Hillary Clinton Pledges $2 Billion a Year Investment in Alzheimer’s Research to Make Cure Possible by 2025

Hillary Clinton with Chelsea Clinton and Melinda Gates. Senator Clinton is proposing to spend $2 billion a year on research into Alzheimer's which could potentially yield a cure by 2025. Two out of three Alzheimer's patients are women; 5 million are afflicted now and the number could swell to 15 million by 2050 © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton with Chelsea Clinton and Melinda Gates. Senator Clinton is proposing to spend $2 billion a year on research into Alzheimer’s which could potentially yield a cure by 2025. Two out of three Alzheimer’s patients are women; 5 million are afflicted now and the number could swell to 15 million by 2050 © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin/News & Photo Features

With five million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s today, and nearly 15 million expected to be affected by 2050, Hillary Clinton is pledging a new, groundbreaking $2 billion annual commitment to prevent, effectively treat and make a cure possible for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025, if she is elected President.

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and is the only cause in the Top 10 that we cannot currently prevent, cure, or even slow.

But scientists say that therapies that would prevent, cure or slow the progress are in reach, provided there is adequate, predictable funding for research. There is a “budget constraint, not a knowledge constraint” that is the main obstacle to success, scientists say.

While the incidence of major diseases is falling, the incidence of Alzheimer’s is rising. “Rates of incidence will only go up in future, as the population ages. But cure is at hand, just lacks funding. Impact of disease combined with the nearness of solution is what is causing Hillary Clinton to want to increase funding.”

The $2 billion a year that Secretary Clinton pledges to devote to research – almost quadrupling the $586 million that has been allocated to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – is a figure that comes out of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s disease which she co-chaired while in the US Senate, and from other professional panels. And the cost is miniscule compared to how much is spent now: Alzheimer’s is one of the costliest diseases in America – exceeding $200 billion in annual costs to the economy from the disease and related dementia. Recent reports suggest that by 2050 the total cost may exceed $1 trillion per year.

Women and communities of color are disproportionately affected by for this terrible disease. Two out of every three Alzheimer’s patients are women, older African Americans are twice as likely than older white individuals to be afflicted and older Latinos are 1.5 times as likely.

In developing this plan, Hillary Clinton has consulted with leading physician-scientists to understand what it would take to rapidly accelerate progress currently being made in the field.

“We owe it to the millions of families who stay up at night worrying about their loved ones afflicted by this terrible disease and facing the hard reality of the long goodbye to make research investments that will prevent, effectively treat and make a cure possible by 2025,” Clinton said. “The best scientific minds tell us we have a real chance to make groundbreaking progress on curing this disease and relieving the pain so many families feel every day. My plan will set us on that course.”

Clinton’s plan will:

  • Dedicate a historic, decade-long investment of $2 billion per year to Alzheimer’s research and related disorders – a fourfold increase over last year’s $586 million. Leading researchers including the research advisory council to the congressionally-authorized National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, have set out this goal of $2 billion a year to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s and make a cure possible by 2025.
  • Ensure a reliable stream of funding for fighting Alzheimer’s between now and 2025. This plan ensures predictability of funding between now and 2025, so that researchers can work consistently towards developing effective treatments and a cure. This gives researchers greater freedom to pursue the big, creative bets – including cross-collaboration with researchers in related fields – that can result in dramatic pay-offs.
  • Appoint a top-flight team to oversee this initiative and consult regularly with top researchers to ensure progress towards achieving the treatment target. At each stage, this plan will embrace a range of approaches to drive new knowledge into effective treatments.

Clinton’s new research investment in preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s will yield results not just in the fight against this disease, but for a range of neurodegenerative illnesses, from Parkinson’s disease to Lewy body dementia to frontotemporal dementia. The plan will also help medical professionals understand the intersection of Alzheimer’s with other conditions, including the high rate of individuals with Down syndrome who experience early-onset Alzheimer’s.

This commitment to Alzheimer’s research is only part of Clinton’s overall commitment to a substantial increase in investment at the National Institutes of Health to prevent, treat, and secure cures for the broad array of diseases that afflict Americans.

In addition to investing in research, Clinton announced today new parts of her agenda to support caregivers, like those who give critical care and support to the millions of families struggling with Alzheimer’s. Her plan will fight for Medicare to cover a comprehensive, care-planning session with a clinician following every new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or related diseases, work with Congress to reauthorize the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program and direct the Social Security Administration to raise awareness of the Medicare-covered annual wellness visits and their associated preventive and screening benefits, including the cognitive screening – which is especially critical for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other related dementia, by presenting this information alongside Social Security payments that beneficiaries will open and read.

“An Alzheimer’s Epidemic – and No Survivors”

The United States is facing an Alzheimer’s epidemic. And there are no survivors. and while the incidence of other diseases have gone down, the incidence of Alzheimer’s is rising.

But scientists are confident that therapies can be found – “we don’t have a knowledge problem. We have a budget problem.”

“The proposed boost in funding could not have come at a better time – last couple of years, revelations, discoveries in this field that have been unprecedented,” said Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Tanzi is Director of the Genetics and Aging Research unit at Massachusetts General, the Chair of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Research Consortium and was named one of Time Magazines’ 2015 “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

“From a scientific side, it is reasonable, rational that if we can throw enough money into it, we have a chance to dramatically reduce incidence, stave off disease for folks at highest risk,” he said during a conference call hosted by the Hillary for America campaign.

This disease was described 1906 by Dr. Alzheimer after studying the pathology in the brain of a 56-year old patient and found a mutation in the brain, the same mutation as Alice  portrayed in the movie, “Still Alice”.

He said that research into early onset Alzheimer’s has shown common conditions, but most importantly, that people can have the conditions for Alzheimer’s for 10, 15, and 20 years before the first symptoms emerge, but by then, it is too late to do anything about it.

Early research was done on mice brains and yielded incorrect results. The breakthrough came when researchers “grew” Alzheimer’s in a “minibrain” in a dish – a gel-like environment – “and lo and behold, after the amyloid formed, it created the tangles that kill nerve cells. This was the first proof of concept, that if we do the right experiment and use human nerve cells, not mice, the amyloid causes the tangles.”

He added, “We also learned that the third pillar of pathology of Alzheimer’s is inflammation, which is probably the most significant target in a patient who already has the disease, because the inflammation kills many of the nerve cells. Through the Alzheimer’s Genome Project we now know genes control inflammation – so the first drug target is to quell the inflammation in the brain.”

He pointed to research on “resilient brains where we see a person who dies in their 80s or 90s with no cognitive issues, but when we look at their brain, we see the tangles, but they don’t have the inflammation. So if can quell  inflammation, we can better help patients.”

This could be a path to at least slowing the progress of the disease and the severity.

“If we can stave off the conversion of simply having plaques in the brain of a 50-60 years old – a picture like in a colonscopy so the brain would be assessed – for amyloid load, how much plaques – we would know if 10, 15, 20 years away the patient is at high risk of dementia (cognitive problems),” said Dr. Tanzi. “The goal would be that could be given a drug, together with lifestyle, that patient never gets to the point of dementia. You might have  the precursors, but not the three -plaques, tangles, inflammation. If we can stave it off for 5 years, the savings to Medicare, Medicaid treatment, nursing home savings would be in the many, many billions of dollars. Once we have one or two of these drugs to slow down these pathologies.”

“I’m optimistic. The main bottleneck in the field is funding. We discovered the genes in the 1980s, 1990s. We discovered two dozen Alzheimer’s genes, but there has been very little work, including on genes that control the inflammation because there is no budget – the research is considered high risk because so far there has been little success. If we had more money, many more shots on goal, many more genes being studied – because most of what we know comes from studying genes,” he said, he is confident of success.

“We have budget constraint, not knowledge constraint. Hopefully with $2 billion a year, we finally can do the work we can do to stop the disease by 2025.”

The $2 billion a year that Clinton would allocate, compared to the $586 million that came from NIH last year, amounts to $20 billion commitment over 10 years.

“Our experts would validate that the predictability of funding is almost as important as the money itself,” said Robert Egge, the Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement. Mr. Egge previously served as Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Study Group – a blue ribbon task force of national leaders co-chaired by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey. “$2 billion is the amount we know will make a difference and is what was recommended … to help get us over the finish line. We know that, but we haven’t seen the will in Congress to match the recommendation.”

The $2 billion annual commitment is part of larger plan that Senator Clinton is unveiling today at an event in Fairfield, Iowa. Other elements would bolster Medicare so a physician could follow every diagnosis of Alzheimers, working with Congress on a patient alert program (which has lapsed) and a  tax credit proposal that would allow caregivers to take 20% up to $6000 in care-related costs a year.

The focus on Alzheimer’s is the first piece of a larger commitment to increase the research investment that Hillary Clinton would  seek. In addition to investment in manufacturing and infrastructure, she is proposing a plan to dedicate funds for research to help innovate and lead the world in next-generation cures of diseases that are ravaging Americans. This commitment for Alzheimer’s is just the first piece of that.

The campaign also noted that plan announced today “build on Hillary Clinton’s long and strong record of advocating for patients and families who bear the burden of Alzheimer’s disease. In the U.S. Senate, she consistently pushed for greater funding for Alzheimer’s research, including federally-funded stem cell research, and she co-chaired the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s disease. She also introduced legislation to restore funding for the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Contact Center and for Alzheimer’s disease demonstration grants. And she forged links across the aisle on the issue, appearing with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to promote a new study group on Alzheimer’s research. This record reflects her long-time understanding that this disease not only represents a physical, psychological, and financial burden to millions of Americans, but an overwhelming economic and budgetary threat to our country that we must address.”

A full fact sheet on the new plan is available here.

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© 2015 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email krubin723@aol.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

In contrast to GOP Opponents, Hillary Clinton Presents ‘360 Degree Strategy to Keep America Safe’

Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for president, detailing a "360 degree strategy to keep America safe," said that shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy, and bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for president, detailing a “360 degree strategy to keep America safe,” said that shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy, and bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We’ve heard a whole lot from the Republican presidential hopefuls, one more absurd than another, of what they would do to “keep our nation safe” – devoting an entire 2 hour debate to the subject. Donald Trump would bring back waterboarding and torture, would kill family members of suspected terrorists. Ted Cruz would “carpet bomb” cities held by ISIS, even if there are tens of thousands of civilians being occupied by the terrorists. Chris Christie, staring into a camera to “intimidate” Vladimir Putin, says he would create a no-fly zone and shoot down any Russian plane that penetrates it (“That’s great if you want a candidate to start World War III,” was Rand Paul’s response.) Carly Fiorina would rehire generals who have resigned or retired.

And yet, Republicans in Congress refuse to do some of the most basic things to actually keep us safe. Senate Republicans have blocked the confirmation – and gone home for the holidays – of Adam Szubin as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, the post in charge of tracking down and stopping the funds going to terrorist organizations. And Republicans in both houses have blocked legislation which would keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists on the no-fly list (if there is a problem with the list, they should fix it by giving the individual recourse to defend themselves, and that would be sufficient in fact to uncover actual terrorists).  But there is no common sense. It makes you wonder whether Republicans like an atmosphere of terror because they think that fear whips up votes in their favor.

The Republicans also have been stingy in funding the very services they are faulting for being inadequate – visa services, State Department security (Benghazi, Benghazi).

But in a speech on the same day as the Republican debate, December 15, Hillary Clinton,  Democratic candidate, gave a thoughtful speech outlining her previously stated overall anti-terrorism strategy, and a more intensively focused “360-degree strategy to keep America safe.” The speech received virtually no coverage, but she repeated the strategy in an op-ed published December 18.

