Saturday, July 2, 2016

Statement by the President on the Death of Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel was one of the great moral voices of our time, and in many ways, the conscience of the world.  Tonight, Michelle and I join people across the United States, Israel and around the globe in mourning the loss and celebrating the life of a truly remarkable human being.  Like millions of admirers, I first came to know Elie through his account of the horror he endured during the Holocaust simply because he was Jewish.  But I was also honored and deeply humbled to call him a dear friend. I'm especially grateful for all the moments we shared and our talks together, which ranged from the meaning of friendship to our shared commitment to the State of Israel.

Elie was not just the world's most prominent Holocaust survivor, he was a living memorial.  After we walked together among the barbed wire and guard towers of Buchenwald where he was held as a teenager and where his father perished, Elie spoke words I've never forgotten - "Memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill."  Upholding that sacred duty was the purpose of Elie's life.  Along with his beloved wife Marion and the foundation that bears his name, he raised his voice, not just against anti-Semitism, but against hatred, bigotry and intolerance in all its forms.  He implored each of us, as nations and as human beings, to do the same, to see ourselves in each other and to make real that pledge of "never again."

At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum that he helped create, you can see his words-"for the dead and the living, we must bear witness."  But Elie did more than just bear witness, he acted.  As a writer, a speaker, an activist, and a thinker, he was one of those people who changed the world more as a citizen of the world than those who hold office or traditional positions of power.  His life, and the power of his example, urges us to be better.  In the face of evil, we must summon our capacity for good.  In the face of hate, we must love.  In the face of cruelty, we must live with empathy and compassion.  We must never be bystanders to injustice or indifferent to suffering.  Just imagine the peace and justice that would be possible in our world if we all lived a little more like Elie Wiesel.

At the end of our visit to Buchenwald, Elie said that after all that he and the other survivors had endured, "we had the right to give up on humanity."  But he said, "we rejected that possibility...we said, no, we must continue believing in a future."  Tonight, we give thanks that Elie never gave up on humanity and on the progress that is possible when we treat one another with dignity and respect.  Our thoughts are with Marion, their son Shlomo Elisha, his stepdaughter Jennifer and his grandchildren whom we thank for sharing Elie with the world.  May God bless the memory of Elie Wiesel, and may his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life. 

Statement by Vice President Biden
The two people in this world who did more than anyone else to awaken my conscience to the horrors of the Holocaust—and to the obligations we all bear as a consequence—were my father and Elie Wiesel. 

When I first read Night I never dreamed I would meet Elie, much less that we would become friends. And I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to get to know him and to continue learning from him on a personal level.  Throughout my career, I relied on his friendship and his counsel. And I will never forget the generosity of spirit he showed to my family and me.

Elie implanted in my soul an unwavering insistence that we must educate every successive generation to exactly what happened, so that we can never forget the horrors of the Shoah. It was Elie’s life-long work to make sure each of us carried in our hearts that promise—never again. 

It was also Elie who taught me to understand the incomparable resilience of the human spirit—our capacity to overcome virtually anything. And because he had seen the depths of the darkness that we are capable of inflicting on one another, his belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity—his decision to live with purpose and kindness and respect toward all—was all the more inspiring. 

Elie once said: “Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.” Throughout his life, Elie never stopped fighting for what he believed was right. He never gave in to despair. And he made the world better for all the children of this earth.   

Jill and I are heartbroken by the loss of such a great man and good friend.  Our deepest condolences go out to Elie’s wife Marion and their children and grandchildren. And we join people all around the world in honoring the indelible mark that Elie Wiesel has left on so many of us.  

Sources: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary and Vice President

Holocaust Survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel Dead at 87

Hillary Clinton Interviewed by FBI About Private Emails While Secretary of State

Weekly Address: Serving our Military Families This Fourth of July

West Wing Week: 07/01/2016

White House Press Briefing

Friday, July 1, 2016

Is This Why Hillary Clinton Is Trusted By So Few Americans?

Photo illustration by The Daily Beast 

By Jeff Greenfield

Maybe the Clintons really feel that their purity is beyond reproach, their motives beyond question. Maybe that’s why they end up in so many circumstances that seem questionable to the rest of us.

I’m willing to bet one of Bill Clinton’s speaking fees that he is absolutely sure there was nothing untoward about his half-hour meeting on a private jet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch. C’mon, she’s an old colleague! We talked about grandchildren! We talked about golf! We talked about travel! I’d bet almost as much—say, Chelsea’s speaking fee—that this is more or less what transpired.

