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The Musings Of An Intellectual Black Woman

Depression and Suicide: The Devil in a Black Dress

By Tracey Ricks Foster

Published August 13, 2014

Upon hearing about the apparent suicide of Oscar winning actor and comedian Robin Williams, once again my mind drifted to all those I have known who have decided that life is just not worth the struggle. It became too painful to wake up every morning to heartache and overwhelming stress. The anxiety and feelings of loneliness is all encompassing. Unbearable, in fact. The sun is nothing more than a massive dark circle that follows you around day in and day out. Depression is the Devil in a black dress. Millions of Americans suffer from some type of mental illness and depression is at the top of the list. Depression does not care about your bank account, your celebrity and marital status, familial ties, dreams and goals. Not a damn thing. Depression does not discriminate. Depression loves no one. Depression is the Devil in a black dress. For real.

When we hear of celebrities committing suicide, many of us are shocked for the wrong reasons. We immediately think, “What in the world did they have to be depressed about? They had everything in the world to make them happy. Why would they then simply end it all under the pretense of being unhappy?” Wealth, power, and fame does not bring long term happiness. Anyone who believes differently is delusional. Depression is an equal opportunity disorder. You can have everything you could possibly desire in the palm of your hands, but your mind will play a cruel and sad trick on you and make you believe that your life is hopeless and full of despair. That is the face of depression. There are others who experience depression in a different manner. They could have had the essential things that made life worthwhile. A career or secure employment. A family. A successful marriage. The loss of one or more of those elements could plunge them into a deep depression. Depression is real. Depression is the Devil in a black dress.

Children and teenagers suffer from bouts of clinical depression. Studies show that the onset of bipolar disorder or manic depression is the age of thirteen. This is the age where hormones are all over the place in adolescence and it is difficult to navigate the many feelings, periods of stress, loneliness, and anxiety during this transition from childhood to young adulthood. Statistics report that over 5,000 teens commit suicide each year. Thousands attempt suicide. I was one of them. The complete suicide statistics are that over 30,000 people take their own lives each year. 750,000 more attempt suicide. So, if you were to seriously break it down, on August 11, 2014, Robin Williams was not the only person in America who committed suicide on that day. Because of his fame, Robin’s tragic end put a recognizable face on depression and suicide. But there were other suicides on that day as well. Depression is the Devil in a black dress.

It is important that all of us realize that depression is not a disorder that one can ‘snap’ out of. Depression is not cured simply by popping a few pills either. Managing depression is an ongoing process. Depression wears many faces. Those faces could come complete with pearly white smiles and exuberant conversations filled with what we may think is optimism. Depression can wear a blank and lost expression, with pain-filled eyes. Depression can wear the face of desperation and frustration coupled with deep anxiety. Depression can wear the face of a laughing clown hiding the hauntingly horrible feelings of despair. Depression has proven itself to be a serial killer and in order to beat this Devil in a black dress, awareness of the signs and symptoms of depression and suicide prevention is key. Please take a moment to review these websites and as always, IF you are trying to cope with feelings of hopelessness, despair, and pain and you are considering suicide as an option, please, I beg you to call 1-800-272-8255.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America:


By Tracey Ricks Foster, Senior White House Correspondent

It all started on Monday, June 22, 2015. President Obama was a guest on the popular podcast, WTF, hosted by Marc Maron. The president clarified the statement he made directly after the Charleston, South Carolina shooting deaths of nine African Americans in the basement of a church by a racist. President Obama made it clear that as far as racism is concerned, “we are not cured of it. And its not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public.” By his using the word, ‘nigger’ instead of the politically correct term, ‘the n-word,’ President Obama sent the media into a tailspin. Why? Well, the unpublished book of politically correct language has socially eliminated the word ‘nigger’ from the its lexicon. Recently, even if an African American uses the word, let’s say for instance like CNN’s Don Lemon, to provoke appropriate conversation or discussion on race, it is frowned upon. However, the president is the…well, the PRESIDENT and he can say what the __________he wants. And boy did he ever! By being unafraid of the pushback and negative public opinion that he knew would come his way, President Obama didn’t stutter when he said ‘nigger’ and kept it moving towards his point that America still has a ways to go towards the effort to be a complete union of people that judge people on the content of their character, and not the color of their skin. African Americans needed to hear President Obama use the word ‘nigger’ without fear because it made a clear statement. The statement that African Americans have wanted this president to make for six years: Black Lives Matter.

Speaking of President Obama’s six years in office, the majority of it has been spent on what? Healthcare. The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 and Republicans have fought it tooth and nail. Remember all the town hall meetings with scary militia men hanging around outside carrying assault weapons screaming about patriotism? Do you recall Sarah Palin and others proclaiming that Americans would need to hide their grandparents because the dreaded ‘death panels’ were coming for them? After two unsuccessful attempts by the attorneys for the GOP to ‘dismantle and replace’ The Affordable Care Act in part, or in its entirety, by way of taking the matter to the highest court in the land, on Thursday, June 25th, President Obama was vindicated. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in a landmark decision that sent FOX NEWS spinning! To see the president gloat during his noon press conference was exciting. Washington is still cleaning the bloodied battleground that Democrats, Republicans, and the now ineffective and inactive Tea Party waged in the name of Obamacare. There were casualties. Some lost their bid for re-election. Seats were lost and won on the strength of defeating Obamacare and subsequently, President Obama. Yet as the president pointed out in his weekly address to the nation, “it is time to stop refighting battles that have been settled again and again.  It’s time to move on. Because as Americans, we don’t go backwards, we move forwards.”