Hillary for America released a new web video comparing Hillary Clinton’s recent remarks in Minnesota with Republican candidates, who were exposed as unfit and ill-prepared during this week’s Republican debate. In the remarks, Clinton said that shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy, and bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief. Republican candidates, on the other hand, have offered fear instead of facts. (Here are some other reviews of the Republicans’ performance this week HERE)

Here are highlights from Hillary Clinton’s speech in Minneapolis:

“I want to begin by saying, we cannot give in to fear.  We can’t let it stop us from doing what is right and necessary to make us safe, and doing it in way that is consistent with our values.

We cannot let fear push us into reckless actions that end up making us less safe.  Americans are going to have to act with both courage and clarity…..

 

The threat we face is daunting.  But America has overcome big challenges many times before.  Throughout our history, we’ve stared into the face of evil and refused to blink.  We beat Fascism, won the Cold War, brought Osama bin Laden to justice.

So no one should ever underestimate the determination of the American people.  And I am confident we will once again choose resolve over fear.  And we will defeat these new enemies, just as we’ve defeated those who’ve threatened us in the past.

Because it is not enough to contain ISIS, we must defeat ISIS, break its momentum and then its back.  And not just ISIS, but the broader radical jihadist movement that also includes al Qaeda and offshoots like al Shabaab in Somalia.

Now, waging and winning this fight will require serious leadership.  But unfortunately, our political debate has been anything but serious.

We can’t afford another major ground war in the Middle East.  That’s exactly what ISIS wants from us.  Shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy.  Promising to carpet bomb until the desert glows doesn’t make you sound strong, it makes you sound like you’re in over your head.  Bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming Commander-in-Chief.

And it is hard to take seriously senators who talk tough but then hold up key national security nominations, including the top official at the Treasury Department responsible for disrupting terrorist financing.

Every day that’s wasted on partisan gridlock could put Americans in danger.  So, yes, we need a serious discussion.  And that’s why in a speech last month before the Council on Foreign Relations I laid out a three-part plan to defeat ISIS and the broader extremist movement.

One, defeat ISIS in the Middle East by smashing its stronghold, hitting its fighters, leaders, and infrastructure from the air, and intensifying support for local forces who can pursue them on the ground.

Second, defeat them around the world by dismantling the global network of terror that supplies radical jihadists with money, arms, propaganda, and fighters.

And third, defeat them here at home by foiling plots, disrupting radicalization, and hardening our defenses.

Now, these three lines of effort reinforce one another.  So we need to pursue all of them at once, using every pillar of American power.

It will require skillful diplomacy to continue Secretary Kerry’s efforts to encourage political reconciliation in Iraq and political transition in Syria, enabling more Sunni Arabs and Kurdish fighters to take on ISIS on both sides of the border, and to get our Arab and Turkish partners to actually step up and do their part.

It will require more U.S. and allied airpower, and a broader target set for strikes by planes and drones, with proper safeguards.

It will require Special Operations units to advise and train local forces and conduct key counterterrorism missions.

What it will not require is tens of thousands of American combat troops.  That is not the right action for us to take in this situation.

So there is a lot to do, and today, I want to focus on the third part of my plan, how we defend our country and prevent radicalization here at home.

We need a comprehensive strategy to counter each step in the process that can lead to an attack like the one in San Bernardino.

First, we have to shut down ISIS recruitment in the United States, especially online.

Second, stop would-be jihadists from getting training overseas, and stop foreign terrorists from coming here.

Third, discover and disrupt plots before they can be carried out.

Fourth, support law enforcement officers who risk their lives to prevent and respond to attacks.

And fifth, empower our Muslim-American communities, who are on the front-lines of the fight against radicalization.

This is a 360-degree strategy to keep America safe, and I want to walk through each of the elements, from recruitment to training to planning to execution.

First, shutting down recruitment.  We have to stop jihadists from radicalizing new recruits in-person and through social media, chat rooms, and what’s called the “Dark Web.”

To do that, we need stronger relationships between Washington, Silicon Valley, and all of our great tech companies and entrepreneurs.  American innovation is a powerful force, and we have to put it to work defeating ISIS.

That starts with understanding where and how recruitment happens.  Our security professionals need to more effectively track and analyze ISIS’s social media posts and map jihadist networks, and they need help from the tech community.

Companies should redouble their efforts to maintain and enforce their own service agreements and other necessary policies to police their networks, identifying extremist content and removing it.

Now, many are already doing this, and sharing those best practices more widely is important.

At the State Department, I started an interagency center to combat violent jihadist messages, to have a better way to communicate on behalf of our values, and to give young people drawn to those messages an alternative narrative.

We recruited specialists fluent in Arabic, Urdu, and Somali to wave online battles with extremists to counter their propaganda.

Now, those efforts have not kept pace with the threat, so we need to step up our game, in partnership with the private sector and credible moderate voices outside government.

But that’s just some of what we have to do.  Experts from the FBI, the intelligence community, Homeland Security, DOD, the State Department, and the technology industry should work together to develop a unified national strategy to defeat ISIS in cyberspace, using all of our capabilities to deny jihadists virtual territory, just as we work to deny them actual territory.

And at the same time, we also have to do more to address the challenge of radicalization, whatever form it takes.

It’s imperative that the Saudis, the Qataris, the Kuwaitis and others stop their citizens from supporting radical schools, madrassas and mosques around the world, once and for all, and that should be the top priority in all of our discussions with these countries.

Now, second, we have to prevent ISIS recruits from training abroad, and prevent foreign jihadists from coming here.

Most urgent is stemming the flow of fighters from Europe and America to Iraq and Syria, and then back home again.

The United States and our allies need to know the identities of every fighter who makes that trip, and then share information with each other in real time.

Right now, European nations don’t always alert each other when they turn away a suspected extremist at the border or when a passport is stolen.  They have to dramatically improve intelligence sharing and counterterrorism cooperation.  And we’re ready to help them do that.

We also need to take down the network of enablers who help jihadists finance and facilitate their travel, forge documents, and evade detection.  And the United States and our allies should commit to revoke the passports and visas of jihadists who have gone to join ISIS or other groups, and bring the full force of law against them.

As I’ve said before, the United States has to take a close look at our visa programs.  And I am glad the administration and Congress are stepping up scrutiny in the wake of San Bernardino.  And that should include scrutinizing applicants’ social media postings.  We also should dispatch more Homeland Security agents to high-risk countries to better investigate visa applicants.

For many years, America has waived visa requirements for travelers from countries with reliable security procedures, including key allies in Europe and Asia.  That makes sense.  But we also have to be smart.  Except for limited exceptions like diplomats and aid workers, anyone who has traveled in the past five years to a country facing serious problems with terrorism and foreign fighters should have to go through a full visa investigation, no matter where they’re from.

We also have to be vigilant in screening and vetting refugees from Syria, guided by the best judgment of our security and diplomatic professionals.  Rigorous vetting already takes place while these refugees are still overseas, and it’s a process that historically takes 18 to 24 months.

But Congress needs to provide enough resources to ensure we have sufficient personnel deployed to run the most thorough possible process.

And just as important, we cannot allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values and our humanitarian obligations.

Turning away orphans, applying a religious test that discriminates against Muslims, slamming the door on every single Syrian refugee; that is not who we are.  We are better than that.

It would be a cruel irony indeed if ISIS can force families from their homes and then also prevent them from finding new ones.  So after rigorous screening, we should welcome families fleeing Syria just as the Twin Cities and this state have welcomed previous generations of refugees, exiles, and immigrants.

Of course, the key is to prevent terrorists also from exploiting our compassion and endangering our security.  But we can do this.  And I think we must.

Third, we have to discover and disrupt jihadist plots before they can be carried out.  This is going to take better intelligence collection, analysis, and sharing.  I’ve proposed an “intelligence surge” against ISIS that includes more operations officers and linguists, enhancing our technical surveillance of overseas targets, intercepting terrorist communications, flying more reconnaissance missions to track terrorists’ movements, and developing even closer partnerships with other intelligence services.

President Obama recently signed the USA Freedom Act, which was passed by a bipartisan majority in Congress.  It protects civil liberties while maintaining capabilities that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies need to keep us safe.  However, the new law is now under attack from presidential candidates on the left and right.  Some would strip away crucial counterterrorism tools, even with appropriate judicial and congressional oversight.  Others seem eager to go back to discredited practices of the past.

I don’t think we can afford to let either view prevail.  Now, encryption of mobile devices and communications does present a particularly tough problem with important implications for security and civil liberties.  Law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals warn that impenetrable encryption may make it harder for them to investigate plots and prevent future attacks.  On the other hand, there are very legitimate worries about privacy, network security, and creating new vulnerabilities that bad actors can exploit.

I know there’s no magic fix to this dilemma that will satisfy all these concerns.  But we can’t just throw up our hands.  The tech community and the government have to stop seeing each other as adversaries and start working together to keep us safe from terrorists.   And even as we make sure law enforcement officials get the tools they need to prevent attacks, it’s essential that we also make sure jihadists don’t get the tools they need to carry out attacks.

It defies common sense that Republicans in Congress refuse to make it harder for potential terrorists to buy guns.  If you’re too dangerous to fly, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun, period.   And we should insist on comprehensive background checks and close loopholes that allow potential terrorists to buy weapons online or at gun shows.  And I think it’s time to restore the ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

I know this will drive some of our Republican friends a little crazy.  You’ll probably hear it tonight.  They will say that guns are a totally separate issue, nothing to do with terrorism.  Well, I have news for them, terrorists use guns to kill Americans.  And I think we should make it a lot harder for them from to do that ever again.

And there’s a question, a question they should be asked:  Why don’t the Republican candidates want to do that?   You see, I have this old fashioned idea that we elect a President in part, in large part, to keep us safe, from terrorists, from gun violence, from whatever threatens our families and communities.  And I’m not going to let the gun lobby or anyone else tell me that’s not the right path for us to go down.

Now, the fourth element in my strategy is supporting law enforcement officers who risk their lives to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks.

In San Bernardino, city, county, state, and federal authorities acted with speed and courage to prevent even more loss of life.  Like Detective Jorge Lozano, a 15-year police veteran, who assured terrified civilians, “I’ll take a bullet before you do.”  There is no limit to the gratitude we owe to law enforcement professionals like that Detective Lozano who run toward danger to try to save lives.  And not just in the immediate wake of an attack.  Our police, firefighters, and emergency responders will keep putting their lives on the line long after the cameras move on.

It’s disgraceful that Congress has thus far failed to keep faith with first responders suffering from the lasting health effects of 9/11.  Many of them were men and women I was so proud to represent as a Senator from New York.  The Zadroga 9/11 Health Act never should have been allowed to lapse.  It looks like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may have finally dropped his opposition.  And I hope the American people will hold him to that.  And we will continue to honor the service and sacrifice of those who responded to the worst terrorist attack in our history.

We have to make sure that local law enforcement has the resources and training they need to keep us safe.  And they should be more closely synced up with national counterterrorism experts, including with better use of “fusion centers” that serve as clearinghouses for intelligence and coordination.

And we need to strengthen our defenses and our resilience wherever we’re vulnerable, whether it’s “soft targets” like shopping malls or higher-profile targets like airports, railways, or power plants.  We have to build on the progress of the Obama Administration in locking down loose nuclear materials, and other WMD, so they never fall into the hands of terrorists who seek them actively around the world.

So we should be providing the Department of Homeland Security with the resources it needs to stay one step ahead, not trying to privatize key functions, like TSA, as some Republicans have proposed.

And it’s important for us to recognize that when we talk about law enforcement, we have made progress in being sure that our federal authorities share information with our state and local authorities, but that was an issue I tackled after 9/11, and we have to stay really vigilant so that information is in the hands where it needs to be.

