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Friday, May 31, 2013

DOD Contracts for May 31, 2013

Contracts for May 31, 2013

Remarks With German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle After Their Meeting

Remarks With German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle After Their Meeting

Digital Press Kit: MRSA study: simple steps slash deadly infections in sickest hospital patients

Digital Press Kit: MRSA study: simple steps slash deadly infections in sickest hospital patients

Presseeinladung: Höhepunkte von 10 Jahren europäischer Mars-Forschung

Presseeinladung: Höhepunkte von 10 Jahren europäischer Mars-Forschung

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAGEL DISCUSSES PARTNERSHIP DURING SHANGRI-LA DIALOGUE CONFERENCE

Hagel Discusses Partnership With Indonesian Counterpart

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2013 - In a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart during the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference in Singapore today, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed closer ties between the United States and Indonesia, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

"The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of deepening ties in support of the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, an initiative of Presidents Barack Obama and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, calling for closer ties between our two governments and societies," Little said in a statement summarizing the meeting. "They reviewed progress made in recent years to increase exercises and training, as well as regular defense policy dialogues."

The secretary and Yusgiantoro also discussed American support for Indonesia's military modernization, including through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales Program, Little said, and Hagel underscored the importance of human rights accountability for sustaining the momentum in the U.S.-Indonesian defense relationship.

Hagel said he looks forward to hosting Yusgiantoro in Washington as soon as his schedule allows, Little added.

U.S. TAKES ACTION TO FACILITATE COMMUNICATIONS BY IRANIAN PEOPLE

United States Takes Action to Facilitate Communications by the Iranian People and Targets Iranian Government Censorship

Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 30, 2013

The United States is taking a number of coordinated actions today that target persons contributing to human rights abuses in Iran and enhance the ability of the Iranian people to access communication technology. As the Iranian government attempts to silence its people by cutting off their communication with each other and the rest of the world, the United States will continue to take action to help the Iranian people exercise their universal human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

The people of Iran should be able to communicate and access information without being subject to reprisals by their government. To help facilitate the free flow of information in Iran and with Iranians, the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of State, is issuing a General License today authorizing the exportation to Iran of certain services, software, and hardware incident to personal communications. This license allows U.S. persons to provide the Iranian people with safer, more sophisticated personal communications equipment to communicate with each other and with the outside world. This General License aims to empower the Iranian people as their government intensifies its efforts to stifle their access to information. The General License would not authorize the export of any equipment to the Iranian government or to any individual or entity on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. The license can be found on OFAC’s Web site
here.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today also designated an individual and entities in Iran for contributing to serious human rights abuses committed by the Iranian regime, including through the use of communications technology to silence and intimidate the Iranian people. Those designated include the Committee to Determine Instances of Criminal Content, the government entity charged with filtering the flow of information to the Iranian people as well Asghar Mir-Hejazi, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Supreme Leader, who has used his influence behind the scenes to empower elements from Iran’s intelligence services in carrying out violent crackdowns against the Iranian people. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with those designated today, and any assets of those persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen.

Also today, the State Department imposed visa restrictions on nearly 60 other officials of the Government of Iran and other individuals who participated in the commission of human rights abuses related to political repression in Iran. The individuals subject to these new U.S. visa restrictions include government ministers; military, intelligence, and law enforcement officers; judiciary and prison officials; and authorities from Iran’s information technology sector. These restrictions cover those who have played a role in the ongoing repression of students, human rights defenders, lawyers, artists, journalists, religious and ethnic minorities, and other members of Iranian civil society. The State Department previously imposed the same restrictions on more than 50 Iranian officials and other individuals involved in similar activities.

The Committee to Determine Instances of Criminal Content

The Department of the Treasury designated the Committee to Determine Instances of Criminal Content (CDICC) pursuant to E.O. 13628 because it has engaged in censorship or other activities with respect to Iran on or after June 12, 2009, that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran or that limit access to print or broadcast media.

The CDICC, which falls under the Ministry of Justice of Iran, replaced a previous oversight committee after the adoption of the Cyber Crimes Law of 2009. With the creation of the CDICC, the filtering process in Iran has become more systematic and uniform. The Iranian authorities apply filtering on information they deem against the regime’s national beliefs and safety, and the filtering usually occurs without warning.

Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, the head of the CDICC, said in May 2012 that the only legal authority in the country with decision-making powers on the matter of filtering was the CDICC, even though he had denied the very existence of the CDICC a month earlier.

In a February 2013 meeting, the CDICC has assembled a list of "examples of cyber crimes" related to the upcoming presidential election. Some of the crimes listed include vague notions such as:
Disturbing the public and creating conflict in society;
Promotion of boycotting the election;
Publishing insulting content about the election and candidates;
Publishing any contents against the regime, government, judicial, legislature, and governmental organizations; and
Publishing untrue information regarding election results.

The CDICC is empowered to identify sites that carry forbidden content and report the information to the Telecommunication Company of Iran and other major Internet service providers (ISP) for blocking. The CDICC is headed by the prosecutor general and other members are representatives from 12 government bodies. Laws identifying violations that might result in a website being marked for filtering are very broadly defined and range from insulting religious figures and government officials to distributing pornographic content and illegal circumvention tools.

The CDICC’s expert council ordered the filtering of content surrounding the Majlis elections and Valentine’s Day in early February 2012. The CDICC’s council approved the proposal to filter content and ISPs and website administrators were warned via e-mail about their obligation to block this illegal content on their networks.

This action was taken pursuant to E.O. 13628, which implements the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, as amended by the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (TRA), by giving Treasury the authority to designate those who engage in censorship or other activities that limit the freedom of expression of the Iranian people.

Ofogh Saberin Engineering Development Company

Ofogh Saberin was designated pursuant to E.O. 13628 because it has provided material support to censorship or other activities with respect to Iran on or after June 12, 2009, that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran or that limit access to print or broadcast media, including the facilitation or support of international frequency manipulation by the Government of Iran or an entity owned or controlled by the Government of Iran that would jam or restrict an international signal.

The Iranian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) placed the electronic warfare entity Ofogh Saberin in charge of a project to override and spoof commercial satellite communication frequencies emanating from what the Iranian government deemed were subversive Western media sources.

Asghar Mir-Hejazi

Asghar Mir-Hejazi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for supporting the commission of serious human rights abuses in Iran on or after June 12, 2009, as well as providing material support to the IRGC and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). Mir-Hejazi is the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Supreme Leader, and is closely involved in all discussions and deliberations related to military and foreign affairs. After the disputed 2009 election, Mir-Hejazi played a leading role in suppressing the unrest in Iran.

Following the disputed June 12, 2009 presidential election and the massive protests it provoked, the government unleashed the most widespread crackdown in a decade. Both ordinary protestors and prominent opposition figures faced detention without trial, harsh treatment including sexual violence and denial of due process. Security forces were responsible for at least 30 deaths, according to official sources. Security forces also arrested dozens of leading government critics, including human rights lawyers, whom the government held without charge, many of them in solitary confinement. Security forces used beatings, threats against family members, sleep deprivation, and fake executions to intimidate detainees and to force them to confess that they instigated post-election riots and were plotting a coup. The IRGC, Basij, and the MOIS were responsible for many serious human rights violations.

Mir-Hejazi, since the beginning of Khamenei's leadership, has been chief of the Supreme Leader's Office's Intelligence and Security Division, and is considered the working brain behind the scenes of important events. He is considered one of the primary officials in the oppression following the June 2009 post-election unrest. On March 23, 2012, the European Union added Mir-Hejazi to its restrictive measures (sanctions) list directed against certain persons and entities in view of the situation following the June 2009 elections in Iran. .



Catching Up with the Curator: The Steinway Piano | The White House

Catching Up with the Curator: The Steinway Piano | The White House

DOD REMAINS CONFIDENT IN WEAPON SYSTEMS DESPITE CYBER SECURITY RISKS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Despite Hackers, DOD Retains Faith in Weapon Systems
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, May 30, 2013 - The United States military has "complete faith that our systems are secure and reliable," a Pentagon spokesman said here today.

The military is always concerned about cybersecurity and the chances of losing information to other nations, Army Col. Steve Warren said, but the department has invested a lot of money, time and expertise in combating this threat.