Yes. Can you say, ‘winning’?

Then TWO things happened the very next day. Friday, June 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in a historic decision that same sex marriage is constitutionally legal and should be acknowledged in ALL fifty states. The court announced that states should not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” President Obama, before stepping to the podium to make an official statement, took to Twitter and tweeted “#LoveWins.” The president later remarked that even though Americans are still divided on the religious issue of same sex marriage, and the definition of marriage, the Supreme Court’s definitive historic decision “also gives us hope that on many issues with which we grapple, real change is possible. A shift of hearts and minds is possible.” After years of vacillating on same sex marriage, teetering towards the religious left, and then ‘evolving’ publicly in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, President Obama took a fierce stand for same sex marriage that was contagious. The White House was even lit in the rainbow colors that have long symbolized pride in the LGBTQI community.

And…how, how can any of us forget the soul stirring eulogy that President Obama gave at Mother Emmanuel for Reverend Clementa Pickney? The president spoke about the end of racism and gun violence and the tragedy of losing loved ones senselessly. But it is when President Obama began to speak on the power of God’s ‘amazing grace’ that not only rocked the historic church in Charleston, S.C.; it rocked the entire nation that watched the funeral service. As President Obama concluded his eulogy on grace, Amazing Grace, no he didn’t break out singing! Yes. He really did. President Obama stood there at the podium, in front of what would amount to the entire country, and the world by way of social media and You Tube, and sang the opening verse of  ‘Amazing Grace’. The mourners in the audience rose to their feet, and lifted their voices in accompaniment with President Obama. What more could he have said if not through song? Did President Obama care that it was unrehearsed and spontaneous? No. He just fearlessly went for it! The results? Incomparable.

President Barack Obama has had many shining moments during his presidency, but none will ever compare to the fascinating week he had in June 2015. With a little more than a year and a half to go in the White House, I get the impression that the shades of the Barack Obama the GOP desperately attempted to label a radical community activist and faithful follower of Reverend Jeremiah Wright may be seeping out. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. I think that the president should courageously and fearlessly be the man he really is and speak his mind. There are no more elections to be won or campaign trails to stomp. I believe that the title of ‘lame duck’ will not  apply to President Barack Obama. I think that the Phoenix has awakened and we need to buckle up because it is going to be one hell of a ride!!!


By Tracey Ricks Foster, Senior White House Correspondent


The White House was aglow in the trademark colors of the LGBTQI community Friday evening after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision that legalized same sex marriage in all of America’s fifty states. The Supreme Court declared that “under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.  The fundamental liberties protected by this Clause include most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. See Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 147–149 (1968).  In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs. See, e.g., Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U. S. 438, 453 (1972); Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479, 484–486 (1965).”

What does this mean? All fifty states in these United States will be obligated to acknowledge same sex marriage applicants, and in the actuality of marriage, all privileges and rights due to and through marriage, will be afforded to those who enter it. The Supreme Court further explains that “the nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.  This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”

Justices Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, and Alito were dissenters in the historic 5-4 decision. Justice Roberts argued in his dissent that “the truth is that today’s decision rests on nothing more than the majority’s own conviction that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry because they want to, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right. Whatever force that belief may have as a matter of moral philosophy, it has no more basis in the Constitution than did the naked policy preferences.”




PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ON BALTIMORE (During joint press conference with Prime Minister Abe of Japan):

With respect to Baltimore, let me make a couple of points.  First, obviously our thoughts continue to be with the family of Freddie Gray.  Understandably, they want answers.  And DOJ has opened an investigation.  It is working with local law enforcement to find out exactly what happened, and I think there should be full transparency and accountability.

Second, my thoughts are with the police officers who were injured in last night’s disturbances.  It underscores that that’s a tough job and we have to keep that in mind, and my hope is that they can heal and get back to work as soon as possible.

Point number three, there’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday.  It is counterproductive.  When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement — they’re stealing.  When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson.  And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area.

So it is entirely appropriate that the mayor of Baltimore, who I spoke to yesterday, and the governor, who I spoke to yesterday, work to stop that kind of senseless violence and destruction.  That is not a protest.  That is not a statement.  It’s people — a handful of people taking advantage of a situation for their own purposes, and they need to be treated as criminals.

Point number four, the violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore, led by clergy and community leaders.  And they were constructive and they were thoughtful, and frankly, didn’t get that much attention.  And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way I think have been lost in the discussion.

The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore I think have handled this appropriately, expressing real concern and outrage over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray, and that accountability needs to exist.  And I think we have to give them credit.  My understanding is, is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.  What they were doing, what those community leaders and clergy and others were doing, that is a statement.  That’s the kind of organizing that needs to take place if we’re going to tackle this problem.  And they deserve credit for it, and we should be lifting them up.

Point number five — and I’ve got six, because this is important.  Since Ferguson, and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals — primarily African American, often poor — in ways that have raised troubling questions.  And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now, or once every couple of weeks.  And so I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations but, more importantly, moms and dads across the country, might start saying this is a crisis.  What I’d say is this has been a slow-rolling crisis.  This has been going on for a long time.  This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.

The good news is, is that perhaps there’s some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth that there are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities, and we have to pay attention to it and respond.