Finally, the fifth element in the strategy is empowering Muslim-American communities who are on the front-lines of the fight against radicalization.  There are millions of peace-loving Muslims living, working, raising families, and paying taxes in our country.  These Americans may be our first, last, and best defense against home grown radicalization and terrorism.  They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, intervene to help set a young person straight.  They are the best positioned to block anything going forward.

That’s why law enforcement has worked so hard since 9/11 to build up trust and strong relationships within Muslim-American communities.  Here in the Twin Cities, you have an innovative partnership that brings together parents, teachers, imams, and others in the Somali-American community with law enforcement, non-profits, local businesses, mental health professionals and others to intervene with young people who are at risk.

It’s called the Building Community Resilience Pilot Program, and it deserves increased support.  It has not gotten the financial resources that it needs to do everything the people involved in it know they can do.  And we’ve got to do a better job of supporting it.

Now I know that like many places across the country, there’s more work to do to increase trust between communities and law enforcement.  Just last month, I know here a young African American man was fatally shot by a police officer.  And I understand an investigation is underway.  Whatever the outcome, tragedies like this raise hard questions about racial justice in America and put at risk efforts to build the community relationships that help keep us safe from crime and from terrorism.

When people see that respect and trust are two-way streets, they’re more likely to work hand-in-hand with law enforcement.  One of the mothers of the 10 men recently charged with conspiring with terrorists said, “We have to stop the denial,” she told other parents that.  “We have to talk to our kids and work with the FBI.”  That’s a message we need to hear from leaders within Muslim-American communities across our country.

But we also want to highlight the successes in Muslim American communities, and there are so many of them.  I just met with the first Somali-American council member of the City Council here.  And he was proudly telling me how much change Somali immigrants, now Muslim-Americans have made in parts of the city and neighborhoods that had been pretty much hollowed out.  Let’s look at the successes.

If we’re going to full integrate everyone into America, then we need to be seeing all their contributions, too.  And that is one of the many reasons why we must all stand up against offensive, inflammatory, hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric.  You know, not only do these comments cut against everything we stand for as Americans, they are also dangerous.

As the Director of the FBI told Congress recently, anything that erodes trust with Muslim-Americans makes the job of law enforcement more difficult.  We need every community invested in this fight, not alienated and sitting on the sidelines.

One of the community leaders I met with told me that a lot of the children in the community are now afraid to go to school.  They’re not only afraid of being perceived as a threat, they are afraid of being threatened because of who they are.  This is such a open-hearted and generous community, I hope there will be even more efforts perhaps under the aegis of the university and certainly Governor Dayton and others, to bring people together to reassure members of the community, particularly children and teenagers that they are welcome, invited and valued here in this city and state.

Now Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States has rightly sparked outrage across our country and around the world.  Even some of the other Republican candidates are saying he’s gone too far.  But the truth is, many of those same candidates have also said disgraceful things about Muslims.  And this kind of divisive rhetoric actually plays into the hands of terrorists.  It alienates partners and undermines moderates we need around the world in the fight against ISIS.

You know, you hear a lot of talk from some of the other candidates about coalitions.  Everyone seems to want one.  But there’s not nearly as much talk about what it actually takes to build a coalition and make it work.  I know how hard this is because I’ve done it.  And I can tell you, insulting potential allies doesn’t make it any easier.

And demonizing Muslims also feeds a narrative that jihadists use to recruit new followers around the world, that the United States is at war with Islam.  As both the Pentagon and the FBI have said in the past week, we cannot in any way lend credence to that twisted idea.  This is not a clash of civilizations.  It’s a clash between civilization and barbarism and that’s how it must be seen and fought.

Some will tell you that our open society is a vulnerability in the struggle against terrorism.  I disagree.  I believe our tolerance and diversity are at the core of our strength.  At a Naturalization ceremony for new citizens today in Washington, President Obama noted the tension throughout our history between welcoming or rejecting the stranger.  It is, he said, about the meaning of America, what kind of country do we want to be?  And it’s about the capacity of each generation to honor the creed as old as our founding, E Pluribus Unum.  Out of many we are one.

President Obama is right, and it matters.  It’s no coincidence that American Muslims have long been better integrated and less susceptible to radicalization than Muslims in less welcoming countries.  We can’t give in to demagogues who play on our basest instincts.  We must instead rely on the principles written into our American DNA.  Freedom.  Equality.  Opportunity.

America is strongest when all our people believe they have a stake in our country and our future, no matter where they’re from, what they look like, how they worship, or who they love.  Our country was founded by people fleeing religious persecution.  As George Washington put it, the United States gives “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”  So to all our Muslim-American brothers and sisters, this is your country too.  And I am proud to be your fellow American.

And I want to remind us, particularly our Republican friends, that George W. Bush was right.  Six days after 9/11 he went to a Muslim community center and here’s what he said, those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take their anger don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of human kind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior….

“We are Americans.”  We are the greatest nation on earth not in spite of the challenges we’ve faced, but because of them.  Americans will not buckle or break.  We will not turn on each other or turn on our principles.  We will pursue our enemies with unyielding power and purpose.  We will crush their would-be caliphate and counter radical jihadism wherever it takes root.  We’re in it for the long haul.  And we’ll stand taller and stronger than they can possibly imagine.

That’s what we do here.  It’s who we are.  That’s how we’ll win, by looking at one another with respect, with concern, with commitment.  That’s the America that I know makes us all so proud to be a part of.”

President Obama Reports Progress in Fight against ISIS, Stepped Up Activities

President Barack Obama gives update on progress being made against Islamic State © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Barack Obama gives update on progress being made against Islamic State © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In remarks following his meeting with the National Security Council at the Pentagon, President Obama gave more specifics about the fight against the Islamic State, including killing numerous ISIS leaders and taking back 40% of the territory the terror organization had held in Iraq.

Today, the United States and our Armed Forces continue to lead the global coalition in our mission to destroy the terrorist group ISIL.  As I outlined in my speech to the nation last weekend, our strategy is moving forward with a great sense of urgency on four fronts — hunting down and taking out these terrorists; training and equipping Iraqi and Syrian forces to fight ISIL on the ground; stopping ISIL’s operations by disrupting their recruiting, financing and propaganda; and, finally, persistent diplomacy to end the Syrian civil war so that everyone can focus on destroying ISIL….

I want to provide all of you a brief update on our progress against the ISIL core in Syria and Iraq, because as we squeeze its heart, we’ll make it harder for ISIL to pump its terror and propaganda to the rest of the world. 

This fall, even before the revolting attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, I ordered new actions to intensify our war against ISIL.  These actions, including more firepower and Special Operations forces, are well underway.  This continues to be a difficult fight.  As I said before, ISIL is dug in, including in urban areas, and they hide behind civilians, using defenseless men, women and children as human shields. 

So even as we’re relentless, we have to be smart, targeting ISIL surgically, with precision.  At the same time, our partners on the ground are rooting ISIL out, town by town, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block.  That is what this campaign is doing. 

We are hitting ISIL harder than ever.  Coalition aircraft — our fighters, bombers and drones — have been increasing the pace of airstrikes — nearly 9,000 as of today.  Last month, in November, we dropped more bombs on ISIL targets than any other month since this campaign started.

We’re also taking out ISIL leaders, commanders and killers, one by one.  Since this spring, we’ve removed Abu Sayyaf, one of their top leaders; Haji Mutazz, ISIL’s second-in command; Junaid Hussain, a top online recruiter; Mohamed Emwazi, who brutally murdered Americans and others; and in recent weeks, finance chief Abu Saleh; senior extortionist Abu Maryam; and weapons trafficker Abu Rahman al-Tunisi.  The list goes on.  

We’re going after ISIL from their stronghold right down — right in downtown Raqqa, to Libya, where we took out Abu Nabil, the ISIL leader there.  The point is, ISIL leaders cannot hide.  And our next message to them is simple:  You are next.

Every day, we destroy as well more of ISIL’s forces — their fighting positions, bunkers and staging areas; their heavy weapons, bomb-making factories, compounds and training camps.  In many places, ISIL has lost its freedom of maneuver, because they know if they mass their forces, we will wipe them out.  In fact, since the summer, ISIL has not had a single successful major offensive operation on the ground in either Syria or Iraq.  In recent weeks, we’ve unleashed a new wave of strikes on their lifeline, their oil infrastructure, destroying hundreds of their tanker trucks, wells and refineries. And we’re going to keep on hammering those. 

ISIL also continues to lose territory in Iraq.  ISIL had already lost across Kirkuk province and at Tikrit.  More recently, ISIL lost at Sinjar, losing a strategic highway.  ISIL lost at Baiji, with its oil refinery.  We saw the daring raid supported by our Special Forces, which rescued dozens of prisoners from ISIL, and in which Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler made the ultimate sacrifice.  

So far, ISIL has lost about 40 percent of the populated areas it once controlled in Iraq.  And it will lose more.  Iraqi forces are now fighting their way deeper into Ramadi.  They’re working to encircle Fallujah and cut off ISIL supply routes into Mosul.  Again, these are urban areas where ISIL is entrenched.  Our partners on the ground face a very tough fight ahead, and we’re going to continue to back them up with the support that they need to ultimately clear ISIL from Iraq.   

ISIL also continues to lose territory in Syria.  We continue to step up our air support and supplies to local forces — Syrian Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Turkmen — and they’re having success.  After routing ISIL at Kobani and Tal Abyad, they’ve pushed ISIL back from almost across the entire border region with Turkey, and we’re working with Turkey to seal the rest.  ISIL has lost thousands of square miles of territory it once controlled in Syria — and it will lose more.  The Special Forces that I ordered to Syria have begun supporting local forces as they push south, cut off supply lines and tighten the squeeze on Raqqa. 

Meanwhile, more people are seeing ISIL for the thugs and the thieves and the killers that they are.  We’ve seen instances of ISIL fighters defecting.  Others who’ve tried to escape have been executed.  And ISIL’s reign of brutality and extortion continues to repel local populations and help fuel the refugee crisis. “So many people are migrating,” said one Syrian refugee.  ISIL, she said, will “end up all alone.”

All this said, we recognize that progress needs to keep coming faster.  No one knows that more than the countless Syrians and Iraqis living every day under ISIL’s terror, as well as the families in San Bernardino and Paris and elsewhere who are grieving the loss of their loved ones.  Just as the United States is doing more in this fight — just as our allies France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, Australia and Italy are doing more — so must others.  

And that’s why I’ve asked Secretary Carter to go to the Middle East — he’ll depart right after this press briefing — to work with our coalition partners on securing more military contributions to this fight.  On the diplomatic front, Secretary Kerry will be in Russia tomorrow as we continue to work, as part of the Vienna process, to end the Syrian civil war.  Meanwhile, here at home, the Department of Homeland Security is updating its alert system to help the American people stay vigilant and safe.

And as always, our extraordinary men and women in uniform continue to put their lives on the line — in this campaign and around the world — to keep the rest of us safe.  This holiday season, many of our troops are once again far from their families.  And as your Commander-in-Chief, on behalf of the American people, we want to say thank you.  We are grateful, and we are proud for everything that you do.  Because of you, the America that we know and love and cherish is leading the world in this fight.  Because of you, I am confident that we are going to prevail.

Obama: Paris Climate Agreement is ‘Turning Point for the World’

Solar farm in Greece © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Solar farm in Greece © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin/News & Photo Features

The fact that nearly 200 countries–representing nearly the entire population of Earthlings–have signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement, pledging to take climate action is, as President Obama said, “a turning point for the world.”