And that’s the problem; not just with this incident, but with a decades-long pattern of behavior by both Bill and Hillary Clinton that goes a long way toward explaining why a hefty majority of Americans do not regard the likely next president of the United States as honest or trustworthy. It really does appear that both Clintons regard themselves as so removed from the grubby motives that tempt lesser mortals that they are to be judged by a wholly different set of standards.

Consider how just about anyone else might have thought about this latest dust-up. Hey, Loretta Lynch will be here in a few minutes. I’d love to catch up with her. But hold on—she’s the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, whose Justice Department is charged with deciding whether or not to charge my wife with a crime for her use of emails. I can’t sit down with her for a private chat; that’d be like the spouse of a litigant meeting with the judge in the case! I’ll catch up with her another time.

Click here for the full article.

Source: The Daily Beast

SUNY Student Assembly Praises Pentagon Decision to Allow Transgender Troops

The Student Assembly of the State University of New York (SUNY SA) issued the following statements regarding the Pentagon's decision. 

SUNY Student Assembly Vice President Bridget Doyle:

“I was absolutely overwhelmed to hear about this historic victory. To see an institution that is commonly perceived as unyielding and rigid take a major step towards gender inclusivity and equity is a ringing endorsement of social progress and the rejection of gender binary norms. To my fellow students who are members of the transgender or gender non-conforming community: today I celebrate with you. This is an example for every single institution in this country: Now is the time to make a change. Let us rid ourselves of the days of exclusive gender policies. It is time for us to decide to judge someone based only upon their merit.

“In the wake of this monumental decision, I reflect on Laverne Cox’s teachings, ‘I want to encourage each and every one of us to interrogate how we might be an oppressor and how we might be able to become liberators for ourselves and each other.

“The LGBT+/MOGII community has been subject to oppression, marginalization and hatred for centuries. It is a unique honor and privilege to live and advocate in a time that is by far the most critical juncture in our history. SUNY students across the state have reason to celebrate today. I'm proud to see our military reflecting American values in its policies.”

SUNY Student Assembly President and SUNY Trustee Marc Cohen:

“SUNY students have been advocating for this and similar issues long before they reached mainstream attention. We are thrilled to see one of our nation's oldest institutions modernize its social policies.”

 SUNY Student Assembly Chair of Military Affairs Lori Mould:

“The US military has taken a progressive leap which gives the transgender community the right to openly serve in the US Armed Forces. These women and men deserve not only the right to serve freely and without fear but to serve with dignity, honor, and respect. We are witnessing history being made, right here and now.”

The Student Assembly of the State University of New York (SUNY SA) is an organization comprised of student leaders elected by their peers from across SUNY’s 64 campuses. Empowering students throughout the state, the SUNY SA is committed to student life and ensuring the representation of its members on the state and national level as well as throughout the SUNY system.

Summary of Information Regarding U.S. Counterterrorism Strikes Outside of Areas of Active Hostilities

The following information and statement were released today by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). 

In accordance with the President’s direction and consistent with the President’s commitment to providing as much information as possible to the American people about U.S. counterterrorism activities, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is releasing today a summary of information provided to the DNI about both the number of strikes taken by the U.S. Government against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities and the assessed number of combatant and non-combatanta deaths resulting from those strikes. “Areas of active hostilities” currently include Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.   

You can review the DNI three-page release through the following link:
DNI Release on CT Strikes Outside Areas of Active Hostilities_FINAL.PDF

Source: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence

President Obama Speaks to Reporters About Zika Virus Prevention

The President spoke to reporters following a briefing on Zika virus prevention efforts and says of research funding legislation, “Congress should not adjourn without getting this done.”

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Clinton Email Investigation

Attorney General Loretta Lynch discusses the Justice Department’s decision to accept the FBI’s recommendations in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. (Courtesy of the Aspen Institute.) 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

First Lady Michelle Obama: For Girls, A Heartbreaking Loss -- And An Opportunity

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students about "girl power" in Marrakech, Morocco June 28. (Click on the photo to increase its size.)