What’s also good news is the task force that was made up of law enforcement and community activists that we brought together here in the White House have come up with very constructive concrete proposals that, if adopted by local communities and by states and by counties, by law enforcement generally, would make a difference.  It wouldn’t solve every problem, but would make a concrete difference in rebuilding trust and making sure that the overwhelming majority of effective, honest and fair law enforcement officers, that they’re able to do their job better because it will weed out or retrain or put a stop to those handful who may be not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

Now, the challenge for us as the federal government is, is that we don’t run these police forces.  I can’t federalize every police force in the country and force them to retrain.  But what I can do is to start working with them collaboratively so that they can begin this process of change themselves.

And coming out of the task force that we put together, we’re now working with local communities.  The Department of Justice has just announced a grant program for those jurisdictions that want to purchase body cameras.  We are going to be issuing grants for those jurisdictions that are prepared to start trying to implement some of the new training and data collection and other things that can make a difference.  And we’re going to keep on working with those local jurisdictions so that they can begin to make the changes that are necessary.

I think it’s going to be important for organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions and organization to acknowledge that this is not good for police.  We have to own up to the fact that occasionally there are going to be problems here, just as there are in every other occupation.  There are some bad politicians who are corrupt.  There are folks in the business community or on Wall Street who don’t do the right thing.  Well, there’s some police who aren’t doing the right thing.  And rather than close ranks, what we’ve seen is a number of thoughtful police chiefs and commissioners and others recognize they got to get their arms around this thing and work together with the community to solve the problem.  And we’re committed to facilitating that process.

So the heads of our COPS agency that helps with community policing, they’re already out in Baltimore.  Our Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division is already out in Baltimore.  But we’re going to be working systematically with every city and jurisdiction around the country to try to help them implement some solutions that we know work.

And I’ll make my final point — I’m sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, but this is a pretty important issue for us.

We can’t just leave this to the police.  I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching.  I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching.  But I think we, as a country, have to do some soul searching.  This is not new.  It’s been going on for decades.

And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents — often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves — can’t do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college.  In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks — in those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem.  And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual.

If we are serious about solving this problem, then we’re going to not only have to help the police, we’re going to have to think about what can we do — the rest of us — to make sure that we’re providing early education to these kids; to make sure that we’re reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons; so that we’re not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a nonviolent drug offense; that we’re making investments so that they can get the training they need to find jobs.  That’s hard.  That requires more than just the occasional news report or task force.  And there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that.

Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities, and so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses in.

But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could.  It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant — and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped.  We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they’re important.  And they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.

That’s how I feel.  I think there are a lot of good-meaning people around the country that feel that way.  But that kind of political mobilization I think we haven’t seen in quite some time.  And what I’ve tried to do is to promote those ideas that would make a difference.  But I think we all understand that the politics of that are tough because it’s easy to ignore those problems or to treat them just as a law and order issue, as opposed to a broader social issue.

That was a really long answer, but I felt pretty strongly about it.

U.S-Japan Joint Statement on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

U.S-Japan Joint Statement on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)


1.      Japan and the United States reaffirm our commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons and to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). We commit to work together for a successful Review Conference in New York that strengthens each of the Treaty’s three pillars: nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  The NPT remains the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime and an essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. In this 70th year since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we are reminded of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use.  Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be forever engraved in the world’s memory. Concerns over the use of nuclear weapons underpin all work to reduce nuclear dangers and to work toward nuclear disarmament, to which all NPT parties are committed under Article VI of the Treaty. We affirm that it is in the interest of all States that the 70-year record of non-use should be extended forever and remain convinced that all States share the responsibility for achieving this goal.


2.      We reaffirm our commitment to a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament, and recognize the progress made since the height of the Cold War. We recognize that further progress is needed. Immediate next steps should include further negotiated nuclear reductions between the United States and Russia, the immediate start of multilateral negotiations of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the protocols to the existing nuclear weapon free zone treaties, and the continued reduction of all types of nuclear weapons, deployed and non-deployed, including through unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral measures.  We further emphasize the importance of applying the principles of irreversibility, verifiability and transparency in the process of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. In this regard, the United States welcomes Japan’s leadership in the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative and Japan’s role as the Co-Chair Country for the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT, and Japan welcomes the U.S. initiative to launch the International Partnership on Nuclear Disarmament Verification. We affirm our readiness to cooperate closely on this new initiative, which will facilitate further cooperation between the nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States with respect to nuclear disarmament efforts.


3.      We further note the positive role played by civil society, and hope that activities such as the UN Conference on Disarmament Issues and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty’s Group of Eminent Persons Meeting, both to be held in Hiroshima in August, and the Pugwash Conference to be held in Nagasaki in November, will strengthen momentum toward disarmament and non-proliferation.


4.      We unequivocally support access to nuclear technology and energy for peaceful purposes by states that comply with their non-proliferation obligations.  We are especially pleased to announce that both the United States and Japan which strongly support the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in promoting the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology have pledged to extend their financial support to the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative over the next five years.  The U.S. pledge of $50 million and Japan’s pledge of $25 million will ensure that applications of nuclear science and technology continue to advance medical care and health improvement including cancer treatment and Ebola diagnosis, food and water security, clean oceans and disease eradication in regions of the world most in need. 


5.      The IAEA safeguards system is a fundamental element of that framework and plays a critical role in preventing and addressing challenges to the global non-proliferation regime, by verifying that states are not diverting peaceful nuclear energy programs to develop weapons, and by responding to cases of non-compliance.  We call on all states that have not yet done so to adhere to a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol as the recognized IAEA safeguards standard, and renew our willingness to assist states to implement safeguards agreements. We support the evolution of IAEA safeguards at the State level, and emphasize the importance of maintaining the credibility, effectiveness and integrity of the IAEA safeguards system. To preserve the future integrity of the NPT, action is needed to discourage any state from withdrawing from the Treaty as a way to escape its responsibilities or to misuse the fruits of peaceful cooperation with other states, as well as to encourage States Parties to remain in the Treaty by demonstrating tangible progress in all three pillars of the Treaty.


