1.2 billion people still living in extreme poverty.  But if the international community accelerates progress and achieves critical turnarounds in some of the most challenging environments, we believe that we can reduce that number by one billion by 2030.  The development policy of and major development initiatives led by the United States are built on the premise that fighting extreme poverty and fostering sustained and inclusive growth, equal access to opportunity, and open and fair governance are one and the same mission.  To further sharpen that mission, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) released this week its new Vision for Ending Extreme Poverty that sets forth our definition of extreme poverty; our understanding of what has driven progress; an analysis of pertinent trends and challenges; and a strategic framework for USAID’s ongoing commitment to this mission.  Its release takes place at an important historical juncture, when we enjoy a growing bipartisan consensus in the United States on the importance of development, the support and engagement of the American people in support of development, and leadership from civil society, our NGO sector, the faith community, foundations, and the private sector.  On September 22, USAID hosted an event with religious leaders and other stakeholders, entitled, Faith Works:  Partnering to Advance Peace, Prosperity, and Development Around the World.  At the event, senior administration officials and religious and civil society leaders discussed their vision for ending extreme poverty, the importance of the papal visit to this goal, and the role that faith-based, development and humanitarian relief organizations play in advancing peace and prosperity around the world. 

 

Protecting our common home

 

In Pope Francis’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si, he calls for action at every level to protect our common home:  globally through treaties and cooperation among governments; nationally through incentives, legislation, and regulation; and at the local and community levels.  As Pope Francis says, “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change… I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.  We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”  Later he states, “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications:  environmental, social, economic, political, and for the distribution of goods.  It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

 

President Obama is committed to meeting this challenge by finding viable and just solutions to address the erosion of our planet’s ecology, in particular climate change, in ways that also protect poor and vulnerable populations.  The President believes we have a moral obligation to leave future generations a planet that is not polluted or damaged and recently said, “On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late.  That moment is almost upon us… That’s what we have to convey to our people — tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.”  During President Obama’s first year in office, he made a pledge that by 2020, America would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels if all other major economies agreed to limit their emissions as well.  To reinforce this commitment, in June 2013, the President launched the Climate Action Plan, which consists of three pillars: cutting carbon pollution in America, preparing the United States for the impacts of climate change, and leading international efforts to combat global climate change and mitigate its effects.  The President will continue to take steps to put the plan into effect, including by implementing America’s Clean Power Plan, which establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants, the single biggest source of carbon emissions in the United States; increasing access to clean energy for all Americans; achieving an economy-wide target to reduce emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels in 2025; and by working with leaders throughout the world to reach a durable and ambitious agreement at this year’s climate conference in Paris.  In addition, the Administration will pursue a host of other domestic and international efforts to tackle climate change.

 

As we take steps to address climate change through federal action, the Administration is also working with the growing number of non-governmental leaders and organizations that are promoting climate resiliency at home and abroad.  Today, the Administration highlights a few of those collaborative efforts:

 

Promoting Climate Resiliency Around the World:  Today, the Administration is announcing that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) will join the Climate Services for Resilient Development (CSRD) initiative as a contributing partner.  The CSRD is an international public-private partnership that USAID launched this summer with seven other founding partners:  the American Red Cross, Asian Development Bank, Esri, Google, Inter-American Development Bank, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, and the U.K. Government.  The vision of the partnership is to identify the most effective means to create and provide, for the public good, climate data that is timely and useful, as well as information tools and services that are driven by needs and demands identified by end-users.  This partnership relies upon the strengths and resources of public, private, philanthropic, and non-governmental organizations, multilateral institutions, and academic communities.  CRS will capitalize on its extensive partner base, which includes other religious and non-religious organizations and direct links to farmers and extension services, to realize demand-driven climate services that meet adaptation needs and help to bridge gaps between technical climate information and local development challenges.  In addition, CRS will leverage their existing climate resources and programs to scale tools and information in support of CSRD’s work.  CRS’s multi-stakeholder approach – which unites research, public, private, and non-governmental sectors – will facilitate shared learning and the diversity of perspectives necessary for success in the provision of climate services.