“Together, we’ve shown what’s possible when the world stands as one,” he said in a statement from the White House, December 12:

“Today, the American people can be proud — because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership.  Over the past seven years, we’ve transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change.  In 2009, we helped salvage a chaotic Copenhagen Summit and established the principle that all countries had a role to play in combating climate change.  We then led by example, with historic investments in growing industries like wind and solar, creating a new and steady stream of middle-class jobs.  We’ve set the first-ever nationwide standards to limit the amount of carbon pollution power plants can dump into the air our children breathe.  From Alaska to the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains, we’ve partnered with local leaders who are working to help their communities protect themselves from some of the most immediate impacts of a changing climate.”

And doing it all while breaking all records for the longest streak of private sector job creation. “We’ve driven our economic output to all-time highs while driving our carbon pollution down to its lowest level in nearly two decades,” Obama said.

Speaking to detractors are both sides – climate activists who said the agreement does not go far enough, and climate deniers who would reject any action at all, he said, “Now, no agreement is perfect, including this one.  Negotiations that involve nearly 200 nations are always challenging.  Even if all the initial targets set in Paris are met, we’ll only be part of the way there when it comes to reducing carbon from the atmosphere.  So we cannot be complacent because of today’s agreement.  The problem is not solved because of this accord.  But make no mistake, the Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis.  It creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way.

“This agreement is ambitious, with every nation setting and committing to their own specific targets, even as we take into account differences among nations.  We’ll have a strong system of transparency, including periodic reviews and independent assessments, to help hold every country accountable for meeting its commitments.  As technology advances, this agreement allows progress to pave the way for even more ambitious targets over time.  And we have secured a broader commitment to support the most vulnerable countries as they pursue cleaner economic growth.

“In short, this agreement will mean less of the carbon pollution that threatens our planet, and more of the jobs and economic growth driven by low-carbon investment.  Full implementation of this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change, and will pave the way for even more progress, in successive stages, over the coming years.

“Moreover, this agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is firmly committed to a low-carbon future.  And that has the potential to unleash investment and innovation in clean energy at a scale we have never seen before.  The targets we’ve set are bold.  And by empowering businesses, scientists, engineers, workers, and the private sector — investors — to work together, this agreement represents the best chance we’ve had to save the one planet that we’ve got.

“So I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world.  We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge.  It won’t be easy.  Progress won’t always come quick.  “We cannot be complacent.  While our generation will see some of the benefits of building a clean energy economy — jobs created and money saved — we may not live to see the full realization of our achievement.  But that’s okay.  What matters is that today we can be more confident that this planet is going to be in better shape for the next generation.  And that’s what I care about…..our work today prevented an alternate future that could have been grim; that our work, here and now, gave future generations cleaner air, and cleaner water, and a more sustainable planet.  And what could be more important than that?

“Today, thanks to strong, principled, American leadership, that’s the world that we’ll leave to our children — a world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and more free.  And that is our most important mission in our short time here on this Earth.

Significantly, the United States, whose Republican rightwingers are the smallest, tiniest minority of 7 billion souls, opted for language – “should” rather than “shall” – in order to bypass the need for Senate ratification of an actual treaty. We’ve seen how treaties, as benign as making America’s standards for disabled people, have been rejected, and the GOP Majority made it clear they would do everything possible – even shutting down the government – to make sure the United States does not do its part. It is notable that the United States represents a mere 5% of the world’s population, but is responsible for 25% of the emissions that are causing climate change. China, the second largest emitter, has four times the population but during the Paris talks, had to issue its first ever Red Alert because air quality was too dangerous due largely to emissions from coal-fired plants.

Without missing a beat, Republican Congressional leaders said they would block whatever action Obama promised, based on the idea that the President “made promises he can’t keep.”

Nesjavellir Geothermal plant in Iceland © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Nesjavellir Geothermal plant in Iceland © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But as Secretary of State John Kerry responded, 195 countries in the world have signed on to this historic agreement, bringing their own strategies and solutions to the table so they are more likely to follow through (much as the Obama Administration allowed states to develop their own Clean Power Plan solutions, and their own Affordable Care Act solutions). Essentially he is saying that the Republicans are on the wrong side of history, or just plain wrong.

This was the genius of Obama’s strategy, going back to forging a historic joint announcement with China last year that “showed it was possible to bridge the old divides between developed and developing nations that had stymied global progress for so long,” the President said. “That accomplishment encouraged dozens and dozens of other nations to set their own ambitious climate targets.  And that was the foundation for success in Paris.  Because no nation, not even one as powerful as ours, can solve this challenge alone.  And no country, no matter how small, can sit on the sidelines.  All of us had to solve it together.”

He also has managed to bring along many of the world’s most influential companies (not Koch Industries, of course), and billionaires (not the Koch Brothers, of course, who are spending their billions buying sycophant politicians), who are pledged to invest in climate action strategies including developing clean, renewable energy technologies that will shift our economy from its dependence on burning dirty fossil fuels (that’s what has the Koch brothers really worried).

Solar panels on farm buildings in Germany © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Solar panels on farm buildings in Germany © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But now, it is key that the vast majority of us who want climate action push for Congress (that means getting the GOP to stop blocking) to reauthorize the tax credits for renewable energy industries – solar and wind, in particular – to get a foothold. Solar industry is the fastest growing in the US. This is jobs creation. This is giving households more disposable income by bringing down the cost being extorted for fossil fuels (is anyone giving Obama credit for the fact that gas prices are likely to fall below $2 a gallon for the first time since 2007, as they blamed him when gas prices rose to nearly $5?). This is making communities more energy independent.

You would think that Republicans, whose singular economic policy consists of cutting taxes, especially corporate taxes and taxes that go to the wealthy, would be in favor of tax credits to spur a fledgling industry. But this is clean, renewable energy that threatens the profits and the power of the Old Fossils.

Current legislation could extend the renewable energy production tax credit for wind energy that expired a year ago. Environmentalists are also pushing for the extension of the solar investment tax credit which is set to be significantly reduced next year. And for those GOPers who suggest that the federal government “shouldn’t pick winners and losers” – they refuse to rescind the billions of dollars in subsidies that still flow to fossil fuels (or for that matter, the legislative advantages that are given, in terms of licensing and liability), despite the fact these are some of the most profitable companies in the history of humankind. Here’s a compromise: they should condition those subsidies to Exxon-Mobil, etc. on only what they spend to develop and implement clean, renewable fuels (and not natural gas, which is their big new product).

Wind power in Rhode Island © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Wind power in Rhode Island © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Subsidies to fossil fuels do not expire. Neither should incentives for clean energy. Clean energy is one of America’s fastest growing industries, creating homegrown, well-paying jobs across the country—but failure to extend these tax credits could seriously set back that progress,” stated Heather Shelby Action Network Manager for Environmental Defense Fund Action.

EDF is urging people to contact Congress and urge they support for:

* An extension of the renewable energy production tax credit for wind and other renewable energy technologies, which expired at the end of 2014.

* An extension of the tax incentives for residential and commercial energy-efficient construction, which expired at the end of 2014.

* An extension of the solar investment tax credit for  residential and commercial properties, which will be greatly reduced in 2017.

So what’s in the Paris Agreement? The White House produced a Fact Sheet, breaking it down

FACT SHEET: U.S. Leadership and the Historic Paris Agreement to Combat Climate Change

Today, more than 190 countries came together to adopt the most ambitious climate change agreement in history. The Paris Agreement establishes a long term, durable global framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. For the first time, all countries commit to putting forward successive and ambitious, nationally determined climate targets and reporting on their progress towards them using a rigorous, standardized process of review.

The Agreement provides strong assurance to developing countries that they will be supported as they pursue clean and climate resilient growth.  The deal builds on the unprecedented participation of 187 countries that submitted post-2020 climate action targets in advance of the meeting, and establishes a framework to ratchet up ambition by driving down global emissions in the decades to come.

This new global framework lays the foundation for countries to work together to put the world on a path to keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and sets an ambitious vision to go even farther than that. This Agreement sends a strong signal to the private sector that the global economy is moving towards clean energy, and that through innovation and ingenuity, we can achieve our climate objectives while creating new jobs, raising standards of living and lifting millions out of poverty.

The Paris Agreement is also the culmination of a broader effort by nations, businesses, cities, and citizens to reorient the global economy to a path of low-carbon growth – progress that will accelerate as a result of the Agreement’s provisions on mitigation ambition, transparency, and climate finance.

An Ambitious Agreement

The Paris Agreement sets forward an ambitious vision for tackling climate change globally. This includes:

  • Strengthening long-term ambition:The Agreement sets a goal of keeping warming well below 2 degrees Celsius and for the first time agrees to pursue efforts to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also acknowledges that in order to meet that target, countries should aim to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.
  • Establishing a universal approach for all countries:The Agreement moves beyond dividing the world into outdated categories of developed and developing countries and instead directs all parties to prepare, communicate and maintain successive and ambitious nationally determined climate targets. This approach – where countries set non-binding targets for themselves – paved the way for 187 mitigation contributions this year and will form the basis for a long-term, durable system to ratchet down emissions.
  • Locking in five year target cycles:Under the Agreement, all countries will communicate their climate targets every five years, starting in 2020. Targets must be submitted 9-12 months before they are finalized, creating time for other countries and civil society to seek clarity about the targets submitted.
  • Ratcheting up ambition over time:Each target should reflect progress from the prior one, reflecting the highest possible ambition that each country can achieve. This durable, long term framework will drive greater climate ambition as technologies improve and circumstances change.
  • Rigorous assessment of global climate action:To help inform further domestic and global efforts, the Agreement puts in place a mechanism to assess collective progress on global mitigation action using the best available science. This process will begin in 2018 and occur every five years to help inform countries’ future targets and strategies.
  • Sending a market signal on innovation and technology:The mitigation components of the Agreement, combined with a broad push on innovation and technology, will help significantly scale up energy investments over the coming years – investments that will accelerate cost reductions for renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions.  This set of actions will create a mutually reinforcing cycle in which enhanced mitigation increases investment and enhanced investment allows additional mitigation by driving down costs.

A Transparent and Accountable Agreement

The Paris Agreement establishes a robust transparency system to help make sure that all countries are living up to their commitments. This will send a market signal to the private sector and investors that countries are serious about meeting the targets they have set.  These steps include:

  • Putting in place an enhanced transparency system for all countries:A critical component of the Agreement, the transparency framework agreed to by parties ensures that all countries are on a level playing field with the United States with flexibility for those developing countries with less capacity.
  • Requiring countries to report on greenhouse gas inventories: For the first time, the Agreement requires all countries to report on national inventories of emissions by source. This breakthrough will give unprecedented clarity to the public’s understanding of emissions and pollution in countries throughout the world.
  • Requiring countries to report on mitigation progress:Also for the first time, countries are required to report on information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving the targets and strategies countries have put forward.
  • Establishing a technical review process with agreed upon standards:To help ensure countries are meeting transparency requirements, countries are subject to a comprehensive technical expert review process that analyzes whether reporting is in line with the standards adopted. Countries will also engage in a multilateral review with their peers to share their experiences and lessons learned.

