BACKGROUND BRIEFING: U.S. Official On Syria

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 BACKGROUND BRIEFING

May 9, 2016

U.S. Official On Syria

May 9, 2016

Via Teleconference

MODERATOR:  Good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining us on such short notice.  We don’t have a lot of time today, so I’m going to get straight to the point.  Today we will have a background briefing and an update on Syria by [U.S. Official].  He is also engaged on the ceasefire task force and various aspects of the cessation of hostilities.  From here on out he will be known as a U.S. official.  That’s a U.S. official.  I want to reiterate that this call is on background.

With that, I’ll turn it over to our U.S. official.

U.S. OFFICIAL:  Hi, everyone.  Nice talking to you.  You have the statement in front of you so I’m not going to speak for long, but I would just highlight some main points.  First is that the statement with Russia affirms our shared understanding of efforts to revitalize the nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria, and that’s opposed to reverting to local ceasefires.  It also explains our commitment to making particularly intensive efforts in specific hot spot areas of Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta, and Latakia.  It has a clear demand which Russia joins on parties to cease any indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including civilian infrastructure and medical facilities.  It has a commitment for undertaking a joint assessment where such incidents are reported to have occurred with casualties, as well as to share that with the members of the task force and through the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura to the UN Security Council. 

There’s also a commitment by Russia to work with the Syrian authorities to minimize aviation operations over areas that are predominantly inhabited by civilians or parties to the cessation.  There’s also a clear call on the parties for ensuring continuous delivery of humanitarian access including to besieged areas that haven’t been reached yet, and those are specifically named, and for unconditional delivery without obstruction of medical personnel and equipment, having access to those areas as well.

So those are some highlights, but I’ll stop there.  I’m happy to take questions.

OPERATOR:  Thank you very much.  And ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to queue up for a question you may press * followed by 1.  You will hear a tone indicating that you have been placed in queue, and you may remove yourself from the queue at any time by pressing the # key.  If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the number.  So again, for your questions you may place yourselves in queue by pressing * followed by 1, and please allow just a few moments as questioners do queue up.

All right, I’ll take our first question in queue from Felicia Schwartz with The Wall Street Journal.  Please, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks for doing this.  On the part about Nusrah and seeking an understanding about where they are, is that different than – is this a fresh or different effort than what you’ve been trying to do in the past?

And then the second question is the Aleppo ceasefire is going to expire at 5:00 today Eastern Time, so is there a reason that there wasn’t a fresh commitment from U.S. and Russia to extend that ceasefire today?  Thanks.

U.S. OFFICIAL:  Sure, thanks.  On the Nusrah piece there’s an emphasis on it because both Nusrah and ISIL are, of course, excluded from the cessation of hostilities, but Nusrah is present in areas where they are proximate to civilians or and/or parties to the cessation.  And over the last several weeks of the cessation the presence of Nusrah has been a complicating factor, and so we’re making a fresh commitment to look at that in relation to the cessation of hostilities and try to come to a clearer shared understanding of where they’re operating and what threat they pose to the cessation.

On Aleppo on the ideas that the particular special measures that we had in place for these specific areas or hot spots is making sure that it’s understood they’re folded in within a commitment to a renewal of the cessation nationwide.  So the intention is for that very much to be extended.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  The next question will come from Bill Faries with Bloomberg News.  Please, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks again for having this. Could you – can you give us – can you say anything more about – you said the intention is very much for this ceasefire to be extended in and around Aleppo.  Is there going to be another time period set on that or – and what has the status been, I guess, over the last 12 to 24 hours?  Thank you.

U.S. OFFICIAL:  There has been a reduction in violence in various parts of Aleppo.  We’ve seen a decrease, although there are pockets where that has not been the case.  There has been fighting in the southwest, for example, fairly intensive, although that fighting is involving Nusrah and other groups that are not party to the cessation.  So fighting there shouldn’t be seen as indicative of the cessation not being in effect or being extended in Aleppo.  We are fully committed to its extension in Aleppo.  Each side has communicated with commanders, saying that the other side is called upon to honor the cessation and that they should reciprocate. 

So the cessation of hostilities is in effect in Aleppo, but there are periods – pockets where there has been fighting, certainly in the last 12 to 24 hours.  One would like to see a decrease there, but in the areas I just mentioned where Nusrah is operating we may not see that right away.

OPERATOR:  All right, thank you.  The next question will come from Curt Mills with U.S. News & World Report.  Please, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you, thank you.  So is it the U.S.’s current contention that there is currently a ceasefire in Aleppo, just to be clear?

U.S. OFFICIAL:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Thank you very much.  And next in queue is Rosiland Jordan with Al Jazeera English.  Please, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks for the call.  I want to go to the section of the statement that deals with the COH item number three:  “The Russians will work with the Syrians to minimize aviation operations over areas that are currently inhabited by civilians.”  Does this mean that Russia has committed, one, to compelling the Assad government to stop airstrikes over areas such as large parts of Aleppo, and does that mean that the Russians themselves will not be carrying out airstrikes, as has been alleged by some in the opposition?  Thanks.

U.S. OFFICIAL:  So the language in that paragraph is “to work with the Syrian authorities to minimize aviation operations over areas that are predominantly inhabited by civilians or parties,” so I think the words are carefully chosen.  What we would like to see as a result of that work is a real reduction in Syrian authorities’ or Syrian air force overflights of those areas.  Even if they’re not dropping ordnance, just the mere hovering of a helicopter overhead has had a particularly worrying effect for understandable reasons for civilians who have witnessed that over the last years of the conflict.  So the commitment, however, is quite specifically related to the Syrian authorities. 

As for Russia, they are a party to the cessation with respect to not striking parties to the cessation, and in the actual terms of the agreement it makes clear that neither Russian nor Syrian air forces should be striking either civilians targets or parties to the cessation.

OPERATOR:  Thank you very much.  The next question will come from Margaret Warner with PBS NewsHour.  Please, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks for doing this.  This is actually a follow-up to the question just asked.  Obviously, the Russian Federation had made some commitments to you all to try to restrain the Syrian authorities from bombing, and the same for themselves.  And so what is new about this?  Are the Russians now more committed?  Is this just kind of a shell game on their part?  I mean, what makes you think this will work any better than before?

U.S. OFFICIAL:  Well, I think that what it is a – the commitment, as you say, has been there in effect since the cessation went into effect on the 27th of February as far as not striking parties to the cessation or civilians.  I think we’ve raised serious concerns about the strains and the very real strains the cessation underwent and violations that we’ve seen in recent weeks, and so we believe that it was quite important to renew the commitment with a particularly intensive focus on areas or hot spots where we’ve seen more violence, Aleppo being among them. 

Now, there is no prohibition on overflight or general air operations, so an undertaking on their part to work with minimizing air operations over these areas is an additional measure that, if implemented, would strengthen the COH.  They are not restricted from striking Nusrah, but minimizing air operations even where Nusrah is present, if in an area that’s predominantly inhabited by civilians or the parties to the cessation would help with implementation of the cessation more generally.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  And next is Nike Chang with Voice of America.  Please, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Hi.  It’s Pam Dockins, actually, with Voice of America.  But a question about section four of the joint U.S.-Russian statement.  Down in the bottom of that paragraph it says the U.S. is committed to intensifying its support and assistance to regional allies.  Can you elaborate on that and indicate whether or not that indicates some type of new commitment or any additional material support to allies, and if so, what is that?

And then secondly, concerning the localized ceasefires such as the one in Aleppo and Latakia:  Is there concern that at some point it’s going to get overwhelming or too difficult to continue to try to maintain these 48, 72-hour ceasefires?  The overall goal, of course, is the nationwide ceasefire, but as you look at these localized attempts, at what point does it become too cumbersome to try to keep up this pace?

U.S. OFFICIAL:  So I’ll take the last question first.  The use of these 24, 48-hour periods in places like Latakia, Eastern Ghouta, and Aleppo were because the exchanges of fire on both sides had become quite intense, particularly in Latakia and Aleppo.  And so it was a means by which to get local commanders to be assured of the other side’s readiness to renew the implementation of the cessation.  In Latakia I think we’ve seen the violence come down quite significantly through the result of those efforts, and therefore folding it into the normal order with the nationwide cessation makes eminent sense, and that’s what we’re doing with the other two areas as well.  Aleppo, there is still work to be done to bring the violence down in pockets of the city, so – in pockets of the – in the environment, and so that’s what we’re working on now.

As concerns your first question, we’re not right now announcing or indicating any fresh or additional specific measures, just a willingness at this stage to intensify efforts in that direction as needed.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Next question will come from Michele Kelemen with NPR.  Please go ahead.

QUESTION:  All right, thanks.  I’m wondering about this question of Nusrah in the Aleppo area.  Can you explain how the U.S.-Russian task force works?  Are they actually looking at maps and deciding which group holds which block?

And then, secondly, do you have a shared understanding with the Russians as to the consequences for violations of the ceasefire?

U.S. OFFICIAL:  Yeah, so – I mean, we have had multiple conversations in various fora, both in Geneva and in the region and between our capitals, because we have multiple channels of communication to exchange information on our views on where Nusrah and the parties are located.  The challenge is, of course, where Nusrah and parties to the cessation may be located quite closely together.  And there our view is that while Nusrah is excluded from the cessation and therefore it is permissible to take action against them, you nonetheless are also required under the terms of the COH to ensure any action you take does not harm civilians or parties to the cessation, and that’s where we believe additional work is needed to reach a shared understanding on how you honor that fully.  And in some cases it’s not simply a matter of having a general understanding, but you have to get more granular, and so we’re making a commitment to try to deepen our understanding of that challenge.  And it’s different in different specific locations of the country, so there isn’t a – one approach that applies equally to all, because it depends on the disposition of forces on the ground in specific areas and also the extent to which areas are more densely populated versus more remote.

