The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), jointly express their strong condemnation of the use of weapons against civil aviation.
The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 is unacceptable. Our organizations wish to convey our deepest condolences to the families of the passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic event. While aviation is the safest form of transport, the MH17 incident has raised troubling concerns with respect to civilian aircraft operating to, from and over conflict zones.
We have met at ICAO today with collective resolve to urgently review the issues and potential responses to be pursued. As a first step, States have been reminded by ICAO of their responsibilities to address any potential risks to civil aviation in their airspace.
We recognize the essential need for information and intelligence that might affect the safety of our passengers and crew. This is a highly complex and politically sensitive area of international coordination, involving not only civil aviation regulations and procedures but also State national security and intelligence gathering activities.
All parties to the discussion agreed that ICAO now has an important role to play in working as urgently as possible with its Member States, in coordination with the aviation industry and other bodies within the United Nations, to ensure the right information reaches the right people at the right time.
Moving forward ICAO with support of its industry partners will:
- Immediately establish a senior-level Task Force composed of state and industry experts to address the civil aviation and national security aspects of this challenge, in particular how information can be effectively collected and disseminated.
- Submit the Task Force findings as urgently as possible to a Special Meeting of the ICAO Council for action.
Industry has called for ICAO to also address:
- Fail-safe channels for essential threat information to be made available to civil aviation authorities and industry.
- The need to incorporate into international law, through appropriate UN frameworks, measures to govern the design, manufacture and deployment of modern anti-aircraft weaponry.
ICAO is convening a High-level Safety Conference with all of its 191 Member States in February 2015. Industry and governments stand united and committed to ensuring the safety and security of the global air transport system and its users.
LONDON, July 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ —
- Jaguar marks the launch of the new XE sports saloon with FEEL XE
- Emeli Sande to perform the first FEEL XE project on 08 September, an audio-visual spectacle that will be seen and heard across the Thames
- Emeli is inviting members of the public to influence her special new track via social media using #FEELXE
- The FEEL XE platform will express the feeling of Exhilaration at the heart of the XE
- Jaguar to also collaborate on certain projects with Stella McCartney and Idris Elba for FEEL XE
Jaguar today launches FEEL XE, a platform created to harness the spirit of British creativity and innovation using an inspiring collective of figures from the worlds of music, film and design.
Jaguar will be collaborating with artists and personalities including Emeli Sande, Stella McCartney and Idris Elba to create experiences that express the ‘Exhilaration’ that is at the heart of the XE, the brand’s new mid-sized premium sports saloon.
Multi-platinum, British singer songwriter Emeli Sande will create the first FEEL XE project. Emeli and Jaguar are looking to the public for inspiration as Emeli begins to write a FEEL XE song about the feeling of Exhilaration to support the reveal of the Jaguar XE. In order to secure inspiration Emeli and Jaguar will ask the public “What makes you feel Exhilarated?”
Using #FEELXE the public can share words, pictures, sounds and films with Emeli through social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) that express what makes them feel Exhilarated. As Exhilaration can mean many different things to many different people, Emeli and Jaguar are expecting a diverse range of submissions.
In reference to her involvement in the project, Emeli said: “I’m excited about working with Jaguar on the FEEL XE campaign and with an incredible British brand. The new XE is innovative in its design and I can’t wait to start collaborating with the world, looking at what defines Exhilaration for them, and premiering the track in London at what is going to be an incredible event!”
Emeli’s FEEL XE track will be performed for the first time at a secret location alongside the Thames on 08 September as part of a spectacular, audio-visual event. The conclusion of this performance will mark the global reveal of Jaguar’s new XE mid-sized premium sports saloon, part of a series of dramatic Jaguar XE stunts and events across the Capital.
The XE is a true sports saloon that has been designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK. With class-leading design and innovation, Jaguar is delivering game-changing driving experience and performance, qualities that FEEL XE will express through creative interpretations of the feeling of Exhilaration.
Emmy nominated British actor Idris Elba will create a FEEL XE project with his production company Green Door Pictures. It will be inspired by his passion for cars and innovation, an interest that he first explored in the recent BBC2 ‘King Of Speed’ series. Idris commented: “I have a passionate, personal connection to cars, and when I think of Exhilaration I am immediately drawn towards the defining points in my life and the role that cars have played in these moments.”
Renowned British designer Stella McCartney, whose FEEL XE project will follow Emeli’s, said: “I’m passionate about British design and innovation. I’m proud to be involved in the Jaguar FEEL XE campaign and look forward to this exciting partnership.”
Fiona Pargeter, PR Director for Jaguar Land Rover, commented: “XE is a very special car and we wanted to ensure it had a very special launch. We are very excited to be working with such amazing global talent to create interesting and engaging experiences that we can share around the world. Emeli is an incredible artist and one who embodies the creativity and elegance that is at the heart of the Jaguar brand and the new XE.”
Between now and 08 September the public can see how Emeli Sande is being inspired by the social media community on Jaguar’s Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/Jaguar) via exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. Further FEEL XE projects involving Stella McCartney and Idris Elba will be announced in due course.
NOTES TO EDITORS
ABOUT JAGUAR LAND ROVER
Jaguar Land Rover is the UK’s largest premium automotive manufacturing business, built around two iconic British car brands. All its vehicles are engineered and designed in Britain. While it has ambitious plans for global growth, the heart of the business remains in the UK, with billions of pounds invested in state-of-the-art production, research and development facilities. In 2013, Jaguar Land Rover sold 425,006 vehicles – up 19% from the previous year – in more than 170 countries. The company employs 30,000 people globally.
JAGUAR XE CONFIRMED AS NEW NAME FOR PREMIUM SPORTS SALOON WITH STATE-OF-THE-ART ‘INGENIUM’ ENGINE FAMILY
- Jaguar announces the name of its all-new mid-sized premium sports saloon as the Jaguar XE
- The Jaguar XE will be the first aluminium monocoque product in the segment and is set to be the most advanced, efficient and refined sports saloon in its class
- This will be the first product from the new advanced aluminium architecture which was showcased for the first time in the C-X17 concept car at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2013
- The new family of high-output, fuel-efficient petrol and diesel engines will be named Ingenium. The Jaguar XE will be the first user of the Ingenium engines in four-cylinder two-litre petrol and diesel variants. They will be built at Jaguar Land Rover’s new UK Engine Manufacturing Facility
- The full engine line-up will enable Jaguar to offer vehicles with class-leading performance, including top speeds of over 300km/h (186mph), and emissions lower than 100g of CO2 per km
NEW JAGUAR XE TECHNOLOGY PACKAGE ANNOUNCED
- The world premiere of the all-new Jaguar XE will be held in London on September 8th
- The XE will be a true sports saloon with class-leading dynamics, refinement and technology
- Precise handling and high-quality ride is assured with Integral Link rear suspension; a layout designed for optimum performance, comfort and control
- The finely-honed F-TYPE-derived front suspension delivers accurate and immediate response
- State-of-the-art electric power steering system delivers renowned Jaguar feel and response
- World-first All Surface Progress Control system ensures rear-wheel drive traction from standstill even in extreme conditions
THE NEW ALUMINIUM-INTENSIVE JAGUAR XE: THE MOST FUEL EFFICIENT JAGUAR EVER TO ACHIEVE OVER 75MPG
- The Jaguar XE brings new levels of aluminium-intensive lightweight construction expertise to the segment
- Projected to deliver fuel economy of over 75mpg* (less than 4 litres/100km) on EU combined cycle
- The high strength, rigid body enables world class driving dynamics – with supple ride and precise handling
- All-new modular architecture developed around Jaguar’s fifth-generation bonded and riveted aluminium technology
- New aluminium alloy invented: RC5754 uses highly recycled aluminium to dramatically reduce energy consumption and lifecycle CO2
*subject to certification
DALLAS, July 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Epsilon, the global leader in helping clients create customer connections that build brand and business equity, today announced that it was named as a Leader in the July 2014 report “The Forrester Wave™: Email Marketing Vendors, Q3 2014” by Forrester Research Inc. In this evaluation, Forrester refers to Epsilon as “a professional services powerhouse,” and scored Epsilon highest in the Services and Strength of Management Team categories and tied for the second highest in Globalization. The report also cites Epsilon as “…the best operations, technology and strategy and analytics services [provider] we reviewed.”