An Agreement for a Low-Carbon Future

Tackling climate change will require shifting global investment flows towards clean energy, forest protection, and climate-resilient infrastructure.  Developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable, will need support from the global community as they pursue clean and resilient growth. The Paris Agreement makes real progress on this front by:

  • Providing a strong, long-term market signal that the world is locking in a low-carbon future:The submission of ambitious national targets in five-year cycles gives investors and technology innovators a clear signal that the world will demand clean power plants, energy efficient factories and buildings, and low-carbon transportation not just in the short-term but in the decades to come.  This will make it far easier to draw in the largest pools of capital that need long-term certainty in order to invest in clean technologies.
  • Giving confidence that existing financial commitments will be met:Many developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, came to Paris seeking reassurance that a global climate deal is not just about the big emitters but also supports their transition to a low-carbon growth path.  In this regard, we are already making strong progress towards meeting the existing goal to mobilize $100 billion from a wide variety of sources, including both public and private, by 2020. The Paris outcome provides further confidence that this goal will be met and that climate finance will continue to flow.  For the first time, the Agreement recognizes the reality that countries like China are already joining the base of donor countries contributing to climate finance and encourages developing countries to contribute to climate finance, while reaffirming that the United States and other developed economies should continue to take the lead.

These components of the Agreement build on steps the United States took in Paris to demonstrate its commitment to mobilizing finance from public and private sources for both mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries. These steps include:

  • Launching Mission Innovation:On the first day of the conference, President Obama joined other world leaders to launch Mission Innovation, a landmark commitment to accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation, and dramatically expand the new technologies that will define a clean, affordable, and reliable global power mix.  Twenty countries representing around 80% of global clean energy research and development (R&D) funding base committed to double their R&D investments over five years.  In addition, a coalition of 28 global investors led by Bill Gates committed to support early-stage breakthrough energy technologies in countries that have joined Mission Innovation.
  • Doubling U.S. grant-based public finance for adaptation by 2020: Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States will double its grant-based, public climate finance for adaptation by 2020. As of 2014, the United States invested more than $400 million per year of grant-based resources for climate adaptation in developing countries. These investments provide vulnerable countries with support – through both bilateral and multilateral channels – to reduce climate risks in key areas, including infrastructure, agriculture, health and water services.

An Agreement Complemented by Subnational, Private Sector and Citizen Action

Because the Agreement should serve as a floor for future ambitious climate action, complementary actions outside of the Agreement by sub-national governments, enterprising businesses, investors and entrepreneurs, and an enlightened global public are important complements to the Paris Agreement. As part of these global efforts, Americans have demonstrated their dedication to climate action through a wide variety of commitments.

  • Compact of Mayors:117 United States mayors have signed onto the Compact of Mayors pledge. The Compact establishes a common platform to capture the impact of cities’ collective actions through standardized measurement of emissions and climate risk, and consistent, public reporting of their efforts.
  • Under-2 MOU:States including California, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York have signed onto the Under-2 MOU.   The MOU commits signatories to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80-95% below 1990 levels, share technology and scientific research, expand zero-emission vehicles, improve air quality by reducing short-lived climate pollutants and assess projected impacts of climate change on communities.
  • American Business Act on Climate Pledge:154 companies have signed the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge.  These companies have operations in all 50 states, employ nearly 11 million people, represent more than $4.2 trillion in annual revenue and have a combined market capitalization of over $7 trillion. As part of this initiative, each company expressed support for an ambitious Paris Agreement and announced significant pledges to reduce their emissions, increase low-carbon investments, deploy more clean energy and take other actions to build more sustainable businesses and tackle climate change.
  • American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge:311 colleges and universities representing over 4 million students have demonstrated their commitment to climate action by joining the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge.

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© 2015 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email krubin723@aol.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo: NYS Will Overhaul Common Core, Retreat from High-Stakes Testing

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced recommendations from his Common Core Task Force including a moratorium on using high-stakes tests for student, teacher evaluation © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced recommendations from his Common Core Task Force including a moratorium on using high-stakes tests for student, teacher evaluation © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

 In a dramatic turnaround, New York State will abandon using high-stakes testing to evaluate students, as well as teachers until the 2019-2020 school year, will move to overhaul the Common Core system and restore some measure of local control over how new standards and curriculum are implemented. It is a repudiation of the “one-size fits all” framework which emerged out of the No Child Left Behind/Race to the Top Accountability Movement that had been driving education.

The new policy emerges out of the final report and recommendations of Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force, consisting of a diverse group of educators, parents, education officials and state representatives, which was charged with comprehensively reviewing and making recommendations on reforming the current Common Core system and the way students are taught and tested.

The Task Force recommended “overhauling the current Common Core system and adopting new, locally-driven New York State standards in a transparent and open process to make sure all students are prepared to succeed in an increasingly competitive 21st century economy,” the Governor’s office stated. “The new standards, curriculum and tests and must uniquely developed for New York students with sufficient local input.” The Task Force also recommended that current Common Core aligned tests should not count for students or teachers until the start of 2019-2020 school year to ensure the system is implemented completely and properly to avoid the errors caused by the prior flawed implementation.

“After listening to thousands of parents, educators and students, the Task Force has made important recommendations that include overhauling the Common Core, adopting new locally-designed high quality New York standards, and greatly reducing testing and testing anxiety for our students,” Governor Cuomo stated. “The Common Core was supposed to ensure all of our children had the education they needed to be college and career-ready – but it actually caused confusion and anxiety. That ends now. Today, we will begin to transform our system into one that empowers parents, teachers and local districts and ensures high standards for all students. I thank the Task Force members for their thorough work. Together we will ensure that New York’s schools provide the world-class education that our children deserve.”

The Task Force was chaired by Richard Parsons, Senior Advisor, Providence Equity Partners, LLC and former Chairman of Citigroup.

“While adoption of the Common Core was extremely well intentioned, its implementation has caused confusion and upheaval in classrooms across New York State,” stated the Task Force chairman Richard Parsons, Senior Advisor, Providence Equity Partners, LLC and former Chairman of Citigroup. “We believe that these recommendations, once acted on, provide a means to put things back on the right track and ensure high quality standards that meet the needs of New York’s kids. The recommendations will provide the foundation to restore public trust in the education system in New York and build on the long history of excellence that preceded this period.”

The Task Force heard from more than 2,100 students, parents, teachers, administrators and other education stakeholders through public forums held across the state, thousands of pages of testimony and outreach to educators.

The Task Force affirmed the importance of maintaining the highest quality standards and performance measures in education. However, the Task Force found that over the past decade there has been rapid change in education, including the 2009 federal Race to the Top and Common Core which has created confusion and disruption in states across the nation, including New York. Moreover, the original process to adopt and implement the Common Core standards, curriculum and tests in New York had implementation issues and failed to include sufficient input from educators, parents and local districts and was not open and transparent.

The Task Force made 20 recommendations, including:

1: Adopt high quality New York education standards with input from local districts, educators, and parents through an open and transparent process.

2: Modify early grade standards so they are age-appropriate.

3: Ensure that standards accommodate flexibility that allows educators to meet the needs of unique student populations, including Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners.

4: Ensure standards do not lead to the narrowing of curriculum or diminish the love of reading and joy of learning.

5: Establish a transparent and open process by which New York standards are periodically reviewed by educators and content area experts. Develop Better Curriculum Guidance and Resources

6: Ensure educators and local school districts have the flexibility to develop and tailor curriculum to the new standards.

7: Release updated and improved sample curriculum resources.

8: Launch a digital platform that enables teachers, including pre-service teachers, and teacher educators, to share resources with other teachers across the state.

9: Create ongoing professional development opportunities for teachers, teacher educators, and administrators on the revised State standards. Significantly Reduce Testing Time and Preparation and Ensure Tests Fit Curriculum and Standards

10: Involve educators, parents, and other education stakeholders in the creation and periodic review of all State standards-aligned exams and other State assessments.

11: Gather student feedback on the quality of the new tests.

12: Provide ongoing transparency to parents, educators, and local districts on the quality and content of all tests, including, but not limited to publishing the test questions.

13: Reduce the number of days and shorten the duration for standards-aligned State standardized tests.

14: Provide teachers with the flexibility and support to use authentic formative assessments to measure student learning.

15: Undertake a formal review to determine whether to transition to untimed tests for existing and new State standardized tests aligned to the standards.

16: Provide flexibility for assessments of Students with Disabilities.

17: Protect and enforce testing accommodations for Students with Disabilities.

18: Explore alternative options to assess the most severely disabled students.

19: Prevent students from being mandated into Academic Intervention Services based on a single test.

20: Eliminate double testing for English Language Learners.

The Task Force found that to implement the new system would require significant work including a comprehensive review of the current Common Core Standards in order to adopt new New York State Standards and create new curriculum and assessments in an open and transparent manner for the nearly 700 school districts, 5,000 schools, 200,000 plus teachers and 2.65 million students. Therefore, the Task Force believes that in order to finally get the system right there must be adequate time to implement the system. Given all of the work and time required to review and adopt new standards, improve and adapt curriculum, and create new assessments, any current Common Core aligned tests should not count for students or teachers until the start of 2019-2020 school year when the new statewide standards developed through this process will be put into place.

The Task Force has adopted many if not most of the Board of Regents’ recommendations for improving the implementation of the higher standards we’ve set for our students,” stated New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch. “The most important message in the Task Force report is the renewed commitment to adopting and maintaining higher standards. We cannot turn our backs on our students at a time when the world is demanding more from them – more skills, more knowledge, more problem-solving.”

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said, “In my first few months as commissioner, I’ve traveled across the state and heard a large cross section of New Yorkers — our teachers, parents and educators –share their deep concern for improving the education of our children. And as a member of the Common Core Task Force, I’ve heard those same stakeholders express those same concerns. Likewise, the Department’s AimHighNY survey unfolded the same passionate call for clear learning standards to serve as guideposts to future success for our children. Now it’s time to move forward and deliver on the promise we’ve made to our students and give them the best schools possible.”

The comprehensive report provides the history and context of learning standards and specifically, a review of the Common Core Standards in New York; a summary of testimony and stakeholder feedback across several categories and specific Task Force responses; and a full description of Task Force Recommendations.

The Education Transformation Act of 2015 will remain in place, and no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report, including recommendations regarding the transition period for consequences for students and teachers. During the transition, the 18 percent of teachers whose performance is measured, in part, by Common Core tests will use different local measures approved by the state, similar to the measures already being used by the majority of teachers.

The Governor’s office pointed to his longstanding commitment to education reform, including the recent laws banning standardized testing for students in pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade, capping test preparation to two percent of learning time, not counting the Common Core scores against students and requiring the State Education Department to help districts eliminate unnecessary standardized tests for all other students.

See also:

Hate over-testing? NYS’s Common Core Task Force needs to hear from you

Back to the drawing board for nation’s schools wrestling with Common Core

Obama to Sign Every Student Succeeds Act, Replacing No Child Left Behind

High School graduation. Congress has passed the Every Student Succeeds Act which is intended to improve upon No Child Left Behind © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
High School graduation. Congress has passed the Every Student Succeeds Act which is intended to improve upon No Child Left Behind © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Senate voted 85-12 today to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which would finally replace the badly broken No Child Left Behind law. The House passed this bill last week 359-64 (with every Democrat voting yes),

The White House announced that President Obama  will deliver remarks and sign the Every Student Succeeds Act tomorrow, Dec. 10.

“This bipartisan bill will cement the progress made in elementary and secondary education over the last seven years and fix the No Child Left Behind Act to reduce over-testing and one-size-fits-all federal mandates,” the White House stated.

The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Patty Murray (D-WA), who wrote, “For years, I’ve heard from students, parents, teachers, and small business owners about the need to fix the broken No Child Left Behind law. It wasn’t working for our kids, it wasn’t working for our schools, and it wasn’t working for our state. So when I became the top Democrat on the Senate Education Committee this year, I got to work, and I wasn’t going to stop until this broken law was fixed. It wasn’t easy in this Republican Congress, but I made it clear that I was willing to work with anyone, from any party, who was willing to put students and their education above partisanship and politics.