OPERATOR:  Thank you very much.  And we do have time for one final question.  That will come from Lesley Wroughton with Reuters.  Please go ahead.

QUESTION:  Yeah, hi.  It’s got to do with the political process.  How realistic is it that you can actually, as you say, redouble efforts to reach a political settlement when these sides are still in battle?  And if you think that you – do you think that you can realistically actually get the parties together this month, as suggested last week?

U.S. OFFICIAL:  So our view is that the renewal of the cessation of hostilities coupled with humanitarian access – indeed being allowed in the besieged and hard-to-reach areas and for the assistance to be continuous – these things create a much better – a far more conducive environment towards the parties being able to tackle very difficult political issues. 

The statement points to the mediator’s summary that was issued following the last round of talks between the 13th and the 27th of April, which in its annex listed many different issues that the parties need to tackle for the political transition to be viable.  And it’s important to note in there that among the things it covers are how is power to be exercised in practice by the transitional governance, including in relation to the presidency, executive powers, control over the government’s own security institutions. 

And so by making clear that these things are very much the subject of discussion, it certainly clarifies for those who were wondering, well, is this a real discussion on political transition, to make clear that the co-chairs’ shared understanding as these things are front and center on the table for discussion.  So to the extent that there was any lack of clarity among some of the parties as to what are the items that are meant to be discussed, having a list of issues spelled out as to what will inform the agenda for the talks going forward can help.  But they’re very, very difficult issues, to be certain.  So the issues are difficult, and equally the cessation – it’s going to face – when it went into effect, we knew that it would face setbacks and that it would take strenuous efforts to get it back on track.  The same remains today.  But the commitment that we have from both co-chairs is to work through those challenges – indeed, to try to get it back on track.

OPERATOR:  Thank you very much.  At this time we’ll turn the conference back over to our presenters for any closing comments.

MODERATOR:  I just want to thank our U.S. official for taking time out today, and thank you all for calling in.  This will conclude today’s call.

Symposium Report 2011- Immigration

For the first time ever, more people live in cities than in rural areas and people are living a truly urban life. The European Union is the closest experiment to open borders and works because the levels of disparities amongst the EU nations are not as wide as the disparities between Europe and North Africa.

Although exact figures are often thought to be unbelievable, it is estimated that there are approximately 214 million international migrants in the world today- this estimation does not include internal migrations. It should be noted that migrant numbers are not included in this statistic. Instead, migration scholars, such as Khalid Koser prefer to say that 3 percent of the total global population are international migrants, which is believed to be a more accurate statement. One in 35 people is an international migrant, constituting the population of the fourth biggest nation in the world, Indonesia. This may seem like an intimidating thought to think that an entire nation of migrants exists, but Koser asks the question, “Why is the forces of migration is so strong do the other 97 percent of the Earth’s population not migrant?”

Statistics can often be misinterpreted due to the differing definitions of migration terminology. The above stated numbers do not take into consideration the estimated 740 million internal migrants, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre.

Despite the current economic crisis, migration has not slowed down significantly. In fact, during the financial crisis unemployment amongst migrants was not as large as to be thought because average citizens were thought to rather accept welfare check than take jobs they thought were beneath them. However, the quality of the life of migrants decreased.  Also during the global financial crisis, flows of irregular migrations decreased, but stocks of migrants increased for fear that after unemployment if they left they would not be able to come back.

Almost 50 percent of migrations now are woman migrants; this used to be due to reasons of marriage, whereas now women are seen as the breadwinners. The feminization of migration is due to many countries’ liberalization where women have a more important role in society, the need for services stereotypically taken on by women such as cooking and cleaning, as well as prostitution and human trafficking.

Migrants are often placed into the categories of legal or illegal, by those who use migration as a political tool, especially for re-election, whereas humanitarian organizations refer to migrants as documented and undocumented or irregular migrants. The term irregular migrants can be used in circumstances where irregular circumstances occur that cause the migrants to leave their documentation behind. Refugees are not included in the estimation of migrants. Contrary to popular thought most migrants come in legally and then become considered ‘illegal’ because they have overstayed their visas.

The term ‘voluntary migration’ has been highly contested. If a family’s home has been destroyed by a natural disaster, they are considered a forced migrant, but if a member of a family leaves the country to find work in another country because their country of origin is lacking openings, are they then considered to be ‘voluntary migrants.’ There is no simple solution to this question, typically governments see these individuals are voluntary migrants, whereas humanitarian organizations are more liberal in interpreting the events that led to migration.

Remittances are the money made by the international migrants that is sent back to the migrants’ families. The top three nations to receive remittances are India, China and Mexico and 50 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP is dependent on remittances. The 2010 flow of remittances is estimated to be about $316 billion. Although some governments may state that the amount of remittances leaving the country in which the money was made, hinders the economy, only 10 percent of remittances are sent back to the migrants’ country of origin and the other 90 percent is sent in the country the migrants are living in to pay for food, rent and other immediate expenses. The danger of remittances stands in that a cultural dependence of this flow of money is established and migration looks more appealing.

International migration law is not recognized as a sect of international law, although it is an emerging field. The UN convention of 1990 does not refer to admission of migrants, but only the legal status of migrants. One of the principles governing migration is that migration and expulsion of ‘aliens’ is a part of the sovereignty of a country. Domestic jurisdiction is an evolving concept and is thought to be better to use than sovereignty in legal terms. States no longer enjoy absolute discretion and must adhere to certain grounds of rejection of aliens, being: a threat to security, not meeting financial requirements, having a contagious disease, a lack of documentation, a prior violation of immigration laws, war criminal status or having a criminal record.

Many fallacies exist about the state of migrants, such as they are unhealthy and bring disease into the country. According to the IOM, this is false, as the strongest and healthiest individuals are those that migrate for work purposes. In fact not only are most migrants healthy, but migrants often underutilize health services and do not take away from public health services, as thought by some. The World Health Organization has reported that Australia has the most access to health care for migrants, whereas Qatar has the least access to health care. Unfortunately the most cited reason for migrants being rejected from the health care system is the government thinks it is too costly.  Switzerland claims that migrants receive full health equality services in hospitals, but migrants are forced to use a different entrance to the hospital, as it is inappropriate for them to enter through the same entrance as a ‘regular’ citizen of the country. The IOM has launched a campaign to educate both migrants and doctors as to what their rights are, as both parties have been fed different stories by governments and are unaware of what their rights and obligations are.

Governments spend billions of dollars a year on making policies concerning migration laws and then approximately three years  later these laws are scrapped and replaced with new ones. Koser believes these funds would be better spent on policy evaluation. When discussing migration, civil society is excluded from official migration dialogues and the legitimacy of representation when one representative represents a thousand organization flounders as a list of three of four concise priorities are difficult to comprise. Private sector is also not involved in migration dialogue, even though they are often a driving force of migration.

Solutions for the models for global governance of migration should exhibit more formal cooperation between states, engage in more robust and regional global dialogues, consider cooperation between regional consultative processes, as well as institutional reform, which would include the creation of a new agency, designating a lead agency from the existing agencies bringing the IOM into the UN system, considering a leadership or WO model. The obstacles that lie within the global governance of migration is that this may impede on a nation’s sovereignty, cause institutional inertia, increase North vs South relations and exhibit a lack of consensus amongst advocates.

The statistic of refugees does not include asylum seekers, internally displaced peoples or stateless persons. In order to be a refugee, the ‘refugee’ must be recognized by the host nation. There are two different ways to determine refugee status. There is the individual procedure and examination and the collective determination of a population. Legally speaking, ‘asylum seeker’ refers to a person who has not been officially recognized as a refugee and the definition of a refugee is based on the well-founded fear of persecution.

The refugee problem was first addressed in May of 1945 in response to the Holocaust and World War II. Within this timeframe there were 40 million refugees and internally displaced people, 13 million expelled Jews, 11.3 million forced labourers and 100 million refugees beyond the parameters of Europe. UNHCR was created during 1949-1950, to replace the IRO that was founded in 1947, as of January 1951. UNHCR’s effectiveness is punted against its non-political mission, as helping those in need is seen by opposing sides as a political act. However, the UNHCR’s objective is not to ask how or why the refugee situation is caused, but rather how to provide basic services for refugees, such as food and shelter.

After the WWII refugees, the next group of refugees came from Hungary in 1956, where the UNHCR helped resettled 200,000 refugees in thirty countries and repatriated 10 percent of the refugees. The next largest UNHCR operations to date occurred in Bangladesh (1970-1971) and then followed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Afghanistan is the single biggest refugee population in the world, being affected by the invasion of the Soviets, the Taliban rule, the “War on Terror,” as well as other internal conflicts. Interestingly enough, the United States of America is the single biggest donor to the UNHCR. Afghan refugees account for 40 percent of all the refugees in the world, not including Palestinian refugees. Proportionally Somalia has the biggest percentage of refugees and Colombia has the most IDPs, approximately three million. These IDPs receive aid from UNHCR although their legal status is less clear than that of refugees. Another group of people of concern to the UNHCR are settled refugees, who still have access to assistance programs.