6.      We underscore the imperative of addressing challenges to the integrity of the NPT and the non-proliferation regime posed by cases of noncompliance.  We welcome the EU/E3+3 deal with Iran and encourage completion of the work that remains to fully resolve the international community’s concerns regarding the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program as well as to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons.  We also remain committed to a diplomatic process to achieve North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. We urge North Korea to take concrete steps to honor its commitments under the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, fully comply with its obligations under the relevant UNSC Resolutions, refrain from further provocation including nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, return to the NPT and IAEA safeguards, and come into full compliance with its nonproliferation obligations.  


7.      We also underscore the importance of promoting stringent export control in Asia and globally. We are determined to continue to work together to conduct outreach activities for Asian countries with a view to further enhancing their export control capacity as well as to promoting recognition that rigorous export controls foster confidence of trade or investment partners, and create a favorable environment for further economic growth rather than impeding trade and investment.


The U.S. – Japan Enter A Joint Agreement Of Reconcilliation: Official Statement

U.S.-Japan Joint Vision Statement


Today the United States and Japan honor a partnership that for seven decades has made enduring contributions to global peace, security, and prosperity.  In this year which marks 70 years since the end of World War II, the relationship between our two countries stands as a model of the power of reconciliation:  former adversaries who have become steadfast allies and who work together to advance common interests and universal values in Asia and globally.  Together we have helped to build a strong rules-based international order, based on a commitment to rules, norms and institutions that are the foundation of global affairs and our way of life. 


This transformation into a robust alliance and global partnership was not inevitable.  Generations of people from all walks of life built the relationship between our countries over time, working in the belief that the experiences of the past should inform but not constrain the possibilities for the future.  This endeavor has brought the United States and Japan to where we stand today:  two of the world’s leading economies, advancing regional prosperity through a mutually beneficial economic partnership, anchored by an unshakeable Alliance that is the cornerstone of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region and a platform for global cooperation.  The journey our two countries have traveled demonstrates that reconciliation is possible when all sides are devoted to achieving it.


Over the past 70 years, the U.S.-Japan relationship has successfully grown and adapted to challenges and significant changes in the international system.  Together we helped to win the Cold War and manage its aftermath; we have worked together to fight terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attacks; we cooperated to strengthen the international financial architecture following the global financial crisis; we responded to natural disasters such as the tragic Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011; we have confronted North Korean nuclear and missile threats, as well as human rights abuses and abductions; we have worked together to address concerns about Iran’s nuclear program; and we have cooperated to address complex transnational challenges.


Today’s meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Abe marks a historic step forward in transforming the U.S.-Japan partnership.  Through the United States’ Asia-Pacific Rebalance strategy, and Japan’s policy of “Proactive Contribution to Peace” based on the principle of international cooperation, we are working closely together to ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for the region and the world.  We recognize that the security and prosperity of our two countries in the 21st century is intertwined, inseparable, and not defined solely by national borders.  Our current and future commitments to each other and to the international order reflect that reality.

The United States and Japan are committed to a transparent, rules-based, and progressive approach in pursuing the prosperity of the region.  Our leadership in this area encompasses trade and investment through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), development cooperation, and internet governance. The United States and Japan are leading efforts to set the rules for trade and investment, both in the dynamic and fast-growing Asia-Pacific region and around the world.  As the two largest economies in TPP, we are working to finalize the most high-standard trade agreement ever negotiated.  TPP will drive economic growth and prosperity in both countries and throughout the Asia-Pacific region by supporting more jobs, raising wages, and reinforcing our work together on a range of long term strategic objectives, including the promotion of regional peace and stability. We welcome the significant progress that has been made in the bilateral negotiations and reaffirm our commitment to work together to achieve a swift and successful conclusion to the broader agreement.


The new Guidelines for U.S-Japan Defense Cooperation will transform the Alliance, reinforce deterrence, and ensure that we can address security challenges, new and old, for the long term.  The new Guidelines will update our respective roles and missions within the Alliance and enable Japan to expand its contributions to regional and global security.  The new Guidelines will enable us to work more closely on issues including maritime security, and to partner with other countries that share our aspirations, in the region and beyond.  As we strengthen an Alliance that has become global in reach, the United States stands resolute and unwavering in all of its commitments under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, based upon a stable, long-term U.S. military presence in Japan. 


The United States and Japan are building a partnership that addresses global challenges.  Our agenda is broad:  we will work together to address climate change and environmental degradation, one of the greatest threats facing humanity; to further strengthen our economies and to promote strong, sustainable and balanced global growth; to deliver secure, affordable, sustainable and safe energy; to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development; to promote human security; to counter violent extremism; to strengthen the NPT regime to achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons; to promote global trade and investment; to combat epidemics and threats to global health; to advance scientific inquiry and promote resilience in space; to ensure the safe and stable use of cyber space based on the free flow of information and an open internet; to promote disaster risk reduction and relieve those afflicted by natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies; to advance human rights and universal freedoms; to promote girls education and empower women and girls around the world; and to strengthen U.N. peacekeeping.  The United States looks forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes Japan as a permanent member.  Seventy years ago this partnership was unimaginable.  Today it is a fitting reflection of our shared interests, capabilities and values.


