Sunday, May 28, 2017

‘All refugees want to go home someday’ – UNHCR spokesperson and author Melissa Fleming

26 May 2017 – “I envy the mountains and the trees and the rocks because they will be able to breathe Daraa’s air and I won’t.” Those were the thoughts going through Doaa Al Zamel, when she and her family reached the Jordanian border. It was November 2012, one year and eight months since the violence in Syria first began.

Doaa is a refugee from Syria who now lives in Sweden. She survived one of the worst refugee shipwrecks on the Mediterranean Sea. In August 2014, aboard an overloaded ship carrying more than 500 refugees, Doaa became an unlikely hero.

As Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Melissa Fleming listens to stories of people fleeing for their lives every day. Although she has met many refugees and gotten to know several stories of resilience, when she came across Doaa’s story, she couldn’t sleep at night.

“Doaa’s story is particularly remarkable; the resilience and the strength of the human spirit is so evident through her story that it is one that people are really not just moved by but also inspired by,” Ms. Fleming told UN News following a recent event at the UN Bookshop in New York.

War and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since records began, with over 65 million men, women and children now displaced worldwide. According to the latest Global Trends report issued by the UN refugee agency, known as UNHCR, one in every 113 people on earth is either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee.

In order to get away from the idea of refugees as statistics, Ms. Fleming believes in a communication strategy of telling individual human stories. That is why she would “love to tell all 65 million stories of all the forced displaced people in the world.” - Read More
‘All refugees want to go home someday’ – UNHCR spokesperson and author Melissa Fleming

UNICEF urges G7 leaders to adopt six-point action plan to keep refugee children safe

Investors beg G7 to stick with Paris climate agreement

Donald Trump has been dithering over fulfilling his campaign promise to pull out of the Paris Agreement at the G7 summit in Italy. Businesses say the US must work with the rest of the world to tackle climate change.

As the world's seven largest economies meet in Italy today and tomorrow, the summit is being watched by environmentalists and companies alike for what could be a world-altering decision. Will Donald Trump pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement?

Media reports last week claimed Trump would make a decision at the summit, but those reports have been denied by the White House.

Media reports last week claimed Trump would make a decision at the summit, but those reports have been denied by the White House.

"Investors are sending a powerful signal today that climate change action must be an urgent priority in the G20 countries, especially the United States, whose commitment is in question," said Mindy Lubber, President of the sustainability non-profit Ceres, which organized the letter.

"Global investors are eager to open their wallets to a low-carbon future, but it won't happen without clear, stable policy signals from countries worldwide - in particular, the US government whose waffling on the Paris climate agreement is hugely troubling."

Environmentalists have urged the G7 to push Trump on the climate issue. - Read More

Investors beg G7 to stick with Paris climate agreement | DW

German leader meets former US President before Donald Trump, who is also in Europe

While sharing a stage with Angela Merkel at an event in Berlin to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the former president said the German Chancellor was one of his “favourite partners” during his presidency. 

During a wide-ranging address, Mr Obama discussed the issue of foreign aid in the developing world, which Mr Trump has suggested he could heavily reduce as part of his ‘America First’ stance. 

Mr Obama said: "If there are disruptions in these countries, if there is bad governance, if there is war or if there is poverty, in this new world that we live in we can't isolate ourselves.

"We can't hide behind a wall."

The speaking invitation to Mr Obama was made long before Mr Trump was elected. Commentators have said her decision to do so reflects her preference for Mr Obama, with whom she is known to be friendly. 

On Thursday’s meeting, the Chancellor and Mr Obama spoke on a range of political and foreign policy issues. 

"The world is at a crossroads," said Obama, speaking in front of the Brandenburg Gate. - Read More

Barack Obama issues thinly veiled attack on Donald Trump: 'We can't ...

Barack Obama threatens to upstage Donald Trump's Europe trip as he ...

The second and last day of the G7 in Taormina has come to an end

The second and last day of the G7 Summit in Taormina ended with the Italian Presidency’s press conference, followed by the press conferences of the single G7 countries. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni illustrated the results which have been achieved during the two-day of works, which started yesterday and resumed today with sessions dedicated to innovation and development in Africa, global issues (human mobility, food security, women empowerment) and G7 global relations. - More

The second and last day of the G7 in Taormina has come to an end

Italian G7 Presidency 2017

U.S. might ban laptops on all flights into and out of the country

The United States might ban laptops from aircraft cabins on all flights into and out of the country as part of a ramped-up effort to protect against potential security threats, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Sunday.