An op-ed by the First Lady
Ralphina Feelee lives in Liberia, where the average family gets by on less than two dollars a day, and many families simply can't afford to educate their daughters. Teen pregnancy rates are high, and pregnant girls are often discouraged from attending school.
Sometimes it's not even safe for girls to attend school in the first place, since their commutes to and from school can be dangerous, and they sometimes even face sexual harassment and assault at school.
Ralphina wakes up early each morning, cooks for her family, cares for her younger siblings, and goes to work at a local market -- all before she even gets to school. But she still attends class each day, working especially hard in science and math so she can fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse.
Rihab Boutadghart lives in a remote part of Morocco near the Sahara Desert. While Morocco has made huge strides in education, and nearly all girls there attend elementary school, girls in rural areas often live far from the nearest middle and high schools, so many of them drop out of school by the time they turn twelve. Right now, only 14 percent of girls in rural Morocco attend high school.
But Rihab, who proudly describes herself as a "feminist," is determined to finish her education. She dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and being the CEO of a major company, and she recently appeared on Moroccan TV urging girls to work hard and follow their passions.
I had the privilege of meeting Ralphina and Rihab earlier this week when I traveled to Liberia and Morocco to highlight our global girls' education crisis -- the fact that right now, more than 62 million girls worldwide are not in school. This is such a heartbreaking loss, because these girls are so bright and so hungry to learn -- and like Ralphina and Rihab, they have such big dreams for themselves. These girls are no less smart or deserving of an education than my own daughters -- or any of our sons and daughters. The only thing that separates them from our children is geography and luck.
Sometimes the issue is resources: their families simply can't afford the school fees; or the nearest school is hours away; or the school nearby doesn't have adequate bathroom facilities for girls, so they're forced to stay home during their menstrual cycles, and they wind up falling behind and dropping out.
But often the root of the problem is really about attitudes and beliefs: families and communities simply don't think girls are worthy of an education, and they choose to marry them off as teenagers instead, often forcing them to start having children when they're basically still children themselves.
Click here for the full commentary. 
Source: CNN

Two More Top Aides Quit de Blasio Administration

  City Hall in New York

Two more of Mayor de Blasio’s top aides headed for the exits Thursday — shortly after his counsel disclosed she was quitting and his social-media director fled after just eight weeks on the job.

Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd announced she planned to retire, while Nilda Mesa, who heads the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, said she wanted to “spend time with her family and explore new opportunities,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

The departures were the third and fourth made public in the past two days.

Scott Kleinberg, hired in May as City Hall’s social-media director, took to Facebook Tuesday to declare that he couldn’t work any more with “political hacks” and “a boss who just couldn’t get it.”

Click here for the full article.

Source: The New York Post and the Empire Report

Steve Pigeon Indicted on Nine Counts, Pleads Not Guilty


Western New York attorney and political consultant Steve Pigeon — who has provided services to figures as diverse as Bill Clinton and Pedro Espada Jr., Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Tom Golisano — was indicted Thursday morning on nine felony charges: six counts of rewarding official misconduct, two counts of bribery and one count of grand larceny.

The indictment came a day after former state Supreme Court Justice John Michalek pleaded guilty to accepting bribes allegedly provided by Pigeon, including aid in employment for two of the judge’s close relatives, assistance in his quest to win a seat on the Appellate Division, plus tickets to Buffalo Sabres games and tickets to a Cuomo fundraiser. Michalek was also charged with filing a false instrument in relation to his appointment of an individual recommended by Pigeon to a receivership position.

At the time Michalek was accepting the gifts from Pigeon, the consultant had clients with legal matters before the jurist.

Pigeon, appearing in court with his attorney Paul Cambria, pleaded not guilty. In a Q&A with reporters after bail was set, Cambria said, “It’s just an accusation, and we’ll deal with it in court.”

Click here for the full article.

Source: Times Union and the Empire Report

President Obama Signs S. 337 and S. 2328

President Obama signs S. 337: FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 and S. 2328: Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act.

White House Press Briefing

President Obama Participates in a Trilateral Press Conference

Vice President Biden Delivers Remarks at the Cancer Moonshot Summit

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman gave the keynote address for the Cato Institute’s forum on the pros and cons of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He said he is confident that as he continues to meet with lawmakers to discuss the agreement, the support would be there to get the agreement moved through Congress. Mr. Froman also talked about other trade policy goals.U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman talked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. After his speech, panelists talked about the TPP, including concerns about the U.K.'s vote in favor of leaving the European Union and Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump’s criticism of the agreement. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Evangelical Voters and Donald Trump's Candidacy

Family Research Council Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell discusses how religious voters view Donald Trump’s candidacy, as well as his recent meeting with Christian leaders in New York.

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Lynch Will Accept FBI Recommendations on Clinton Emails: Report

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is expected to announce Friday that she will accept the recommendations of the FBI in its investigation into Hillary Clinton's State Department emails, effectively removing herself as the final arbiter of the investigation. The move, first reported by the New York Times, comes just days after a much criticized meeting Lynch had with former President Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac in Arizona.

For Lynch to publicly comment on an ongoing investigation is highly unusual and Lynch is not expected to recuse herself from involvement in discussions and the case. The FBI is investigating the private server Hillary Clinton used while Secretary of State and whether Clinton or her aides broke any laws in their handling of classified information.