The principle of non-refoulement is guaranteed by Article 33 of the Geneva Convention which states that a country cannot force people to go back to nation of persecution if they still feel a sense of persecution.

The right of asylum is not acknowledged as an individual right and falls under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 40: the right to seek and enjoy asylum. This however is not an obligation for a state to provide asylum.

In 1951 the UN convention relating to the status of refugees has contributed to providing durable solutions by the UNHCR to refugee situation including voluntary repatriation to the country of origin, local integration into the country of asylum and resettlement to a third country. However, the UNHCR has been shy about repatriation in the past and usually leaves it up to the IOM to handle repatriation as they are not a U.N. entity.

UNRWA- The United Nations Relief and Work Agency is short for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Special attention should be given to the word ‘Palestine,’ as there were refugees who lived in Palestine but were not of Palestinian descent, including Turks, Armenians and other minority groups. UNRWA is the only U.N. organization set up to face a specific refugee problem for a specific group of people, with more than 30,000 employees. UNRWA has a budget of $700 million, as well as a $250 million emergency fund. The United Nations brought in Gordon Clapp,  the former Director of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the USA to help shape UNRWA. UNRWA is not responsible for finding a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, but rather they are to provide schooling and humanitarian aid to Palestine refugees, the longest standing refugee issue in modern history.

In concern with human security in world politics, the concept of a ‘traditional’ security of ‘national’ security erodes from the traditional concept of safeguarding the population and core values of a nation. The three main reasons why this concept erodes with time is due to a shift from interstate to intrastate wars, a fragmentation of global or common threats and fragile or failed states’ security threats that appear above and below the state level. 

In a survey in South Sudan, citizens were asked if they felt a sense of human security for the months to come. A majority of the surveyed said yes, but their definition of human security was equated with food security. This in mind, an interdisciplinary method is needed for human security. Human security catalysts are often economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security factors. Environmental security is needed in cases where the well-being or survival of the community is being threated due to human activity that threatens the environment or in cases of environmental change or degradation caused by conflict.

Constructivism in a method for studying social phenomena that focuses on the role of ideas in shaping our identities and gives meaning to the world around us. Constructing security interests involves identifying the threats that weapons pose, the enemy and humanitarian intervention, keeping in mind that threats are a part of an ideological issue. Securitization on the other hand is when threats are socially constructed by powerful actors and accepted by a relevant audience and identification of an existential threat that takes an issue beyond the usual rules of policies and calls for urgent extreme or extra-legal measures to respond, for example: The war on terror or the war on drugs.

While new forms of multilateralism to address human security have been established, such as the Human Security Network, regional responses to human security and the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development have strengths such as their crossregional representation abilities, ministerial level initiatives and the taking on of cutting edge issues such as landmines and child soldiers, there are also weaknesses- they are too dependent on individual leadership, lack a consensus on issues of hierarchy and have bad timing and  weak follow through.

The objective of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development is to raise global awareness of the negative impact of armed violence and support the reduction of armed violence. There are about 700,000 deaths annually due to armed violence with 40-50,000 as a result of direct conflict, homicides at 490,000 and 200,000 as a result of indirect conflict deaths. Excess mortality rates are used in these armed violence statistics. There are at least 875 billion weapons held worldwide with more than 2/3 in civilian hands, ¼ with armed forces, few with police and less than 1% with armed groups. New issues on the human security agenda tackle issues such as landmines, cluster munitions, small arms and light weapons, child soldiers, civilian protection and conflict goods.

What is humanitarian action? According to the OECD/DAC in 2007 is to save lives, alleviate suffering, maintain and protect human dignity during and in the aftermath of emergencies and should be consistent with principles of human dignity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. Humanitarian action is so relevant because it is easier to send money in contemporary times, it is foreign policy by default, media attention and it is a way to contain refugee issues.

To be a humanitarian is to have a transnational concern to help persons in exceptional distress while humanitarianisms propound loft goals and hide deep contradictions. Intervention on the other hand is the interference, forcible or supported by force, of one independent state in the internal affairs of the other.

There are for categories in categorizing humanitarianism. The first being the Dunantsists, who are strictly impartial, neutral and independent. Then there are the Wilsonians who are broadly tuned with foreign policy of their home country and have a liberal democratic peace agenda. Thirdly there are Faith Based, such as Islamic relief and fourthly there are the Solidarists who seek justice, human rights or development in addition to the objective of humanitarian assistance. There  is also a difference between development aid and humanitarian aid, as development aid is transformative, long term and utilizes local leadership and humanitarian aid has a conservative agenda, is short term and requires external intervention. There are five different action modes, three of which fall under the guise of protection: denunciation, mobilization and persuasion and the other two being support and substitution.

Actors of humanitarian intervention are those who have political interest and won’t refer to situations, such as Libya, as civil war. If it were to be referred to as a civil wall, humanitarian intervention crisis argument then collapses.

What is terrorism? Terrorism are a universal problem, social phenomenon, a strategy, a tactic, technique, crime, resorted to by the weak against the strong, psychological and physical weapons and are elusive in their goals. Terrorism has a long history starting with the Zealots in the year 60 AD with the Jews in Palestine against the Romans, then the Assassins in 1090-1270 in Persia and then the French Revolution in 1792-1794. However, modern terrorism is born in the 1860s by means of  an organic relationship between terrorism and technology, being triggered especially by World War I. And religious terrorism does not start until the1980s.

The initial terrorist mode is the destruction of the most harmful persons in government and the punishment of official lawlessness., but there are difficulties in defining terrorism because it is a disputed and nebulous concept, the definition must stay away from the avowed reasons of the terrorist, yet take them into account, the direct targets of violence aren’t necessarily the main targets and the problem at the crossroads of ideology. Hence, the US Army, FBI and Department of State do not have a standard, agreed upon definition of terrorism, in fact the United Nations have been meeting for 20-30 years concerning devising a standard definition. Despite the inability to define terrorism there are main agreed upon features of terrorist attacks: they are organized, deliberate and systematic, politically motivated, the usage of force, indiscriminately targeting of civilians, meant to communicate a problem, aimed at a symbol, conducted by state or non-state actors, part of a campaign and to achieve strategic direct or indirect results. 

Transnational Hebrew- Language Limbo

David Crystal’s three stages of endangered languages, while broad is also constraining. The first stage is the imposed language stage in which, for top down or bottom up reasons, a group becomes pressured into using the new dominant language. [1] While in stage two, argued as the best chance for progress and language preservation to be made, an emerging bilingualism takes place. [2] The new language is used efficiently, while the old language is used competently [3]— ideally coexisting and complementing each other without confrontation.[4] The third stage consists of a newer generation identifying with the new language and the emergence of family dialects.[5]

This, however, fails to mention or go into greater detail that in the same way a dominated language can be influenced by a dominant language; a dominated language can influence a dominant language. In the case of Israel, Hebrew and Arabic are both considered their official languages, conversely, Arabic is arguably a victim of “language murder” [6][7] as some employers ban Arabic from being used by their staff,[8] a college has banned the use of Arabic[9] and the use of Arabic in public can lead to accosting by the police or receiving other forms of verbal and physical violence, as well. [10]This being a rather top down occurrence with bottom up qualities,[11] as Palestinian youth in Israel do use Hebrew to “show off”[12], but Modern Israeli Hebrew exhibits more of a bottom up system as certain Arabic phraseology and terms become increasingly adopted into Hebrew. Modern Hebrew is a reflection of various ethnic communities contributing to its formation.

While Arabic is by no means an endangered language, it is used significantly less in official settings. Crystal’s third stage hardly seems relevant to the question of Israel or Modern Israeli Hebrew, as the Palestinian population living in Israel has not exhibited the third stage of Crystal’s model, en masse, but they have undergone the first and second stages. Nevertheless, Palestinians living in Israel have adopted quite a bit of Hebrew phraseology in their day-to-day speech, in the same way Hebrew has adopted Arabic terminology into their language. If the dominated language, Arabic, has filtered through and is being used to an extent by the dominant language, Hebrew, then the dominated language, Arabic, has found a new form of existing.  It cannot be considered language death if even the smallest of phrases is still used, nor would it be considered a living language, but rather a language in limbo.

Modern Israeli Hebrew is not only deeply affected by Arabic, but also by Yiddish, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Amharic, Tagalog, Thai and others, all spoken by significant immigrant populations in Israel. Adapting these languages into Modern Israeli Hebrew does not make Hebrew any less Hebrew, nor does it threaten national unity.[13] Oppositely, the assimilation of all these languages into Hebrew creates a new language, specific to the needs that suit the Israeli-transnational identity, in which one can pick and choose how the Hebrew language reflects the ever-evolving social and political needs of the population.