The report cites Epsilon’s redefined mobile-first platform interface standards and highlights Agility Harmony’s dynamic content scalability, multilingual platform interface, large international support staff and the best operations, technology, strategy and analytics services they reviewed. According to Forrester Epsilon is, “a strong fit for large global enterprises that seek a full or collaborative service partner.”
The evaluation of email marketing service providers included a review of nine vendors against 34 criteria. To gain feedback on vendors and the market, Forrester also conducted 27 client reference phone interviews and fielded an online survey to 89 email marketing client references.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized as a leader in the email marketing space. We built Agility Harmony from the ground up to serve as the next-generation digital messaging platform for global marketers and the report affirms that Epsilon leads the leaders,” said Andrew Frawley, President of Epsilon. “Harmony is now in full production, delivering billions of messages with excellent results. We have or are in the process of onboarding a number of large global brands. We are particularly excited about the capabilities recognition the Harmony platform received. With the benefit of being the first digital messaging platform built since the advent of today’s social and mobile technology, we plan to aggressively add new features and capabilities that allow marketers to optimize the performance of their digital campaigns.”
This is the first time Epsilon’s new digital messaging platform, Agility Harmony, has been included in the evaluation. Launched in the summer of 2013, Agility Harmony was built from the ground up to handle the industrial strength email programs of the world’s largest brands. Built on a big data platform, Harmony is designed to deliver billions of customized messages per year around the globe.
For the full report “The Forrester Wave™: Email Marketing Vendors, Q3 2014”, click here.
For additional information on Epsilon’s Agility Harmony, please visit http://www.agilityharmony.com.
Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, based on information received by 18:00hrs, 28 July (Kyiv time) | OSCE
Home Newsroom Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, based on info…
HAMILTON, Bermuda, July 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — At its July 23rd, 2014 Board of Directors meeting, Oil Insurance Limited (OIL) elected to increase its per occurrence limit from $300 million to $400 million and the event aggregation limit from $900 million to $1.2 billion effective January 1st, 2015. Furthermore, OIL will give its members until January 1, 2017 to move to the $400 million limit in order to facilitate the adoption of the additional $100 million limit into their insurance programs. Atlantic Named Windstorm (ANWS) limits will remain the same at $150 million part of $250 million with a $750 million event aggregation limit.
Robert D. Stauffer, President & CEO, said that the decision to increase the limit was supported by a significant majority of the members who requested the increase in a membership survey conducted in May of this year. “Our members were clear that an increase in limits would be very helpful in their quest to keep pace with the significant investments they are making in Oil & Gas projects around the world. It is not uncommon for our members to invest in $10-$40 billion projects and our “All Risks” policy can seamlessly and directly take them through the construction phase and into operation without the concern of coverage challenges. Our goal at OIL is to constantly evolve our value proposition to accommodate the current needs of our members and increasing limit does just that. The current limit increase closely follows a $300 million cash dividend in 2014, a $100 million premium credit in 2013 and a prior limit increase of $50 million in 2012.”
For more information about OIL’s property coverages and related value go to http://www.oil.bm.
Oil Insurance Limited (OIL) insures over two trillion dollars of global energy assets for more than fifty members with property limits up to $400 million totaling more than thirteen billion dollars in total A- rated property capacity. Members are medium to large sized public and private energy companies with at least $1 billion in physical property assets and an investment grade rating or equivalent. Products offered include Property (Physical Damage), Windstorm, Non Gradual Pollution, Cyber, Control of Well, Terrorism, Construction and Cargo. The industry sectors that OIL protects include Offshore and Onshore Exploration & Production, Refining and Marketing, Petrochemicals, Mining, Pipelines, Electric Utilities and other related energy business sectors.
TAIPEI, July 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — HighlightsNew mobile game revenue stream expands: Mobile games accounted for approximately 29 percent of total game revenues in the second quarter, up from 9 percent in the prior quarter. The company plans to launc…
Brussels, 29 July 2014
Statement by President Barroso and President Van Rompuy in the name of the European Union on the agreed additional restrictive measures against Russia
Today the European Union has agreed a package of…
Thank you, Representative and Members of the Commission and entirely. Tom Lantos was a leading light in getting the Trafficking Victims Protection Bill passed and it was such an example to so many of us, whether we worked on his committee or were staff on sister committees; and for me, being able to appear before the Commission is personally very gratifying because of what he meant to me when I was working at Judiciary. But I want talk first about somebody else who means a lot to us in the trafficking office and that is Fredrick Douglass — one of the first African-American ambassadors that the United States ever had. But, more importantly a person who escaped slavery and worked so hard to eradicate it, not just for his own community – the African-American community – but around the United States and around the world. He said one time that, ‘I prayed for my freedom for 20 years and never got an answer until I prayed with my feet,’ and that notion of the journey to freedom being something that is not ours to give to the victims, but rather a journey to walk with them on. And, really think of them as survivors: people who can pray with their feet and can get out. So one of the things I want to just highlight in my testimony today is that notion of the survivors’ as being full participants in this fight. This isn’t something we’re doing for them, or something we’re doing to them, but rather something we’re doing with them.
As you mentioned Secretary Kerry released the annual Trafficking in Persons, about a month ago. And it looks at the ongoing challenges of fighting human trafficking in about 190 countries and territories around the world. We’ve come a long way in our shared fight, and we saw and we’re very happy with the fact that about 45,000 victims were identified by governments in the last year. But up again the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s most recent estimate – a conservative one – suggesting that there are over 21 million trafficking victims in the world; people held in servitude even as we speak. Clearly, we have a lot more work to do.
First, the diagnostics.
As you know, trafficking in persons covers all the activities involving holding a person in a condition of compelled service. Despite the name, it doesn’t require moving a victim. Indeed many people in forced labor around the world work in or near their home communities. It does require the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel or maintain someone in labor or sexual exploitation, unless, of course, they’re under 18 for commercial sex.
Each year we look at government efforts around the world through this “three-P paradigm” of prevention, protection, and prosecution. I grew up on a farm so of course, I have to make an agricultural reference: it’s the three legs of the milking stool. You fall over if you only have two legs or even one — Prevention, protection, and prosecution, all together.
And the TIP Report ranks these countries. Last year 31 governments in Tier 1, which is not getting an “A” on the test. This is basically the equivalent to a “C” – meeting the minimum standards. United States is one of those, and we’re doing some interesting things. We’ve got 55 of the 57 states and territories have passed modern anti-trafficking legislation, and every year we see more and more good policies, good trainings, more and more good outcomes for trafficking victims, and yet all I can say about the United States is that we’re meeting the minimum standards. I’d like to say that the United States and the other 31 countries on Tier 1 are doing well, and we’re going to keep working to make sure we can get to that point. But right now we’re talking about doing the bare minimum. Eighty-nine governments in Tier 2, 44 governments on the Tier 2 Watch List, and 23 governments on the lowest level, which is Tier 3.
Couple of “progress stars” this year I’d like to point out: Chile and Switzerland, both moved up into Tier 1 of the Report. In part thanks to President Obama’s meeting with Former President Pinera in March of 2011, and the ongoing commitment of President Bachelet since she’s come back. Chilean authorities have strengthened anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts through building police and prosecutor capacity. They obtained their first convictions for labor trafficking, increased interagency coordination, and created a national action plan, and victim assistance protocol. All of the things that we’ve seen as a recipe for success around the world.
In Switzerland, the government passed a law prohibiting the prostitution of minors for the first time. Convicted more traffickers, issued more serious prison sentences, and launched their first-ever nationwide awareness campaign. It has taken a lot of time and dedication both from the United States and Switzerland to get to that point, including the personal commitment of our Ambassadors Don Beyer and Suzi LeVine, which is much appreciated.