In a meeting with reporters, Warren discussed alleged hacking that targeted U.S. military weapons systems, but he did not address what programs -- if any -- were exposed to cyber intrusions. "But we have absolute confidence in our systems," he added. "Suggestions that any of these intrusions have led to an erosion of our capabilities is incorrect."

Further, the spokesman said, there is no fear in the department that intrusions like this are eroding the U.S. military lead over other nations. "Suggestions that our technological edge has eroded are incorrect," he said.

Warren said the department has a program that companies can join to help deter and mitigate these attacks. The Defense Industrial Base Enhanced Cybersecurity Information-sharing Program helps companies and the Pentagon defend American secrets, said Air Force Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a DOD spokesman specializing in cyber issues. The program has yielded successes in information sharing and in network defense, he said.

"Any company in the defense industrial base can sign a classified framework agreement and voluntarily join this sharing program," Pickart said. "If the company experiences an intrusion or a cyberattack on their systems, they can voluntarily bring that to our attention."

The company shares the signature of the intrusion and details associated with the attack. "We do our forensic analysis of that through the Defense Cybercrime Center," Pickart said. "Once we looked at what that is, we are able to develop measures that we can then share back to all the companies, and that can help mitigate against future attacks or intrusions from whoever was launching them."

The program started with DOD as a pilot program a few years ago. Today, 85 companies -- about half of the defense industrial base -- participate in the program. The department and the companies share both classified and unclassified information.

The Homeland Security Department has a similar program that took the lessons learned from the DOD effort and applied it throughout industry, Pickart said

U.S. LABOR AWARDS $15 MILLION TO OHIO STORM RECOVERY EFFORTS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
US Department of Labor awards $15 million grant increment to continue storm recovery efforts in Ohio

WASHINGTON
— The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a $15,438,000 National Emergency Grant increment to create 1,191 temporary jobs for eligible workers to continue cleanup and recovery efforts following the widespread severe storms and winds that caused damage across Ohio between June 29 and July 2, 2012.

"Although it has been almost a year since Ohio was hit by devastating storms, cleanup efforts continue and the federal government continues to assist those efforts," said acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris. "The grant announced today represents the Labor Department's commitment to help Ohioans rebuild their communities and their lives."

Awarded to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the funding will provide assistance for cleanup efforts in 19 counties: Athens; Belmont; Gallia; Guernsey; Hancock; Harrison; Hocking; Jackson; Lawrence; Licking; Logan; Meigs; Monroe; Morgan; Muskingum; Perry; Putnam; Vinton; and Washington. On Aug. 20, 2012, the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared 37 Ohio counties eligible for disaster assistance.

On Sept. 14, 2012, the department awarded a grant for up to $21,438,000, with $6 million released initially to create 407 temporary jobs. The latest increment completes the grant award by bringing the total funding awarded for this project to $21,438,000.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Keeping pets at home

Keeping pets at home

#DontDoubleMyRate Remix: James Kvaal on Keeping Student Interest Rates Low | The White House

#DontDoubleMyRate Remix: James Kvaal on Keeping Student Interest Rates Low | The White House

Contracts for May 30, 2013

Contracts for May 30, 2013

Unhooking from the hookah

Unhooking from the hookah

STATE DEPARTMENT ON GLOBAL CONNECTIVITY FOR URBAN LEADERS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Global Connectivity for Urban Leaders
Remarks
Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs
German Marshall Fund (GMF)
Washington, DC
May 21, 2013


Good afternoon everybody and thank you Geraldine for that kind introduction.

It is a sincere privilege to be with all of you today. I appreciate that you have taken the time to join this discussion about the global engagement of local leaders.

I would like to take a moment to thank the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Leadership Initiative and Urban and Regional Policy Program for hosting us today. Many thanks to Geraldine and Kevin Cottrell and their teams. I would also like to thank Lora Berg for arranging this program. I have had the privilege to collaborate with Lora when she was at the State Department and it’s great to work with her again.

As the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs, I lead the U.S. Department of State’s efforts to collaborate with state and local leaders and their counterparts abroad to meet U.S. foreign policy goals and to foster economic, cultural, and educational relationships. My office is charged with building strategic peer-to-peer relationships with U.S. state and local officials and their foreign counterparts around the world.

As you are aware, urbanization is occurring at an unprecedented rate, especially in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Fifty-two percent of the earth’s population now lives in cities. Every week one million people move to cities. Continued rapid urbanization will lead to three billion new urban dwellers. As an article in the Economist stated in 2011, "Cities, rather than states, are becoming the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built."

In this context, pragmatic global partnerships that focus on solutions are essential to solving global challenges, such as climate change, human trafficking, poverty, food security, governance and transnational crime.

U.S. foreign policy traditionally has focused on nation-to-nation relationships. But the scope of what defines nation-to-nation conversations are shifting in the modern, more global, and more flattened world – rendering city-to-city, and state-to-state dialogues just as critical to the larger context of executing, implementing, and achieving a nation’s overarching diplomatic goals.

Building peer-to-peer relationships between state and local elected officials has a direct effect on foreign policy that often goes unrecognized. Building these relationships and encouraging these engagements at the subnational level has the potential to be a force multiplier, expanding the reach and effectiveness of soft power.

Peer-to-peer relationships provide state and local leaders around the globe with an intimate glance into the American way of life, and more importantly, into our democratic institutions and system of governance. At a more basic but equally important level, these interactions develop trust – an attribute essential to developing strong bilateral ties.

Confronting some of the most difficult global challenges will require innovative approaches to complex problems. Subnational engagement promotes the interchange of ideas and the adoption of best practices across different spheres. Hence, these peer-to-peer relationships between local leaders are critical if we are going to address difficult issues like climate change.

One of the most serious challenges that we face today is the economy. When I started this job three years ago; I reached out to local leaders in the United States and asked them how the U.S. Department of State could assist them. The number one answer was to promote economic growth within their communities. Mayors and governors lead foreign trade missions because it is in their interest do so. And, they do it with or without our help. It is in interest of our national economy to help local officials succeed in promoting their city or state, and ultimately making connections that lead to trade flows and economic growth which benefit all of us.

Subnational engagement utilizes our state and local leaders as an extraordinary source of innovation, talent, resources, and knowledge. After all, it is the states and cities that are the engines of growth at the ground level where the transition from policy to practice becomes most visible. Tapping into this resource fully employs our human capital.

Twenty-first century global challenges require us to work with new partners to collaborate and innovate globally. This is a core principal of subnational engagement, a strategy for creating partnerships for achieving modern diplomatic goals by engaging all the elements of our national power and leveraging all forms of our strength.

When former Secretary Clinton created the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs in 2010, she emphasized the need to utilize local leaders as a key component in the much needed, widespread, and deep-rooted efforts to take on our world’s greatest challenges. A key part of that charge is empowering subnational officials to lead their states and communities to a stable and secure future.

My job is to connect what the Federal Government does best with what state and local governments are doing and can do globally.

To that end, the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs, in conjunction with U.S. Embassies and State Department bureaus, has led the negotiations and secured collaboration frameworks confirming commitments to prioritize subnational engagement with: Brazil (U.S.-Brazil Memorandum of Understanding to Support State and Local Cooperation; China (Memorandum of Understanding Supporting U.S.-China Subnational Cooperation); India (U.S.-India Conversation between Cities); and Russia (Joint Statement on Strengthening U.S.-Russian Interregional Cooperation).

It is important to note that these relationships are organic. That is, cities and states are doing this on their own, because the leaders see the benefit of building these connections. It is our job to encourage and leverage what has been occurring organically to promote U.S. foreign policy.

I would like to share with you three quick examples highlighting the kind of work we do, so that you get flavor of both how the State Department is engaging and what is happing on the ground.

Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In April 2012, the United States and Brazil signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Support State and Local Cooperation. This agreement affirms our mutual resolve to strengthen and expand cooperation and encourage peer-to-peer exchanges between subnational officials and local populations. These exchanges further enable local government to bolster trade and investment, share ideas and best practices, and advance local priorities while contributing to mutual understanding between our two countries.

In support of this agreement, I have traveled to Brazil and visited almost all of the host cities and states of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. My travel and direct contact with federal and local leaders have provided an excellent opportunity to bolster collaboration between local officials in Brazil and the United States. In addition, U.S.-Brazil cooperative efforts have focused on building economic opportunities for the U.S. private sector through Brazil’s unique position as host of these events.