In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Kelly said the United States planned to "raise the bar" on airline security, including tightening screening of carry-on items.

"That's the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it's a U.S. carrier, particularly if it's full of U.S. people."

In March, the government imposed restrictions on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins on flights from 10 airports, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey.

Kelly said the move would be part of a broader airline security effort to combat what he called "a real sophisticated threat." He said no decision had been made as to the timing of any ban.

"We are still following the intelligence," he said, "and are in the process of defining this, but we're going to raise the bar generally speaking for aviation much higher than it is now." 

Among the enhanced security measures will likely be tighter screening of carry-on items to allow Transport Security Administration agents to discern problematic items in tightly stuffed bags. - Read More, Reuters

U.S. might ban laptops on all flights into and out of the country

Europe can no longer fully rely on allies: Merkel

Europe can no longer completely rely on its allies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday, pointing to bruising meetings of G7 wealthy nations and NATO last week.

 Merkel did not mention by name U.S. President Donald Trump, who criticized major NATO allies and refused to endorse a global climate change accord, but she told a packed beer tent in Munich that the days when Europe could completely count on others were "over to a certain extent".

  "I have experienced this in the last few days," she said.  "And that is why I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands - of course in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain and as good neighbors wherever that is possible also with other countries, even with Russia."

 "But we have to know that we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans," Merkel said.

 The two-day G7 summit in Italy pitted Trump against the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Japan on several issues, with European diplomats frustrated at having to revisit questions they had hoped were long settled.

  The American tycoon-turned-president backed a pledge to fight protectionism at the end of the G7 summit on Saturday, but refused to endorse the climate pact, saying he needed more time to decide.

But EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Sunday he was more optimistic now than after the U.S. election last November after EU leaders held talks with Trump in Brussels.      "What I am absolutely sure after this meeting is that despite some extraordinary ... expressions, behaviors, etc, etc, our partners in the G7 are much more responsible than the first impression after the election in the United States," Tusk said in the Slovak capital. - Read More, Reuters

After summits with Trump, Merkel says Europe must take fate into own hands

Friday, May 26, 2017

Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to Jimmy Carter, Dies at 89 - nytimes

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

His death, at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, was announced on Friday by his daughter, Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of the MSNBC program “Morning Joe.”

Like his predecessor Henry A. Kissinger, Mr. Brzezinski was a foreign-born scholar (he in Poland, Mr. Kissinger in Germany) with considerable influence in global affairs, both before and long after his official tour of duty in the White House. In essays, interviews and television appearances over the decades, he cast a sharp eye on six successive administrations, including that of Donald J. Trump, whose election he did not support and whose foreign policy, he found, lacked coherence.

But in at least one respect — his rigid hatred of the Soviet Union — he had stood to the right of many Republicans, including Mr. Kissinger and President Richard M. Nixon. And during his four years under Mr. Carter, beginning in 1977, thwarting Soviet expansionism at any cost guided much of American foreign policy, for better or worse.

He supported billions in military aid for Islamic militants fighting invading Soviet troops in Afghanistan. He tacitly encouraged China to continue backing the murderous regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia, lest the Soviet-backed Vietnamese take over that country.

He managed to delay implementation of the SALT II arms treaty in 1979 by raising objections to Soviet behavior in Vietnam, Africa and Cuba; and when the Soviets went into Afghanistan late that year, “SALT disappeared from the U.S.-Soviet agenda,” as he noted in a memoir four years later.

Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski was born in Warsaw on March 28, 1928. His father, Tadeusz, was a diplomat who took the family along to France, then to Germany during the rise of Hitler in the 1930s and, fortuitously, to Canada on the eve of World War II. When the Russians took over Poland at the end of the war, Tadeusz Brzezinski chose to retire in Canada rather than return home.

The younger Mr. Brzezinski graduated from McGill University in Montreal in 1949 and earned a master’s degree there in 1950. Then it was on to Harvard, which granted him a doctorate in political science in 1953 and appointed him as an instructor. He and Mr. Kissinger were among the candidates for a faculty position; when Mr. Kissinger won an associate professorship in 1959, Mr. Brzezinski decamped to Columbia University.

His bond with Jimmy Carter developed through the Trilateral Commission, the group David Rockefeller created in 1973 as a forum for political and business leaders from North America, Western Europe and Japan to consider the challenges facing industrialized countries. Mr. Brzezinski was the commission’s first director. (Mr. Rockefeller died in March.)