[1] David Crystal, Language Death, p. 78-79

[2] David Crystal, Language Death, p. 80

[3] David Crystal, Language Death, p. 78-89

[4] David Crystal, Language Death, p. 81

[5] David Crystal, Language Death, p. 78-89

[6] David Crystal, Language Death, p.86

[7] Ali Jabareen, Language Policy and the Status of Arabic in Israel, p. 34, http://www.qsm.ac.il/asdarat/jamiea/9/3–ali%20jabareen.pdf

[8] Conal Urquhart, McDonald’s bans Arabic, The Guardian, 11 March 2004, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/mar/11/israel

[9] Or Kashti, Private Israeli college forbids teachers from speaking Arabic to students, 24 July 2013, http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.537770

[10] Isabel Kershner, Young Israelis Held in Attack on Arabs, The New York Times, 20 August 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/world/middleeast/7-israelis-held-in-attack-on-palestinians-in-jerusalem.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[11] David Crystal, Language Death, p. 78

[12] Ali Jabareen, Language Policy and the Status of Arabic in Israel, p. 32, http://www.qsm.ac.il/asdarat/jamiea/9/3–ali%20jabareen.pdf

[13] David Crystal, Language Death, p. 83

Executive Summary Sample

Executive Summary for the Week of 16/5/2012 – 23/5/2012

Egypt: Elections

All of the Think Tanks summarized below hold very different viewpoints concerning the same issue, the Egyptian elections; although, there are some statements that hold true throughout all of the think tanks. All believe that this is a very important time for Egypt and that the outcome of this election is very detrimental, possibly even predictive of the future of Egypt. The pieces primarily examine parliament and the role of the Islamists in Egypt. The Brookings Institution conducted a poll that is telling of what Egyptians want and see in their future, which shown alongside the Gallup poll can be disconcerting. The Gallup poll shows a more pessimistic view of the current political climate, whereas The Brookings Institution is more optimistic, this however can be attributed to the types of questions asked, as well as the depth of the questions. Both the Center for American Progress and Washington Institute for Near East Policy examined the role America can play in the transition process. The Center for American Progress, being more progressive, took a centrist approach to reinstating ties with the new Egyptian government; it was also the only report to provide more detailed background knowledge about the candidates. In contrast, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, under the guise of fostering stability, took a very American Exceptionalist approach to the elections, assuming the worst and even regretting the inability for the Obama administration to get involved. The second report from WINEP also indicates concern with the ability of Egyptians to monitor the elections for fairness and vote rigging. The Plofchan report from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, although not the first to talk about the Salafis and The Muslim Brotherhood, it was the first to chronicle, however briefly, the beginnings of the split between the two groups, as well as state some of the differences in beliefs amongst the two. Lastly, the Council on Foreign Relations report was the only report to put a face to a people, speaking of the obstacles Egypt may face and providing a more in depth look at what many Egyptians may be feeling.

Think Tank: Brookings Institution

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 21/5/2012

Author: Shibley Telhami

Type: Report

Title: What Do Egyptians Want? Key Findings from the Egyptian Public Opinion Poll

Address: http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2012/05/21-egyptian-election-poll-telhami

The Brookings Institution has conducted a poll surveying the Egyptian public about political preferences, leaders and regional issues, during May 4-10, 2012 in light of the first presidential election. The Brookings Institution places great emphasis on the importance of the inaccuracies of probable predictions, as there is no analytical model of voting behaviour as of yet. Egyptian voters have also shown a difference in criteria by which they judge parliamentary and presidential candidates.

Poll Results:

  • Abul-Fotouh led the polls with 32%, followed by Mousa (28%) then Shafiq (14%), Morsi and Sabahi at (8%).
  • In parliamentary elections, 24% a favoured political party determined their vote, whereas in presidential elections, personal trust is a determining factor for 31%.
  • Christians supported Mousa the most, with 43%, as well as voters outside of cities with 31% of the vote.
  • Abul-Fotouh led among university graduates with 35% and among youth, under age 25, with 36%.
  • 54% believe Turkey to be the model reflection in terms of Islam in politics, followed by Saudi Arabia with 32%
  • A majority of those polled hold very unfavourable views of the U.S., with 68% and 73% support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama.
  • 66% of Egyptians support Sharia as the basis of Egyptian law, but 83% believe Sharia should be adapted to modern times.
  • A majority of Egyptians admired the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, with 63%. When asked to include Egyptian leaders, Erdogan fell to 15%, with Sadat at 35% and Abdel Nasser at 26%.
  • Brokering Middle East peace and establishing a Palestinian State ranked highest (66%) in regards improving U.S. favourability, followed by stopping military and economic aid to Israel as 46%.
  • While 55% believe there will be no lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis, 46% would like to maintain the peace treaty with Israel and 44% would like to see it cancelled.
  • The two countries that pose the biggest nuclear threat are Israel (97%) and the U.S. (80%).
  • Egyptians have been in support of the rebels against Assad and the Syrian government, but only 18% wish to see external military interventions, 15% support a Turkish Arab military intervention and 43% wish to see no military intervention.

Think Tank: Center for American Progress

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 23/5/2012

Author: Brian Katulis

Type: Brief

Title: Previewing Egypt’s 2012 Presidential Elections

Address:  http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/05/egypt_elections.h tml/#1

This report by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank dedicated to public policy research, provides a brief description of Egypt’s first democratic presidential election since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, as well as recommendations for the American government to restore and reinforce ties with the new Egyptian government. In addition, the brief lists and describes the presidential candidates.

According to the report, it is believed that “no candidate will receive more than 50% of the vote,” which would lead to run-off elections in mid-June between the two top candidates. By June’s end a new president will be sworn in for a four-year term and military rulers will hand over power to the new government. However, the transition is still incomplete as a new constitution is to be written and their remains questions over:

  • The economy- Candidates have addressed unemployment and inflation, but have yet to address public-sector debt, the currency crisis, and energy and food subsidies.
  • Security, Law and Order- The drafting of the new constitution has been halted due to Egypt’s disunities over the identity of their new political system; ie. The role of Islam in the government and legislation.

The drafting of the constitution is set to take six-months to draft, although it could take longer to get approved and gain public support. The new constitution may also address a checks and balances system, as well as the role of parliament. The role Egypt is to take in the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional security is also a source of debate amongst the candidates.

The report suggests that the American government conduct a “major interagency review of its Egypt policy.” This review will prepare the U.S. administration for dialogue with the new Egyptian administration later this year. The dialogue should consist of:

  • A renegotiation of “basic terms of the relationship.”
  • Enhance bilateral relationship through common interests.
  • “Build a more stable foundation for U.S.-Egyptian bilateral ties.”

Results of these dialogues would redefine ties and include more parts of the Egyptian government that were not included in past years.

Egypt Presidential Candidate Profiles

  • Amr Moussa- He served under the Mubarak regime as Egypt’s Foreign minister, as well as the secretary general of the Arab League. His platform consists of a centrist political strategy. He has been labelled as a remnant of the Mubarak regime. He is known for his anti-Israel and America statements and has campaigned as the “alternative to Islamist candidates.”
  • Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh- His candidacy is opposed by the Muslim Brotherhood. He is an Islamist activist and “would implement Sharia as a formal legal code.” His platforms are “populist economics and “people first” economics.” He served on the Muslim Brotherhoods decision-making council for twenty-two years. He has the support of leaders from the Salafi Nour Party.
  • Ahmad Shafiq- He has served as prime minister, and air force commander under Mubarak, causing him speculation amongst “revolution minded voters.” His platform is to “restore law and order within 30 days of being elected.” Public perception of him has been negative. He is running as an “alternative to Islamist candidates. “
  • Hamdeen Sabbahi- He has nationalist ideologies, basing his campaign on criticism of the U.S. and Israel. He founded social and political organizations and worked as a journalist, in which he was arrested for his “public confrontation” with former President Sadat concerning “rising food prices.” He did not serve under the Mubarak regime and is not an Islamist. He has proposed an alliance with Iran and Turkey and severing ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
  • Muhammad Mursi- He is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party Leader. He has served in Egypt’s Parliament and is the Brotherhood’s leading spokesman. He plans to amend the peace treaty with Israel “to create a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and have Israel recognize the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees.”

Think Tank: Council on Foreign Relations

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 21/5/2012

Author: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh

Type: Expert Brief

Title: A New Presidential Authority in Egypt

Address: http://www.cfr.org/egypt/new-presidential-authority-egypt/p28308

This brief takes a more optimistic approach to the Egyptian elections, summarizing the possible obstacles for the newly elected official, obstacles pertaining to religion in politics, and while also providing a look at the voters’ demands and desire for dignity.

While Egypt has witnessed violence, protests and authority turnover in the last sixteen months, it has empowered Egyptians to take part in their political system. Current polls show “a clear majority of Egyptians continue to hold the military in high regard,” although not nearly as many Egyptians “support a military-dominated political system.” The SCAF has been contested by the public for the “Selmi principles,” granting “autonomy from elected civilian officials,” as well as for their “application of the State of Emergency.”

The Muslim Brotherhood votes are split between two candidates, Aboul Fotouh, who was expelled from the Brotherhood, and Morsi, who has been behind in the polls. Despite the parliament being a Brotherhood majority, the Brotherhood is not leading in the presidential polls, possibly due to a Brotherhood announcement against running in the presidential race, that was later followed by Morsi’s presidential bid.

Egyptians demand more accountability of politicians. Although economic strife “helped create an environment of misery,” in years prior to the uprising, “Egyptians were demanding freedom, justice, and dignity when they brought Hosni Mubarak down.”

One thing that may delay the transition process will be the role of Islam in politics. Within that lies the issue of whether the Salafis or the Islamists are to speak for Islam. It is anticipated that whomever wins the election must negotiate between different religious groups. If the organised labour parties can emerge in large-scale, they can be very influential in the economic and social policymaking.

Think Tank: Gallup World via The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 18/5/2012

Author: Mohamed Younis and Ahmed Younis

Type: Report

Title: Support for Islamists Declines as Egypt’s Election Nears

Address: http://www.gallup.com/poll/154706/Support-Islamists-Declines-Egypt-Election-Nears.aspx?utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=syndication&utm_content=morelink&utm_term=World

According to the Gallup poll, spanning from July 2011 until April 2012 the Islamists have seen a steady increase, followed by a sharp decline in overall support as well as in the areas of prime minister appointment and constitution drafting.