With fewer than 400 days until the start of the World Cup, we are moving rapidly on several fronts to promote U.S.-Brazil cooperation to support the organization of upcoming mega-sporting events.

Earlier this month in New Orleans, my office and the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security co-hosted a two-day Symposium on Security for Major Sporting Events. We convened security officials from the Brazilian states which will host the 2014 World Cup Games and officials from eight U.S. federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies responsible for the organization and support of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans to share best practices on the coordination of the largest annual sporting event in the United States. The recent tragedy in Boston reminds us of the importance of effective collaboration with local officials on the security of major events.

In China, we were instrumental in the establishment of the U.S.-China Governors Forum in 2011. The Forum brings together Governors from both countries to discuss pressing issues and promote economic exchange. This dialogue fosters interactions that have resulted in tangible U.S. job creation.

I visited China last month where I played a role in bringing three U.S. Governors together with five Chinese provincial leaders at the third U.S.-China Governors Forum in Beijing and Tianjin. The U.S. Governors and their Chinese counterparts discussed economic and trade cooperation in order to advance U.S.-China economic cooperation at the local level. Chinese President Xi Jinping met with the U.S. and Chinese Governors on April 15, and called for deeper regional cooperation between the two countries.

In addition, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. led a highly successful trade and investment mission to China in April. Multimillion-dollar business deals between Chinese and Californian companies were announced during the visit. At a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, hosted by Ambassador Gary Locke, Governor Brown announced a $1.5 billion investment partnership between a California-based developer and a China-based investor and developer that will create thousands of California jobs.

In the multilateral sphere, we were able to include local elected officials on the U.S. delegation to Rio+20. This is a reflection that issues, like sustainability, require input from all levels of government to ensure that the multilateral negotiating process is transparent and inclusive.

Local participation on the Rio+20 delegation was crucial, given that cities across the United States have adopted comprehensive sustainability programs, and are in the process of transforming themselves to greener and more efficient urban centers – be it large metropolitan areas like New York’s "PlaNYC" or Chicago’s "Climate Action Plan," or small cities like Fort Collins, Colorado’s "Sustain Fort Collins" or Austin, Texas’ "Climate Action Plan." It is important to understand what is happing on the front lines and to give local leaders a voice at the table.

So again, organizing subnational relationships promotes a deeper cultural exchange among nations; advances principals of openness, freedom, transparency, and fairness in economic growth; and assists in the creation of a sustainable future.

To recap: Why are we doing this:

o Because these relationships are there, they are happening and they provide a real benefit for our interests abroad. So we need to understand them, encourage them, and whenever possible leverage them, to promote U.S. foreign policy goals and support U.S. interests;

o Because the future leaders are there. The odds are very good that the future leaders of both China and Brazil are currently serving as elected leaders of cities, states, and provinces.

o Because some of our best ambassadors are governors and mayors. Some of the most talented, credible, and articulate representatives of our democracy are serving at the state and local level, and not leveraging their talents limits our effectiveness.

o Because in a flat world, with decreasing tariffs and expanding trade flows, the unit of economic competition is no longer the nation state, it is the metropolitan era. In a globalized world making connections to, and learning from, your competitors is central to economic growth and success.

o Because the solutions to some of the most pressing global problems will be implemented at the local level. For example, climate change may be an issue discussed at the highest levels of multilateral governance, but its effects, mitigation and adaptation are the purview of local governments. It is local government that is changing the building codes and implementing new standards. It is local government that is dealing with transportation, air quality and sustainability issues. It is local leaders who are learning to manage mega-cities. The more these leaders learn from each other, more effective solutions will be implemented.

And with that, I am happy to take your questions.

REMARKS BY SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY AND RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Remarks With Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov After Their Meeting
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Le Grand Hotel
Paris, France
May 27, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY:
I want to thank Sergey Lavrov for meeting quickly, as we have here, before we both go to meet with Laurent Fabius, the Foreign Minister of France, momentarily. And we’re grateful for Foreign Minister Fabius’s hospitality here. We’ve been waiting for him to arrive back from Brussels where he was at an evening meeting, so we took advantage and have been discussing the question of Syria.

Let me just say – I think Sergey would agree with me that both of us – Russia, the United States – are deeply committed and remain committed to trying to implement the Geneva 1 principles, which require a transitional government by mutual consent that has full executive authority in order to allow the people of Syria to decide the future of Syria. We are committed to this. We both want to make this conference happen, if possible, together with many other countries that have joined up. And today we talked through a number of issues, sort of when the conference might take place, and obviously that depends on the participants and the decisions that need to be made together with our friends and allies and the United Nations.

We talked about the participants, and that is an ongoing conversation, and it will continue tonight with Foreign Minister Fabius. We also talked about the humanitarian situation, and both of us expressed our mutual concerns about any potential use of chemical weapons and the need to really get the evidence and ascertain what has happened in that regard. Both Russia and the United States, if it were being used, object to that very, very strongly.

But it is our hope that we will come out of here with greater clarity about some of the issues that need to be worked on in the days ahead. We agreed that representatives of both of our governments, from the foreign ministry in Russia and the State Department in the United States, will meet as soon as possible in order to work through a number of these issues regarding how this conference could best be prepared for the possibility of success, not failure. And that’s our goal, and that’s what brought us here to Paris.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: Thank you. I would like to express my gratitude to John Kerry for suggesting that we meet on this occasion, because the situation is not getting better on the ground and we all want to do everything in our efforts to stop the bloodshed and to reduce the sufferings of the Syrian people. And therefore we took stock today of where we are with the implementation of the Russian-American initiative which was launched when John visited Moscow on the 7th of May.

And as John said, we concentrated on the need to determine the participants of the conference, first of all from the Syrian sides – the government and opposition groups, as we said in Moscow – and secondly, the participants from outside circle. The Geneva 1 participants, I think, have been accepted as the invitees, and we believe that this circle could be expanded to involve all key outside players who have influence on the situation on the ground. And we discussed how we can proceed with the kind of division of labor which (inaudible) Moscow to persuade various Syrian parties and the foreign countries to cooperate with us in the efforts to make this conference convene.

It’s not an easy task. It’s a very tall order, but I hope that when the United States and Russian Federation take this kind of initiative, the chances for success are bigger, and we will do everything in our power to use those chances and to make them realize.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Obama administration releases final rules on employment-based wellness programs

Obama administration releases final rules on employment-based wellness programs

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER AND USCIS DIRECTOR MAYORKAS ADMINISTER OATH OF ALLEGIANCE TO NEW CITIZENS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Attorney General Holder and USCIS Director Welcome New Citizens at Justice Department Building Swearing in Ceremony


Attorney General Eric Holder delivered keynote remarks after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas administered the Oath of Allegiance to 70 new citizens today during a special naturalization ceremony at the Department of Justice’s Great Hall.



"Like millions of immigrants who came before them – including my father and grandparents, who came to this country many years ago from Barbados – these new citizens have demonstrated remarkable faith in the principles of equality, opportunity and justice that have always stood at the core of our identity as a nation," said Attorney General Holder. "Many of them have faced great difficulties – and grave dangers – to reach this moment. But each of their individual stories proves the enduring promise of the American dream, and it’s a tremendous honor to welcome them as the newest members of our great and diverse American family."

"The Department of Justice has a proud history of protecting vulnerable immigrants from those who seek to exploit them," said Director Mayorkas. "It is an honor to welcome these new citizens alongside the Attorney General in the Great Hall—a symbol of the promise our nation makes to all its citizens to secure equal justice under the law."


The new citizens naturalized at today’s ceremony hailed from the following 34 countries: Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, India, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom and Vietnam.


The department and USCIS are part of a multi-agency, nationwide initiative to combat immigration services scams. This initiative targets immigration scams involving the unauthorized practice of immigration law (UPIL), which occurs when legal advice and/or representation regarding immigration matters is provided by an individual who is not an attorney or accredited representative.

DOD Contracts for May 29, 2013

Contracts for May 29, 2013

MAN CHARGED WITH THREATENING TO BOMB SYNAGOGUES

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Houston Man Charged with Threatening to Bomb Synagogues


A federal complaint has been unsealed charging Dante Phearse, 32, of Houston, with calling in bomb threats to two synagogues located in Houston, announced Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Roy L. Austin Jr. and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Kenneth Magidson.

The sealed complaint was filed Thursday, May 16, 2013, and unsealed today. Phearse is expected to make an initial appearance in Houston tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson. At that time, the government expects to request he be detained pending further criminal proceedings.