 

Advancing Climate Justice and Preparedness at Home:  An array of federal agencies are taking new steps in partnership with non-governmental organizations, including diverse faith-based and community groups, to promote environmental justice and climate resilience at home.  The Climate Action Champions Interagency Working Group (IWG) is developing a webinar and other tools to share information with faith-based and community organizations, particularly in the local and tribal communities that were selected through a competitive process in recognition of their strong commitment to cut carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts of a changing climate.  Faith-based and community organizations, including Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), a national network serving low income and vulnerable people, plan to work through local affiliates in these communities to use the IWG’s tools to convene conversations about ways to support the goals of the initiative.  Also, over the next year, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJIWG) will collaborate with CCUSA and other non-governmental organizations to increase awareness of the impacts of climate change in overburdened and underserved communities, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will work with faith-based and community organizations to make disaster preparedness information more accessible to vulnerable populations and to increase all-hazards preparedness planning for houses of worship

 

ENERGY STAR at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working with more than 1,500 diverse congregations, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist congregations, and with nonprofits and community groups, to save money and prevent pollution through increased energy and water efficiency.  These organizations have committed to protect the environment and enhance their financial health through continuous improvement of energy performance in their respective facilities, and to educate their staff and community to aid in preserving the environment for future generations.  EPA has provided dedicated webinars and focused technical support for a wide array of organizations, including GreenFaith, Interfaith Power and Light, Christian Reform Congregations, Seventh Day Adventists, Blessed Tomorrow, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Archdiocese of Chicago.  EPA has also worked with the Evangelical Environmental Network and other religious bodies to develop its ENERGY STAR Action Workbook for Congregations.  In addition, EPA has collaborated with nonprofit and community groups including Esperanza Capacity Institute, Green for All, ecoAmerica, and the Chicago Salvation Army.  EPA’s ENERGY STAR also assisted in planning a 2015 White House Champions of Change event that focused on climate change, where leaders from the Islamic, Evangelical, Hindu, Catholic, Jewish, and Baptist traditions were among those recognized for greening their communities and educating others on the moral and social justice implications of climate change.  During the past year, ENERGY STAR helped develop the EPA’s new “Food Stewardship Challenge” to help congregations and communities “feed people, not landfills.”  This initiative is important for the environment because as wasted food decomposes, it converts to methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

 

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) will expand Resilience AmeriCorps in collaboration with Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), an existing AmeriCorps VISTA sponsor.  The Rockefeller Foundation will provide continued training and technical support, with the expansion also leveraging the expertise of other Federal partners, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the EPA.  The Resilience AmeriCorps program recruits, trains, and embeds AmeriCorps VISTA members in communities across the country, where the effects of climate change are often most acutely felt, to help communities develop preparedness plans and assist local leaders as they plan for and address the impacts of extreme weather events.  CNCS, the federal agency which administers AmeriCorps, in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation, Cities of Service, NOAA, EPA, and DOE launched Resilience AmeriCorps in July.  On August 20, CNCS and its partners announced the selection of ten pilot locations for the first cohort of Resilience AmeriCorps.  Through the expansion announced today, AmeriCorps VISTA members will be placed in five to seven additional locations to help communities with significant immigrant and refugee populations become more resilient.  These AmeriCorps VISTA members will develop plans to meet the needs of immigrant communities during disasters, including improving language access to necessary services and reducing other barriers to support. 

 

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The Scholarship Blues

I earned a place for Doctoral studies at some of the most prestigious and competitive universities in the world, but it all goes to waste if I can’t fund my studies. I deferred my place last year because I couldn’t get the funds together or at all for that matter. I figured, I’d take a year and hopefully things will come together.

But no one wants to give me PhD funding because my grades weren’t the best in undergrad  due to my undiagnosed learning disabilities  which influenced my grades in areas like math and science which I had to take for my journalism degree. Math, science and classes like Amish culture were completely irrelevant to my degree, but prerequisites are prerequisites. I’m told that in order to get funding my grades need to be the best of the best, but this doesn’t take into account my mitigating circumstances. Surely had I had the financial opportunity to get diagnosed earlier, I would have gotten the opportunity to learn ways to study and learn what worked for me. But alas, I didn’t have those opportunities and there go my funding chances.

