Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The President Discusses New Legislation, Disappointment with Congress


The following statement was issued today by President Barack Obama. 

Today I have signed into law S. 1356, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016."  I vetoed an earlier version of this legislation that failed to authorize funding for our national defense in a fiscally responsible manner.  As I noted at the time, my first and most important responsibility, as President and Commander in Chief, is keeping the American people safe.  The bill that the Congress originally presented to me was not acceptable.  In addition to authorizing inadequate funding for our military, it would have prevented a range of necessary military reforms.  It included language that would reenact, and in some cases expand, restrictions concerning the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay that I have repeatedly argued are counterproductive in the fight against terrorism.

Following my veto of the previous bill, the Congress approved ‑‑ and I have signed into law ‑‑ the "Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015," which revises discretionary spending caps for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 by providing significant relief from sequestration for both defense and non-defense priorities.  The agreement in place helps ensure that relief from sequestration is paid for in a balanced way.  The Congress has now revised the National Defense Authorization Act to incorporate these new funding changes and has altered the funding authorization provisions to which I objected.  I am therefore signing this annual defense authorization legislation because it includes vital benefits for military personnel and their families, authorities to facilitate ongoing operations around the globe, and important reforms to the military retirement system, as well as partial reforms to other military compensation programs.  It also codifies key interrogation-related reforms from Executive Order 13491, which I strongly support.

I am, however, deeply disappointed that the Congress has again failed to take productive action toward closing the detention facility at Guantanamo.  Maintaining this site, year after year, is not consistent with our interests as a Nation and undermines our standing in the world.  As I have said before, the continued operation of this facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists.  It is imperative that we take responsible steps to reduce the population at this facility to the greatest extent possible and close the facility.  The population once held at Guantanamo has now been reduced by over 85 percent.  Over the past 24 months alone, we have transferred 57 detainees, and our efforts to transfer additional detainees continue.  It is long past time for the Congress to lift the restrictions it has imposed and to work with my Administration to responsibly and safely close the facility, bringing this chapter of our history to a close.

The restrictions contained in this bill concerning the detention facility at Guantanamo are, as I have said in the past, unwarranted and counterproductive.  Rather than taking steps to close the facility, this bill aims to extend its operation.  Section 1032 renews the bar against using appropriated funds to construct or modify any facility in the United States, its territories, or possessions to house any Guantanamo detainee in the custody or under the control of the Department of Defense unless authorized by the Congress.  Section 1031 also renews the bar against using appropriated funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the United States for any purpose.  Sections 1033 and 1034 impose additional restrictions on foreign transfers of detainees ‑‑ in some cases purporting to bar such transfers entirely.  As I have said repeatedly, the executive branch must have the flexibility, with regard to the detainees who remain at Guantanamo, to determine when and where to prosecute them, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests, and when and where to transfer them consistent with our national security and our humane treatment policy.

Under certain circumstances, the provisions in this bill concerning detainee transfers would violate constitutional separation of powers principles.  Additionally, section 1033 could in some circumstances interfere with the ability to transfer a detainee who has been granted a writ of habeas corpus.  In the event that the restrictions on the transfer of detainees in sections 1031, 1033, and 1034 operate in a manner that violates these constitutional principles, my Administration will implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict.

Finally, I am also disappointed that the Congress failed to enact meaningful reforms to divest unneeded force structure, reduce wasteful overhead, and modernize military healthcare.  These reforms are essential to maintaining a strong national defense over the long term.  My Administration looks forward to continuing its work with the Congress on these important issues. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Oval OffIce Chat: President-elect Mauricio Macri of Argentina

President Obama spoke by phone today with President-elect Mauricio Macri of Argentina to congratulate him on his election.  The President emphasized the longstanding partnership between the United States and Argentina and conveyed his commitment to deepen cooperation on multilateral issues, improve commercial ties, and expand opportunities in the energy sector.  

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

The Power of the Pen: New Bills Signed into Law

Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 208,
H.R. 639, H.R. 2262, S. 799, S. 1356, S. 2036

On Wednesday, November 25, 2015, the President signed into law:

H.R. 208, the “Recovery Improvements for Small Entities After Disaster Act of 2015,” which expands access to Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and programs to small businesses during major disasters; and improves performance, oversight, and administration of SBA's disaster loan program;

H.R. 639, the “Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act,” which amends the effective date of Food and Drug Administration approval of drugs recommended for scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act; establish time limits for the Department of Justice to make scheduling decisions; amend the covered date for extension of patent protection for drugs recommended for scheduling; revise the process for manufacturer registration of drugs for use in clinical trials; and provide for re-exportation of controlled substances across the European Economic Area;

H.R. 2262, the “U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act,” which amends current law concerning the U.S. commercial human spaceflight industry; extends authority for use of the International Space Station through September 30, 2024; and provides authority to facilitate commercial exploration for and commercial recovery of space resources;

S. 799, the “Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015,” which establishes activities at the Department of Health and Human Services to research and address prenatal and postpartum opioid-use disorder and neonatal abstinence syndrome; 

S. 1356, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016,” which authorizes fiscal year (FY) 2016 appropriations principally for Department of Defense programs and military construction, and Department of Energy (DOE) national security programs; authorizes recruitment and retention bonuses, special payments, and other authorities relating to the U.S. Armed Forces; and provides authorities related to and makes other modifications to national security, foreign affairs, and other related programs; and

S. 2036, the “Equity in Government Compensation Act of 2015,” which suspends compensation packages approved for 2015 for the chief executive officers of the Federal National Mortgage Association, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, and any of their affiliates, and reinstates the compensation and benefits previously in effect. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

'Veep Meet and Greet': Donald Tusk, Borut Pahor and Zoran Milanovic

Vice President Joe Biden met today with European Council President Donald Tusk. The two leaders discussed how best to coordinate efforts to deal with the European migration crisis. They also discussed the situation in Syria and Iraq and the fight against ISIL. Finally, the leaders discussed the need for further economic and rule of law reforms to advance Euro-Atlantic integration processes in the Western Balkans.