Phearse is charged with one count of using an instrument of interstate commerce to communicate a threat to destroy a building by means of an explosive device. The complaint and accompanying affidavit allege that on the evening of April 30, 2013, Phearse telephoned two different synagogues in Houston - Congregation Beth Israel and Congregation Or Ami - and left voice mails threatening to bomb the Jewish houses of worship on May 2, 2013.

A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

If convicted, Phearse faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.

The case is being investigated by the Houston Police Department and the FBI. Trial Attorneys Saeed Mody and Nicholas Murphy of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the Southern District of Texas Ruben R. Perez and Joe Magliolo are prosecuting.

JUSTICE RECOGNIZES WHITE HOUSE'S REVITALIZATION OF NEIGHBORHOODS INITIATIVE

FROM: U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative Recogniced for Innovation
May 23rd, 2013 Posted by sratner

The following post appears courtesy of Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Mary Lou Leary and Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Denise O’Donnell.

This month, the Ash Center for Democratic Government and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government recognized the White House-led Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) as one of the top 25 programs in this year’s Innovations in American Government Award competition. The recognition commends the Administration’s approach to helping disadvantaged neighborhoods deal with their social, economic and public safety challenges. The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), through its Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), plays a critical role in NRI by building neighborhood capacity to address crime, housing, health and other problems that contribute to community distress.

More than 10 million Americans live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. Residents of those neighborhoods face an array of interconnected challenges, from failing schools and inadequate housing to low employment and poor health. The goal of NRI is to help create safe and healthy neighborhoods by breaking down barriers to collaborative problem-solving.

NRI provides federal resources to empower local action. It brings community stakeholders together to maximize the impact of their neighborhood resources. The Department of Justice works closely with the Departments of Treasury, Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development to share ideas and information. BJA plays a central role in its Building Neighborhood Capacity Program, which helps disadvantaged neighborhoods find and access critical resources, and its Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program, a place-based initiative designed to address persistent crime problems.

NRI is a great example of government-supported innovation. Many of the programs recognized by the Ash Center this year focus on generating smart solutions to seemingly intractable public policy problems. For instance, the General Services Administration’s website, Challenge.gov, allows the government to solicit solutions through a series of contests, including a Body Armor Challenge managed by OJP’s National Institute of Justice. The Department of Justice is proud to join its federal partners in applying these innovations in the nation’s most troubled areas.

Sleep less, weigh more

Sleep less, weigh more

STATEMENT ON U.S.-BANGLADESH PARTNERSHIP DIALOGUE

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Joint Statement of the Second U.S.-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 27, 2013


U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman and Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque co-chaired the Second Bangladesh-U.S. Partnership Dialogue in Dhaka May 26-27, 2013. The two leaders highlighted the robust and growing bilateral ties between Bangladesh and the United States and affirmed that the relationship is based on shared values and common goals of the two countries and their people. The two leaders recognized the significant progress that has been made in the bilateral relationship since the signing of the Partnership Dialogue agreement in Dhaka May 5, 2012, noted the productive discussions at the inaugural Partnership Dialogue meetings held in Washington September 19-20, 2012, and reaffirmed their commitment to further broaden and deepen the partnership.

Under Secretary Sherman offered deep condolences on the Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions tragedies, noting that the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the families of the victims. Foreign Secretary Haque and Under Secretary Sherman committed to intensifying the ongoing efforts to work together to enhance workers’ rights and safety standards to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.

Under Secretary Sherman praised Bangladesh as a secular and pluralist democracy that has achieved remarkable social and economic progress while addressing transnational challenges, including terrorism, trafficking and climate change. Secretary Kerry asked Under Secretary Sherman to convey his regards to the Bangladeshi people and reiterated his strong support for this important partnership. The two leaders surveyed the wide array of ongoing cooperative activities, declared that the Bangladesh-U.S. relationship has never been better, and pledged to improve it further. The wide-ranging discussions on bilateral and regional issues included the following:

Development and Governance: The co-chairs underscored the Bangladesh-U.S. partnership on President Obama’s signature global initiatives on health care, food security and climate change as well as cooperation on women’s empowerment. They recognized Bangladesh’s leading role for countries that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. They acknowledged Bangladesh’s vibrant and varied civil society and agreed to consider the possibilities of organizing a joint civil society event in the next Partnership Dialogue. The two delegations also discussed other issues relating to governance, human rights, the Rohingya, and the Millennium Challenge Account.

Regional Integration: The co-chairs acknowledged Bangladesh’s leadership role in promoting greater connectivity in the region. They discussed the security landscape in the region, including Afghanistan and Burma. In the context of regional security, they recognized that the free movement of ideas, goods, and people enhances regional peace and prosperity.

Trade and Investment: The co-chairs discussed the status of labor law reform, registration of unions in the garment sector, fire and structural safety standards, and the prospects for a Better Work program in Bangladesh. The two delegations discussed market access, including Bangladesh’s request for duty free garment exports to the United States and the ongoing U.S. review of a petition concerning Bangladesh’s eligibility for trade privileges under the Generalized System of Preferences. The co-chairs highlighted the start of a bilateral energy dialogue and underscored U.S.-Bangladesh leadership in organizing the first Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) program to explore avenues for expanding electricity access, promoting renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency.

Security Cooperation: The co-chairs recognized the vital and active role Bangladesh plays in ensuring security and stability, regionally and globally. They noted the productive meetings of the Second U.S.-Bangladesh Dialogue on Security Issues in Washington in April 2013. They reviewed the continued collaboration in countering extremism, counterterrorism, security assistance, United Nations peacekeeping operations, and humanitarian assistance.

Private Sector Forum: The co-chairs highlighted the success of the Private Sector Forum, which underscores the value business and people-to-people contacts could add to the overall bilateral relationship. The Private Sector Forum brought together U.S. and Bangladesh business representatives to focus on deepening links between their respective private sectors, to discuss impediments to enhanced two-way trade and investment, and to identify opportunities for moving forward.

The second Partnership Dialogue was held in a warm and cordial environment. The co-chairs agreed to hold the third Partnership Dialogue in Washington, D.C., in 2014.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wildlife and Human Needs Collide in Southern India

Wildlife and Human Needs Collide in Southern India

Cicadas swarm the East Coast

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President Obama Commemorates Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery | The White House

President Obama Commemorates Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery | The White House

U.S. CONGRATULATIES ETHIOPIA ON IT'S NATIONAL DAY

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Ethiopia's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 28, 2013

On behalf of the government and the people of the United States, I am delighted to express our congratulations and best wishes to the government and people of Ethiopia as you celebrate your national day on May 28.

In Addis Ababa recently to participate in the Summit commemorating the African Union’s 50th anniversary, I experienced personally the warmth of the U.S.-Ethiopian relationship.

The United States and Ethiopia share a strong history as friends and partners. With the government and the people of Ethiopia, we strive to promote economic growth and development, democratic governance and respect for human rights, and security and stability in the Horn of Africa.

The United States is committed to helping Ethiopia achieve a more peaceful and prosperous future, and we look forward to enriching our partnership as we seek to achieve common goals.

As you gather with family and friends on your national day, the United States wishes you a joyous celebration.

U.S. CONGRATULATES AZERBAIJAN ON REPUBLIC DAY OBSERVANCE

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Azerbaijan's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 23, 2013

 

I am delighted to congratulate the people of Azerbaijan as you observe Republic Day this May 28.

The United States and Azerbaijan have built a vibrant partnership, and we are committed to help buttress Azerbaijan’s independence, strengthening its democratic institutions and promoting economic reforms.

On security matters, we are especially grateful for Azerbaijan’s commitment to the future of Afghanistan as our troops stand side by side on behalf of peace and security.

In addition, many years of bilateral energy cooperation will reach another milestone next month when the ultimate terminus of the Southern Corridor becomes known.

As you celebrate this special day, we look forward to working with you to build a more peaceful and prosperous world.

La nebulosa del anillo desde una nueva perspectiva

La nebulosa del anillo desde una nueva perspectiva

SECRETARY OF KERRY'S REMARKS AT U.S. EMBASSY IN ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Meets With Boston Marathon Winner and Staff and Families of Embassy Addis Ababa
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
May 26, 2013

AMBASSADOR BATTLE:
Let me, first of all, welcome each of you here. We gather for a number of occasions. One is to remember those persons who lost their lives in Boston and those who were damaged by the events in Boston. We’ve also come to celebrate the resilience of the Boston spirit and the resilience of the American spirit to move forward. And we’ve come to give thanks for the many people around the world who responded to the citizens of the U.S. with such warm-heartedness.