We’ve seen a number of other countries where we’ve had progress, and it’s put forward in my written testimony but I do want to call out one here in the hemisphere and that is Haiti. Amazingly in a country where a slave revolt led to the creation of a new nation, Haiti had never made slavery a criminal offense. And, paid for it with almost 300,000 children in domestic servitude in a practice known as restivik, but what really is a form of modern slavery. Two-hundred-ten years after slaves seized their own freedom, the passage of the modern anti-trafficking legislation this spring made modern slavery illegal in Haiti, and is very welcomed.
We also this year in the Report saw the operation of the auto-downgrade provision of the 2008 law, which basically said that countries can only be on Tier 2 Watch List for X number of years before they automatically have to fall down to Tier 3. If they’re just stagnant they’re actually moving backwards. It might be the jet-lag talking from the trip that I was on last week, but you know, it’s like being on one of the moving walkways at the airport: if you’re just standing there facing the wrong direction, you’re moving backwards. So, the auto-downgrade provision really was looking at how do you incentivize governments to move, and we saw that with Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad and the Maldives. Countries that took action, made serious efforts, and did not get subjected to that automatic downgrade provision of the law.
But two significant allies, and important trade partners to the United States did not show significant improvement. Thailand and Malaysia were put on Tier 3 this year as a result of that auto-downgrade provision and their lack of sufficient progress going forward.
Over the coming years, things to look at both in you and your oversight function and us in our diplomacy will be the four countries that face the automatic downgrade next year: Angola, Belarus, Burundi, and the Comoros. While human trafficking may seem far away, in reality it is very much a part of our daily lives. Not only does it happen here in the United States (in both urban and rural settings), over 350 calls to the National Hotline from Oregon alone last year, but in a globalized world. Goods and services tainted from forced labor can easily enter the closets, pantries, and garages of even the most dedicated modern abolitionists.
We continue to see in the Report this year widespread use of forced labor throughout the world, in a wide range of industries. And while governments have typically had more success in identifying and responding to sex trafficking cases than labor trafficking, and we do not want anyone to back off of those efforts, more must be done to combat all forms of modern slavery.
A couple of sectors that I want to point out. Forced labor in mining was noted in 46 of the narratives this year, but the actions did not match the exploitation. No prosecutions or convictions whatsoever in the mining sector; and we’re talking not about the Klondike gold rush here. We’re talking about artisanal mining. People scraping tantalum, and coltan, and other things that come into our cell phones, come into our mobile technologies, all the way from the Eastern Congo and other places. Highlighting the interconnections between human trafficking forms, sex trafficking related to the mining industry is discussed in 15 of the narratives. Fifteen countries where we saw that happening. Now, there were some prosecutions: four in Senegal and Namibia and one conviction in Senegal. We have a long way to go to tell consumers that the mineral they use, whether it’s the mica that makes the lipstick glittery, or whether it’s the coltan makes your cell phone not burn your pocket is somehow slavery-free.
Forced labor in agriculture is also very prevalent, and it’s discussed in 126 narratives; 67% of the countries covered in the Report. We saw forced labor in agricultural, including the United States. The Report describes activities as diverse as cattle herding and cultivating, cocoa, tea, potatoes, bananas, palm oil, sugar cane, and coffee. I’ve had many of those things in the last week. And I can’t tell you whether or not they came from a place that was exploitation-free, despite the fact of what I do for a living.
Forced labor in the seafood sector is discussed in 51 narratives, with four prosecutions and two convictions recorded. And again, the demand for commercial sex acts related to the fisheries sector exists and it is noted in eight countries around the world.
So what are we doing in the face of these facts? We are supporting programs to counter forced labor in supply chains, such as work being done by the Solidarity Center in Bangkok to address human trafficking and other labor issues in the migrant communities. We are funding projects with the ILO and U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that address the role of recruitment fees charged to employees in facilitating human trafficking. The final ILO global report will be based on field research in Vietnam, China, and Paraguay. And the UNODC global report will focus on the criminal justice response and its impact in UAE, Thailand, and Mexico.
Congress, when you mentioned the ILO report, 150 billion reasons why we have to fight human trafficking, telling us that this is not just a moral issue, this is just not a security issue, this is also an economic issue. A hundred-and-fifty-billion dollar industry around the world.
The conclusion of the ILO report is undeniable – and I’ll simply quote them – “The continued existence of forced labor is bad for business, bad for development and bad for its victims. It is a practice that has no place in modern society and should be eradicated as soon as possible.”
A couple of very quick things that we’re doing to address trafficking in the supply chain. Most importantly to ensure our tax dollars don’t support this crime. President Obama signed an Executive Order two years ago strengthening protections against human trafficking in federal contracts. And we’re happy to say that the regulations carrying out that order are in their final stages. We’ve had good input from NGOs, from the business community, from the academy to really look at that, and one thing that I’m struck by is the shared commitment and the shared values of all the different actors to ensure that we have a slavery-free supply chain. As the largest purchaser of goods in the global economy, this was an important step that both signals to U.S. corporations what is expected by the largest customer in the world, but also demonstrates an approach other governments can take to strengthen protections in their own procurement.
I’d like to take a few moments to discuss the victims of this crime as well. The thematic focus, as you mentioned, Congresswoman, is the “Journey from Victim to Survivor.” The impact of human trafficking is horrifying; those who escape modern slavery struggle to recover, heal, reclaim their lives. It is not an easy path, and true recovery is far from guaranteed, but it can happen, and governments can hasten that process.
But the Report also highlights the importance of empowering trafficking survivors to strengthen the anti-trafficking movement itself. And, as Secretary Kerry explains – and we know this from the domestic violence work, we know this from the sexual violence movement over the last 25 to 30 years — from their experiences, survivors know better than anyone else the types of protections and opportunities that would help ensure others don’t go through the same thing. Someone who was invisible to police can provide advice on what law enforcement should’ve looked for, what types of awareness campaigns might have helped him or her see that they were a victim of a crime. A survivor who cooperated in the conviction of their trafficker knows best what made her participation in that process less traumatic and more effective.
Survivors are strong. And they are perhaps our best hope—and our most overlooked resource—for ending modern slavery once and for all.
This was brought home to me in a vivid way yesterday when we hosted our annual intern roundtable, which brought over 350 interns from across town to think about this journey. There, we saw Survivor Caucus member Evelyn Chumbow and Special Assistant to the President Amy Pope sharing a podium. A decade ago the newly-liberated child slave, Evelyn, met for the first time, the young prosecutor Amy Pope, and that day made the hard choice to trust her, to put her story forward and to take that leap that somebody from the government would actually help her pursue justice. A decade later yesterday, we saw the two of them together again, as colleagues confronting modern slavery together, but as equals. And that is what we’re fighting for when we talk about this Journey to Freedom.
So, finally, what is the way forward?
The TIP Report and the tier rankings are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves. We must not lose sight of the true goal which is stopping modern slavery and helping victims recover. Only with concrete programs to help them find their voice and reclaim their lives, can we help them become survivors.
Recent years have seen increased concern about the stewardship of natural resources, ethical treatment of animals, and ensuring that farmers receive fair prices for their work. As a result, certifications and labels exist to inform customers whether seafood is sustainably caught, livestock is pasture-fed, chickens are free range, coffee beans are “fair trade,” diamonds are conflict-free, I can go on and on. And yet those “seals-of-approval” while fostering increased transparency and driving consumers to reward companies that engage in good corporate citizenship, they all seem to assume that the hands that pull the net, that the hands that pick the crops are not enslaved. We know that assumption is non-operative. We have a responsibility to the 20-plus million people around the world to break that cycle of human trafficking that forms the basis of so many products and goods to drive out a supply chain the patterns of vulnerabilities to forced labor, and to address socio-economic foundations of poverty that ensnare so many into these exploitative situations.
It will continue to require leaders throughout society—community workers, activists, faith groups, organized labor, government officials, industry leaders—to encourage producers to monitor their supply chains and buy and sell goods and services free of forced labor. So we will continue to build our knowledge of forced labor in the supply chain, we will continue to expand our collaboration with other governments, the corporate sector, and civil society. And we look forward to working with you in Congress to proclaim freedom and seek justice. So we can achieve our ultimate goal: a world without slavery.