Another reason no one wants to fund me is because my academic papers are not published in peer reviewed journals or academic journals, but every time I try and publish, I get told “we only accept published academics,” or I get told that I need to pay in order to get published. So let me get this right: I need money to publish so I can be a recognized academic so I can get PhD funding, but I can’t publish until I’ve been published and have the money? Maybe things work differently when you are already an established academic, but realistically speaking, how am I supposed to get started out? I was a journalist, but when applying for PhD funding, no one seems to care about journalism publications. Or at least this is what the rejection emails tell me.

Next step was to contact charities with grant applications. A list of charities was provided by my prior university, so I used that as a starting point. These are charities that are known to give student grants. And the response there has been dismal. Charities have been rude, mean, have told me to stop soliciting them, told me I’m not Palestinian enough or Arab enough. They’ve told me I don’t meet residency requirements, I don’t display financial hardship, I can’t provide up-to-date information about my disabilities, my grades aren’t good enough, I’m not involved enough or not Muslim enough. I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m too this, I’m too that. I’m not enough of this and not enough of that. One person even told me that it was “illegal” for them to give grants, when I know other students who have for a fact received grants from them. One person even replied saying “We don’t have any money. You probably have more money than our charity does.” Really, Really?! You want to go there. Okay, let’s go there. If you have consistent working plumbing, you have consistent heating in your house, don’t have to choose between  paying your bills or buying food to eat, then trust me– you are way ahead of me.

Or what about the charity that tried to change my entire PhD topic of study, deeming my topic irrelevant and uninteresting. Firstly, I never asked for your advice on my topic of study, I asked for your sponsorship. Secondly, I have advising teams at each university that differ with you. Not only is my topic ever the  more relevant, as it makes headline news regularly, but the top academics in my field believe it to be interesting, important and relevant. Thirdly, you may not know how academia works. For example: I can’t enroll in a music doctoral degree, get there and ask my advising team to support me in studying cryptozoology. Fourthly, you changed my ENTIRE topic. Meaning I would have to reapply all over again with a different proposal. And lastly, by changing every little thing about my topic, you made it your project and no longer mine.

Keep in mind that I am not harassing these people, charities, organizations, entities, etc. I send one email: A grant proposal. A university approved grant proposal.  I don’t call, follow up, knock on their doors. I’m completely calm. And I’m not about to waste my life or time arguing with these ignoramuses.

Next, crowdfunding. Even though I have had limited success with crowdfunding. (By the way, I’m VERY grateful for the money I was able to raise. VERY!) Getting £1000 was not easy and almost impossible. I don’t know many people. The people that I do know don’t have money to spare. I’d even get emails in response to my crowdfunding that told me to give up, it was a waste of time, it’s never going to happen, that I need to not bother people, etc. I put myself out there. I tried. I got burned.

Tried the online scholarship search engines. I spend my life on those search engines. I qualify for nothing. Somehow, I don’t qualify for anything.

Even the Said scholarship set up for Palestinians won’t fund me unless I go to Oxford or Cambridge and even though there’s an academic at Cambridge who said he would take me on, I applied there twice and couldn’t get through the first round because my undergrad grades from 10 years ago in math and science were rubbish. I got rejected by Oxford three times for the same reason. (If you’re really polite, nice, desperate and willing to make contacts, lecturers/professor/staff will secretly tell you why you didn’t get in. Doesn’t work everytime, but you get lucky every so often.)

Bottom line-  no one cares that I have learning difficulties. No one cares that the American education system is different than the British, European and Australian systems. No one cares that my overall undergrad GPA was a 3.12, but my GPA for my major and minor was a 3.67. No one care that my first MA was on a pass/fail basis. No one care that during my 2nd MA I became registered disabled due to some serious problems in my back that can’t be fixed, but only coped with.