As we work to expand our global cooperation, we will be guided by shared principles:


·         Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity;

·         Commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes without coercion;

·         Support for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law;

·         Expansion of economic prosperity, through open markets, free trade, transparent rules and regulations, and high labor and environmental standards;

·         Promotion of globally recognized norms of behavior in shared domains, including the freedom of navigation and overflight, based upon international law;

·         Advancement of strong regional and global institutions; and

·         Support for trilateral and multilateral cooperation among like-minded partners. 


Today the international order faces fresh challenges, ranging from violent extremism to cyber attacks.  State actions that undermine respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity by attempting to unilaterally change the status quo by force or coercion pose challenges to the international order.  Such threats put at risk much that we have built.  We must and will adapt again, working in concert with other allies and partners.  But we also have before us exciting opportunities to raise our collaboration to a new level, in areas like science and technology, energy, infrastructure, and arts and culture.  The spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in these and other areas, supported by public-private collaboration, will continue to be the driving force of economic growth and prosperity in our two countries.  The benefits of our work in these diverse fields will be global in reach.  As we move forward, we will actively promote people-to-people exchange as a key pillar of our relationship, especially among younger generations.  We take up these challenges and opportunities, knowing that the strength and resilience of our 70-year partnership will ensure our success in the decades ahead. 


Readout of the President’s Meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Readout of the President’s Meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Following her swearing-in this afternoon, President Obama met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the White House to welcome her to the team and reiterate that he looks forward to her leadership at the Department of Justice. The Attorney General thanked the President then updated him on several issues, including the events occurring in Baltimore, Maryland following the death of Freddie Gray, which the Department of Justice is currently investigating. Attorney General Lynch assured the President that she would continue to monitor events in Baltimore and that the Department of Justice stands ready to provide any assistance that might be helpful there.

Earlier today, the President also spoke with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about the ongoing situation in Baltimore. The Mayor updated the President on efforts to address the demonstrations and maintain peace throughout the city. The President highlighted the Administration’s commitment to provide assistance as needed and will continue to receive updates on the situation from Attorney General Lynch and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett also spoke with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan today.

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan Regarding the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan Regarding the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia

Today, the President submitted the Protocol to the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.  This is the latest step demonstrating the U.S. commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and to reducing nuclear dangers worldwide. The President looks forward to working closely with the Senate to secure early ratification of this Protocol, as well as the previously submitted Protocols to the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty and the South Pacific Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty.

Regional nuclear-weapon-free zone agreements reinforce both the commitment of nations not to pursue nuclear weapons and the nearly 70-year record of their non-use.  This protocol, upon entry into force, would obligate the United States not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon States within the regional zone who are Party to the Central Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (CANWFZ) Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.

In order to continue to build upon this commitment to nonproliferation and international peace and security, the United States will also continue to work toward the signing of the Protocol to the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty.  In the context of this month’s NPT Review Conference and beyond, the United States will continue to aggressively pursue practical measures to advance all of the NPT’s fundamental pillars, disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

President Obama to Honor Teachers of the Year

President Obama to Honor Teachers of the Year


WASHINGTON, DC – On Wednesday, April 29, President Obama will honor the 2015 National Teacher of the Year and finalists, thanking them for their hard work and dedication each and every day in the classroom.  Providing all children in America with the opportunity to get a world-class education is critical to their success and the success of our nation, and there is no more important factor in successful schools than great teachers.


The National Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the State Teachers of the Year by a national selection committee representing the major national education organizations organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on the Earthquake in Nepal

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on the Earthquake in Nepal

The American people express deep condolences for the lives lost in today’s earthquake.  The earthquake and subsequent landslides caused widespread damage and loss of life in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The United States is deploying a team of disaster response experts to Nepal, is providing an initial one million dollars in disaster relief assistance, and stands ready to assist the Government and people of Nepal and the region further in this time of need.

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, “I am pleased to announce that these experienced and committed individuals have decided to serve our country. I look forward to working with them”

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:

  • Mauro Morales – Staff Director, United States Commission on Civil Rights
  • Daniel Weiss – Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council

President Obama said, “I am pleased to announce that these experienced and committed individuals have decided to serve our country.  I look forward to working with them.”

President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:

Mauro Morales, Appointee for Staff Director, United States Commission on Civil Rights

Mauro Morales is currently Assistant Director in the Office of Public Engagement at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), a position he has held since 2014.  From 2009 to 2014, he served as Attorney Advisor in the Office of the General Counsel at OPM.  In 2006, Mr. Morales founded The Morales Law Group, where he served as Managing Partner until 2009.  He served as General Counsel and Director of Public Affairs for Verches Associates from 2004 to 2006, and he was General Counsel for Lambco Engineering, Inc. from 2000 to 2004.  From 1997 to 2000, Mr. Morales was a staff member for Congresswoman Lorreta Sanchez, serving as Legislative Director and then as District Director.  From 1993 to 1997, he was a Senior Associate Attorney at McGuiness & Williams and was an Associate Attorney at Pereyda, Delnick and Ruedaflores from 1992 to 1993.  From 1990 to 1992, Mr. Morales was a Senior Law Clerk with the Orange County, California District Attorney’s Office.  He began his career as a Legislative Assistant for Congressman Esteban Torres from 1983 to 1988.  Mr. Morales received a B.S. from Georgetown University and a J.D. from the University of Southern California.