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
July 28, 2014
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
**Please see below for a correction marked with an asterisk.
1:10 P.M. EDT
MR. EARNEST: Good afternoon, everybody. Hope you all enjoyed your weekend. It’s nice to see you on this Monday afternoon.
We are starting pretty close to on time today, which is a nice, new trend, hopefully that we’ll be able to continue. The reason for that is I have alongside with me here today the President’s Deputy National Security Advisor, Tony Blinken, who is going to talk to you about a telephone call that the President convened with some of our allies in Europe today.
I know that over the last couple of weeks you guys have had a lot of questions about what the President is doing in terms of leading the international community’s response to the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jetliner a couple of weeks ago now. There have also been, obviously, a series of coordinated efforts to increase international pressure on Russia for the actions that they have taken in Ukraine.
So Tony is here to give you a detailed readout of that telephone conversation that the President convened today and answer any questions you may have about our ongoing efforts to coordinate the imposition of economic costs on the Russian regime. He probably only has 10 or 15 minutes here, so we’ll go through that part of it relatively quickly and then I’ll be around to answer remaining questions you may have.
But I would encourage you, as you’re thinking about the questions you want to ask Tony, to focus on the Russia and Ukraine situation. I know that there are a lot of newsy developments in Gaza as well, so he can take one or two of those before departing. But we have to limit this to 10 or 15 minutes.
So with that, I present Tony Blinken.
MR. BLINKEN: Josh, thank you.
Good afternoon. Let me start by giving you a readout of the President’s videoconference with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom, President Hollande of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, and Prime Minister Renzi of Italy. I should add that Chancellor Merkel was actually on the phone; the others were on a videoconference.
The primary focus of the conversation today was to talk about Ukraine, and they discussed next steps concerning the crisis there, but also efforts to achieve a cease-fire in Gaza, and the situations in Iraq and Libya.
On Ukraine, they stressed the continued need for unrestricted access to the shoot-down site of Malaysia Air Flight 17 to allow for the recovery of the victims’ remains and for international investigators to proceed with their efforts. They agreed on the importance of coordinated sanctions measures on Russia for its continued transfer of arms, equipment and fighters into eastern Ukraine, including since the crash, and to press Russia to end its efforts to destabilize the country and instead choose a diplomatic path for resolving the crisis.
Concerning Gaza, the President noted that Israel has the right to take action to defend itself. The leaders agreed on the need for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire, noting shared concern about the risk of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life.
On Iraq, they discussed the security challenges, welcomed developments in the political process, and urged the swift completion of government coordination and hopefully an inclusive government that results from that.
And then, with respect to Libya, they agreed on the need for an immediate cease-fire among the militias of Tripoli, calling for the seating of the newly elected Council of Representatives, and underscoring support for the U.N. in seeking a resolution to the conflict. They condemned any use of violence to attack civilians, intimidate officials, or disrupt the political process.
Having said that, let me just spend a few minutes if I can on Ukraine to put this in context. This was, I think by our count, about the 50th call or videoconference the President has had with his European counterparts since the beginning of this crisis. And ever since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its campaign to destabilize Ukraine, the President has led the international effort to isolate Russia for its actions in Ukraine, to support Ukraine itself, and to reassure our allies.
This effort has produced major strategic gains. We’ve created space for Ukraine to hold successful presidential elections despite Russian efforts to disrupt them. And that’s produced the strongest leadership Ukraine has seen since the end of the Cold War. We’ve created space for Ukraine to sign an association agreement with the European Union despite Russian efforts to prevent that. And recall that the former President Yanukovich’s last-minute about-face on signing that association agreement is exactly what precipitated this crisis in the first place. And we’ve forged a robust financial support package for Ukraine led by the IMF.
None of these things just happened. They were the result of a major, sustained effort by the President to lead the international community.
All of that said, the challenge to Ukraine remains acute. Ukrainian forces are right now making major gains to regain sovereignty in the east, but at the same time, Russia is doubling down on its own efforts to support the separatists and destabilize the country. Indeed, it is cynically using all of the attention focused on the crash of MH17 as a cover and distraction for its own efforts. It’s increased the provision of heavy weaponry across the border. We’ve seen convoys of tanks, multiple rocket launchers, artillery and armored vehicles. There’s evidence it’s preparing to deliver even more powerful multiple rocket launchers.
It is firing from positions inside of Russia into Ukraine — something that we documented this weekend. And we’ve seen a significant re-buildup of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peacekeeping intervention in Ukraine.
So there’s urgency to arresting these developments, to ending the efforts to destabilize Ukraine. And the urgency is this: First, everything we’re seeing is a real drag on the Ukrainian economy. The military expenditures that Ukraine has to make are a drag, and the fact that Luhansk and Donetsk, which represent 15 percent of Ukrainian GDP and about 25 percent of its manufacturing exports, are basically taken out of the Ukrainian economy equation is also a drag on the economy.
Second, the longer this goes on there’s the risk of further outrageous actions by the separatists or by Russia that deepen the international crisis. So there’s a need to take further action now to convince Russia to change course and cease its efforts to destabilize Ukraine.
On the call, the European leaders clearly shared this assessment and a determination to act. We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week, including in key sectors of the Russian economy. In turn, and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself.
Our purpose here, again, is not to punish Russia, but to make clear that it must cease its support for the separatists and stop destabilizing Ukraine.
Let me just finish by putting this in a larger context. Everything we’ve seen as a result of Russia’s actions and the actions that the President has led in the international community over these many months has turned what is happening in Ukraine into a strategic loser for Russia. First, we’ve seen a dramatic impact on the Russian economy by the sanctions that the United States, Europeans and others have taken.
These are acknowledged by the Russian Finance Minister and, indeed, the Deputy Prime Minister, even Putin himself. Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia and a proxy for the larger economy, a month ago, in announcing a steep decline in profits, said, “In particular, recent events in Ukraine significantly impacted the dynamics of the Russian economy.”
We’ve seen the financial markets go up and down, the ruble hitting lows, the Central Bank has had to spend $37 billion to defend the ruble, about 8 percent of its foreign exchange holdings. The result is higher borrowing costs and a decrease in the value of Russian savings.
Capital flight — $70 billion in the first half of this year, more than all of 2013 combined. And projections for the entire year put it at between $100 billion and $200 billion.
Foreign investment is drying up. Investors are looking for stability; they’re looking at countries that keep their international commitments; they’re looking at countries that have connected to the international economy. On all three counts, Russia is giving them great pause. The credit rating for Russia was cut to just above the junk level; financing yields are frozen; Russian companies are not issuing bonds to raise capital. And as we’ve seen overall, Russia is heading for economic contraction, not growth, a significant reversal from just a few months ago.
Let me add as well, there’s talk that Russia has “won Crimea.” But the fact of the matter is what’s happened is it’s lost Ukraine. Ukraine is more united in a Western orientation than ever before and has a much greater sense of national identity. We’ve produced, as I mentioned before, the space for elections and the signing of the association agreement with the European Union.
Crimea itself is becoming a dead weight on the Russian economy — $7 billion a year at least in budget and pension support; $50 to $60 billion required over the next several years for critical infrastructure. And Russians themselves are asking why this money is being spent in Crimea and not in Russia. There’s downward pressure on defense spending; there’s downward pressure on discretionary spending as a result of this.
We’ve seen the actions in Ukraine reenergize NATO. There’s a deeper commitment to Article 5. NATO itself, it now has a virtual regular presence, a continuous air, land and sea presence on the territory adjacent to Russia. And we’ll see what happens at the NATO summit, but there’s at least the prospect now for reversing the downward trend in defense spending.
We’ve seen on energy reform a jolt to the Europeans to take real steps to decrease dependence, to diversify supply, to upgrade infrastructure, to develop new sources.
And then, finally, I would say this: For the Russians and for President Putin, power equals a combination of geopolitical influence and economic strength to provide for the Russian people. There was a recent survey in Russia — the top two priorities of the Russian people were evenly split: international influence and creating the conditions for individual prosperity. As a result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and as a result of the leadership we’ve exerted, both of those are in jeopardy. And so is President Putin’s compact with his own people.