At this moment, I would ask all of us to take a moment of silence in remembrance of those whose lives were lost in Boston.

(Moment of silence observed.)

It is my singular honor to present to all of us the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Secretary Kerry. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much, Ambassador Battle. Michael, thank you for your wonderful service and thank you for being there to help me in 2004. I think you should have worked harder. (Laughter.) No.

AMBASSADOR BATTLE: My wife should have given me (inaudible).

SECRETARY KERRY: Just kidding. (Laughter.) And I’m delighted – I thank Linda Ann for her service too.

And it’s a great privilege to be here at Embassy Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. And I’m so pleased to be here with Ambassador Don Booth and his wife Anita, who will do a great job at leading the Embassy. He is an old hand at all of this, having been in Zambia, Liberia, other areas, other embassies through the years. But he’s one of our career Foreign Service treasures, and we’re delighted to have his stewardship at this Embassy. Thank you.

And thank you to all of you. It’s really a great privilege for me to be here, and I am so pleased to see a number of Red Sox fans out there. (Cheering and applause.) Young man over there, what’s your name? What’s his name?

PARTICIPANT: Aiden.

SECRETARY KERRY: Aiden. Well, Aiden, you’ve got great taste in hats. Good job. (Laughter.) I’m happy to see you here though.

And I want you all to know, if you don’t know – none of you follows hockey here I know – but the Bruins won last night. (Cheering and applause.) So now they’re going to have to go play Pittsburgh, and that’s a real problem for me, because my wife comes from Pittsburgh. (Laughter.) So we try to work it out. I swear, I promise you, when the Steelers fenced off against the Patriots and we went to the game, I had to spend half the game in – on the Pittsburgh side and then half the game on the other side. But we won. That’s what was important.

So we are honored today – we really are honored today by the presence of these extraordinary athletes. And I want to thank all of you for the moment of silence on behalf of Boston. We are so grateful for the incredible outpourings of help and sympathy, condolences, good spirits of everybody who are with us. But frankly, very few things could be as meaningful as these competitors, each of whom was running in that marathon, one of whom in the men’s division crossed the line first and won this historic race, Lelisa, and his compatriot – I think I’m correct – Gebre, who crossed the line third in one of the closest finishes in recent memory with the second person just seconds ahead. It was a duel right into the finish and an extraordinarily close race. And then of course, Meseret Hailu, who came in second and who represents an extraordinary strain of Ethiopian women runners. I will tell you, since 19 – I think it’s about 1989, four Ethiopian men have crossed the line first, but since 2000 – I don't know – I think it’s something like 2000 – or maybe just (inaudible) 1998, five women from Ethiopia have crossed the line first. So men, you (inaudible). (Applause.)

I just want to share with you how special it is. Lelisa Desisa, who won this race and writes himself into the history books of the Boston Marathon, joins an incredible group of runners in history. This is a race that began in 1897, I think it is, and it has always been run on Patriot’s Day, Patriot’s Day. And there’s traditionally a Red Sox game, people come out of the Red Sox game finishes, they watch the finishing of the marathon. And it’s an incredible event. Everybody comes with this great sense of community and spirit of competition. People from 26 countries together come in order to compete. An extraordinary (inaudible) of runners, including the ones who entered legally because they are qualified, and then this group of people we call the bandits, who run because they haven’t qualified. And I have to confess, I was one of those once. (Laughter.) And I think I plodded across the line in about three hours – I think it was three hours and 33 minutes or 32 minutes. Wow. You say wow. I heard all this cheering as I was running down Wilson Street, coming to the end, and I said, "Boy, that’s really nice." And then I turned to my left and there’s 70-year-old John Kelley running beside me, about to cross the line. (Laughter.) So I was happy to be there, happy to be there.

But the gesture that Lelisa’s making today is absolutely extraordinary. In a gesture of solidarity, these runners have come here today to pay their respects to Boston, to the injured, to the marathon itself. And I’m so honored that Lelisa has decided that he is going to give his winner’s medal to the City of Boston to honor all those who were injured and killed, and most of all, who are getting better. (Applause.) Thank you so much. (Applause.)

It’s an extraordinary gesture, and I want you all to know – I think I’m correct on this – he’s 23 years old. Is that correct?

PARTICIPANT: Yeah.

SECRETARY KERRY: And this is only the second time he’s ever run that distance. That’s (inaudible). (Applause.)

So let me just say to all of you who serve here – I don’t want to tie you up too long – I don’t want to (inaudible) productivity in State Department here – (laughter) – I’m really honored that these kids have come out. Thank you, all of you. Are you missing school? No. Okay. (Laughter.) That’s right, it’s Sunday. I’ve forgotten what day it is. (Laughter.) This is what happens on the road. If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium. I got to learn to ask. (Laughter.)

I cannot thank you enough for all of you for what you do. And I hope you receive that with all of the authenticity with which I say it. It’s hard to pack up and leave families and leave communities. It’s hard if you’re locally employed. Sometimes people say, "Why are you working for them?" And you have to defend things that aren’t necessarily your own. It’s always complicated to be part of representing a different culture, a different way of life, a different set of values in another place. And yet you love it. You do it because you are committed to it.

And this is a great family, the State Department. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of. I can’t think – and I had worked those 29 years as a United States senator; I was very lucky. And every day that I got up I was lucky to get up and feel excited about going to work because I deal with any number of different issues. But not everybody is blessed to feel that way about their work, and you know that.

This work is exciting, because you are reaching out and helping other people, because you’re helping to change the world, because you’re building bridges across cultures and across divides. You’re helping people to understand each other. You’re helping people to develop. You’re helping them to reach their full aspirations and the full aspirations of any human being in life. And you are helping our country to explain ourselves and to build relationships that hopefully can bring peace and stability to the world. You are saving lives.

PEPFAR. We are celebrating the 10th anniversary of PEPFAR. And today for the first time in history, there’s a generation that is able to look at the future to be AIDS-free because of the work that PEPFAR has done. It’s an extraordinary story, and the United States of America, all of our citizens, should be proud of the literally 5 to 6 million people whose lives we have saved and the next generation that will be AIDS-free. One of the great stories of all time, and Americans I know are proud of that.

In addition to that, we are witnessing an Africa that is such a moment of exciting transformation. We just celebrated 50 years of the AU, African Union, 50 years which came, as I reminded some people last night at the dinner – my wife was born in Mozambique and my wife was part of an old Africa, and she didn’t have any choice, obviously, because she was born there. But she grew up with a passion for Africa. Her native tongue became Portuguese and she grew up in what was – what is now Maputo. She went to university in – at Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and prior to that went to a small girl’s school in Durban. And she knows Africa. She used to go out with her doctor father into the bush while he made rounds, helping people to live and to cure problems. So she’s always talked to me with passion about Africa. I’m proud to say that when she was a student at Witwatersrand, she marched against apartheid, believing, all of them, that they might wind up in jail, a very difficult time. We have since – we visited the south and come to other parts of Africa on occasion.

But what you’re doing is taking part in this amazing transformation, the new Africa. Six of the 10 fastest growing countries in the world are here on the continent in Africa. And over the next 20 to 30 years, 100 million young people, who will be needing to go to school, an additional 100 million. Africa in the next 35 years will represent 40 percent of the world’s workforce, and it will have the greatest percentage of young people of any nation on the planet. This is both a challenge but also a huge opportunity.

So we have our work cut out for us, and the 200 of you who are U.S. what we call direct hire, people who represent the Foreign Service or the civil service of even here for some temporary duty or politically appointed or those of you who are locally hired – 1,000 of you – we couldn’t do the work we do without those of you from Ethiopia or from a third nation who come here and work with us.

So I simply want to come here today to say to all of you, on behalf of President Obama, on behalf of the United States of America, and on my behalf as the leader of the State Department, it’s my privilege to call you colleagues. If you will continue to do the outstanding work that you do, I promise you we will do everything we can from good old Foggy Bottom bureaucracy to make sure we simplify things and make things happen for you.