It will:

  • Reduce reliance on high-stakes testing – No Child Left Behind over-emphasized test scores to judge how students and schools were performing. The new law will allow students and teachers to spend less time on test prep​ and more time on learning. ​
  • ​Expand access to preschool programs so more kids can start kindergarten on strong footing.​
  • End the need for state waivers and “fail” letters – No Child Left Behind‘s one-size-fits-all mandates were so burdensome that the Obama administration began giving states waivers from the law’s requirements, which otherwise would have resulted in most schools being labeled as “failing.” ESSA ends the need for these state waivers, which will give students, parents, and teachers some much-needed certainty about how ​schools are​​ performing.​

Help ensure all students have access to a good education – For so many Americans, a good education can be a ticket to the middle class. ESSA will help ensure all students have access to a quality education, no matter their ZIP code or their background.

The White House issued a Fact Sheet on the background of the Every Student Succeeds Act, providing more detail:

FACT SHEET: Congress Acts to Fix No Child Left Behind

“We are a place that believes every child, no matter where they come from, can grow up to be anything they want… And I’m confident that if we fix No Child Left Behind, if we continue to reform American education, continue to invest in our children’s future, that’s the America we will always be.”– Remarks by the President on the No Child Left Behind Act, March 14, 2011, Kenmore Middle School, Arlington, Virginia

ESSA rejects the overuse of standardized tests and one-size-fits-all mandates on our schools, ensures that our education system will prepare every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers, and provides more children access to high-quality state preschool programs.

The bipartisan bill passed by the House includes many of the key reforms the Administration has called on Congress to enact and encouraged states and districts to adopt in exchange for waivers offering relief from the more onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bill helps ensure educational opportunity for all students by:

  • Holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers.
  • Ensuring accountability by guaranteeing that when students fall behind, states redirect resources into what works to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the very lowest-performing schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools with achievement gaps.
  • Empowering state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence, rather than imposing cookie-cutter federal solutions like the No Child Left Behind Act did.
  • Reducing the often onerous burden of testing on students and teachers, making sure that tests don’t crowd out teaching and learning, without sacrificing clear, annual information parents and educators need to make sure our children are learning.
  • Providing more children access to high-quality preschool.
  • Establishing new resources for proven strategies that will spur reform and drive opportunity and better outcomes for America’s students.

In recognition of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)’s legacy as a civil rights law, the bipartisan bill upholds critical protections for America’s disadvantaged students. It ensures that states and school districts will hold schools to account for the progress of all students and prescribes meaningful reforms to remedy underperformance in those schools failing to serve all students. It excludes harmful “portability” provisions that would siphon funds away from the students and schools most in need, and maintains dedicated resources and supports for America’s vulnerable children – including students with disabilities, English Learners, Native American students, homeless children, neglected and delinquent children, and migrant and seasonal farmworker children. It also ensures that states and districts continue the work they’ve begun this year to ensure that all students – including students from low-income families and students of color – have equitable access to excellent educators.

EMBRACING THE ADMINISTRATION’S PRINCIPLES FOR REFORM

College and Career-Ready Standards for America’s Learners: The bill affirms the path taken by 48 states and the District of Columbia to hold all students to challenging academic content standards that will prepare them to graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workforce. In 2008, America’s governors and state education officials came together to develop a new set of college- and career-ready standards for their schools. The Obama Administration supported those efforts through its Race to the Top grant program and the federal-state partnership established in its ESEA flexibility agreements.

Rigorous Accountability for All Students: Consistent with the Administration’s legislative proposals and the policies in place under the Administration’s ESEA flexibility agreements, the bill builds on the federal-state partnerships in place in over 40 states to require meaningful goals for the progress of all students, and to ensure that every student subgroup makes gains toward college and career-readiness. States must set ambitious targets to close student achievement and graduation rate gaps among subgroups of students in order to meet their goals. In schools where too many students consistently fail to reach the goals and other indicators set by the state, school districts will ensure they receive tailored interventions and supports proportionate to the needs of those schools and the students they serve.

Reform and Resources for America’s Struggling Schools and Students: The bill will target resources, attention, and effort to make gains for our students attending schools most in need of help. Consistent with the policies in place under the Administration’s ESEA flexibility agreements, the bill moves away from NCLB’s one-size-fits-all accountability and ensures that states undertake reforms in their lowest performing schools, in high schools with high dropout rates, and in schools where subgroups are falling behind. It includes provisions that would require districts to use evidence-based models to support whole-school interventions in the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools and schools where more than a third of high school students do not graduate on time, and includes dedicated funding to support interventions in these schools. In schools where subgroups of students persistently underperform, school districts must mount targeted interventions and supports to narrow gaps and improve student achievement. If such schools are not showing improvement, the state will ensure more rigorous strategies are put in place. Moreover, the Department of Education has the authority it needs to ensure that states carry out their responsibilities.

New Incentives to Improve Opportunities and Outcomes for Students: The bill includes initiatives modeled after the Administration’s programs to:

  • Establish or expand access to high-quality, state-funded preschool for children from low- and moderate-income families, building from the Administration’s Preschool Development Grants program.
  • Develop, refine, and replicate innovative and ambitious reforms to close the achievement gap in America’s schools, similar to the Administration’s existing Investing in Innovation (i3) program.
  • Expand incentives to prepare, develop, and advance effective teachers and principals in America’s schools.
  • Leverage resources to address the significant challenges faced by students and families living in high-poverty communities through the Promise Neighborhoodseffort, supporting a full continuum of services from early learning through college.
  • Expand support for high-performing public charter schools for high-need students.

A Smart and Balanced Approach to Testing: The bill maintains important statewide assessments to ensure that teachers and parents can mark the progress and performance of their children every year, from third to eighth grade and once in high school. The bill encourages a smarter approach to testing by moving away from a sole focus on standardized tests to drive decisions around the quality of schools, and by allowing for the use of multiple measures of student learning and progress, along with other indicators of student success to make school accountability decisions. It also includes provisions consistent with the Administration’s principles around reducing the amount of classroom time spent on standardized testing, including support for state efforts to audit and streamline their current assessment systems.

Promoting Equity in State and Local Funding: The Administration has called repeatedly for states and school districts to more equitably distribute state and local dollars to schools with the greatest need. The bill includes a pilot program – similar to a proposal put forward by the Administration this year in the FY16 budget – that provides for weighted student funding. Under the pilot, districts must demonstrate a commitment to equitable distribution of state and local dollars—based on actual per-pupil expenditures—to their highest poverty schools. In exchange, districts would be allowed to allocate and use Title I and other federal formula funds in a more flexible manner to support comprehensive plans that improve achievement and outcomes for their neediest students. The bill also includes provisions that require reporting on actual school-level expenditures, allowing the public for the first time to see the amount of federal, state, and local funding distributed to each and every school.  The bill rejects so-called “portability” provisions in the House-passed bill that would have allowed states to shift federal funds away from the schools that need them most.

See also:

Hate over-testing? NYS’s Common Core Task Force needs to hear from you

Back to the drawing board for nation’s schools wrestling with Common Core

Teaching in America: Education reform should start with empowering teachers

OMB: Obama Would Veto GOP-Led Land Grab, ‘Red River Private Property Protection Act’

GOPWatch: This is who they are. Republican Thornberry (TX) and 7 cosponsors are pushing the “Red River Private Property Protection Act”, which would reduce federal control of federally owned lands. Essentially, it is a land grab to benefit specific donors. 

The OMB (Office of Management and Budget) says President Obama would veto. Here’s why:

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2130, which would set aside existing Federal surveys, divest the Secretary of the Interior of responsibility as surveyor of record for the United States, and transfer lands out of Federal ownership without ensuring a fair return to the taxpayer.

H.R. 2130 would set aside existing Federal surveys of land along the Red River in Texas and would require the Secretary to commission and to accept, without Federal participation, surveys of the land approved by the Texas General Land Office. This legislation would require the Secretary to delegate her authority for determining Federal estate to a state agency, would be counter to nearly 100 years of settled law, and could reduce mineral revenue opportunities for the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache Tribes and the State of Oklahoma.

The Administration shares the goal of providing legal certainty to property owners along the Red River, but strongly opposes the approach of voiding or nullifying Federal surveys.

If the President were presented with H.R. 2130, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

 

White House Report: SNAP Food Stamps Program Lifted 4.7 Million Out of Poverty in 2014

A new report released today from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) finds that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is highly effective at reducing food insecurity—the government’s measure for whether households lack the resources for consistent and dependable access to food. The report highlights a growing body of research that finds that children who receive food assistance see improvements in health and academic performance and that these benefits are mirrored by long-run improvements in health, educational attainment, and economic self-sufficiency. The report also features new research that shows benefit levels are often inadequate to sustain families through the end of the month—resulting in high-cost consequences, such as a 27 percent increase in the rate of hospital admissions due to low blood sugar for low-income adults between the first and last week of the month, as well as diminished performance on standardized tests among school age children.

Each month, SNAP helps about 46 million low-income Americans put food on the table. The large majority of households receiving SNAP include children, senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and working adults. Two-thirds of SNAP benefits go to households with children.

Today’s CEA report draws on a growing body of high-quality research about food insecurity and SNAP, finding that:

SNAP plays an important role in reducing both poverty and food insecurity in the United Statesespecially among children.

  • SNAP benefits lifted at least 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2014—including 2.1 million children. SNAP also lifted more than 1.3 million children out of deep poverty, or above half of the poverty line (for example, $11,925 for a family of four).
  • The temporary expansion of SNAP benefits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) lifted roughly 530,000 households out of food insecurity. 

SNAP benefits support vulnerable populations including children, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly, as well as an increasing number of working families.

  • Nearly one in two households receiving SNAP benefits have children, and three-quarters of recipient households have a child, an elderly member, or a member with a disability. Fully 67 percent of the total value of SNAP benefits go to households with children as these households on average get larger benefits than households without children.
  • Over the past 20 years, the overall share of SNAP recipient households with earned income rose by 50 percent. Among recipient households with children, the share with a working adult has doubled since 1990.

SNAP’s impact on children lasts well beyond their childhood years, providing long-run benefits for health, education, and economic self-sufficiency.

  • Among adults who grew up in disadvantaged households when the Food Stamp Program was first being introduced, access to Food Stamps before birth and in early childhood led to significant reductions in the likelihood of obesity and significant increases in the likelihood of completing high school.
  • Early exposure to food stamps also led to reductions in metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions associated with heart disease and diabetes) and increased economic self-sufficiency among disadvantaged women.

SNAP has particularly large benefits for women and their families.

  • Maternal receipt of Food Stamps during pregnancy reduces the incidence of low birth-weight by between 5 and 23 percent.
  • Exposure to food assistance in utero and through early childhood has large overall health and economic self-sufficiency impacts for disadvantaged women. 

The majority of working-age SNAP recipients already participate in the labor market, and the program includes important supports to help more recipients successfully find and keep work.

  • Fifty-seven percent of working-age adults receiving SNAP are either working or looking for work, while 22 percent do not work due to a disability. Many recipients are also the primary caregivers of young children or family members with disabilities.
  • SNAP also supports work through the Employment and Training program, which directly helps SNAP beneficiaries gain the skills they need to succeed in the labor market in order to find and retain work. During fiscal year 2014, this program served about 600,000 SNAP recipients. 

Even with SNAP’s positive impact, nearly one in seven American households experienced food insecurity in 2014.

  • These households—which included 15 million children—lacked the resources necessary for consistent and dependable access to food.
  • In 2014, 40 percent of all food-insecure households—and nearly 6 percent of US households overall—were considered to have very lowfood security. This means that, in nearly seven million households, at least one person in the household missed meals and experienced disruptions in food intake due to insufficient resources for food. 