Later, Biden met with Slovenian President Borut Pahor to discuss bilateral relations and European security issues. The Vice President thanked President Pahor for co-hosting the Brdo-Brijuni summit and for remaining deeply engaged in supporting reform and Euro-Atlantic integration processes in the Western Balkans. The two leaders also discussed European security challenges and the situation in Iraq and Syria. 

In addtion, Vice President Biden met today with Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic to discuss bilateral relations, encouraging Euro-Atlantic integration in the Western Balkans, the current migration crisis in Europe, and the situation in the Middle East.  The two leaders agreed on the importance of transatlantic engagement in the region and encouraging reforms in keeping with Euro-Atlantic accession processes. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Vice President

President Obama Statement on Homeland Security

President Obama delivers a statement on homeland security following a briefing on the recent Paris terrorist attacks. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Washington Journal: Dean Scott on Paris Climate Change Negotiations

Bloomberg BNA’s Dean Scott discusses upcoming climate change talks in Paris next week, during which leaders will negotiate a United Nations deal aimed at reducing the impact of greenhouse gases worldwide. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Washington Journal: Jacqueline Pata on the National Congress of American Indians


Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, discusses the state of Native American communities, their priorities, and federal efforts to assist the population. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Thanksgiving Meals Available at National Action Network

The National Action Network will host its annual Thanksgiving Day Meal at the House of Justice, the organization's Harlem headquarters, located at 106 West 145th Street at Malcolm X Blvd.

The event will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Some of the dignitaries that will be on hand include: Rev. Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network and members of the community; NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer; Marc Morial, President & CEO of National Urban League (NUL), and former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. 

Source: The National Action Network

Former Gang Member: "I Don't Care if it's Called Snitching, I'm Doing What's Right"

This report was orginally broadcast on July 29, 2015. From The G-Man has posted it in its continuing effort to save America's youth from a life of gangs, guns and violence. 

Source: Fox2Now, KTVI 

National Security Council Notes: The Terrorist Attack in Tunisia

The following statement was issued by National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price.

The United states condemns in the strongest terms yesterday's terrorist attack against members of Tunisia's security forces. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed and wounded. We are prepared to assist Tunisian authorities in the coming days as they investigate this attack. Terrorists have sought to use fear and violence to undermine the important gains the Tunisian people have made in pursuit of a democratic, stable, and prosperous country. We will continue to provide robust security, economic, and governance support as they build upon the progress achieved since 2011. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary 

The Execution of Laquan McDonald

By Justin Glawe

This is what convinced prosecutors to indict Officer Jason Van Dyke on first-degree murder. It is horrifying.

CHICAGO — Laquan McDonald was lying in the fetal position when Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke pumped more than a dozen bullets into the 17-year-old boy’s body, killing him.

After being turned around by the first shots, McDonald hits the ground. Puffs of smoke can be seen rising from his body as bullets penetrate and strike the pavement behind him. At the end of the 16-second ordeal, Van Dyke’s partner kicks away a knife McDonald was carrying, which was the only thing that prevented Van Dyke from reloading his weapon.

This is tantamount to first-degree murder, according to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who charged Van Dyke on Tuesday. 

Click here for the full article and video of the shooting. 

Warning: Many may find the footage extremely disturbing and upsetting. Viewer discretion is advised. 

Source: The Daily Beast

Trailblazers in Black History: Isaac Hayes

President John F. Kennedy's Funeral (November 25, 1963)

Uploaded to YouTube on Apr 17, 2011

The funeral Service for President John F. Kennedy. The state funeral of John F. Kennedy took place during the three days that followed his assassination on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.

The body of the president was brought back to Washington, D.C. and placed in the East Room of the White House for 24 hours. On the Sunday November 24, his casket was carried on a horse-drawn caisson to the U.S. Capitol to lie in state. Throughout the day and night, hundreds of thousands lined up to view the guarded casket. Representatives from over 90 countries attended the state funeral on Monday, November 25. After the Requiem Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, the late president was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Source: tapsbugler

Today in History: November 25th

I-Team: Children in NYC Shelters Denied Buses to School, Forced to Take Long Subway Trips

Many of the city’s most vulnerable children – those living in homeless shelters and temporary housing -- are being denied buses to school, the I-Team has learned.

Under federal law, children living in shelters and temporary housing are entitled to free transportation due to their vulnerable state. But in many cases in New York City, the free transportation they get is not a big yellow school bus, but a small yellow MetroCard for long, exhausting subway trips.

“It’s not really fair,” said one mom living with her two children in a domestic violence shelter who asked that her name not be used out of privacy concerns. 

Click here for the full article and video.

Source: NBC New York, I-Team Investigations

Protesters Block Chicago Streets Over Video of Laquan McDonald's Killing

Hundreds of protesters closed a major Chicago intersection Tuesday night after authorities released a "disturbing" dashcam video of the moment a cop shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times last year.

Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke, 37, turned himself in Tuesday and was ordered held without bond on a charge of first-degree murder in Laquan's death in October 2014.

City and state police walked alongside demonstrators, who largely remained peaceful as they clogged the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Michigan Avenue in the South Loop. The protest started when 30 to 40 people met in an art gallery after City Hall released the graphic video, saying they were there to reflect and to discuss their emotions. 

Click here for the full article, photos and related videos.