So God bless you all. Thank you very, very much. It’s an honor to be here. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. DESISA: (Via interpreter) Good morning, everyone. It is a great honor that I stand before you today. And I thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to come and pay tribute to the victims of Boston of this year.

This year, I competed in and I won the 117th running of the historic Boston Marathon. Yet less than two hours after I had crossed the finish line as this year’s champion, my joy turned to sorrow as I learned the tragic news of the death and the injury to so many innocent people. This day brought pain to many families and tremendous sorrow into many homes.

As a gesture of my solidarity with the victims of this senseless act of violence, I will return to Boston and gift my medal to the people of Boston in honor and in memory of those who suffered and those who died on that day, like eight-year-old Martin Richard. (Applause.)

My message to all of you this morning is that sport should always be a source of pleasure and enjoyment, healthy recreation, positive competition. Sport holds the power to unify people and to connect people from all over the world with one another, allowing them the opportunity to share in their common humanity and to celebrate the richness of our world’s cultural diversity. Sport should never be used as a battleground.

On behalf of my fellow citizens of Ethiopia, on behalf of my entire team, my coach, my manager, my fellow teammates, we commit ourselves to sport and we promise that next year in 2014 we will return to Boston to show the world that our commitment to sport, our commitment to our freedom, is stronger than any act of violence. (Applause.)

My heartfelt condolences go out to the families of all those that lost loved ones on that day. My wish is to all those that are injured that they recover fully and quickly. I thank you again for allowing me this opportunity this morning. I don’t have the words to express all that is in my heart, but with love and respect, I thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR BOOTH: Ato Lelisa, Ato Gebre, and Woyzero Meseret, I really want to thank you for coming to the U.S. Embassy today. Having completed four marathons myself, albeit at somewhat slower pace than you did yours – (laughter) – I’m really in awe of your accomplishments. So thank you again for coming. (Applause.) And now ladies and gentlemen, U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, the U.S. Mission to the African Union, and your families, I think Secretary Kerry, you will --

SECRETARY KERRY: I want to say hello.

AMBASSADOR BOOTH -- will want to go down and say hello. So please stay where you are. After the Secretary has finished mingling, if you could all stay here so that we can get the official party out of the building. So thank you very much for coming today. I’m sorry that so many of our colleagues have to be working at other locations and aren’t able to join us. But thank you all for coming. (Applause.)

SPECIAL STATE DEPARTMENT BRIEFING REGARDING SYRIA

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Background Briefing by a Senior State Department Official
Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
Amman, Jordan
May 22, 2013

QUESTION:
[Senior State Department Official], did the opposition firmly commit to attending the Geneva conference next month? And did they outline in what format and what representation level, et cetera?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It wasn’t the purpose of this meeting to go into the details of how the Geneva meetings would be set. Rather, it was to confirm how it fits within a broader strategy of this group of countries and the Syrian opposition to work on the political track even as we also work on providing additional support to the opposition. So we didn’t go into those kinds of details. We’re not there yet.

With respect to what the opposition said, first I think it’s really important that I emphasize that the 11 foreign ministers there all strongly supported the holding of the Geneva meeting. And they were very vocal in that support with the opposition. George Sabra acknowledged that there are advantages and said that they will need to explain it to the people inside the country. And he said we also look to continued support from our friends at the table, meaning the countries there, and he got strong affirmations that that support would continue. And you’ll see that highlighted twice in the communique.

MODERATOR: Arshad.

QUESTION: Yeah. There’s one line in the communique which I wanted to ask you about, which says the ministers also emphasized that until such time as the Geneva meeting produces a transitional government, they will further increase their support for the opposition and take all other steps as necessary. What does that mean? Does that mean greater military support or greater flows of arms?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, different countries are doing different things.

QUESTION: Right.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So not all the countries at the table are doing the same things in terms of support. And I think that’s going to continue. I don’t think that’s going to change. There’ll be some countries that offer lethal support and there’ll be some countries that do not.

The important thing is that all of the countries agree that this support to the opposition is a tactic that works towards achieving a strategy of securing a negotiated political settlement through a process that would start at the Geneva meeting. So that particular sentence was also specifically there to make it clear that we don’t know if the Geneva process is going to be successful or not. And additional support to the opposition is not tied to a specific outcome of that Geneva meeting. Of course, if the Geneva meeting achieves a breakthrough and we get a transition government, then the opposition will actually be part of the transitional government and we don’t need to support the opposition per se.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that the support to the opposition, which you described as a tactic that was helpful toward the broader strategy – to put it in simple terms, is it fair to say that by increasing, whoever does it, the flows of lethal assistance and other assistance to the opposition, before or after Geneva, is designed to try to help them regain some of the ground that they had lost in these past days?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s long been our sense that Bashar al-Assad and his regime are not willing to make concessions now. And they said that, if you saw the Argentinian newspaper interview that he gave a few days ago. And so we have long said that it’s important to change his calculations, and that in order to change his calculations, the balance of power on the ground must change. And so, as the communique states, we will increase our support to the opposition. And the goal of that is to change that balance on the ground, but not as an end in and of itself but rather to facilitate arriving at a negotiated political solution.

QUESTION: Last one from me on this if I may. Do you expect that increase in support for the opposition to include more of the lethal weapons or more sophisticated weaponry, or is it just going to be more of the same of what has been done before by whichever countries have done that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think different countries are reexamining their options. It’s not a secret that we’re studying options in the American Administration. We haven’t made final decisions. There is a discussion in Europe about lifting the European arms embargo. They had a discussion – there was talk about that tonight. And so different countries are considering what kinds of steps they need to take. But I think all of them fit within the parameter of helping the opposition writ large.

In specific terms, for the lethal that you’re talking about, the Supreme Military Council – General Idris was there tonight and gave a very thorough briefing on what’s going on on the ground, accenting in particular the latest on the Iranian and Hezbollah and Iraqi presence in the country – working through the Supreme Military Command on the lethal side, but all of it with the goal of strengthening the opposition in order to help convince the Syrian regime that it will have to negotiate the establishment of a transition government. And of course our position is well known. We cannot see how Bashar al-Assad could be a part of that administration.

QUESTION: Just, [Senior State Department Official] --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: -- one quick thing.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Did you mean to say Iraqi?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m sorry, what did I say? Oh, yeah, I did mean to say Iranian, Hezbollah, and Iraqi. Idris talked --

QUESTION: You mean Iraqi Shia?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Iraqi Shia, yeah.

QUESTION: Did he give any numbers, any more specifics on the Iranian presence?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, he did. According to Idris, he said that there are Iranian personnel providing direct advisory support to fighting units. He said that there are Iraqi Shia in several battles. And then he highlighted in particular, but did not limit it to, the fighting in Qusayr. But he also mentioned, for example, areas around Damascus.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) numbers?

QUESTION: But one thing that came up a the presser today --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You were saying --

QUESTION: Numbers.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Numbers, he said thousands.

QUESTION: And that was thousands of Iranians plus --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Total.

QUESTION: Total?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Total.

QUESTION: Including Iranians, Hezbollah --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Iranians, Iraqi Shia, and Hezbollah. He said thousands.

QUESTION: One thing that came up --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: By the way, I would encourage you to talk to General Idris yourself, and I think one of his people.

QUESTION: One thing that came up at the – Secretary Kerry’s press conference today was a concern that this might spread to Lebanon, either through the actions of Hezbollah or the reactions of the Syrian opposition in this form and in the kind of – informally or formally, have you spoken with the opposition and encouraged them not to take --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.

QUESTION: -- the fight into --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We have.

QUESTION: What’s – how have you tried to address this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We have, for example, spoken to commanders in the Homs area and – who have talked about the problem of supply trains coming up out of the Lebanese Bekaa. And we have said that we need to keep Lebanon out of this, and we need to find ways to stop the flow coming out of Lebanon. And of course we are discussing the broad Lebanese policy of disassociation from the Syrian conflict with the Lebanese Government.

QUESTION: Did you say that if they do intervene in Lebanon, it might affect American thinking on how much the United States can support them?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Michael, I’m not going to go beyond where I just went in terms of our diplomatic contacts. You can – but I can say this: We strongly support the territorial sovereignty of Lebanon. We do not want Lebanon dragged into the Syrian civil war.