While SNAP benefits allow families to put more food on the table,current benefit levels are often insufficient to sustain them through the end of the month, with substantial consequences.

  • More than half of SNAP households currently report experiencing food insecurity, and the fraction reporting very low food security has risen since the end of the temporary benefits expansion under ARRA.
  • New research has linked diminished food budgets at the end of each month to high-cost consequences, including:

o   A drop-off in caloric intake, with estimates of this decline ranging from 10 to 25 percent over the course of the month;

o   A 27 percent increase in the rate of hospital admissions due to low blood sugar for low-income adults between the first and last week of the month;

o   An 11 percent increase in the rate of disciplinary actions among school children in SNAP households between the first and last week of the month;

o   Diminished student performance on standardized tests, with performance improving only gradually again after the next month’s benefits are received.

Administration Efforts to Build on Progress

To reduce hunger and improve family well-being, the Obama administration has been and remains dedicated to providing American children and families with better access to the nutrition they need to thrive. These investments make a real and measurable difference in the lives of children and their families, and ensure a brighter, healthier future for the entire country.

Through the Recovery Act, the Administration temporarily increased SNAP benefits by 14 percent during the Great Recession to help families put food on the table.  Reports indicate that food security among low-income households improved from 2008 to 2009 amidst a severe recession and increased unemployment; a significant part of that improvement is likely attributable to SNAP.

The Administration has also developed several initiatives to improve food security and nutrition for vulnerable children.  Through the Community Eligibility Provision, schools in high-poverty areas are now able to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students with significantly less administrative burden. Recent revisions to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) added a cash benefit to allow participants to purchase fruits and vegetables, a change that substantially increased the value of the package. The Administration also has expanded access for low-income children to nutritious food during the summer months when school meals are unavailable and the risk of food insecurity is heightened. The results of these efforts have been promising. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) delivered 23 million more summer meals than in 2009.  And the Administration has successfully implemented Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (SEBTC) pilots, which provide additional food assistance to low-income families with children during the summer months. These pilots were found to reduce very low food security among children by 26 percent.  The President’s 2016 Budget proposed a significant expansion of this effort.

Finally, this Administration has provided select states waivers to test ways of reducing the administrative burdens of SNAP for elderly households, a population that continues to be underserved. After seeing positive results in participating states, including an increase of elderly participation by more than 50 percent in Alabama, the President’s 2016 Budget included a proposal to create a state option that would expand upon these efforts to improve access to SNAP benefits for the elderly.

Spate of Gun Deaths Embolden Dems to Call for Universal Background Checks But More is Needed

Gun violence prevention advocates won one victory in May – Oregon passed universal background checks – but suffered a bigger loss, as Texas voted to allow concealed carry of guns on campuses of public colleges across the state. This is despite the fact that the most famous thing to happen at the University of Texas-Austin was the first mass shooting in America, on August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman climbed the University of Texas Tower and used a sniper to kill 16 and wound 31.

Ironically, Oregon, which allows concealed carry on college campuses, just this month was the setting for the latest campus massacre.

Also this month, a six year old murdered his three-year old sibling with his father’s gun, kept loaded, atop their refrigerator.

Indeed, roughly every week, a toddler is killed or kills with a gun. How many more are added to the list, provided in mid-April by Colette Martin, of Moms Demand Action, which had already produced 11 children under the age of 15 who had been shot accidentally so far that month.

“It’s shocking to me – as I investigate laws at states – because the federal is useless – depending on zipcode, leaving a loaded gun on a coffee table is either a crime or nothing,” Martin told a Gun Violence Prevention forum at Temple Beth-el of Great Neck, “That’s why we read stories every day that a child is shot accidentally. We are not talking suicide or domestic violence.”

Her list included 5 year olds shooting 2 year olds; a 15 year old in Brooklyn who shot himself in the chest; in Houston, a 5 year old was shot by 4 year old (the fourth in 3 weeks); a mom’s boyfriend, cleaning his gun, accidentally shot a 9 year old.

“The NRA won’t tell you but two children a week will die this way, through accidental gunshot wounds – many more hurt, life changing injuries – a pattern so predictable. Over 100 kids a year will be dead because someone didn’t store gun properly.

“Is there any product that kills that many kids that we’re not regulating?

“It should be a crime to leave a loaded gun accessible to children –a punishable crime. That is a glaring omission from New York’s Safe Act,” she says.

That’s also the basis for a proposed law in New York, Nicholas’ Law – named for a 12 year old killed by playing at friend’s house where unsecured loaded gun and friend shot him, accidentally.

Other legislative actions that need to happen nationally:

Repealing laws that ban pediatricians from raising questions about guns in the home and recommending they be locked up (such as in Florida).

Repealing Stand Your Ground (aka “License to Kill”), another law written by the NRA and ALEC (a front for the Koch Brothers) and spread like cancer among the states, starting in Florida under then-Governor Jeb Bush.

Changing the requirements to purchase and possess guns. Norman Siegel, a New York civil rights lawyer and former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in a letter to the New York Times in December proposed a nationwide state registration program, similar to motor vehicle registration. “Every two years the owner of a gun would be required to bring his or her weapon in for inspection and re-registration. If the owner no longer possesses the weapon, he or she should be required to explain what happened to the gun. Perhaps under such a program we, as a nation, can realistically ameliorate the problem of guns winding up in the hands of lawbreakers and/or the mentally ill.”

And for those who charge that gun registration is somehow violating 2nd Amendment rights, look to the oppressive Voter ID and registration requirements being passed around the country which effectively put barriers in front of citizens’ right to vote.

Moreover, gun rights fanatics have no problem cancelling out the First Amendment’s freedom of speech in banning pediatricians from discussing gun safety with their patients’ families.

Gun violence is not a 2nd amendment issue. It is a public health issue, and should be treated in the same way. And if anything violates the founding premise of this country, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” it is the outsized weight given to so-called gun rights which never actually existed.

“This family’s only child is gone. It’s not just a legislative change, it’s part of the cultural change – the social norming that has to happen as with drunk driving,” she says, referring to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the way they insinuated a kind of moral code into everyday life.

Governor Cuomo seized upon the massacre Sandy Hook Elementary School as a rare moment when he could pass Safe Act.

But other states – the gun happy ones, the free-range ones, the Live Free or Die ones (and so they die) – have gone the other way – in Florida, doctors are banned (no matter the inconvenient First Amendment guaranteeing free speech, or even the Hippocratic oath) from even asking parents if there is a gun in the home, in order to urge safe storage to prevent such tragedies as Nicholas’ and the others, a move that is being copied by other states, prompting New York Times columnist Charles Blow to raise the question, “Has the NRA Won?”

And the real challenge is the latest move by the NRA in the bought-and-paid-for Congress: to force states with gun regulations to have “reciprocity” – essentially to make a gun permit like a drivers license – with states that have virtually no restrictions (and in the case of one Georgia town, which mandate every family have a gun) – in a blatant disregard of states rights, in yet another instance when hypocrisy rules the day if it is convenient.

“We have to fight reciprocity,” State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel said during the forum. “Every state has their rights – who can own a gun. New York has strong laws, but in Vermont, you only need to be 16 years of age and have a drivers license and you can have a gun.” What reciprocity means is that if you have a gun permit in one state, you can have a gun – transfer guns, drive interstate (now illegal) – scary for someone like NY.” So if a state like Texas allows concealed guns everywhere (except the State House) with no questions asked, even a person with a mental condition, a veteran with PTSD or a domestic abuser, can bring their gun to New York.

As the level of gun violence has only escalated, the NRA has come back with more and more absurd statements (such as the time after a tragedy is no time to consider what to do about it), or a move to ease access to guns.

If anything gives lie to the absurdity, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” and the even more absurd statement that the way to reduce gun violence is to make guns even more prevalent, it is the fact that gun violence kills 2500 children each year. You can also look to the murder of police officers, who are clearly “good guys” whose guns could not stop the bad guy who shot first.

In Chicago, just over Memorial Day weekend, 40 people were shot including a 4 year old girl, with nine dead, including,a 15-year old boy, Nation of Change reported.

“So far, there have been 18,760 gun incidents this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, resulting in 4,830 deaths and the death or injury of 249 children.”

There are practical things that can be done to significantly reduce the more than 30,000 gun deaths a year – that’s equivalent to a 9/11 a month – having nothing to do with violating the 2 nd Amendment or taking guns away from the ostensibly “law abiding” people (isn’t it odd that people are “law abiding” until they aren’t?)

But before we get into the long list of commonsense steps that should be taking immediately, without having any impact whatsoever on the so-called “law abiding” gunowners, there is this:

Gun Manufacturers Profit Incentive: Smart Guns

Much is made of the fact that the NRA, which is such an outsized powerhouse scaring the beejeebees out of politicians, serves the interests of gun manufacturers, not the ordinary members (a majority of whom support universal background checks and other commonsense measures).

In fact, the NRA was in favor of universal background checks until they were against them, and now, whenever there is a massacre, they call for more guns – armed guards at schools and churches, concealed carry at college campuses, in fact, everywhere but in Congress and Houses of Legislature.

So just like the corruption in FIFA won’t be rooted out politically, but when Nike and other sponsors exert their power, gun manufacturers have to see profit in being more socially conscious.

Jeb Bush speaking to 30,000 at the NRA convention, said Obama should be disarming ISIS rather than law-abiding Americans – the problem is that terrorists in the US have a clear shot at obtaining military-grade weapons and high-capacity ammo clips- while, in fact, DoD has radiofrequency controls in its military weapons so they can locate guns gone missing into the wrong hands. (Jeb! casually dismissed the Oregon shooting as “stuff happens”.)

Question is: why aren’t there ‘smart guns’ like ‘smart phones’ that can only be used by the person whose hand print is identified with the gun? Or, for that matter, a locater as a smart phone has when it is stolen, and can be located and disarmed remotely?

If the gun manufacturers would see themselves as, say, Apple Computers, coming out with the newest, latest gun that replaces the older gun, they could see big profits in sensible gun measure: namely, the same ID access that smart-phones now have: make the gun so that it can only be used by the owner. If the gun-owner is in fact law-abiding, they would have no problem with that, and would relish the idea of a gun not being snapped up by the “bad guy” (or a child) and used to kill their loved ones.

Think of the increased profits, if 100 million guns had to be replaced! Gun dealers could offer those nifty trade-in deals!

Change Tactics

The gun nuts have also long ceased being credible in arguing for “self-defense” and the “homespun, family values sport of hunting” when they refuse to allow a ban on military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that kill dozens in a blink of an eye. This is about the fantasy of being able to take down the government – something that the 2nd Amendment never envisioned, since it was intended to provide a defense for the fledgling democratic government in the absence of a standing army -like a National Guard.

It’s been 15 years since the Million Mom March in Washington DC (remember how they said if George W Bush were elected, there would be an office in the West Wing for the NRA? They were right.) Things clearly went downhill from there – for example, allowing the 1994 Assault Weapons ban to lapse.

Despite the rise of organizations like Moms Demand Action, Moms Rising, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Everytown and scores of others (typically, tragically, by family members like Richard Martinez whose lives have been forever destroyed by gun violence), Congress, in the pocket of the gun lobby, has refused to budge, and in the states, the reaction to what was considered the most heinous tragedy of all, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was to free up, not tighten, gun restrictions (New York’s Safe Act was the exception).

It’s time to change tactics and the dynamics.

Abortions are constitutionally protected but the anti-choice movement has been able to put all sorts of legal and financial impediments that make it impossible for women to exercise their Constitutionally protected rights.