Daniel Weiss, Appointee for Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council

Daniel Weiss is Managing Partner of Angeleno Group LLC, a private equity firm he co-founded in 2001.  Previously, Mr. Weiss was an attorney at O’Melveny & Myers LLP from 1998 to 1999.  Mr. Weiss is currently a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy and the Council on Foreign Relations.  He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Temple Israel of Hollywood, the Board of Directors of World Resources Institute, and the Advisory Board of the Institute the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Mr. Weiss received a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. and J.D. from Stanford University.

Statement by the President on the Confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General

Statement by the President on the Confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General

Today, the Senate finally confirmed Loretta Lynch to be America’s next Attorney General – and America will be better off for it.  Loretta has spent her life fighting for the fair and equal justice that is the foundation of our democracy.  As head of the Justice Department, she will oversee a vast portfolio of cases, including counterterrorism and voting rights; public corruption and white-collar crime; judicial recommendations and policy reviews – all of which matter to the lives of every American, and shape the story of our country.  She will bring to bear her experience as a tough, independent, and well-respected prosecutor on key, bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform.  And she will build on our progress in combatting newer threats like cybercrime.  Loretta’s confirmation ensures that we are better positioned to keep our communities safe, keep our nation secure, and ensure that every American experiences justice under the law.

The White House Releases Statement on U.S Employment; Unemployment Rates for African Americans Still “Unacceptably High”

Statement on the Employment Situation in February 

WASHINGTON, DC – Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, issued the following statement today on the employment situation in January. You can view the statement HERE.

Posted by Jason Furman on March 6, 2015 at 09:30 AM EST


With another strong employment report, we have now seen twelve straight months of private-sector job gains above 200,000—the first time that has happened since 1977. Moreover, 2014 was the best year for job growth since the late 1990s and 2015 has continued at this pace. But additional steps are needed to continue strengthening wages for the middle class. As outlined in the 2015 Economic Report of the President, the optimal environment for sustained middle-class income growth features policies that grow productivity, promote a more equitable distribution of income, and support labor force participation. The President’s focus on middle-class economics is designed with those goals in mind.


1. The private sector has added 12.0 million jobs over 60 straight months of job growth, extending the longest streak on record. Today we learned that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 295,000 in February, largely due to a 288,000 increase in private-sector employment. Although private-sector job gains in December and January were revised down, the private employment gains over the past twelve months total 3.2 million—the largest 12-month increase since 1998.


2. Despite a string of recent snowstorms in the northeast—and Boston’s snowiest month on record—winter weather appeared to have little impact on the headline figures in today’s report. While overall job growth was robust and the national average workweek was steady, the details of the employment report do offer some insight into the effect of weather on economic activity. In particular, 1.4 million nonagricultural workers that usually work full-time reported working part-time (fewer than 35 hours per week) due to bad weather, likely reflecting a February 8-10 snowstorm that coincided with the survey reference week. Another 328,000 nonagricultural workers reported missing work for the entire survey reference week due to bad weather. Both these figures are elevated from January, but below what was seen last February, when substantial snowfall stretched into parts of the southern United States that may be less accustomed to winter conditions. Even by Boston’s standards, this year’s winter undoubtedly qualifies as severe, creating hardship for many families and likely affecting other economic data such as vehicle sales and first-quarter GDP.


3. While the overall unemployment rate has fallen 1.2 percentage points over the past twelve months to 5.5 percent, the African American and Hispanic unemployment rates have fallen even more quickly, but remain unacceptably high. Relative to last February, the unemployment rate for African Americans is down 1.6 percentage points, while the Hispanic unemployment rate is down 1.5 percentage points. Reflecting these large declines, the African American and Hispanic unemployment rates are nearly all the way back to their pre-recession (2001-2007) averages. Despite this progress, however, it is important to note that these groups endured much larger percentage-point increases in unemployment rates during the recession, and a return to pre-recession averages would still leave these rates at high levels. This is why the President has proposed a number of policies—including the My Brother’s Keeper initiative for young men of color and tax relief for working families—to help reduce disparities in labor market outcomes.


4. The last time the private sector added more than 12 million jobs over five years was April 1996 to March 2001. There are some notable differences between the current stretch of job gains and the one from 1996 to 2001. In particular, the manufacturing sector has added 877,000 jobs over the last five years, while it lost 255,000 jobs during the 1996-2001 period. Moreover, the private-sector job gains during the 1996-2001 period coincided with the addition of more than 1.5 million State and local government positions; in contrast, over the last five years, State and local government employment has on net fallen by 423,000 jobs. The two periods did, however, exhibit remarkably similar job growth in sectors like health care and social assistance, retail trade, and transportation and warehousing. Finally, it is worth noting that the two periods took place at different stages of the business cycle—in 1996, the economy was well into a period of sustained expansion, but in 2010, it was just starting to recover from the worst crisis since the Great Depression. That is why despite the progress that has been made, the President believes more must still be done to capitalize on the recovery and strengthen the labor market.

5. Job growth in a number of industries diverged from recent trends in February. Looking over the 60-month streak of private-sector job growth, February was one of the top ten strongest months for leisure and hospitality (+66,000), private educational services (+21,000), and professional and business services (+59,000, excluding temporary help services). However, February was a weak month for temporary help services (-8,000) and for mining and logging (-8,000). Manufacturing gained 8,000 jobs last month, and the sector has gained 877,000 jobs since February 2010. Across the 17 industries shown below, the correlation between the most recent one-month percent change and the average percent change over the last twelve months ticked up to 0.13, remaining near the lowest in over two years. This reflects the high number of industries that saw unusually divergent performances in January and February.