QUESTION: I noticed in Secretary Kerry’s opener, he seemed to make a point of saying that the rebels had agreed to various things themselves, including not to use chemical weapons and so on. Is it fair to say, between the conversation you’re just alluding to and the kinds of things that the Secretary referenced at the beginning, that there was a message to the rebel groups that they need to kind of keep their noses clean here?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh, absolutely.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit more about that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, that wasn’t – I mean, that came up a bit tonight. But also, just in terms of the importance of the armed opposition to organize themselves and to bring themselves together under this Supreme Military Council that General Idris heads. And of course, they themselves say that they want to do that, but the Supreme Military command would ultimately become, if you will, the backbone of the future leadership of the Syrian military. Interestingly, Idris said that there probably are some members of the military that they could bring into the future Syrian military – people who don’t have blood on their hands, people that are vetted and are respectable.

So we think it’s very important that Idris and the Supreme Military command and all of the armed opposition groups, A, not try to acquire chemical weapons and, B, that they leave the facilities – they don’t try to enter them. And we have a communicated that with them.

MODERATOR: Anyone else, a last question?

QUESTION: In Istanbul, the agreement was that all military aid would go to Idris, and all 11 countries agreed to do that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has there actually been military equipment, do you know, delivered to Idris since then?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.

QUESTION: Have you seen a reduction in the amount going to al-Nusra and other groups?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: First indications are good, but it’s too early to be sure. This is one of these ones where we’d like to have more facts, but the first indications are good.

QUESTION: And can you say anything about the quantity getting to Idris now?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, I don’t want to go into that.

MODERATOR: Indira.

QUESTION: You talked about the – sorry, I’m so tired. (Laughter.) You talked about the --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Tell me about it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I’m trying to remember, what did he talk about? Oh, using this threat of increasing aid to the opposition as a means to the end of getting everyone to the table. So today, at the conference, did Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and others talk in any specifics of how much they’re willing to up their military aid as a means – I mean, we’ve got a pretty short window here, a couple of weeks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: This wouldn’t – I mean, at a level of foreign ministers, you normally wouldn’t get into how many truckloads or planeloads (inaudible.).

QUESTION: Or in principle that they are bringing --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But what we’re talking about here is grand strategy, and the grand strategy is clear in the communique, which is the importance of a political solution along the lines of full implementation of the Geneva communique. All the foreign ministers signed on readily to that. That – at the same time, we have to increase support to the Syrian opposition, including the Syrian Military Council for the military assistance. But again, with the goal of promoting, ultimately, a negotiated political deal.

QUESTION: And just to clarify, they did or did not say whether they would be – that they have a slate of people and they’re willing to go to Geneva?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: They said that they wanted to do further internal consultations, which is not a surprise. Remember that they are in the middle of leadership meetings right now. They’re supposed to begin choosing a new leadership tomorrow – Thursday. So Sabra said he understood the utility of it and he understood the importance of the political solutions and said we absolutely support the political solution. But he said, "I have to go back, and let us work on our political leadership meeting."

QUESTION: And what sort of information do you have about the Syrian regime having its slate ready? You cited to us the other day that you had read press reports, but do you have any first --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. Yeah, I understand one of my diplomatic colleagues is saying there’s another list out there. To be honest, until the Syrian Government names its own list itself, I don’t think we really know who’s going to come. We have been told that the Prime Minister of Syria will head the delegation. However, the rest of the members of the delegation, we don’t know. And I don’t think we will until we get – first we have to fix a date, and then work out a lot of the details, some of the things that Brad was asking about. Then maybe we’re going to have a better sense of the Syrian delegation. But I think, frankly, it really doesn’t matter what other countries say about the Syrian regime’s willingness to talk. Let’s hear it from Damascus itself.

QUESTION: And the Prime Minister would be acceptable to the opposition?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think so, yeah.

QUESTION: Who told you that the Prime Minister would lead the delegation? Was that the Russians or someone else?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It is – we’ve heard it from a variety of contacts, including but not limited to the Russians, but it’s also been in Arab media repeatedly.

QUESTION: Were there any important commitments pertaining to military support, pertaining to, I don’t know, opposition new willingness to engage in the political effort that’s not captured in this communique, that you think deserves highlighting?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sabra talked – and we talked about the expansion of the meetings that are going on now. Do you all know what’s going on in Istanbul? Should I give two sentences on that?

QUESTION: Yes.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Key things to know: They are having meetings right now to expand their general assembly, which, for want of a better expression, would be like their proto-parliament. They’re talking about expanding it by as many as 30 to 40 seats, to take it from 61 now up to 91 to 100. They’re discussing that right now. There are names; they’re supposed to elect people, and there’s a slate of people that would go forward to be elected – by the existing 61 members. So that’s supposed to start tomorrow. Then they’re supposed to go from that to electing a new president. Remember that Mouaz al-Khatib resigned, so George Sabra is the interim, but he’s only the interim, so they’re going to elect a new president. That is supposed to happen, George said, sometime in the next couple of days.

Then they will – remember there was the question of the Prime Minister and setting up a temporary government. They’re then supposed to elect that, or to confirm that, a slate of ministers including a defense minister that would work directly with Salim Idris. That is then supposed to happen towards the end of this seven meetings, which we think will take somewhere around three to four days, but those of us who worked in Iraq understand these things can take longer.

So that’s all supposed to happen. Once they’ve done all of these things, then they will have a new leadership of the coalition, and potentially a vastly expanded kind of base of people, from 61 going up to 90 or maybe 100. So out of that, then, they will then sit, and I think make a decision on Geneva.

QUESTION: Can I ask just --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: But can I just add one other thing? We, the Americans, in the meantime are spending a great deal of time – I have a team in Istanbul right now that are talking to the Syrians, both to the elements of the Free Syrian Army as well as to the political leadership, and explaining how they can use Geneva to their advantage.

MODERATOR: Michael.

QUESTION: Just a last quick one. Have you resolved the issue of the other potential participants in Geneva, namely the Iranians?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No.

QUESTION: At least among the 11?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. And I think --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And I think that is one we’re going to have to talk also to the United Nations.

MODERATOR: All right, last one, Jo.

QUESTION: Sorry. [Senior State Department Official], are you now going to go to Istanbul?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m going in --

MODERATOR: Few hours.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: -- five hours.

QUESTION: To Istanbul?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay.

QUESTION: And will you be attending the meetings? Or will you just --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh, no, I’m not invited to attend them.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And I, frankly, shouldn’t be in the meetings. These are meetings about Syria by Syrians. So – but I wanted to make sure that everyone there knows where we stand on issues they must – they need, really – you can put this in your story – they do need to resolve their leadership issues. They cannot continue with an interim president. They have to have someone chosen, and they need to resolve the issue of the temporary government. They’re either going to do it or they’re not. It’s taking a lot of time and attention.

So they need to resolve the question of expanding their base and bringing additional people in. So these are big issues and they need to move forward on them. So then they can move on to other things like Geneva.

QUESTION: I don’t mean to be obtuse, but why has it been so enormously difficult for the opposition to coalesce around a single --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Because they’ve never had elections and so nobody knows anybody’s relative weight, because nobody knows if you represent 10 percent or 50 percent. And because nobody knows, everybody is equal, and yet that’s very difficult.

MODERATOR: All right, last one.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: This is a dynamic, by the way, that you see frequently when the iron boot comes off a political system, and before you have any kind of election. So I – I mean, this is not the first time I’ve seen this.

QUESTION: So everything in the communique seem to be points that the Secretary and other nations have already made, they’ve already all but stated. So what is new out of tonight’s meeting that we didn’t know --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: What is new out of tonight’s meeting is that there is a solid international backing for the holding of a new meeting in Geneva by the friends, by the core friends of Syria.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

GLOBAL IDP OVERVIEW 2012

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Washington D.C. Release of "Global IDP Overview 2012" Report
Remarks
Anne C. Richard
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Delivered by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Hopkins
Brookings Institute, Norwegian Refugee Council & Internal Displacement Monitoring Center
Washington, DC
May 24, 2013


Congratulations to the Norwegian Refugee Council and its Internal Displacement Monitoring Center on an excellent global report. PRM widely uses this report and looks forward to its release each year. The report serves as an important PRM reference for IDP information. The State Department has placed a priority on strengthening coverage of displacement issues in our annual Human Rights Country Reports, and the information contained in IDMC’s Global IDP Report is a valuable resource in preparing the Human Rights Report. We appreciate IDMC’s analysis, the identification of trends, and the report’s useful way of framing global IDP issues.