  • July 2011 saw Muslim Brotherhood support at 17%, steadily increasing and peaking at 63% in February, then sharply declining to 42% in April.
  • In July 2011 Salafi support was at 5%, steadily increasing and peaking at 37% in February, then sharply declining to 25% in April.
  • The Nour Party saw 5% support in July, peaking at 40% in February and declining to 30% in April.
  • The Freedom and Justice Party saw 15% support in July, peaking at 67% in February and declining to 43% in April.
  • In February 2012, 62% of Egyptians felt comfortable with parliament writing the constitution, in April 2012 that percentage fell to 44.
  • In February 2012, 46% of Egyptians believed the party that wins the most seats in the parliament should appoint the prime ministers. Egyptians supporting the newly elected president appointing the prime minister next summer was 27%.
  • In April 2012, 27% of Egyptians believed the party that wins the most seats in the parliament should appoint the prime ministers. Egyptians supporting the newly elected president appointing the prime minister next summer was 44%.
  • In February 2012, 62% of Egyptians thought a parliament influenced by the Brotherhood was a good thing; 27% thought it was a bad thing.
  • In April 2012, 36% of Egyptians thought a parliament influenced by the Brotherhood was a good thing; 47% thought it was a bad thing.

This dissatisfaction can be attributed to the economic decline and bouts of violence. The transition has been twisted by power struggles within parliament, as opposed to reversing “financial decline and working to hold former regime members accountable.”

Think Tank: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 22/5/2012

Author: Eric Trager

Type: Policy Analysis

Title: Presidential Elections Will Not End Egyptian Instability

Address: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/presidential-elections-will-not-end-egyptian-instability

This WINEP analysis focuses on American interests within the Egyptian elections and states that given the economic situation of Egypt and the lack of clarity in the role of a new president, the elections will not provide stability in Egypt, but could further instability. Trager states that Sabahi is considered a favourite amongst expatriate voters, and while Mousa appears to be leading in the polls, there is no anticipated winner. With 75% of the parliament being Islamists, “ongoing instability has damaged the Islamists’ popularity and raised the profile of former regime candidates,” such as Shafiq, who has sought the votes of former Mubarak supporters.

The analysis concentrates on the shift from an American friendly regime to the current stance of the candidates that express anti-Western platforms, with the exception of Shafiq who is the only candidate who is not anti-Western or pro-Sharia. 

Fair elections will not likely cause stability as the parameters of the role of the newly elected president are undefined, as the new constitution has not been drafted. The proposals to allow the SCAF “to retain absolute powers in reviewing its internal affairs, including its budget,” and the ability of the president’s power to dissolve parliament, are likely to “ignite a severe confrontation between the military and the Islamists.”

The Obama administration has not declared support for any candidate. Washington should insist the SCAF conduct the elections fairly and to “follow a credible constitutional process,” otherwise mass protests could occur. Such protests could suppress stability restoration. Concerned that Islamists may play a role in an uprising against the SCAF, Washington should “use its $1.3 billion in military aid as leverage,” to ensure proper SCAF administration.

Think Tank: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 22/5/2012

Author: David Schenker

Type: Policy Analysis

Title: Egyptian Elections: Beyond Winning

Address: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/egyptian-elections-beyond-winning

This policy analysis of the Egyptian elections by WINEP, often criticised for being pro-Israel, discusses the credibility and speculation surrounding the actual voting process in Egypt. Concern is raised over an Islamist sweep within the new government, as Islamists are the majority of the new parliament. WINEP believes that regardless of the election process, a group of Egyptians may not accept the results if their candidate does not win.

Egyptians have been to the voting polls four times in fifteen months, causing concern that Egyptians may be losing their enthusiasm to vote. The constitutional referendum in March 2011 saw 41.2% of eligible voters vote, but Shura Council elections in January and February 2012 saw only 6.5% of voters in the first round and 12.2% voters in the second. About 54% of voters cast their ballots for the People’s Assembly elections. The high turn out rate is thought to be because some Egyptians believed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would fine them for not voting. The threat of SCAF imposing an “interim constitution” could discourage voters or encourage voters to vote.

The Carter Center, the only American based democracy promotion organisation currently in Egypt  “will not be allowed to observe any single polling station for more than thirty minutes.” Thousands of Egyptians have volunteered to monitor the polling stations.

WINEP believes that in the event Shafiq or Mousa win, there may be “claims of SCAF fraud,” accompanied by mass protests. The key to stabilizing Egypt is in the credibility of the voting process.

Think Tank: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Topic: Egyptian Elections

Date: 16/5/2012

Author: Thomas K. Plofchan III

Type: Report

Title: Egypt’s Islamists: A Growing Divide

Address: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/islamists/egypt’s-islamists-growing-divide

This report chronicles and examines the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi rivalry from the fall of Hosni Mubarak until more recently into the elections. The two organisations originally held similar positions on issues after the fall of Mubarak, although began to divide mid-2011.

Three Salafi organisations, The Nour Party, being the biggest, joined the Brotherhood led Democratic Alliance that soon dissolved afterwards. The Salafis then formed the Islamic Bloc that won approximately 27% of the parliament vote, despite political inexperience. “The Nour Party won 111 of the 508 parliamentary seats, making it the second largest part in the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament.” The Brotherhood won 40% of the vote. Both parties have stated little interest in forming an Islamist alliance in the parliament.

The media has recently depicted the Brotherhood in a negative light due to entering the presidential candidacy after stating they wouldn’t. The Salafi party supports Aboul Fotouh, an expelled Brotherhood leader, while the Brotherhood’s Morsi is behind in the polls.

Salafis “oppose the use of alcohol and exposure of women’s bodies,” in regards to tourism standards; The Nour Party encourages cultural tourism contrasting to resort tourism and the Brotherhood “have distinguished between Egyptians and foreigners traveling in the country.” The biggest contrast deals with the role of Sharia in the new political system. The Brotherhood supports the principles of Sharia in legislation, whereas the Salafis support Sharia judgment.

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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[Petition] Keep accepting Syrian refugees

Sign my petition supporting the continuation of our refugee program that promises to resettle 10,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, who are fleeing violence at home.

My father Eli immigrated to America from Poland in 1921 after World War I at the age of 17. He was not a refugee fleeing war, although much of his family later became victims of the Holocaust. He came to America looking to make a better life. He never made a lot of money, but it didn’t matter because he was able to start a family and send his two sons to college. That meant the world to him and he loved this country.

While my father came here as an immigrant, many have also come as refugees fleeing war, oppression and violence. That’s why I opposed the call of some to turn away unaccompanied children who showed up on our borders from Latin America. We must not allow the horrific violence we have seen in France and elsewhere to turn us from our historic role as a haven for the oppressed.

In terms of the Syrian refugee situation we are now facing, now is not the time for us to succumb to racism and bigotry. In this moment, it is particularly important that we not allow ourselves to be divided by the anti-immigrant hysteria that Republican presidential candidates are ginning up.

When hundreds of thousands of people have lost everything and have nothing left but the shirts on their backs, we should not turn our backs on these refugees escaping violence in the Middle East. Of course we have to investigate the backgrounds of people coming into the country — and we will — but to suggest that we would even turn away orphans is incredible.

Sign my petition to say you support continuing the refugee program that promises to resettle 10,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, who are escaping violence in their home country.

The rhetoric and fear mongering about these refugees from some Republicans running for President is abhorrent and has no place in our political discourse.

Donald Trump has not just called for keeping out Syrian refugees, he also said he thinks it’s a good idea to create a national database of all Muslims in America. Meanwhile, Ben Carson said some Syrian refugees are like “rabid dogs” and referred to the rest of Syrian refugees as just “dogs.” This disgusting rhetoric cannot be tolerated.

Other Republicans have suggested rounding up existing refugees and deporting them. And yesterday afternoon, the House of Representatives voted on a plan that would make it near impossible for the United States to continue our Syrian refugee program.

This is not what America stands for.

Syrians and other refugees from the Middle East are escaping unspeakable horrors. To get to our country, refugees already go through a vigorous vetting program by the FBI, National Counterterrorism Center, Homeland Security and the State Department. The process takes almost two years and refugees from Syria face additional scrutiny.

We should continue our program to provide Syrians fleeing violence with the opportunity for a new life. I hope you’ll join me to stand together to admit Syrian refugees. Sign my petition here:

https://go.berniesanders.com/support-refugees

Thank you for standing with me and making your voice heard on this important issue.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

SIGN OUR PETITION

 

 

Paid for by Bernie 2016

PO Box 905 – Burlington VT 05402 United States – (855) 4-BERNIE

Some Thoughts

The terrorist attacks in Paris are really sick and sad. My heart goes out to all those families and friends who are waiting to hear from their loved ones and especially those who won’t hear from their loved ones. May they rest in eternal peace.

I do need to address why we get more worked up about white people or people in “The West” dying than people of color, all over the rest of the world, dying.

Look at all the madness and uproar on Twitter and Tumblr  for Paris (And rightfully so) and take for instance the past few weeks in the Middle East, particularly the last 24-48 hours, have been hell. Multiple terrorist attacks in Lebanon and Iraq, I believe all claimed by ISIS. And very little in comparison was and has been mentioned about Lebanon and Iraq.