There is a way out: Integrate Russia with the international economy, diversify away from fossil fuels, and play by the rules. That is still on offer. That is still a possibility. We would like nothing better than to resolve this crisis in Ukraine diplomatically. And that’s now up to President Putin.
Q Thank you very much for this update. Could you also update us on the U.S. response to the criticism that Senator Kerry has come under in Israel after his attempts to implement a cease-fire there? Is that damaging to the U.S.-Israel relationship?
MR. BLINKEN: Let me say this about Secretary Kerry: Israel has no better friend, no stronger defender. No one has done more to help Israel achieve a secure and lasting peace. He has been tireless in his efforts. And I think that Israel and many countries and friends around the world recognizes exactly that.
Q Has the President raised this in his call with the Prime Minister yesterday? Or have U.S. officials been complaining about the criticism to counterparts in Israel?
MR. BLINKEN: No. Look, what you see, I think, unfortunately on a regular basis, are people leaking things that are either misinformed or attempting to misinform. And in particular, with regard to criticism that was levied by undisclosed sources about the proposal for a cease-fire, the proposal that was criticized was not a U.S. proposal, it was a draft to illicit comments from the Israelis. It was basically a discussion paper based on the original Egyptian initiative. Virtually every element that unidentified sources complained about was in the initial Egyptian proposal and agreed to by Israel 10 days before.
In that, there was no mention of the need for disarmament. The document underscored the need for discussion between Israel and Palestinian factions. It called for the opening of border crossings. It did not make mention of tunnels. All of this, again, in the Egyptian proposal that the Israelis had accepted and unfortunately Hamas did not. The document also reflected the strong view that we have that demilitarization as well as reconstruction in Gaza are critical agenda items for any negotiations that follow a cease-fire.
So the bottom line on this is that what was leaked, unfortunately, was I think an effort to misinform or was just misinformed.
Q The sanctions that we’ve seen so far have been fairly targeted against Russia. Would you describe the sweeping nature of what you’re talking about later this week being coordinated between Europe and the United States?
MR. BLINKEN: I don’t want to get ahead of where the Europeans are or where we are, and we’ll see that in the days to come. But what we know is this: The Europeans made clear last week that they were prepared to act in key sectors of the Russian economy, including the financial sector, the arms sector, the energy sector. And so I think you can anticipate actions in those areas. Similarly, they’re looking to broaden criteria by which they can sanction people or entities. And I think one of the things they’re looking at is to bring in some of the cronies of President Putin.
So we’ve already seen with the sanctions to date, as I went through a few moments ago, a very serious impact on the Russian economy. And indeed, it’s the sanctions themselves and then the climate of tremendous uncertainty they create, even with the prospect of more sanctions, that has led to capital flight, investment drying up and the growth projections going down to basically zero.
Q And when you talk about this force that’s building up — the Russians are building up, are they preparing a Russian invasion of Ukraine?
MR. BLINKEN: One of the things that we believe Russia has been trying to do is, for example, to get the Ukrainians to take some action that they can then use as “justification” for some kind of intervention — so-called humanitarian intervention, or so-called peacekeeping intervention. So that’s one of the things that we think is in the potential Russian playbook.
The other thing they’re doing, most significantly, is increasing the supply of heavy equipment, weapons and fighters to the separatists across the border. And this is well documented in what we’ve seen; it’s well documented in social media.
Q In talking about that buildup and the heavier artillery, are we talking about more surface-to-air missile capability?
MR. BLINKEN: We are talking about multi-rocket launchers — that’s one of the things we’re seeing — artillery pieces, tanks, armored vehicles, and the concerns, as I said at the outset, about increasingly heavy weaponry. And I think there’s a reason for this, and the reason is that on the battlefield itself the Ukrainians are doing very well against the separatists in trying to regain the sovereignty of their entire country. So Russia’s proxies are right now on the losing end of the fight. And that’s why we think Russia is doubling down.
Q Do you think there are still Buk missile launchers within Ukraine at this point?
MR. BLINKEN: We believe that there are SA-11s that are still within Ukraine, including potentially in separatists’ hands.
Q A two-parter. How did you arrive at $37 billion spent to defend the ruble? And second, are there any other security things you’re looking at besides rocket launchers and tanks and heavy equipment?
MR. BLINKEN: I think the $37 billion has actually been fairly well documented in the financial press and by other statements that have been made. We can get you the backup for that.
And in terms of the military equipment that the Russians are providing, again, those are the main elements, but there are certainly other things that are going in. But in terms of heavy weaponry, those are the critical elements.
Q You’ve been talking about actions that have been taken this week by the EU and U.S. I want to go back to something that Josh said from the podium Friday about Russia and Putin were culpable for the downing of Flight 17. Is there a chance, is there a possibility that Putin could be charged in the International Crimes Court with war crimes, by any chance, with all of this that’s going on right now?
MR. BLINKEN: When it comes to Russian culpability, I think the record is clear. The Russians have been directly supporting the separatists with the provision of weapons. We believe that the SA-11 that was used to shoot down the Malaysian airliner came from Russia. We don’t know who was operating it. We believe the weapon itself came from Russia. The three top leading separatist leaders are all Russian nationals. So it’s clear that Russia has a significant influence over the separatists and could, if it so desired, get them to cease and desist.
So, in that sense, there is a clear and ongoing culpability by Russia for events in eastern Ukraine and for a failure to de-escalate the situation, and indeed, for the context in which all of this is happening, including the shoot-down of the airliner.
In terms of pointing to exactly who pulled the trigger, that we don’t know yet and we’ll see if we can develop that information. But the bottom line is this: Through its ongoing support and increasing support for the separatists, Russia bears responsibility for everything that’s going on in eastern Ukraine.
Q So you’re saying technically he could be brought before the International Crimes Court?
MR. BLINKEN: Look, I don’t want to get ahead of anything. Again, the main point is to emphasize that Russia bears responsibility and has the ability to actually de-escalate this crisis by moving it onto a diplomatic track. That is what we’d most like to see.
Q I don’t know if you’re aware of reports that just came now that Gaza Central Hospital has been hit, and 10 more dead Palestinian children. You said that the United States is Israel’s best friend, which I tend to agree with you. You also provide them with $3 billion a year, and you give them the Iron Dome that saved countless lives. How come you don’t have any leverage over Israel to extract a humanitarian cease-fire that would last for seven days? Does that mean that you basically have no influence over them, or that just Israel doesn’t care?
MR. BLINKEN: First, I haven’t seen those specific reports. Second, the record is clear: Israel has repeatedly accepted cease-fires that Hamas has rejected. So the bottom line on that is clear.
Let me say more generally, no country can abide rockets raining down on its people or terrorists tunneling underground to kill or kidnap its people. We have consistently and repeatedly defended Israel’s right to defend itself. Hamas intentionally targets civilians. And indeed, Iron Dome, thankfully, is there and has protected many of those civilians. And it uses the Palestinian people as human shields, wrapping them around its weapons and strategic sites.
In contrast, Israeli policy is to avoid civilian casualties. Indeed, it holds itself to the highest standards to take every precaution to avoid those casualties. But the fact is, despite its efforts, the civilian suffering in Gaza is great and growing every day. So the practical reality is that it is difficult for Israel to meet its own high standards. Civilian casualties are increasing. It’s especially heartbreaking to see children suffering in this crisis.
This is a problem we have grappled with in Iraq and then in Afghanistan because we, too, hold ourselves to these standards. It’s incredibly difficult to sustain them. But I think this underscores the urgency of getting an unconditional, immediate, humanitarian cease-fire.
Q — said yesterday — just a quick a follow-up — that he wants Gaza demilitarized. What does that mean in terms of a long-term strategy or a peace negotiation or now as we talk in the next week or so?
MR. BLINKEN: As I said, we support an immediate, unconditional, humanitarian pause leading, we hope, to a sustainable cease-fire. We also believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must also lead to the disarmament of terrorist groups. And what we intend to do is to work closely with Israel, regional partners and the international community to achieve this goal.
MR. EARNEST: Ann, I’ll give you the last one, then we’ll let Tony go.
Q Thank you very much. On Russia, if all the impact of all of these sanctions and all the threat of sanctions are as dire as you’ve described, why hasn’t Putin blinked?