In 1974, Mr. Brzezinski invited Mr. Carter, then the governor of Georgia and a rising Democratic star, to become a member. Two years later, Mr. Carter was the Democratic nominee for president, and he hired Mr. Brzezinski as a foreign affairs adviser.- Read More

Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to Jimmy Carter, Dies ...

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, dies at 89

(CNN) - Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, has died, his daughter announced on social media.

"My father passed away peacefully tonight. He was known to his friends as Zbig, to his grandchildren as Chief and to his wife as the enduring love of her life. I just knew his as the most inspiring, loving and devoted father any girl could ever have. I love you Dad #HailToTheChief," his daughter Mika, co-host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," wrote on Instagram.

He died Friday at the age of 89.

Brzezinski served as Carter's principal foreign policy adviser during the 1976 campaign and as national security adviser from 1977-1981. In his role, he was involved in brokering the Camp David Accords, the signing of the SALT II treaty and wrestling with Iran's transition from a US ally to an anti-Western Islamic republic.

Carter described Brzezinski as brilliant, dedicated, and loyal.

"Rosalynn and I are saddened by the death of Zbigniew Brzezinski. He was an important part of our lives for more than four decades and was a superb public servant," the former president said in a statement. - Read More

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter adviser, dies at 89 - CNNPolitics

Trump's Message to the Middle East Couldn't Be More Different from Obama's - Matthew RJ Brodsky

President Trump marked another turning of the page from the Barack Obama years with his highly anticipated speech delivered in Saudi Arabia on his first trip overseas. While there were some similarities with Barack Obama’s major address on June 4, 2009 in Cairo, Egypt—such as a willingness to work with those who responded in kind to America’s “outstretched hands”—most striking were the differences. Generally speaking, and put in more colloquial terms, the differences between the two approaches and speeches can best be explained by the following summation.

In 2009, Obama essentially told the Muslim world that he understood them and that their blemishes were similar to America’s; that he was aware of and sorry about America’s contribution to their extremism; and that the United States would be more tolerant in the future—that with respect for each other, a new partnership could be built.

In 2017, President Trump essentially told the gathered leaders that he is aware of the problem in Islam, but he’s not going to get into a debate over why and how it happened. The fact is that it is their problem to deal with and he’ll hold their political leaders responsible for handling their business. There exists a common set of interests upon which a new partnership can be built.

Audience and Agenda
In true realist form, Trump’s speech was designed to speak directly to the leaders of these countries. He’s now seen their faces and has their names and, perhaps more importantly, their telephone numbers, which he can now call to work on an assortment of challenges.

Contrast that with Obama, who spoke over Muslim leaders’ heads and directly to “the people of Egypt” and Muslims at large. He sought to create a “partnership between America and Islam” that was always a problem. An American president is the leader of a country with a constitution that promotes freedom of religion and favors none above the other. America and its representatives can make deals and reach understanding with governments and partner with their people—even with the adherents of a religion in a particular country. But an American president cannot partner with a religion. Trump indicated early on, “I stand before you as a representative of the American people”—he was not there as the representative of Christendom. He went on to meet the pope a few days later, as a guest of the Vatican.

Whereas George W. Bush pursued a “Freedom Agenda” in the aftermath of 9/11, which meant promoting democracy abroad as a means to address the underlying causes of Islamism, Trump never mentioned the word “freedom” or “democracy” at all. Nor was it a prominent feature in Obama’s speech: “No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.” One may therefore surmise that America’s costly foreign adventures are a thing of the past. For Obama, that decision was initially designed to leave a far lighter American footprint in the Middle East and pivot to Asia; for Trump it meant that “we are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.” - Read More, National Interest

Remarks by President Trump at NATO Unveiling of the Article 5 and Berlin Wall Memorials - Brussels, Belgium, The White House

NATO Headquarters
Brussels, Belgium
May 25, 2017

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much, Secretary General Stoltenberg.  Chancellor Merkel, thank you very much.  Other heads of state and government, I am honored to be here with members of an alliance that has promoted safety and peace across the world. 

Prime Minister May, all of the nations here today grieve with you and stand with you.  I would like to ask that we now observe a moment of silence for the victims and families of the savage attack which took place in Manchester.  (A moment of silence is observed.)  Thank you.  Terrible thing.

This ceremony is a day for both remembrance and resolve.  We remember and mourn those nearly 3,000 innocent people who were brutally murdered by terrorists on September 11th, 2001.  Our NATO allies responded swiftly and decisively, invoking for the first time in its history the Article 5 collective defense commitments.  