I believe the Paris attacks are also being claimed by ISIS, or at least that is what I have heard as of now. And in light of the Paris attacks all these racist Islamophobes come out and rant their ignorant mouths.  You know ISIS and other terrorists have killed thousands of Muslims in the past few years? And that the attacks in Lebanon and Iraq targeted both Muslims and non-Muslim Middle Easterners alike? Additionally, Paris has a high Muslim and Arab population. Who is to know how many Muslims and Arabs were injured or murdered in the Paris attacks.

What I’m trying to say is there’s no reason for the Islamophobia, because we’re all on the same side here. We’re all under threat by ISIS and other terrorists. We’re all against terrorism and violence. Who these psycho extremists are is beyond me, but they’re not the large majority of Arabs and Muslims. And the Arab and Muslim community continually condemns the violence and yet we are still bombarded with hate.

My fear is that the innocent refugees fleeing the violent terroristic regime of Bashar al-Assad, ISIS, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, etc., will pay the price for the horrible and violent few who threaten us all. I fear reprisal attacks and an unending cycle of violence.

There are too many uneducated people full of hate in this world. And all I want is to keep everyone safe and wrapped in a warm and loving blanket of puppies and kittens.

What I saw at a Syrian refugee camp

Dear MoveOn member,

A few months ago, I visited the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, the largest Syrian refugee camp and home to about 80,000 people. 

It is hard to describe with words what I saw. The camp was full of women and young children who fled Syria in fear for their lives. While I was there, I saw children as young as six years old digging trenches in the sand for raw sewage. I saw young boys and girls being kept home from school to do hard labor because the meager wage is the only way their families could afford to eat. And I heard stories of young girls sold into marriage so the rest of the family could afford to live in this perpetual state of despair. I saw desperation and want emanate from every corner of the camp.

This isn’t just a humanitarian crisis, it has real national security implications. If we don’t help feed and shelter these refugees, extremists like ISIS will. For years, I’ve called upon the United States to increase humanitarian aid to improve the conditions in refugee camps to help other nations bear the burden of displaced persons, and take in more refugees here at home. Finally, there is momentum growing to step up and meet this challenge. 

Over the next two weeks, the U.S. Senate will consider a bipartisan request for $1 billion in emergency funding to provide humanitarian relief to Syrian refugees, and it is CRITICAL that you make your voice heard on this issue.

I know my colleagues take calls from constituents seriously, so make the call and tell Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker you support emergency appropriations to provide humanitarian relief to Syrian refugees, and to please co-sponsor Senate Bill 2145, the Middle East Refugee Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act.

Here’s where to call:

Senator Robert Menendez

Phone: (202) 224-4744

Senator Cory Booker

Phone: (202) 224-3224

Then, please report your call by clicking here:

http://pol.moveon.org/call?tg=FSNJ_1.FSNJ_2&cp_id=2438&id=135024-30141796-78nQ_Lx&t=1

Our nation has a long tradition of providing safe haven to refugees fleeing tyranny, violence, and persecution. We welcomed more than 200,000 refugees during the Balkan Wars, 700,000 refugees from Cuba, and more than 700,000 refugees from Vietnam. 

We are a VERY generous nation, always have been, but there is a double standard in our foreign policy today.

When America sets a military objective, we allocate every single dollar we need to accomplish that mission. But when it’s a humanitarian objective, we only put in a share and expect others to fill the gap. That approach comes at a very real human cost in the region, and ultimately, to our credibility around the world.

That’s one of the reasons I’ve led the effort to articulate a progressive vision for America’s role in the world—one that exercises smarter power and influence by leaning into the world with something other than the pointed edge of the sword. Because the truth is, failing to invest in humanitarian programs can be just as dangerous to U.S. national security interests as failing to invest in military operations when they are necessary. As I’ve rolled out this new foreign policy direction, I’ve been grateful for the passionate feedback I’ve received from MoveOn members and for our steadfast partnership.

That’s why I’m asking you to make your voice heard today. I know my colleagues will be waiting to see which way the calls come in on this issue. Pick up the phone and tell Sens. Menendez and Booker to support legislation providing emergency humanitarian relief to help Syrian refugees. 

Here’s where to call: 

Senator Robert Menendez

Phone: (202) 224-4744

Senator Cory Booker

Phone: (202) 224-3224

Then, please report your call by clicking here:

http://pol.moveon.org/call?tg=FSNJ_1.FSNJ_2&cp_id=2438&id=135024-30141796-78nQ_Lx&t=2

With the civil war persisting in Syria, many families have been in these camps for two or three years, and I can tell you from my experience there, this is nowhere anyone would want to live. This explains why so many refugees are giving up on the camps and fleeing for Europe. They see no end to the civil war, and with little real humanitarian assistance on the way to make life in camps better, they flee, often risking their own lives and the lives of loved ones.

Thank you for standing with me on this issue.

Every best wish,

Senator Chris Murphy

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TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Senior Official for APEC Matt Matthews

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE AND SENIOR OFFICIAL FOR APEC MATT MATTHEWS

TOPIC:  PREVIEW OF APEC 2015

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2015, 10:30 A.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MR ZIMMER:  Good morning.  Welcome to the Foreign Press Center.  My name is Mark Zimmer.  I’m one of the Media Relations Officers here.  We’re very pleased to welcome you this morning to a pre-brief of the APEC 2015 meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Matthews. 

Before we start, I’d like to take a moment to mention International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.  That’s today, November 2nd.  I don’t have to tell this group about the importance of a free press as part of every vibrant democracy regardless of location or culture.  This commemoration, which the UN General Assembly initiated in 2013, reminds all of us of our responsibility to prevent violence against members of the media and to ensure accountability for those who do commit violence.  The United States Government commends all of you for your role in promoting free speech, and we recognize the importance of journalists being able to do their work without fear.

With that, let me please welcome Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Matthews.  He will have some opening remarks, and then we’ll take questions.  I will moderate that session.  We’ll welcome colleagues in New York as appropriate.  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Good morning.  I’m very happy to be here with you all to just preview a few items in the lead-up to our APEC senior officials meeting, the APEC ministerial, and of course, the APEC leaders meeting, which will conclude our APEC year. 

I think as all of you know, APEC is a critical piece of our economic architecture in the Asia Pacific region, and we see it as the premier organization for advancing free and open trade and investment.  It’s also used to foster cooperation in promoting sustainable and equitable growth.  One of the most important parts of our Rebalance agenda is for shared prosperity in the region, and APEC contributes directly to that agenda.  There are a number of things that go into it, but APEC basically is structured to help regional integration, stability, and to support rules conducive to U.S. economic competitiveness both for us and the region as a whole.

There are a couple of reasons why APEC really does work and works effectively.  Number one, it’s the institution in the region that we use where we can cooperate on freer and more open trade and investment.  It’s the right environment for holding those discussions.  We have the right experts together both from government and from business to create substantial and workable, practical measures that help move us forward in that area. 

It’s also a good institution for capacity building.  The United States participates in that, but so do other economies in APEC.  And the purpose of that capacity building is to make sure our participatory economies in APEC or developing countries have the capabilities that enable them to take advantage of the trade liberalization that we move forward on in APEC.

And, lastly, I’d say that it’s key to ensuring economic growth that is sustainable and that benefits everyone.  That’s a key element in the themes that you’ll hear time and again during the Philippines’ year, is inclusive growth.  It’s really something that APEC has been working on for some time, but it is being highlighted during the Philippine host year. 

So, we see APEC being able to move forward on all these fronts because it’s an incubator for new ideas, for innovative approaches, and for tackling challenges in the region that other folks haven’t thought of or tried before.  That’s facilitated, as I said, by the level of frank and open discussion that we can have in APEC.  And we can have that kind of frank and open discussion because it’s an organization that’s based on consensus, and the outcomes that we reach are non-binding except inasmuch as each and every member economy commits to doing the things that we all have agreed make sense to do, that we all agree will expand trade, will create greater prosperity, and create benefits across our economies.

So what you’ll see over time is each and every economy coming to a conclusion, coming to a consensus within APEC, and then going home and doing the things they need to do to make those proposals fact, to make them real, to actually open their economies in ways that actually have spurred growth in the region.

I believe that APEC not only has but will continue to play essential role in enabling agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and those of the WTO by helping economies envision and prepare for high-standard rules-based economic systems throughout the region.  I think one perfect example of how APEC has done that is in the area of environmental goods and services. 

So I just thought I’d highlight it for you because this year is the year in which all economies have committed to implementing commitments to either reduce tariffs on 54 items in the environmental goods and services list to below 5 percent or zeroing them out completely.  That’s an amazing step forward, and it’s a step that inspired the WTO to try to pick up a similar process.  And it’s moving forward now on a global framework.

So, again, incubator of ideas, effective means of communication within APEC where we have open discussions and plenty of time to examine the consequences of what a policy move might mean, then consensus and moving forward on it to implementation and providing that idea for others in the global economic community as a point of reference and, perhaps, adoption as in the case of environmental goods and services.

So that environmental goods and services list and the implementation of it is one of the real key highlights for deliverables this year.  But there is much more on the APEC agenda, and first and foremost I would say is work on digital economy.  This is something we’ve been working on for the past couple of years and we’re continuing to prepare it to ensure that the internet and the dissemination of new technologies that have led to rapid change is, in fact, possible within the APEC environment. 

What does this really mean for us?  It means that the internet needs to be open for markets and for free flow of information.  The free flow of information is critical to firms making rapid and accurate decisions.  So anything that prevents the free flow of information on the internet really is an impediment to growth.  It’s an impediment to prosperity. 