MR. BLINKEN: He has to make a strategic decision. And you’re exactly right, he hasn’t made it yet. We’ve seen him on a regular basis pull back tactically, say the right things in public while he’s doing the wrong things behind the scenes. So he’s clearly sensitive to the pressure that’s being exerted. But it’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures. And that’s what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week.
MR. EARNEST: Thank you, Tony.
MR. BLINKEN: Thanks, Josh. Thank you.
Q Thank you, Tony.
MR. EARNEST: All right before we move on to other topics, I do want to do one thing at the top. And I believe we have a slide that goes along with this — there it is. Today we got some very good news about Medicare’s financial future. In the President’s first year in office in 2009, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security trustees projected the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would not be able to pay its bills in 2017, just three years from now. Today’s new date is 2030 — 13 years later than that projection in 2009, an improvement that is thanks in part to the reforms of the Affordable Care Act, such as efforts to reduce hospital spending on preventable readmissions. And today’s date, you’ll note, is actually even four years later than was projected just last year.
A couple other relevant statistics that are included in the report: Furthermore, per-capita growth, or the amount spent per Medicare beneficiary has slowed dramatically in recent years, falling to one-third of what it was, and to nearly zero last year — helping to restrain overall growth in Medicare spending even as millions of baby boomers enter the program.
In addition, the trustees project that the Medicare Part B premium will not increase, which would make 2015 the second year in a row that premiums in Medicare stay flat.
While today’s report focuses on Medicare, it reflects broader trends in the health care system toward much slower growth in costs, a trend that has continued into 2014. Over the 50 months since enactment of the Affordable Care Act, health care prices have risen at a slower rate than over any comparable period in 50 years.
So that is a report that is being released as we speak, and so there will obviously be some more details included in that report later today when you get a chance to review it.
So with that, Nedra, do you have any additional questions today?
Q I do. Can you give us your response to the VA deal? Does the President think it does enough to solve the problem with the health care system?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Nedra, this compromise has been announced between House Republicans and the chair of the Senate Veterans Committee. We certainly welcome that announcement. There are a couple of reasons based on published reports that we’re encouraged by that compromise.
The first is, as you even heard me mention on Friday, there are much-needed reforms that need to be implemented into the Veterans Administration. The President and others have called for those important management reforms to be implemented, and again, based on press reports, the indications of those reforms are that many of them are included in this bill.
The second thing — and this is really important — on July 16th, Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson called for Congress to provide VA the additional resources necessary to deliver timely, high-quality care to veterans through a strengthened VA system while also temporarily using care in the community to help ensure veterans can get the care they need when they need it.
When he asked for those additional resources to address some very specific concerns that he had laid out, that was something that had previously not been part of the debate as it relates to this VA reform package. So the inclusion of these additional resources at the strong urging of the Acting Secretary is a positive step in the right direction, and something that we think will be very important to the success of some of the reforms that are contemplated by this bill.
In addition, this proposal for on a temporary, as-needed basis to allow some veterans to get some access to care in the community is also the kind of thing that could address the immediate need that many veterans have, but by adding these additional resources over the long term, we feel like those are benefits and care that can be provided through the VA.
So the details of this compromise have yet to be unveiled, so I don’t want to get ahead of the announcement that is planned for Capitol Hill later today. But the early reports are positive.
Q Josh, Susan Rice was on MSNBC a while ago. She talked about a grave and deepening concern at the civilian casualties in Gaza. What exactly would you like the Israelis to do? Are you calling on them to call off the offensive?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Steve, we have said many times — I think Tony just had the opportunity to say that we defend Israel’s right to defend themselves. In fact, you could make a case, and many Israeli political leaders do, that they have a responsibility to make sure that they’re taking steps militarily to account for the safety of civilians on the Israeli side of the border. This is, after all, the Israeli population that elected them, and they are in the best position to determine what steps are necessary to protect their citizens. That is their right.
At the same time, Israel leaders often say that they have in place very high standards to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians on the other side of the border, as well. That stands in stark contrast to the strategy that is deployed by Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza that are intentionally targeting civilians on the other side of the border. They are also intentionally using civilians on their side of the border to try to essentially shield their equipment and their personnel from Israeli military activities. So there is a stark contrast in the approach that’s taken by the Israelis and taken by Hamas and other extremist groups.
That said, as I mentioned, Israel and their political leaders often talk about the high standards that they put in place for their military operations to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians — innocent civilians on the Palestinian side of the border. Based on published reports, it’s apparent that there is more that they should do to live up to those standards that they have set. And that is something that we routinely encourage them to do, while defending their right to defend themselves. The President reiterated that in his phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.
Q For months, we’ve been talking about increasing sanctions against Russia, and sort of the ultimate would be these sweeping sectoral sanctions. So can you explain why that hasn’t happened now? Why is this not the time to go that far, and still do these kind of slow, incremental building sanctions?
MR. EARNEST: I would say that the sanctions regime that the President rolled out about a week and a half ago, the day before the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jetliner, did take a step in that very direction. These were sectoral sanctions that were aimed at specific entities in the defense, financial and energy sectors.
There was an indication from our European partners that they were taking the preliminary steps necessary to implement similar sanctions in their own right, but those steps have not yet been taken by the Europeans. That is something that was discussed by the President and his counterparts in Western Europe earlier today, as Tony mentioned.
So there have been some steps that the United States has taken to put in place and impose economic costs against President Putin and the Russian regime. Tony detailed the economic impact that those sanctions were having. But as Ann rightly pointed out in her question, it is true that the costs have not yet led to the kind of strategic re-evaluation that we would like to see the Russians undertake. That is why the international community is actively considering imposing additional costs by having the Europeans increase the amount of sanctions that they have currently levied. It’s also why the United States is considering additional steps that we could take that would pose additional economic costs on Russia and on President Putin.
Q Well, so the question was really — I mean, we all know that it’s sort of these very precise, let’s pick this bank or that bank; it’s not on the entire Russian banking system. Do you think there’s still any leverage left in doing it that way?
MR. EARNEST: I’m certainly not an expert in terms of the way that these tools are deployed. But it is our view that there is additional leverage that can be gained. That is certainly why they’re being contemplated both by leaders in Western Europe, but also by those who do have an expertise in this field in this country.
As Tony documented, there are a number of economic consequences that Russia has already had to bear in terms of the outflow of private capital, in terms of the downward revisions in their economic projections. We’ve also seen Russia expend significant sums of money to try to shore up the strength of their own currency.
So there are a number of steps that Russia has taken, and a number of outside evaluators who have reviewed the situation to confirm our suspicion that the economic costs have taken a toll on the Russian economy but they have not yet led President Putin to re-evaluate his strategy in Ukraine. And that ultimately is our goal.
Q Josh, a quick follow-up on the VA bill. Is $10 billion enough? They’ve unveiled it up on the Hill, so is $10 billion enough to take care of the system with its deep, deep troubles right now?
MR. EARNEST: Well, we’re still evaluating the specifics and details of their package, so I don’t want to get — I don’t want to say any more than I already have. But in the next couple of days, we may be in a position to comment on that a little further.
Q Thanks, Josh. The House and Senate are very divided on the border supplemental right now. If they can’t come to agreement by the end of the week, what is the practical effect? Can you wait until September?
MR. EARNEST: Cheryl, I would refer you to the individual agencies for the impact that Congress’s failure to pass the supplemental appropriations request would have on their ability to perform the functions that they are required to perform.
We are hopeful that Congress will take the kind of action that is required. Both Democrats and Republicans have spoken quite publicly about their concerns about the situation at the border. This administration has been really clear about what we feel like we need in terms of resources to deal with the influx that we saw of those who were apprehended at the border earlier this summer.
So there’s a detailed package that we’ve put forward. As I mentioned last week, the Speaker, at a news conference at the end of the week, said that he was still discussing this matter with members of his own caucus. That was a pretty disappointing development in the part of this administration. We put forward a detailed package — I happened to bring it with me right here — it includes very detailed numbers about what we feel is necessary.