No one cares that I went to the 4th most overpopulated high school in my state, or that my high school teachers told me I wouldn’t succeed to my face or that 9/11 happened during my sophomore year or that the devastation of 9/11 turned our sophomore curriculum upside down or that some of my classes didn’t have classrooms, books, set curriculums or that so many times our teachers gave up, walked out of class and stopped teaching, or that there were 50 students in my classroom or that my high school suffered from riots, bomb threats and at least one major fight a day or that I got bullied mercilessly or that all of these problems affected my learning experience.

When I got to my first year of undergrad I had no confidence, I thought I was dumb, I didn’t know how to study, I had never had to sit through a class longer than 40 minutes, I never had to write an assignment longer than two pages, I never had to use citations, I had never done a research paper, I never had to memorize information, I didn’t know I could get tested for learning disabilities, I didn’t know so many things. I spent most of the first two years of undergrad crying because undergrad hit me like a brick. High school in no way prepared me for undergrad and in comparison to the students in my class that had better academic upbringings, I could tell I was behind.  No one cares that I can play a mean game of catch up. But catch up can’t change the past.

I worked my nerves to its ends and got into an Ivy League MA program, where again, I felt I had to play catch up because I was no longer studying journalism and entered into the wonderful world of Liberal Studies. I competed against students who had formal training in studying gender, culture and globalization. It was all new to me. I struggled, a lot. But I’m proud of what I accomplished there. And again I had to play catch up for my second MA as I competed against students who had their first degree is Middle Eastern Studies. Middle Eastern studies was  a topic I read about in my spare time. I never studied it intensely or formally, I dabbled, but everyone else was way ahead of the game. I worked day and night, in spite of my medical difficulties and hardship to reach a level in which I finally felt my peers were finally my intellectual peers. I stumbled, A LOT, but no one gets points for most improved on their transcript. If only their were a module in which there were marks for effort, motivation, time spent, passion, determination and promise. If only I could get graded against myself as opposed to against my classmates. Or get a mark for moving my life across the planet by myself to another country, to a completely different educationally structured system and succeeding.

My motivation and ambition doesn’t count for anything on paper because there will always be someone with a perfect GPA or academic standing that gets ahead of me. These things will never show up on a transcript. And if there is anything I’ve learned it’s that transcripts are more important than letters of purpose.

I can’t provide up-to-date information on my disabilities because I haven’t seen a doctor since being back in America. I signed up for that whole Obamacare business and my application for health insurance keeps getting bounced around from office to office and no one seems to know when I will finally have health insurance or if I ever will. Whenever I ask what I should do if I’m sick, they say go to this and this doctor, but you’ll have to play out of pocket. Yup, can’t do that. I have no money. No income.

That no income part, my loan servicers don’t seem to believe that. Seeing as they are federal loans, you’d think they can check and see if I am employed or not via paying taxes, but maybe that’s asking too much.  I have to pay back $130,000 in student loans starting in March because that is when my deferment period ends. I applied for unemployment deferment, got rejected and told to apply for income based repayment. Yeah, that’s going to be tough to do because there is no income to speak of.

Not because I don’t want an income. I  have been applying for every type of job under the sun since May 2014. Even physical labor jobs which I know will only cause my disability to worsen. And guess what? I still can’t get a job. Signed up with recruitment and temp agencies, LinkedIn profile, Craigslist, Indeed, Simplyhired, Idealist– I get maybe 20 emails a day from different websites listing all these job opportunities. I apply and apply and apply and nothing. When I finally do get the chance at an interview, I set it up, date and time. I’m dressed and ready and pumped and every time they cancel on me with no prior notice.

Even though I have no job and I’m living off of my maxed out credit cards, I still somehow don’t qualify for food stamps, unemployment benefits or any other kinds of benefits. How did I manage that? How? Beats me!

Despite it all, I’m not bitter. I’m not angry. I’m upset, sure. I don’t expect a handout or pity. I’m not going to sit here and toot my own horn about how I’m an amazing human being or list all my good karma points. I’m far from perfect and I’m not entitled to anything in this world. But I want a fair fighting chance. I want more than what’s on paper to count. I want to live and not simply get by, but to really live.

I still remain optimistic that things will work out. I won’t stop trying and neither should you.

Opportunity: Look out, I’m coming for you!