So we’re supporting a discussion in APEC that looks to identify those barriers and, as we move forward not only just this year but in the years to come, to thinking about ways we can move forward of dealing with the digital economy as a major trade issue for APEC, one that will allow us to address barriers in an effective way across the board.

The goal here, of course, is to make sure that we have a 21st economy in the Asia Pacific that continues to drive growth for the globe, and we’ll do that by making sure that we’re on that cutting edge, that we’re taking advantage of all the tools and all the benefits that the internet has that we can apply to our economic systems.

Another thing, of course, moving forward is work on the free trade area of the Pacific.  There is a study going on now and … working chapters are being developed by various economies.  That is something that will be progressing year by year as we look at ways of even broadening out the degree of integration within APEC.

There’s also, as I said, a key agenda on prosper – maintaining prosperity through sustainable, healthy, and resilient communities.  So what are we talking about there?  In APEC, we’ve come up with practical applications for dealing with marine debris.  There are better programs going out now where cities are undertaking very pragmatic programs that will take debris, waste material, and turn it into energy – just a creative and effective and economically viable approach.  Again, we’re doing it as an example, not only to the Asia Pacific region, but for the globe as well.

Fossil fuel subsidy reviews – we’re taking a look in APEC at those fossil fuel subsidies and asking each economy to take a clear look and ask themselves whether it’s delivering economic benefit or is it perhaps counterproductive.  And in those cases where they identify a counterproductive subsidy – that means a subsidy that doesn’t work to that – the goal that we have in mind or that – or there are other policy options that might be more efficient.  Folks are then encouraged to pursue those other options. 

On the environment, we’ve got a number of initiatives but, of course, first and foremost was the environmental goods and services agreement.  And I’d just highlight for you, in terms of environment, that the reason why that’s important is we are encouraging businesses and encouraging economies to adopt the best available technologies that allow us to grow, but to grow greener by reducing our carbon footprint.  One key way to do that is by zeroing out the tariff, cutting the tax on those items so that businesses are more likely to adopt those technologies sooner and on a broader scale.  That means that we can grow and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time.  But in addition to that, we’re also doing work on electric vehicles and, as I said, we’re doing this fossil fuel subsidy study.  So there’s that element on environment.

Again, there’s an element covering health.  And in health, we’ve done work on both reducing the barriers – or not reducing but at last identifying barriers to trade in health care products.  Again, looking forward, what we’ve got in mind here is this:  What we’re trying to do is improve the health outcomes in each and every economy, and one of the best ways of doing that is to take a look and see where are the tariff rates inconsistent with that goal?  Where are they so high that they’re actually preventing good health care products from getting to consumers who need them?  And, ultimately, what we’ll try to do is work together with our other APEC economies and come up with approaches of how we can reduce those barriers.

But another thing that we’re doing is working in public-private partnerships on infection prevention and the control that is working in conjunction with the global health security agenda.  

And a third area of work in APEC, which is very important and which requires private sector assistance – and one reason why APEC is so effective is it brings the private sector together with government – is to take a look at innovative medical products and take a look at the kind of global standards we’re adopting in applying them.

I’ll give you a following-up area for work that we’re doing, is in women’s economic empowerment.  Here, the most basic thing we’re trying to achieve is ensuring that each and every economy in APEC grows at its optimum level, but the only way you can really do that is by ensuring that women have a full right to participate in the workforce and to contribute to our economic growth. 

So in a broad range of measures, both on – by identifying policy frameworks that can facilitate and encourage full participation of women in the economy through a digital dashboard, and through a number of other specific measures, including this year we had one on transportation – women and transportation, which took a very clear look at this key node, making sure that women have safe transportation systems to get them to and from work, to make sure that that doesn’t become a barrier to their participation in the workforce.  And as a kind of ripple effect, allow economies to say, okay, that’s the way it worked in transportation; are there other areas in our economy that are, unbeknownst to us or without us having really thought through them, creating barriers that we didn’t intend but are in fact there?  As we take a look at the policy settings, we can say here are things, practical things, we can do to make sure that there’s nothing that stands between a woman and her desire to participate in that economy and generate income for her family and help that economy grow.

So one last thing I would mention to you is our work on disaster preparedness.  This is something that was particularly poignant, I think, for the Philippines here because the Philippines, of course, is subject to as many if not more disasters than any other economy in APEC, whether it’s volcanoes, whether it’s earthquakes, whether it’s typhoons.  But all economies in APEC to some degree or other have to handle these kinds of challenges.  And what we want to do, particularly in APEC, is make sure that we’re coordinating in ways that, number one, ensure that we can get humanitarian goods to and from any disaster zone as efficiently and effectively as possible.  This means over time dealing with the customs regulations and restrictions that might slow down that process.  Our goal here is to make sure we alleviate suffering as much as we possibly can, as soon as we possibly can.  And a second element of the APEC’s work on disaster preparedness is, again, I think unique to APEC because it takes a look at what happens after you’ve dealt with the immediate humanitarian crisis:  What about getting our supply chains back in business?  What about getting our businesses back up and running?  What about making sure we have resilient energy systems that can be either sustained through a disaster scenario or be returned to service as quickly as possible?  We’re looking at all those kinds of elements within the framework of discussions in APEC.  So I think you can see we have a really broad agenda, but it’s focused on delivering economic improvement and greater prosperity and greater equity throughout the system.

So I think with those opening remarks, I’ll just open it up.

MR ZIMMER:  Thank you.  Please identify yourself and your outlet.  If any guests in New York come to the microphone, we’ll recognize them.

Please, in the middle here.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Welcome to the Foreign Press Center.  I have a question about India.  India has applied for membership of APEC and Philippines said it’s considering it.  What’s U.S. position on that?

MR MATTHEWS:  I don’t believe that there’s any active consideration within APEC for expanded membership at the current time.  From time to time, countries and economies will register interest and – at present, though, there’s been no significant discussion along those lines.  But at a future date, those things may be reviewed and we will see where they go.

One thing I would suggest is for any economy that’s interested in APEC, a great way to start is to go into – identify sub-fora or working groups that work on particular areas across our APEC agenda that are of particular interest to them and apply as a guest to send experts in to participate, both to help understand how APEC works and to get a better understanding of how we process and turn out good outcomes that help APEC be that organization that pushes for leading-edge and innovative ways of expanding a more open and free trade and investment environment.

MR ZIMMER:  In the middle here, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, I’m Alexander Panetta from the Canadian Press.  So there will be a new member of APEC this year – Canada has a new prime minister in two days.  So I’m just wondering whether there are any plans for either a bilateral or a pull-aside with Canada’s new Prime Minister Trudeau and any issues that might be priorities for the United States in dealing with a new government.

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, Canada has a new prime minister and we welcome the prime minister into the APEC family, but Canada is not a new member.  And Canada is a very significant and important member of APEC, one which we work with very closely.  We anticipate having a tremendous amount of continuity in the APEC agenda and that Canada, if it does have new priorities that it would like to raise or address, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from the prime minister and his team when we go into the ministerial and leaders agenda period during these discussions coming up.  But nothing’s been raised as of yet that I’m aware of.

MR ZIMMER:  Thanks very much.  Let’s go to the side here, please.

QUESTION:  My name is Varughese George.  I have a follow-up question on India.  I’m from India, The Hindu newspaper.  India has already been an observer since 2011 and President Obama, when he visited India last year, did say that the U.S. would support India’s membership in APEC.  So are you suggesting that there is no forward movement at all on that – India’s request for membership?

MR MATTHEWS:  I think it’s just important to be very careful and accurate about describing the President’s comments.  The President has welcomed India’s interest in APEC, and I think that speaks for itself.  We are welcoming your interest.  We welcome India’s examination of what APEC’s all about, but we have not entered into a discussion and I don’t believe India is formally pressing for actual membership now in APEC.  And remember, keep this in mind, APEC is an organization that’s consensus-based.  So each and every member of APEC has to agree to an expansion of APEC membership, and no discussions in APEC this year have focused on that topic – just so you’re focused on that, okay?  You’re welcome.

MR ZIMMER:  We’ll do the front and then we’ll go to the back, please.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Matt.  Rita Cheng from Central News Agency, Taiwan.  Every year the U.S. delegation will meet with the Taiwan’s counterpart during the APEC.  I wondered is there any meeting confirmed during this year?  And any other topic that you will be discuss with Taiwan’s counterpart? 

And also, not every country in – of APEC has been included in TPP.  I wonder the America – how America and in what way will put the – cooperate the TPP (inaudible) with the – like the region’s economic framework?  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Okay, I’m not sure if I got all of that.  But first and foremost, Taipei is a full member in APEC – Chinese Taipei is a full member in APEC, and it works across the whole APEC agenda with every other economy in APEC and we work with Chinese Taipei in those various sub-fora and working groups, in senior official meetings that I participate in with, and of course during ministerials and even the leaders meeting.  So I think you can anticipate that, just as in prior years, Chinese Taipei will be an active participant in all those elements and we look forward to that.

MR ZIMMER:  In the back, please.

QUESTION:  Good morning.  My name is Adam Xu from Voice of America, Mandarin service.  I have two questions.  You mentioned the U.S. will support the discussion on the free flow of information on the internet.  I’m wondering:  Do you have a list of participants in the (inaudible) or is this discussion going to be carried out?  And can you elaborate on the focus of such discussion, and what are your expectations?

And my second question is about the South China Sea.  Given the recent tensions in South China Sea, is it going to be on the agenda in the APEC discussions?