In Syria today, we see millions displaced because they are fleeing fighting between the regime and the opposition. Latest estimates are 80,000 dead, 4.25 million displaced inside Syria, and 1.5 million refugees. In this case, the government is not only failing to help internally displaced persons, it is slaughtering them. Troops attack civilians, people are bombed indiscriminately from the sky, hospitals and bakeries are targeted. International organizations are trying to reach everyone in need, but gaining access to them is very challenging and, at times, impossible. When John Ging of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) tried to lead a convoy from Damascus to Aleppo, it had to pass 54 checkpoints manned by the regime and different opposition factions along the route. The U.S. supports efforts to get across borders and into Syria, but this too is very difficult to do, and more is needed.

I have just returned last night from a trip to Ecuador and Colombia. In Colombia, I met with government officials who are very concerned about the 4-to-5 million Colombian IDPs. There the government of President Santos is trying to do the right thing and implement a far-reaching Victims Law. We saw examples of how local governments are trying to provide IDPs with the range of aid they need to restart their lives and begin to recover from the horrors they have experienced. So in some ways the Colombia approach could serve as a model for other countries – certainly with regard to the seriousness with which it has examined the needs of the IDPs and in the breadth of the services it aims to deliver to them. In other ways, the Colombia approach is unique to Colombian laws, its Constitution and its own bureaucracy. (For example, there is a role for a Public Ministry that is supposed to represent the needs of the people, and it is considered a separate fourth branch of government. The Constitutional Court is deeply involved not just in interpreting the law, but in investigating its implementation.)

Still, I return from Colombia very concerned because every day people are still being forced to flee. In Ecuador and Colombia, we met people who were newly displaced. Most had fled intimidation and threats. For example, one woman had left when her restaurant was blown up by a grenade. A couple who farmed fled when they were given a choice: either agree to cook for combatants of illegal armed groups or they had one half-hour to leave. Another family was indebted to members of criminal groups and fled after receiving threats to their lives. They became IDPs in Colombia. They were tracked down and threatened a second time, and so they fled to Ecuador.

So all of the good work being done by the Colombian government is deserving of praise. But the continuing conflict and uncertain prospects for a true and comprehensive peace are cause for serious concern.

IDMC has asked me to focus on the role of UNHCR in responding to internal displacement. UNHCR is PRM’s largest partner and has an essential role to play in responding to the humanitarian needs of conflict-affected IDPs. UNHCR has the lead in the areas of protection, emergency shelter, and camp coordination and management. We have heard sobering news today that the global number of IDPs is larger than ever before, and that 6.5 million persons became newly displaced in their home countries last year. This underscores the point that UNHCR’s responsibilities continue to grow. UNHCR – and all of us involved in humanitarian relief – have to get this right.

The international system to assist and protect IDPs depends on all parties being able to fulfill their roles under the cluster system, including UNHCR. At last count, UNHCR was the lead agency for about 30 clusters in nearly 20 countries. This means that UNHCR is shouldering responsibility to protect or assist more than 15 million IDPs worldwide.

PRM believes that UNHCR should allocate its resources based first and foremost on humanitarian need, not on the classification status of beneficiary populations. In our view, IDPs are not a secondary priority. UNHCR possesses a set of commitments to IDPs, and these commitments should not be a lower priority for the agency relative to its other populations of concern – refugees, returnees, and stateless persons. UNHCR’s commitment to all of its protection and assistance responsibilities, including those for internally displaced persons under the cluster system, must be resolute and steadfast.

We are communicating this perspective regularly and consistently to UNHCR at multiple levels – from the High Commissioner and Deputy High Commissioner, to mid-management and field staff. We will continue to do so publicly and privately. As you may know, last year we issued a public statement at UNHCR’s Executive Committee meeting about the need for UNHCR to be "resolute" toward its IDP responsibilities. Last February, PRM discussed UNHCR’s commitment to IDPs during a day-long dialogue between PRM and UNHCR on protection issues that were led by Deputy Assistant Secretary Catherine Wiesner. Earlier this month, I raised this issue again with High Commissioner Guterres for extended discussion.

UNHCR officials have regularly assured us that they are committed to their IDP responsibilities. UNHCR has told us that their recent cutbacks in IDP programs are largely confined to activities that fall outside UNHCR’s designated cluster duties. PRM will monitor UNHCR’s program decisions in the field. We welcome input from NGO colleagues about what they are seeing as well.

Let’s turn to finances. During the past three years (2010-2012), UNHCR expenditures for assistance and protection of IDPs totaled $1.1 billion for the three years combined. UNHCR divides its budget into four categories, or "pillars": one budget category for refugees; one budget category for statelessness issues; one budget category for reintegration programs; the fourth budget category is IDPs. UNHCR spent $1.1 billion in that fourth budget category over the past three years. We will continue to analyze whether this is sufficient in our discussions with UNHCR. But the point I want to make today is that considerable UNHCR resources have gone to assist and protect IDPs in recent years -- more than $1 billion.

PRM gives UNHCR the flexibility to exercise its best judgment about how to allocate the USG contribution based on the humanitarian needs that UNHCR sees in the field, whether they be refugees, IDPs, stateless persons, or returnees. PRM’s contributions to UNHCR give UNHCR the ability to shift USG funding among budget categories and into IDP programs that need more support. A substantial portion of the $1.1 billion that UNHCR has spent on IDP field operations in the past three years has come from the USG.

Even with new refugee populations around the world, we believe that UNHCR needs to ensure that all its staff members at all levels understand the agency’s commitment to IDP responsibilities, particularly staff in the field and when future budgets are being planned.

At PRM, we are paying close attention to UNHCR’s budget data that show how UNHCR spends its resources. We look forward in the next few days to receiving from UNHCR its final expenditure report for 2012, which will show how much UNHCR spent last year in each budget category, including for IDP programs. We will work with UNHCR to try to ensure that it is meeting the most urgent humanitarian needs as tight budgets force tough choices.

PRM will continue to encourage stronger UNHCR leadership of the Global Protection Cluster as well as more effective and consistent UNHCR leadership of clusters at the country level. UNHCR needs to ensure that its personnel have the specialized training and experience they need to serve as cluster coordinators in IDP emergencies. That is a tall challenge for UNHCR’s small IDP Unit and the agency’s other divisions.

Within PRM, we have work to do as well. We need to make sure that we convey a consistent and coherent message to UNHCR that we expect UNHCR to meet its IDP responsibilities. As I said earlier, I believe we are already doing that in private and in our public statements. If some of you see specific examples where PRM needs to do this better, let me know.

We at PRM/Washington will make a point of working with our staff in the field to closely track UNHCR’s work with IDPs and UNHCR’s performance within the cluster system. One way we are doing this is through our twice-yearly review of UNHCR’s country operations plans. This process results in findings that we convey to UNHCR headquarters.

And thirdly, PRM will continue to strengthen coordination with our colleagues at USAID. Nancy Lindborg and I work closely together. We have traveled to emergency situations together. We count on our respective staffs to communicate and coordinate well. We now have an interagency Humanitarian Policy Working Group that includes PRM, USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA), State Bureau for International Organizations (IO), the State Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance (F), and State colleagues at the U.S. Mission in New York and Geneva. For 2013, our interagency Working Group decided to focus our policy efforts on a handful of issues, including UNHCR’s commitment and engagement on IDP issues.

So this is not only a PRM priority; it is a collective priority of the humanitarian arm of the USG.

In conclusion, humanitarian budgets are tight. The Syria emergency in particular is stretching resources beyond anything we have ever seen before. The international community has to make sure that assistance and protection for IDPs around the world does not fall backward. We need to continue to strengthen the system of response. We all realize that multiple UN agencies – not only UNHCR – have responsibilities in IDP emergencies. But at PRM we also recognize that UNHCR has been charged with playing a hugely important role. And the well-being of millions of IDPs depends in part on UNHCR living up to those responsibilities. So we pledge to continue working closely with UNHCR to help it shoulder this role.

I want to thank Brookings for hosting the Washington release of the report. There is no better place in Washington to unveil a report on IDPs. The Brookings IDP Project is an important actor in Washington and internationally on IDP policy issues. We are well aware that the Brookings IDP Project provides essential support to the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons. Thank you for that. Brookings’ briefings and reports – some of which are critical of USG policies – always have our attention and respect. When Brookings points out ways the USG should do better, we listen closely.