Lynch and Bill Clinton met in Arizona Monday when they discovered they were both at the airport. The attorney general insisted their discussion was "social" in nature and that they did not talk about the emails or any other official matters. 

Click here for the full article.

'Flashback Friday': The Watergate Scandal: Timeline and Background

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Power of the Pen: New Bills Signed into Law

The following statement was issued today by Press Secretary Josh Earnest. 

On Thursday, June 30, 2016, the President signed into law:

H.R. 3209, the "Recovering Missing Children Act," which amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow for the disclosure of tax returns, and tax return information, to State and local law enforcement agencies that are working in collaboration with a Federal agency to investigate cases of missing or exploited children;

S. 337, the "FOIA Improvement Act of 2016," which amends the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by:  requiring Federal agencies to make certain records available for public inspection in an electronic format; and requiring the Office of Management and Budget, in consultation with the Attorney General, to ensure the operation of an online portal that would allow FOIA requests to be submitted to any Federal agency through a single website;

S. 2133, the "Fraud Reduction and Data Analytics Act of 2015," which prevents, detects, reduces, and responds to fraud in Federal programs by requiring agencies to establish fraud-related internal financial controls, and to establish an interagency working group for the exchange of fraud-related best practices and data analytics techniques;

S. 2328, the "Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act," which establishes the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico to provide a method for a covered territory to achieve fiscal responsibility and access to the capital markets; and

S. 2487, the "Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act," which requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to identify and track mental health care and suicide prevention programs and metrics that are effective in treating female veterans. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

White House Weighs in on Attorney General's Meeting with Bill Clinton

White House Spokesman Josh Earnest weighs in on Attorney General's meeting with Bill Clinton, saying, "Both the president and the attorney general understand how important it is for the Department of Justice to conduct investigations that are free of political interference, and that's a bedrock principle of our criminal justice system in this country since our founding." 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

2016 Trafficking in Persons Report

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to reporters about the 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which evaluates the efforts of countries around the world to fight slavery. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Secretary Ashton Carter Lifts Ban on Transgender Service Members

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announces the military will lift its ban on transgender service members and will provide benefits, including transition-related medical care.

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

Statement by the President on the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act

The following statement was submitted to this site on June 29, 2016. 

I commend Democrats and Republicans in the Senate for voting to address the economic crisis in Puerto Rico, providing the support it needs to restructure its debt, safeguard vital public services, and provide protection to public pensions. This bill is not perfect, but it is a critical first step toward economic recovery and restored hope for millions of Americans who call Puerto Rico home. I look forward to signing the bill into law, and remain committed to working with Congress and the people of Puerto Rico to return to lasting economic growth and opportunity.

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

The D.C. Monument Full of Zika Mosquitoes

 Photo illustration by The Daily Beast

By Michael Daly

The disease carriers are living in a birdbath just three blocks from where Congress has done nothing about them.

The newest monument in Washington, D.C., is not a soaring stone obelisk or a bigger-than-life statue but a thigh-high cement birdbath.

Once two tiered, now one, the birdbath is no less apt a symbol of unconscionable inaction in the Capitol three blocks away.

On each of the previous four years, the birdbath has produced living specimens of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, best known for carrying the Zika virus.

And, even as the Senate proceeds to the Fourth of July recess without passing a bill funding Zika research, a scientific team is poised to test whether the birdbath and its immediate vicinity have produced a fifth generation of the bugs. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: The Daily Beast

1 World Trade Center to Be Lit Orange in Honor of Gun Violence Awareness Month

The following statement was issued today by Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

Tonight, in recognition of Gun Violence Awareness Month, I am directing One World Trade Center be lit orange as a tribute to the victims lost in Orlando and all those around the world who have been affected by gun violence.

“New York took bold action in 2013 to pass the strongest gun safety legislation in the nation, strengthening background checks and banning assault weapons like those used in reprehensible mass murders across the country.

“New York showed the nation it’s possible to pass sensible gun reforms with the support of both Democrats and Republicans – and now Congress must follow suit. The failure of the federal government to act on gun violence is not only appalling, but dangerous. Congress was founded on the principal that it would fairly represent the views of the people – yet today, despite overwhelming public opinion, it has been taken hostage by special interests.

“Democrats continue to fight to advance common sense gun safety laws, even holding a sit in on the House floor to force a vote. But clearly the NRA still has a stranglehold on too many members of Congress who lack the courage to do right by the American people. Congress must stop this madness and act now to pass a strong national gun safety bill to protect all Americans.”  