MR. MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  So, on digital economy, right now we’re at an early stage in the APEC process on discussing the digital economy and digital trade issues, so I would say that this is essentially a working-level process.  But both at ministerial and, I believe hopefully, at the leaders level there will be acknowledgement that this is an important issue that has to be discussed and engaged in, but it primarily has to be engaged at this working level to make sure we kind of start to flesh out all the different specifics that we think are critical to ensuring that we have a free and open internet that supports future economic growth.  So I guess that’s where I’d say we’re on that one.

And I have nothing for you on the South China Sea, except I would just reiterate that APEC is an organization that focuses on economic issues. 

MR ZIMMER:  How about on the side for this one.

QUESTION:  Hi, 21st Century Business Herald.  About TPP, some trade experts told me that among the TPP members in the ASEAN countries, Malaysia will be the one, the country that will face a lot of challenge during the TPP ratification process in terms of the prime minister’s challenge from his own party and from parliament.  So is this the case, or do you optimistic about the ratification process of TPP in Malaysia as there will be a trade minister session in the APEC?  Thanks.

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, I am optimistic about ratification of the TPP agreement by all the participating economies.  It doesn’t mean that it won’t take a lot of work.  Even in our own country we anticipate it’s going to be a major effort to make sure we do a good job of explaining the actual outcomes of TPP and what the benefits are.  But we remain optimistic and I think we remain optimistic across all the participating economies. 

MR ZIMMER:  In the middle, please, then we’ll go to the back.

QUESTION:  Hi, Maria Garcia, Notimex, the Mexican news agency.  As – Mexico as a member of APEC has started ambitious economic reforms.  Do you think that the Mexican model could be – to what extent the Mexican model could be regarded as a model for other members of the APEC?

MR MATTHEWS:  Other members of APEC?  Well, I would say this, that we have a very broad agenda of issues in APEC, and I would say it’s probably fair to say that almost every economy participating in APEC has at some point introduced innovative ideas or good policy suggestions that get discussed by APEC and ultimately adopted by APEC.  And Mexico, of course, is one of them.  But it’s part and parcel of the way in which we operate, so particularly in every host year whenever an economy decides to host, they have a chairmanship role which allows them to help highlight issues that they think are of critical importance, and they naturally do this in consultation with other economies.  But it does give them a chance to provide some additional input. 

But even in non-host years every economy has the ability to introduce at working levels at the senior official level new ideas that they think will help all the economies at APEC to grow more effectively.  And Mexico has participated in that and they are an active and helpful player in helping us move towards a more liberal and open system.  So I can only say thank you to Mexico.

MR ZIMMER:  All the way in the back, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, I’m Marion with NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation.  I have two questions about two major economic developments in the region this year, first of all the TPP and then also economic uncertainty coming out of China and the resulting financial market volatility.  And I’m wondering if those two things would specifically be on the agenda for the leaders’ summit.  TPP, I assume, would definitely be a focus in the trade minister summit, but I’m wondering if there would be a sort of separate TPP meeting at the leaders’ level as well. 

QUESTION:  Well, there’s been no decision, I think at this point, on whether or not there will be a TPP sidebar meeting at the ministerial or at the leaders’ meeting, but I refer to USTR on that.  As we get closer to the date they may have something more for you on that. 

In terms of China, China is pursuing a broad-based economic reform agenda.  It’s a challenging process of shifting the growth model – one dependent on investment and exports to domestic demand – and it’s a natural process you would anticipate that when you go through a major economic policy transition like this that issues will arise.  They seem committed to the process.  I think though the IMF and other economies understand their commitment and are supportive of their commitment to that reform process. 

MR ZIMMER:  Do we have more in the back?  (Inaudible.)

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  My name is Tatsuya Mizumoto from Jiji Press.  About digital economy: so, are you discussing about cyber security?  And then about TPP, I know you have no TPP agreements, so what kind of the impact you will have to (inaudible) by this?

MR MATTHEWS:  Okay, cyber security does get raised in certain fora within APEC, and – but it’s – we have a pretty strong economic focus for the discussions.  So what you want to do is make sure that you have systems in place that preserve trade secrets, that preserve the integrity of business information, et cetera.  You want to make sure that economies are protected against potential economic downside of cyber hacking, et cetera. 

But I’ll get back to you with more detail that would probably help you, because I don’t have the specifics in front of me but I’d be happy to give you more information on that in a follow-up.

And then your second question was?  I’m sorry.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MR MATTHEWS:  Yeah.  So APEC’s agenda is separate – TPP is a separate negotiating group of economies.  They’re all APEC members, but it’s done separately.  So we’re not driving the APEC agenda based on what happens in the TPP negotiations.  The APEC agenda keeps moving forward on trade liberalization processes regardless.  So – but obviously, we all welcome the successful conclusion of the TPP, but it won’t directly affect the APEC discussion process.

MR ZIMMER:  Do you have a short follow-up?

QUESTION:  Yes, I want to follow that, so on the TPP.  But I think as – to your final (inaudible) that you are going to write a TPP standard to – in the APEC area, right?  So —

MR MATTHEWS:  Right.  So there are two things.  There’s a free trade agreement of the Pacific discussion group, which basically is starting to flesh out what chapters in an APEC-wide agreement might look like.  That discussion process will go forward, and is going forward, and chapters are being worked on by individual economies who have raised their hands and volunteered to help contribute.  And I guess that’s what I can tell you.  That’s an ongoing discussion process and ongoing drafting process.  That continues. 

MR ZIMMER:  Any final questions?  Okay.

QUESTION:  I am Grigory Dubovitskiy, Russian news agency RIA Novosti.  Are you aware of any plans, maybe possible, to discuss any questions with Russian delegation on the sidelines while SOM meet, maybe you aware of what level it could be?

MR MATTHEWS:  I don’t know about – and I can say to you that I meet with the Russian delegation for the senior officials level on a regular basis and at every SOM basically – and my predecessors did.  So those discussions continue because we have points of discussion that need close communication on a regular basis.  And my team that does APEC issues is, of course, working with our counterparts in the Russian delegation to APEC.  As for more senior-level meeting schedules, I don’t have the specifics for you on that.

MR ZIMMER:  One here, and then a final couple in the back.

QUESTION:  Two quick follow-up questions.  Alexander Panetta, again, from the Canadian Press.  Can you give an example or two of some of the environmental goods and services you’re talking about, and what a change in tariffs might mean or an elimination of tariffs might mean in terms of their proliferation?  That’s the first follow-up.

And the second thing I wanted to ask was, if I understand correctly, that you don’t know yet whether there might be a meeting with the new Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada?

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, I’d refer you to the White House on their scheduling of bilateral meetings for the President during the period of the leaders’ meeting. 

As for your other question on environmental goods and services, well some obvious ones that come to mind that are covered are wind turbines and solar panels – things that you’d say just – inherently you’d say anybody who wants to operate more greenly and wants to generate green power will want to make sure we can get those products to every market in APEC with the lowest tariff possible, if not zero tariff, so that a greater number of firms and a greater number of households can actually adopt the use of those technologies to reduce their energy intake and their carbon footprint.

MR ZIMMER:  Okay.  Maybe one more after this one.

QUESTION:  All right, thank you.  Rob Gentry with TV Asahi.  I had a follow-up on your question about – on your point about reducing tariffs for health care products.  Is it tariffs or is it also non-tariff barriers that you’re interested in on that? 

And then as a general question for the leaders’ meeting, what does the U.S. hope to have in terms of discussion on currency in the region, in terms of its effect on trade?  Thanks.

MR MATTHEWS:  So for healthcare products let me just be clear, we’re in very early stages of discussions on health care products.  Really what we’re doing at this current stage in APEC is agreeing to kind of identify barriers.  But one other thing that I’d like mention to you that we’re doing with regard to healthcare products in APEC is having private sector and governmental cooperation on helping to identify substandard health care products that can enter the market or even fraudulent ones, and then making sure each economy has effective means of taking those substandard products out of the pharmaceutical system to make sure we’re not delivering products which don’t help improve the health outcomes for our citizens.  But so we’re really at an early stage on that healthcare initiative, and we’re not to the point of, I think, identifying tariffs or talking about tariff reductions but just basically doing a study of the overall picture on barriers.

And I’m sorry, what was your other question?

QUESTION:  Currency.

MR MATTHEWS:  Currency.  I can’t give you anything on that.  I don’t know that there’s – yeah, I just don’t have an answer for you on that one.

MR ZIMMER:  Do we have a final question?  Over here, one more.  Last question, please.

QUESTION:  Sorry, it’s still a follow-up to the TPP.  I just wondered, is that like the similar, that during the APEC the discussion group will have a meeting and any country who would like to join the TPP, that they will have the chance to talking about that?  It’s something like that?  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Yeah, well, thanks for that question.  I don’t believe it’s envisioned right now.  Remember, every economy that’s in the Trans-Pacific Partnership at present is focused on one thing.  It’s getting from the conclusion of the negotiation to ratification within their own system, and that’s precisely where the United States is.  So our focus is completely dedicated to preparing everything we need to do to get ratification by the U.S. Congress.  And until we get that done, we’re not really going to be focusing on other economies.

We welcome the interest of other economies in APEC who are interested in TPP, but we just have to tell folks, please understand our focus right now is getting to ratification.

MR ZIMMER:  Okay, we appreciate Mr. Matthews joining us this morning out of his busy schedule.  We appreciate your joining us.  We’ll see you next time.  Thank you.

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