The gun violence prevention advocates should adopt some of these methods. For example:

State requirements: Just as California laws regarding automobiles and the chemicals industry have forced those industries to change their manufacture to be more environmentally friendly, states could impose requirements on gun manufacturers that every gun be a smart-gun; increase taxes on ammunition (like they do on cigarettes) and fees on gun permits (like voting IDs)

Make gun manufacturers and dealers liable when their product is inappropriately used (as so many other manufacturers are – gun manufacturers are somehow exempted.)

Require gun owners to take out liability insurance so that victims’ families can be adequately compensated.

Institute laws making parents/guardians responsible for safe storage, and criminally liable if a child commits a crime with their gun. For example, no one questioned where the 15 year old Jared Michael Padgett, of Portland, Oregon, obtained the gun he used to kill freshman Emilio Hoffman and wound teacher Todd Rispler before killing himself. Or where 14 year old Jaylen Fryberg, a popular student at Marysville, Wash. high school,, got the .40-caliber handgun he used to kill a girl and strike four others in the head before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide. There were no consequences for whoever obtained the guns that these minors used to murder innocents.

Put a fee on ammunition and gun purchases to support a victims fund.

Boycott college campuses that allow guns: Parents should contact colleges and ask if guns are allowed, and if so, tell them you won’t allow your child to apply there.

“I am, a huge believer that the American people can fix this,” Martin says. “I’ve lost faith in Congress, lost faith in the federal government, lost faith in the NRA – I was never much of a fan, my father tore up his NRA card in1980s, it was apparent to him what they were about: politicizing, a money racket, they are not standing for his ideals.

“Most gun owners are not in NRA… 90% of legitimate legal gun owners don’t support NRA. Who is supporting the NRA? The gun manufacturers – Smith-Wesson, Baretta. It’s no mystery that’s who they serve – the NRA is a front for gun manufacturers.

“Their job is to fend off, violently, any regulation that will impact the sale of their product – every gun that ends up on the street, used in a crime, begins as a legal gun –it was first sold as a legal gun – no illegal gun manufacturing plant anywhere.”

(And every criminal or maniac who uses a gun starts off as a noncriminal, non-maniac. Actually, you could add that whenever there is a massacre – the more heinous that it is – gun sales go up because LaPierre warns that the government will finally confiscate guns.)

Colette adds, “I’m a gun owner and here’s the impact [the NY Safe Act] had on me (she gestures, zero). I don’t have AR 15s in my basement – New York by any measure has done a great job keeping its citizens safe -the illegal street variety and more difficult gun violence.

“I am here today to deal with children’s and guns –standard, practical storage protocols. If you have children and guns in house, lock one of them up,” she said, drawing a laugh.

“1/3 of families own at least one gun – it behooves us to ask how it is stored at home.”

But in the absence of law, there are more practical actions parents should take: “Before you allow your child to go for a playdate, ask are there guns in house That’s not political, but safety. That’s a house I don’t want my kid playing unattended

It’s no more offensive than asking if there is a pool, or a dog. It’s not easy to plan a funeral for a 12 year old – that’s inconvenient.

“How many of these parents whose kids were shot this month would do anything to go back in time and ask that question. It’s not political, not offensive- not out of order to ask about the safety.”

Martin also refutes the claim that safe storage of guns at home will somehow interfere with the ability (rare) to defend from an intruder. She says that evidence shows that it takes a gun owner “fractions of seconds” to get a gun out of a safebox and load it.

In August, Fox & friends did 5 part gun safety series and part 3 featured expert marksmen, firearms dealer and trainer Rob Pincus, who did a live demo showing how long it took in an incidence of home invasion. Someone banged the door down downstairs, he went to the gun safe’s numeric keypad taking a half second to open it, she said.

On the other hand, the incidence of home invasion is so minimal, as are the instances of a gunowner actually foiling an intruder.

“The FBI did a study of home invasions and found that 68% of home invasions happen between parties that knew each other.”

What is more likely is that believing you are defending yourself against an armed intruder, results in accidentally killing your 19 year old who comes home unexpectedly from college at 3 am.

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© 2015 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com,  email krubin723@aol.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Obama, Calming Nation, Lays Out ‘Sustainable’ Plan to Defeat ISIS, Terrorism

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush at 10-year commemoration ceremony of September 11, 2001 attacks at Ground Zero, World Trade Center, New York City © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush at 10-year commemoration ceremony of September 11, 2001 attacks at Ground Zero, World Trade Center, New York City © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President Obama, speaking from the Oval Office for only the third time during his presidency, issued a rational, calm, forceful explanation of how the United States should properly defeat the Islamic State and radical Islamic terror that is spreading throughout the world. 

He attempted to counter the destructive impacts of the demagoguery of political candidates – likely an impetus to radicalization of homegrown, lone-wolf terrorists such as took place in San Bernadino – while laying out a pragmatic strategy. This includes calling upon Congress to take responsibility, not just hurl criticisms, to authorize the continued use of military force; to prohibit those on no-fly list from acquiring guns; to ban assault weapons that have no place in civil society (case in point: terror attack in US, 14 dead, 21 wounded; terror attack in UK, 2 wounded in stabbing); and address the visa waiver program that 20 million international travelers to the US have used. 

He outlined what the United States is doing, in leading a coalition now grown to 65 countries, against ISIS, which has included mounting more than 8,000 bombing attacks and sending more special forces, countering the power of ISIS to propagate propaganda and recruit through social media, restoring national security tools to penetrate online communications, and doing more to remove ISIS’ source of funding, oil which has been sold through Turkey (which previously was not possible because of Turkey’s complicity). 

But Obama warned against the baser instincts, of pushing for a new ground war that would only result in “killing thousands of our troops, draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits.” And he warned against closing borders to refugees, unleashing discrimination and attacks against Muslims:

“…it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination.  It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country.  It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently.

“Because when we travel down that road, we lose.  That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL… 

“I am confident we will succeed in this mission because we are on the right side of history.  We were founded upon a belief in human dignity — that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.

Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future Presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional. Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear; that we have always met challenges — whether war or depression, natural disasters or terrorist attacks — by coming together around our common ideals as one nation, as one people.  So long as we stay true to that tradition, I have no doubt America will prevail.” 

Here is President Obama’s speech, highlighted:

President Obama speaking at 10-Year Commemoration Ceremony of Sept 11 Attacks at Ground Zero, NYC © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama speaking at 10-Year Commemoration Ceremony of Sept 11 Attacks at Ground Zero, NYC © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Good evening.  On Wednesday, 14 Americans were killed as they came together to celebrate the holidays.  They were taken from family and friends who loved them deeply. They were white and black; Latino and Asian; immigrants and American-born; moms and dads; daughters and sons.  Each of them served their fellow citizens and all of them were part of our American family.

Tonight, I want to talk with you about this tragedy, the broader threat of terrorism, and how we can keep our country safe.

The FBI is still gathering the facts about what happened in San Bernardino, but here is what we know.  The victims were brutally murdered and injured by one of their coworkers and his wife.  So far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas, or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home.  But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.  They had stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition, and pipe bombs.  So this was an act of terrorism, designed to kill innocent people. 

Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.  In the process, we’ve hardened our defenses — from airports to financial centers, to other critical infrastructure.  Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have disrupted countless plots here and overseas, and worked around the clock to keep us safe.  Our military and counterterrorism professionals have relentlessly pursued terrorist networks overseas — disrupting safe havens in several different countries, killing Osama bin Laden, and decimating al Qaeda’s leadership.

Over the last few years, however, the terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase.  As we’ve become better at preventing complex, multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turned to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society.  It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009; in Chattanooga earlier this year; and now in San Bernardino.  And as groups like ISIL grew stronger amidst the chaos of war in Iraq and then Syria, and as the Internet erases the distance between countries, we see growing efforts by terrorists to poison the minds of people like the Boston Marathon bombers and the San Bernardino killers.  

For seven years, I’ve confronted this evolving threat each morning in my intelligence briefing.  And since the day I took this office, I’ve authorized U.S. forces to take out terrorists abroad precisely because I know how real the danger is.  As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people.  As a father to two young daughters who are the most precious part of my life, I know that we see ourselves with friends and coworkers at a holiday party like the one in San Bernardino.  I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris.  And I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.

Well, here’s what I want you to know:  The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.  We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.  Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values, or giving into fear.  That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for.  Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless, and by drawing upon every aspect of American power. 

Here’s how.  First, our military will continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary.  In Iraq and Syria, airstrikes are taking out ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure.  And since the attacks in Paris, our closest allies — including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom — have ramped up their contributions to our military campaign, which will help us accelerate our effort to destroy ISIL.

Second, we will continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground so that we take away their safe havens.  In both countries, we’re deploying Special Operations Forces who can accelerate that offensive.  We’ve stepped up this effort since the attacks in Paris, and we’ll continue to invest more in approaches that are working on the ground. 

Third, we’re working with friends and allies to stop ISIL’s operations — to disrupt plots, cut off their financing, and prevent them from recruiting more fighters.  Since the attacks in Paris, we’ve surged intelligence-sharing with our European allies.  We’re working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria. And we are cooperating with Muslim-majority countries — and with our Muslim communities here at home — to counter the vicious ideology that ISIL promotes online.

Fourth, with American leadership, the international community has begun to establish a process — and timeline — to pursue ceasefires and a political resolution to the Syrian war. Doing so will allow the Syrian people and every country, including our allies, but also countries like Russia, to focus on the common goal of destroying ISIL — a group that threatens us all.

This is our strategy to destroy ISIL.  It is designed and supported by our military commanders and counterterrorism experts, together with 65 countries that have joined an American-led coalition.  And we constantly examine our strategy to determine when additional steps are needed to get the job done. That’s why I’ve ordered the Departments of State and Homeland Security to review the visa program under which the female terrorist in San Bernardino originally came to this country.  And that’s why I will urge high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice.

Now, here at home, we have to work together to address the challenge.  There are several steps that Congress should take right away.

To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun.  What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?  This is a matter of national security.

We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino.  I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures.  But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies — no matter how effective they are — cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology.  What we can do — and must do — is make it harder for them to kill. 

Next, we should put in place stronger screening for those who come to America without a visa so that we can take a hard look at whether they’ve traveled to warzones.  And we’re working with members of both parties in Congress to do exactly that.

Finally, if Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists.  For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of airstrikes against ISIL targets.  I think it’s time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united, and committed, to this fight.

My fellow Americans, these are the steps that we can take together to defeat the terrorist threat.  Let me now say a word about what we should not do.

We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria.  That’s what groups like ISIL want. They know they can’t defeat us on the battlefield.  ISIL fighters were part of the insurgency that we faced in Iraq.  But they also know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops, draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits.

The strategy that we are using now — airstrikes, Special Forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country — that is how we’ll achieve a more sustainable victory.  And it won’t require us sending a new generation of Americans overseas to fight and die for another decade on foreign soil.

Here’s what else we cannot do.  We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam.  That, too, is what groups like ISIL want.  ISIL does not speak for Islam.  They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology. Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim.  If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate. 

That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities.  This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse.  Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination.  It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country.  It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently.

Because when we travel down that road, we lose.  That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.  Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country.  We have to remember that.

My fellow Americans, I am confident we will succeed in this mission because we are on the right side of history.  We were founded upon a belief in human dignity — that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.

Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future Presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional. Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear; that we have always met challenges — whether war or depression, natural disasters or terrorist attacks — by coming together around our common ideals as one nation, as one people.  So long as we stay true to that tradition, I have no doubt America will prevail.  

Thank you.  God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.