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

The Billionaire Pedophile Who Could Bring Down Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

 Photo illustration by Brigette Supernova/The Daily Beast

By Brandy Zadrozny

Trump’s supporters have long wondered whether he’d use billionaire sicko Jeffrey Epstein as ammo against the Clintons—until a lurid new lawsuit accused The Donald of raping one of Epstein’s girls himself.

For Jeffrey Epstein and his famous friends, the Aughts were a simpler time, when the businessmen, academics, and celebrities who counted themselves among the playboy philanthropist’s inner circle could freely enjoy the fruits of his extreme wealth and connections.

Epstein’s little black book and flight logs read like a virtual Who’s Who: Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Larry Summers, Kevin Spacey, Prince Andrew, and Naomi Campbell all hitched rides on Epstein’s private planes. Socialites and distinguished scientists went to visit Epstein’s island in St. Thomas, and cavorted at epic dinner parties at his palatial townhouse—then the largest privately owned residence in New York, as he liked to brag. There, they picked at elaborate meals catered by celebrity chefs like Rocco DiSpirito, marvelled at Epstein’s opulent decor, and noted the pack of very, very young model-types with whom Epstein always seemed to surround himself.

But a darker story was going on underneath the glamour. In 2008, Epstein was convicted of soliciting sex from an underage girl and quietly paid settlements to scores of alleged victims who said he serially molested them. But the girls kept coming out of the woodwork—in 2014, another young woman filed a lawsuit claiming that Epstein used her as a sex slave for his powerful friends—and that she’d been at parties on his private island with former President Clinton.

And just last week, yet another “Jane Doe” filed a suit in New York accusing Epstein and Donald Trump of raping her at a series of sex parties when she was only 13. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: The Daily Beast 

Brexit, the Crisis of Capitalism, and Immigration


The first great industrial capitalist power in the world was of course England.  It was transformed in 1707 into what we know now as the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland (added in the 1920s following the conclusion of the Irish Civil War).  Following the Brexit, the UK may well be on its way back to being England-plus, for Scotland is very likely now to declare its independence and apply for membership in the EU.  The industrial revolution formed the material basis for the establishment of manufacturing capitalism (as distinct from its predecessor, mercantile capitalism). The industrial revolution, followed closely by the development of manufacturing capitalism, began in the UK in the 18thcentury.  They jointly spread to the major countries of Europe and the United States in the 19th century. 

Capitalism has two major goals: to produce profits for the capitalists (owners) from the trading and manufacturing processes as well as enabling them to accumulate additional amounts of capital.  To do this, the capitalists employ workers who by their work add value to the plant, equipment, and raw materials supplied by the capitalists.  The profits and additional capital come from the value added (known in Marxist terms as “surplus value”) by the workers which are not returned to them in the form of wages and benefits.   Throughout the history of capitalism, the owners and the workers have been in a constant struggle over the share of the surplus value produced by the workers that actually goes back to them.  In Marxist terms, that conflict forms part of what is known as “class struggle” (the other part being over the control of the governmental apparatus that Lenin defined as “the state”).

Beginning in the 19th century, in the industrialized countries, workers began organizing themselves politically (political parties) and economically (trade unions) to gain a larger share, over time, of the surplus value that their labor produced, as well as some level of control over the organs of state power.  It happens, when one looks back at the history of the 20th century (excluding the period of the two World Wars but including the period of the Cold War — otherwise known as the last 47 years of The 75 Years War Against the Soviet Union), that the periods of time in the several major capitalist countries of Western Europe and North America in which at least some workers got at least some reasonable share of the surplus value they produced corresponded with, varying from country to country, their political and economic strength.

But with certain exceptions here and there, capitalists have never been much on sharing.  And so, beginning, for example, in the United States with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, and in Great Britain with the advent to power of Margaret Thatcher and her wing of the Conservative Party, capitalists generally have been on a campaign to destroy/undermine to the extent possible the power of their respective trade union movements and of their pro-labor political parties.  In most of the major capitalist countries, especially due to the corruption of labor, the pervasive disorientation of the population, and the capitalists’ overwhelming command of the media, the foremost machinery of ideological penetration, this campaign has been hugely successful.

The full commentary is available here.  

Source: The Greanville Post

Theodore W. Allen and the Invention of the White Race

This slide presentation/talk on “Theodore W. Allen and ‘The Invention of the White Race’", by Jeffrey B. Perry, was presented on June 18, 2016, at a "Multiracial Organizing Conference". 

The conference focused on "Organizing Poor and Working Class Whites: The Challenge of Building a Multiracial Movement" and was held at the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro, North Carolina. 

Additional information on Perry and the lecture series is available here.

Source: Jeffrey B. Perry