The recent attack on Manchester in the United Kingdom demonstrates the depths of the evil we face with terrorism.  Innocent little girls and so many others were horribly murdered and badly injured while attending a concert -- beautiful lives with so much great potential torn from their families forever and ever.  It was a barbaric and vicious attack upon our civilization.

All people who cherish life must unite in finding, exposing, and removing these killers and extremists -- and, yes, losers.  They are losers.  Wherever they exist in our societies, we must drive them out and never, ever let them back in.  

This call for driving out terrorism is a message I took to a historic gathering of Arab and Muslim leaders across the region, hosted by Saudi Arabia.  There, I spent much time with King Salman, a wise man who wants to see things get much better rapidly.  The leaders of the Middle East have agreed at this unprecedented meeting to stop funding the radical ideology that leads to this horrible terrorism all over the globe.

My travels and meetings have given me renewed hope that nations of many faiths can unite to defeat terrorism, a common threat to all of humanity.  Terrorism must be stopped in its tracks, or the horror you saw in Manchester and so many other places will continue forever.  You have thousands and thousands of people pouring into our various countries and spreading throughout, and in many cases, we have no idea who they are.  We must be tough.  We must be strong.  And we must be vigilant.  

The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration, as well as threats from Russia and on NATO’s eastern and southern borders.  These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenberg and members of the Alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations, for 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense.

This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.  And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.  Over the last eight years, the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined.  If all NATO members had spent just 2 percent of their GDP on defense last year, we would have had another $119 billion for our collective defense and for the financing of additional NATO reserves. - Read More, For Immediate Release

Remarks by President Trump at NATO Unveiling of the Article 5 and Berlin Wall Memorials - Brussels, Belgium

Thursday, May 25, 2017

FULL: President Donald Trump Speech NATO meeting in Brussels - May 25, 2017

President Donald Trump Speech NATO Unveiling Of The Article 5 Berlin Wall Memorials 2017 Trump. NATO meeting in Brussels. Remarks President Trump, NATO Sec. Jens Stoltenberg and Angela Merkel. Nato Summit - Read More

FULL: President Donald Trump Speech NATO Unveiling Of ...

NATO Allies and partners reaffirm their Warsaw commitments to sustainable security in Afghanistan and to their strong partnership with Afghanistan

NATO Allies and operational partners contributing to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission met today (19 May 2017), at NATO Headquarters, to review ongoing efforts in support to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and long-term stability in Afghanistan.

The President of Afghanistan, His Excellency Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the Commander of the Resolute Support Mission (General John W. Nicholson), and the NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan (Ambassador Cornelius Zimmermann) attended via video conference. - Read More, NATO

NATO Allies and partners reaffirm their Warsaw commitments to sustainable security in Afghanistan and to their strong partnership with Afghanistan

Opening remarks by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the working dinner of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and Government

Highlights: In Brussels, Trump Scolds Allies on Cost-Sharing, and Stays Vague on Article 5 - nytimes

• On the fourth leg of a grueling overseas trip, President Trump lectured NATO allies in Brussels on not spending enough for collective defense, and declined to plainly endorse Article 5 of the alliance’s founding treaty, which states that an attack on any member is an attack on all.

• For some of the European leaders, testing Mr. Trump seemed to be as important as finding common ground with him, amid anxiety about their relationship with a leader who had dismissed the alliance as “obsolete” and called the Belgian capital a “hellhole” after a terrorist attack.

• Earlier, Mr. Trump met with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission. Mr. Tusk said afterward that there were differences of opinion over Russia, but that when it came to Ukraine, “it seems that we were on the same line.”

• Analysts said expectations were low that Mr. Trump and European leaders would agree on issues like climate change, trade and terrorism. (He also shared an eyebrow-raising handshake with President Emmanuel Macron of France.)

• In the wake of Mr. Trump’s suggestions that the alliance was not doing enough against terrorism, NATO announced that it would formally join the fight against the Islamic State. - Read More

In Brussels, Trump Scolds Allies on Cost-Sharing, and Stays Vague on ...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Democrats Rock Trump By Reminding He’s Obligated By Law to Pay Obamacare Subsidies

Top Democrats sent a letter Wednesday to remind Donald Trump that it's his obligation under the law to pay Obamacare's subsidies.
A total of 196 House Democrats felt the need to remind Donald Trump that he has to abide by the law, as he’s made threats that he would just stop paying the subsidies.

“Trump reportedly wants to kill critical Obamacare subsidies, despite warnings health insurance premiums would spike,” CNBC reported on May 19th.