As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and payroll employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data as they become available.




Edmund Pettus Bridge

Selma, Alabama

2:17 P.M. CST

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, President Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know I love you back.  (Applause.)

It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes.  And John Lewis is one of my heroes.

Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning 50 years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind.  A day like this was not on his mind.  Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about.  Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked.  A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones.  The air was thick with doubt, anticipation and fear.  And they comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung:

“No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;

Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.”

And then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, and a book on government — all you need for a night behind bars — John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America.

President and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Mayor Evans, Sewell, Reverend Strong, members of Congress, elected officials, foot soldiers, friends, fellow Americans:

As John noted, there are places and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided.  Many are sites of war — Concord and Lexington, Appomattox, Gettysburg.  Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character — Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.

Selma is such a place.  In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history — the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher — all that history met on this bridge.

It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the true meaning of America.  And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many others, the idea of a just America and a fair America, an inclusive America, and a generous America — that idea ultimately triumphed.

As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation.  The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes.

We gather here to celebrate them.  We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching towards justice.

They did as Scripture instructed:  “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  And in the days to come, they went back again and again.  When the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came –- black and white, young and old, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope.  A white newsman, Bill Plante, who covered the marches then and who is with us here today, quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of the singing.  (Laughter.)  To those who marched, though, those old gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet.

In time, their chorus would well up and reach President Johnson.  And he would send them protection, and speak to the nation, echoing their call for America and the world to hear:  “We shall overcome.”  (Applause.)  What enormous faith these men and women had.  Faith in God, but also faith in America.

The Americans who crossed this bridge, they were not physically imposing.  But they gave courage to millions.  They held no elected office.  But they led a nation.  They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, countless daily indignities –- but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.  (Applause.)

What they did here will reverberate through the ages.  Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible, that love and hope can conquer hate.

As we commemorate their achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them.  Back then, they were called Communists, or half-breeds, or outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse –- they were called everything but the name their parents gave them.  Their faith was questioned.  Their lives were threatened.  Their patriotism challenged.

And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place?  (Applause.)  What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people –- unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many, coming together to shape their country’s course?

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?  (Applause.)

That’s why Selma is not some outlier in the American experience.  That’s why it’s not a museum or a static monument to behold from a distance.  It is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents:  “We the People…in order to form a more perfect union.”  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  (Applause.)

These are not just words.  They’re a living thing, a call to action, a roadmap for citizenship and an insistence in the capacity of free men and women to shape our own destiny.  For founders like Franklin and Jefferson, for leaders like Lincoln and FDR, the success of our experiment in self-government rested on engaging all of our citizens in this work.  And that’s what we celebrate here in Selma.  That’s what this movement was all about, one leg in our long journey toward freedom.  (Applause.)

The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge, that’s the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny.  It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot, workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon.  (Applause.)

It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths.  It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo.  That’s America.  (Applause.)

That’s what makes us unique.  That’s what cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity.  Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down that wall.  Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid.  Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule.  They saw what John Lewis had done.  From the streets of Tunis to the Maidan in Ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place, where the powerless could change the world’s greatest power and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom.

They saw that idea made real right here in Selma, Alabama.  They saw that idea manifest itself here in America.

Because of campaigns like this, a Voting Rights Act was passed.  Political and economic and social barriers came down.  And the change these men and women wrought is visible here today in the presence of African Americans who run boardrooms, who sit on the bench, who serve in elected office from small towns to big cities; from the Congressional Black Caucus all the way to the Oval Office.  (Applause.)

Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for black folks, but for every American.  Women marched through those doors.  Latinos marched through those doors.  Asian Americans, gay Americans, Americans with disabilities — they all came through those doors.  (Applause.)  Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past.

What a glorious thing, Dr. King might say.  And what a solemn debt we owe.  Which leads us to ask, just how might we repay that debt?

First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough.  If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done.  (Applause.)  The American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation.

Selma teaches us, as well, that action requires that we shed our cynicism.  For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.

Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country.  And I understood the question; the report’s narrative was sadly familiar.  It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement.  But I rejected the notion that nothing’s changed.  What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic.  It’s no longer sanctioned by law or by custom.  And before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was.  (Applause.)

We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, that racial division is inherent to America.  If you think nothing’s changed in the past 50 years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or Los Angeles of the 1950s.  Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed.  Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago.  To deny this progress, this hard-won progress -– our progress –- would be to rob us of our own agency, our own capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.

Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that Ferguson is an isolated incident; that racism is banished; that the work that drew men and women to Selma is now complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes.  We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true.  We just need to open our eyes, and our ears, and our hearts to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us.

We know the march is not yet over.  We know the race is not yet won.  We know that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged, all of us, by the content of our character requires admitting as much, facing up to the truth.  “We are capable of bearing a great burden,” James Baldwin once wrote, “once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.”

There’s nothing America can’t handle if we actually look squarely at the problem.  And this is work for all Americans, not just some.  Not just whites.  Not just blacks.  If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination.  All of us will need to feel as they did the fierce urgency of now.  All of us need to recognize as they did that change depends on our actions, on our attitudes, the things we teach our children.  And if we make such an effort, no matter how hard it may sometimes seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.  (Applause.)

With such an effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some.  Together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on –- the idea that police officers are members of the community they risk their lives to protect, and citizens in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland, they just want the same thing young people here marched for 50 years ago -– the protection of the law.  (Applause.)  Together, we can address unfair sentencing and overcrowded prisons, and the stunted circumstances that rob too many boys of the chance to become men, and rob the nation of too many men who could be good dads, and good workers, and good neighbors.  (Applause.)