I noticed that the new Republican Whip was on one of the Sunday shows yesterday and noted that the administration was asking for a — what he described as a blank check. It makes me think he’s not sure — that he doesn’t know what a blank check is. We’ve actually been very specific about the numbers that we feel are necessary to deal with this problem and to address the range of concerns that many people have raised about those who have been apprehended at the border.
So we hope that there will be prompt congressional action on this that is in line with their rhetoric on this issue.
Q Can I follow on that?
MR. EARNEST: Sure, Wendell, go ahead.
Q Why isn’t the change in the 2008 law on non-contiguous migrants’ deportation part of that package? The President had indicated that he supported a change and his advisors say that changing that law would be necessary to send the kids at least from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador back as rapidly as those from Canada and Mexico. So why is that not a part of that package?
MR. EARNEST: Well, you would have to talk to members of Congress about how they want to put this all together. What we believe is most important is ensuring that the federal government has the resources necessary to address the range of challenges that are posed by this situation. Remember, it includes some additional security at the border in the form of surveillance equipment. It also includes the ability of the federal government to open and operate additional detention centers so that we can detain those individuals who have been apprehended at the border. It includes some funding for HHS that would allow them to evaluate the basic health needs of those individuals who have been apprehended, both to meet their humanitarian needs, but also to ensure the safety of the broader communities in which they’re detained.
It also includes funding that would allow these repatriation flights to take place so that we could more quickly return those individuals that have been apprehended here to their home countries. It also, of course, includes additional resources to ensure that those who are apprehended at the border receive the due process to which they’re entitled. So this means hiring new judges and prosecutors and asylum officials to ensure that that can take place.
Q But notwithstanding Democrat and Republican differences over the amount of funding, the Republicans say in order to approve some, they’re going to need to change that 2008 law. Does the President support that?
MR. EARNEST: Well, it is unfortunate that you would see them take an absolutist position on this. We certainly do support Congress taking the necessary steps to give the Secretary of Homeland Security the flexibility he needs and the discretion that he can use to more efficiently and effectively enforce the law. That is a priority of this administration.
But we should not allow the debate around what should be included in that language to hold up something that everybody agrees is necessary, which is additional resources that can be used by the federal government to meet the basic humanitarian needs of those individuals who are apprehended, but also provide funding that can be used to more quickly return those who are found by the courts to not have a legal basis for remaining in the country.
Q Thanks, Josh. Some members of the Republican Whip team on that have suggested that they’ve gotten surprising support for what is a much smaller check than the one that the White House is asking for, and the $2.7 billion being put forth by the Senate is getting some pushback from Democrats like Joe Manchin, Mary Landrieu and doesn’t seem to have a lot of support on the Republican side. And you also have a situation where Congress is in session for three and a half days this week. So with the clock ticking, what do you see as the prognosis and what happens if none of this goes through?
MR. EARNEST: Well, there are those here in town and probably those of you here in this room that have a little bit more experience in evaluating congressional action than I do. So I will leave that analysis and prognostication to the experts. I’ll simply observe that this administration three weeks ago today put forward a very detailed request before Congress, and asking for those additional resources to address a problem that I think to a person every single member of Congress agreed existed. And what we have seen in Congress is a lot of talk, particularly from Republicans, but not a lot of willingness to act. And that is rather unfortunate.
And we are hopeful that in the pivotal week that remains before Congress departs Washington for the traditional five-week recess that they’ll take the important steps that are necessary to ensure the federal government has the resources to deal with a problem that, again, I think every single member of Congress agrees exists.
Q Can I also ask you about a Reuters’ report that just came out? I don’t have any more details than this, that Netanyahu says Israel “must be prepared for protracted Gaza campaign.” And I wonder if it’s possible that there could be a military victory for Israel, but a loss for them in both the political realm and the court of public opinion. Can I get your reaction to that statement by Benjamin Netanyahu?
MR. EARNEST: Well, it’s hard to react to a statement that occurred while I was standing up here. But let me say that it is the position of the United States that it is in the best interests of people on both sides of the border for a cease-fire to take effect. And the reason for that is pretty simple, that as long as the violence continues across the border, there are going to be innocent civilians in harm’s way. And having those innocent civilians face that extreme danger has already had terribly tragic consequences for both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people. And that’s why we want to see that cease-fire put in place.
There will be an opportunity once that cease-fire is in place for us to have discussions around the kinds of concerns that have legitimately been raised by the Israelis, in particular about Hamas’ repeated willingness to use tunnels and to fire rockets aimed squarely at doing harm to innocent civilians.
So it is the priority of this administration for a cease-fire to be put in place. That is why you’ve seen Secretary Kerry doggedly pursue diplomacy to protect the lives of innocent civilians on both sides of that border.
Q Moving on —
MR. EARNEST: Sure, Ann.
Q What are the two or three, maybe three or four absolute necessities that the President thinks Congress has to get done by the end of this week? Would he ask them to delay their recess? And would he ever consider skipping Kansas City?
MR. EARNEST: Well, as we always say with the President’s travel, his trip to my hometown notwithstanding — (laughter) — as is always the case with the President’s travel, if there is a critically important function of the presidency that cannot be performed from the road, the President will not hesitate to change his schedule in order to fulfill those functions. So I do not anticipate that anything that’s happening in Congress would require that at this point. But if something does emerge, something unexpected does emerge, I’m sure that is something that the President would consider.
Q Will he ask Congress to delay its break?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I’ll let him speak to that. If he decides that that’s what they should do, then he will say so. At this point it’s the responsibility of the leaders in Congress to determine their own schedule.
There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of important work that needs to get done this week. That includes continuing to follow through on these VA reforms on which an agreement was announced over the weekend. So hopefully that can move forward without any delay or incident.
We certainly would like to see a step taken in terms of passing the supplemental appropriations request that this administration put forward several weeks ago to ensure that the administration has the resources necessary to deal with the problem at the border.
That being said, we could certainly address many of the problems at the border if Congress — if the House were to take action on comprehensive immigration reform legislation that’s already passed the Senate. The Senate did their work more than a year ago. Just by taking one simple vote, the House of Representatives could approve that legislation. The President would sign it. That would do more to improve our economy, create jobs and reduce the deficit than so many other things that Congress is debating right now.
I think what is the source of particular disappointment on this end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and I think of people in both parties across the country is to see that Congress — House Republicans in particular — are using this very valuable time to debate a piece of legislation that would allow House Republicans to file a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the President of the United States. I certainly don’t think that rises to the level of a priority that so many of these other things Congress is ignoring right now.
Let’s move around a little bit. Leslie.
Q Thanks, Josh. With Secretary Kerry unable to get a cease-fire during his trip, and the President talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu last night in what sounded like pretty blunt terms — what are the next steps for the White House? And do you — to follow up on a previous question, do you believe that there is any leverage left for the United States with Israel?
MR. EARNEST: Well, the United States remains deeply engaged in this effort. Secretary Kerry has been leading that effort over the last week in terms of the dogged diplomacy that he’s been pursuing. He’s been meeting with his counterparts not just in Israel and among the leaders of the Palestinian people, but also with his counterparts in Egypt and Qatar and Turkey and the Arab League, the U.N. He’s been deeply engaged in these conversations in pursuit of a multilateral, international effort to try to bring both sides together and reinstate the terms of the 2012 cease-fire, to try to get those civilians who right now are in harm’s way into a safer position. That’s been the focal point of our efforts, and we remain engaged in it.
In terms of our relationship with Israel, the United States remains a strong ally of the nation of Israel. American leaders say that; Israeli leaders say the same thing. The best evidence that I have of that is the assistance that the United States has provided to the Israeli government to construct the Iron Dome system that right now is, thankfully, protecting so many Israeli civilians from these rockets that Hamas is firing. So that relationship remains strong.
And the reason that Secretary Kerry remains so committed to this effort is that — or at least is in part that we believe it is clearly in the interest of Israel’s long-term security for this cease-fire [violence]* to be brought to an end, and for negotiations between the Palestinian leaders and Israeli leaders to get started in terms of trying to eventually down the line reach this broader, two-state solution.
Q I want to go back to what Tony was saying about the sanctions and the outlook for them. Is that — if I understood it correctly, the EU is going to go first with their sanctions and probably — or possibly this week, is that correct?