Trump doesn’t seem to care at all that he would be hurting millions of Americans. Instead, he sees the subsidies as a toy he can withhold from the Democrats to get what he wants. In the weeks after Trumpcare Round One failed, the President “threatened to withhold the subsidy payments as a way to induce the Democrats to bargain with him.”

So the Democrats reminded Trump that seven million Americans were depending on him to uphold the law.

“It is your responsibility to the American people and your obligation under the law to make the cost-sharing reduction payments and to stop other acts of sabotage that undermine Americans’ access to affordable, quality health insurance,” House Democrats warned President Trump.

“Health insurers plan big Obamacare rate hikes — and they blame Trump,” the Los Angeles Times reported on May 22. “Health insurers across the country are making plans to dramatically raise Obamacare premiums or exit marketplaces amid growing exasperation with the Trump administration’s erratic management of the program and its conflicting signals about the fate of aid for low-income consumers and other key issues.”

But the President is tasked with upholding the law, at least until the law changes, and Republicans did sue to have changed. But as of right now, the law stands and the President is supposed to abide. The President does not make laws.

Democrats are not in power, so they can’t hold Trump accountable the way they could if they were in charge. But they are trying to put up speed bumps at every turn when the President tries to take a dangerous turn that would harm millions of Americans.

The full letter reads: - Read More, Politicususa

Democrats Rock Trump By Reminding He’s Obligated By Law to Pay Obamacare Subsidies

Former Bond Actor Roger Moore Dead At 89

Moore portrayed the iconic spy agent in seven films. CBS2's Chris Wragge reports. - Read More

Former Bond Actor Roger Moore Dead At 89 

Sir Roger Moore, James Bond actor, dies aged 89

Actor Sir Roger Moore, best known for playing James Bond, has died aged 89, his family has announced.
He played the famous spy in seven Bond films including Live and Let Die and A View to a Kill.

Sir Roger's family confirmed the news on Twitter, saying he had died after "a short but brave battle with cancer".

The statement, from his children, read: "Thank you Pops for being you, and being so very special to so many people."

"With the heaviest of hearts, we must share the awful news that our father, Sir Roger Moore, passed away today. We are all devastated," they said in a Twitter post.

The actor took the character of James Bond in a more humorous direction than his predecessor Sean Connery.

Sir Roger's Bond was calm and suave - a smooth operator who could seemingly get himself out of a tricky situation with ease.

"Our thoughts must now turn to supporting Kristina [Tholstrup, his wife] at this difficult time."

The statement added: "We know our own love and admiration will be magnified many times over, across the world, by people who knew him for his films, his television shows and his passionate work for UNICEF which he considered to be his greatest achievement. 

Along with his famous Bond role, Moore was also known for TV series The Persuaders and The Saint.

Sir Roger was also well known for his humanitarian work - he was introduced to Unicef by the late Audrey Hepburn and was appointed as a goodwill ambassador in 1991.- More

Sir Roger Moore, James Bond actor, dies aged 89 - BBC News

Melania Trump in black at the Vatican. Why?

Melania Trump arrived at the Vatican on Wednesday morning the picture of modesty: a knee-length black dress, arms covered and a black veil over her hair.

Her choice of outfit - in particular, the elegant veil - did not go unnoticed by those keeping a close eye on the First Lady during her husband's first overseas tour as president

Among them was the BBC's North America editor, Jon Sopel.

"Interesting micro point," he tweeted. "Melania Trump wears head covering for meeting with @Pontifex - but not when she was in Saudi Arabia."

But BBC's David Willey in Rome was unsurprised. There is a strict protocol to be followed when meeting the Pope, which the White House will have been informed of.

A quick glance at the Vatican website lays out some of the rules: modest dress, with your shoulders covered, for those attending a Papal Audience - especially if indoors.

"It goes from deep lace mantillas to just a black veil," he explained. "When the Queen went to see the Pope when she was younger, she dressed up like the Spanish infanta."

Traditionally, heads of states and their partners have chosen to wear black, with a notable exception - a Catholic queen is allowed to wear white.

Mrs Trump's predecessors have all followed similarly strict rules. Michelle Obama chose to wear a veil on meeting Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, as did Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton on visiting the Vatican during their husbands' presidencies.

It should be noted that her stepdaughter Ivanka - who also decided against covering her head in Saudi Arabia - is not Catholic, having converted to Judaism, but still chose to wear a veil while at the Vatican.

But why the change from Saudi Arabia? Well, female foreign dignitaries are not required to cover their heads when they visit the kingdom - only Saudi nationals are.- Read More

Melania Trump in black at the Vatican. Why? - BBC News