MR. EARNEST: I don’t know that he was in a position to talk about the sequencing of the announcement. But I do think that he committed to our expectation that we would see Europe act before the end of the week.
Q Would the U.S. act before the end of the week?
MR. EARNEST: Our position is that the options like that remain on the table, that the United States is prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for their destabilizing activities in Ukraine. I’m not in a position to confirm for you whether any decisions have been made about carrying out that action or what those actions might look like. As we’ve talked before, it would be a strategically unwise thing to do to talk about the details of those sanctions before they’re implemented. But I am in a position to confirm that those kinds of options remain on the table when it comes to the United States.
Q One final — would the U.S. concentrate on any particular sector?
MR. EARNEST: Well, if we have additional sanctions to announce, then we will be able to get into those kinds of details. But at this point, it would be preliminary for me to do so.
MR. EARNEST: Goyal.
Q Thank you. Two questions. One, some people in the Congress want to close down the 84-year-old Export-Import Bank. And many small businesses are saying that it is helping small businesses export U.S. goods abroad and also creating thousands of jobs in the U.S. My question is that some people in the Congress are saying that it is helping only the big companies. What is the President’s action — or reaction about this bank? Next month will expire the —
MR. EARNEST: The President does believe that Congress should take steps to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. That’s not just the view of this administration and many Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, it’s also the view of organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce. Those are two organizations that don’t often agree with the President when it comes to some aspects of American economic policy.
But that is an area where this administration agrees that the Export-Import Bank plays a positive role in creating jobs and creating opportunities for American businesses to succeed by opening up markets around the world.
Q Second question — oh, by the way, it has also created jobs between India and U.S. trade. Second question is that as far as U.S. ambassador to India is concerned, you think U.S. will have an ambassador before Prime Minister Modi visits the White House end of September? And second, what is happening as far as Mr. Modi’s address to the Congress? Is White House is supporting it?
MR. EARNEST: I don’t have any personnel announcements at this time, Goyal. But when we have any updates in terms of appointing an ambassador to India, we’ll let you know.
Q And address — U.S. address, Mr. Modi’s address to the U.S. Congress, is White House supporting it, the President?
MR. EARNEST: I’m not aware of those conversations.
Q Josh, there was an unusual editorial in The New York Times yesterday, I’m sure you saw, urging the lifting of the prohibition against — the federal prohibition against marijuana. What is the White House’s position on that? Would you endorse that? It’s been there for 44 years. Maybe too long and time to change it?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I did read the editorial yesterday, Bill. The administration’s position on this issue has not changed. We remain committed to treating drug use as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice problem.
In light of state laws that legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults in Colorado and Washington, the Department of Justice issued updated guidance last August to federal prosecutors in all states. That guidance reiterates that marijuana remains an illegal substance based on the laws that Congress has passed. But it also recognizes that we have limited enforcement resources, and that those resources are best used to address the most significant threats to our communities.
That was the policy before The New York Times editorial, and it continues to be our policy today.
Q So does that mean that if other states follow Colorado and Washington, the administration would also give them a green light to go ahead and legalize marijuana without federal interference?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I’m not sure a green light is the technical term that the Department of Justice has used. (Laughter.) But in terms of the guidance that might be offered to those states, I’d refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q “Blessing” or whatever word you’d want to use.
MR. EARNEST: The Department of Justice issued guidance like that. So if there are other states that are contemplating these kinds of steps, you should check with the Department of Justice about that.
Q Thank you, Josh. Yesterday, North Korea military member had announced that North Korea will attack United States, and especially they point to the White House and Canada with using their nuclear missiles. What is your comment on their threatening like this?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I have not seen the reports of those specific threats. I would encourage you to check with my National Security Council colleagues about that. The United States remains very committed to our alliance with the Republic of Korea, and that alliance allows us to have a strong military-to-military relationship with South Korea to ensure their security. The United States remains committed as ever to the safety and security of the Republic of Korea.
Q So you don’t have a strong reaction to them? Because this is the first time they mentioned the White House and Pentagon specifically.
MR. EARNEST: Again, I’m not in a position to comment specifically in reaction to those comments because I have not seen them.
Q Can I follow on Israel please?
MR. EARNEST: Let’s move around a little bit. Zeke.
Q Thanks, Josh. Just with regards to the President’s trip tomorrow, can you give us any reason why is he staying an extra night in your hometown if he’s not doing a fundraiser as you said on Friday?
MR. EARNEST: At my own personal recommendation. (Laughter.) No, look, we’ll have a little bit more about the President’s trip tomorrow. This will be an opportunity for the President to spend some time in that wonderful community. He’s going to spend some time talking to individuals who have written him a letter. You’ve seen on the last couple of trips the President has taken across the country, he’s spent a little extra time in the community to visit with those who have written him letters about the way that individuals in these individual communities are benefiting from some of the policies the President is putting forward and how they could benefit from some of the policies the President is pushing on Congress to implement. So we’ll have some more detail on that tomorrow.
Q Tuesday night or Wednesday?
MR. EARNEST: The President is departing tomorrow. He’ll remain —
Q — the letters segment, when he’s going to visit people, is that going to be —
MR. EARNEST: I believe he’ll have the opportunity to do that both Tuesday evening, as well as on Wednesday.
Q One other real quick, just on Secretary Kerry. Those leaked conversations or however you want to categorize them, is that jeopardizing the U.S. government’s ability to have candid conversations with the Israeli government? Or do you envision any sort of lasting impact on sort of the relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government as a result of these leaks?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think Tony made clear that we were disappointed to read them. But I do not anticipate that they are going to have much of an impact on the very strong, robust relationship that exists between the United States and our allies in Israel.
Q And, finally, does Secretary Kerry coming back to the United States and the President conducting that phone call yesterday and the one today, is this a shift — is the President going to take a more active personal role now that Secretary Kerry’s efforts have at least temporarily failed? Is the President going to try to use his own convening authority?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I do anticipate that the President will continue to be in regular touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu. That has been the case over the last several weeks of this crisis that has been ongoing in Gaza. And I do anticipate the President will continue to get regularly briefed by his team and will continue to be on the phone with his counterparts in the region who have concerns about the outcome here. So I do think that the President will continue to be engaged in this.
In terms of the next steps, those conversations will continue. But ultimately, as we’ve said in similar circumstances as it relates to situations like this, it’s ultimately the responsibility of the two sides to come together. What the international community and what the United States can certainly do is use our influence with both sides to press them to come to an agreement that’s in the best interest of their citizens.
As we’ve pointed out many times, we believe that a cease-fire is in the best interest of civilians on both sides of this conflict. We just need the leaders of both sides to take the kinds of steps that will impose a cease-fire and allow the leaders to sit around the table and try to broker an agreement here. And that’s what we’re going to continue to be focused on.
Q But over the last week, Secretary Kerry was the point person in trying to bring those two sides together. Has that changed this week? Will the President be trying to bring the two sides to a multilateral agreement together?
MR. EARNEST: I guess what I would say — the point that I’m trying to make, Zeke, is that I think there have been a range of officials who have been actively engaged in trying to resolve the situation — the President, first and foremost among them. It was, however, the case last week that Secretary Kerry was the most senior U.S. official on the ground in the region trying to roll up his sleeves and broker an agreement between those who were involved in this situation.
So those efforts will continue, even though Secretary Kerry is not actually in the region. But if he needs to return, I’m sure that he will not hesitate to hop back on the plane and get back to work.
Q Josh, while you were at the podium, the Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. It’s the third federal court appeals ruling and the latest in an unbroken string in rulings against the marriage ban since the Supreme Court ruling against DOMA last year. Any thoughts on this latest decision and the unanimous string of these decisions against marriage bans?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Chris, I haven’t — as you pointed out, the decision was handed down while I was up here, so I have not had an opportunity to talk to anybody on our team who was able to analyze the decision. But based on the way that you’ve described it, it does sound like the kind of decision that is consistent with the President’s views on this topic. I think that’s the best I can do.
All right, guys, we’ll see you tomorrow.
2:04 P.M. EDT