With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity.  Americans don’t accept a free ride for anybody, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes.  But we do expect equal opportunity.  And if we really mean it, if we’re not just giving lip service to it, but if we really mean it and are willing to sacrifice for it, then, yes, we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century, one that expands imaginations and lifts sights and gives those children the skills they need.  We can make sure every person willing to work has the dignity of a job, and a fair wage, and a real voice, and sturdier rungs on that ladder into the middle class.

And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge –- and that is the right to vote.  (Applause.)  Right now, in 2015, 50 years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote.  As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed.  Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, the Voting Rights Act stands weakened, its future subject to political rancor.

How can that be?  The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic efforts.  (Applause.)  President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office.  President George W. Bush signed its renewal when he was in office.  (Applause.)  One hundred members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right to protect it.  If we want to honor this day, let that hundred go back to Washington and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore that law this year.  That’s how we honor those on this bridge.  (Applause.)

Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or even the President alone.  If every new voter-suppression law was struck down today, we would still have, here in America, one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples.  Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar, the number of bubbles on a bar of soap.  It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life.

What’s our excuse today for not voting?  How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought?  (Applause.)  How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?  Why are we pointing to somebody else when we could take the time just to go to the polling places?  (Applause.)  We give away our power.

Fellow marchers, so much has changed in 50 years.  We have endured war and we’ve fashioned peace.  We’ve seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives.  We take for granted conveniences that our parents could have scarcely imagined.  But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship; that willingness of a 26-year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five to decide they loved this country so much that they’d risk everything to realize its promise.

That’s what it means to love America.  That’s what it means to believe in America.  That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional.

For we were born of change.  We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.  We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people.  That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction — because we know our efforts matter.  We know America is what we make of it.

Look at our history.  We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, and entrepreneurs and hucksters.  That’s our spirit.  That’s who we are.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some.  And we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth.  That is our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free –- Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan.  We’re the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because we want our kids to know a better life.  That’s how we came to be.  (Applause.)

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South.  (Applause.)  We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened up the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent.  And we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, and the Navajo code-talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied.

We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We’re the gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge. (Applause.)

We are storytellers, writers, poets, artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

We’re the inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country, and hip-hop and rock and roll, and our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.  (Applause.)

We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.”  We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

That’s what America is.  Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others.  (Applause.)  We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past.  We don’t fear the future; we grab for it.  America is not some fragile thing.  We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes.  We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit.  That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe old age of 25 could lead a mighty march.

And that’s what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day.  You are America.  Unconstrained by habit and convention.  Unencumbered by what is, because you’re ready to seize what ought to be.

For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, there’s new ground to cover, there are more bridges to be crossed.  And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.

Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.  Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.”  “We The People.”  “We Shall Overcome.”  “Yes We Can.”  (Applause.)  That word is owned by no one.  It belongs to everyone.  Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.

Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we’re getting closer.  Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding our union is not yet perfect, but we are getting closer.  Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile.  Somebody already got us over that bridge.  When it feels the road is too hard, when the torch we’ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on [the] wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not be faint.”  (Applause.)

We honor those who walked so we could run.  We must run so our children soar.  And we will not grow weary.  For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise.

May He bless those warriors of justice no longer with us, and bless the United States of America.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on Recent Attacks in West Africa

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on Recent Attacks in West Africa


The United States strongly condemns the recent Boko Haram atrocities committed against innocent civilians in Nigeria as well as in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.  We offer our deepest condolences to the victims, their families, and to those who have been displaced by these cruel acts, and we reiterate our support for these countries’ efforts to fight Boko Haram in a manner that respects human rights and the rule of law. We also applaud progress toward the establishment of a Multi-National Joint Task Force, which entails a promising regional approach to a regional challenge. We believe that swift action to support and operationalize such a task force will prove vital to protecting civilians and enhancing security throughout the region, and the United States will continue to support bilateral and multilateral initiatives to counter Boko Haram.

WHITE HOUSE REPORT: Investing in our Future: Helping Teachers and Schools Prepare Our Children for College and Careers

WHITE HOUSE REPORT: Investing in our Future: Helping Teachers and Schools Prepare Our Children for College and Careers


On Wednesday, Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee approved H.R. 5, the Student Success Act. The legislation would lock-in sequestration funding levels, eliminate accountability for taxpayer dollars, and allow states to shift Title I funds from high-poverty schools to more affluent districts. Today, the White House is releasing a report that provides a state-by-state impact of locking in ESEA funding levels at sequestration and a list of the school districts most negatively impacted by changes to the Title I allocation formula.

After an economic crisis that hit school budgets and educators hard, we cannot just cut our way to better schools and more opportunity.  H.R. 5 would deny students and teachers the resources they need by:

  • Cementing recent education cuts, ensuring that federal education funding will be lower in 2021 than it was in 2012, before the recent education cuts and despite inflation and growing enrollment. The House Republican proposal caps spending on the ESEA for the next six years at $800 million lower than it was in 2012. In Title I alone, the bill will provide over $7 billion less to our schools than the President’s budget over six years, and the impact on each state is presented in Appendix 1.
  • Eliminating guarantees that education funding reaches the classroom, while opening the door for education investments to be wasted on things like sports stadiums and other unrelated pet projects. The House Republican proposal would allow states and localities to reduce the overall amount they spend on education and the funding they direct to classrooms and teachers without losing a dime of federal resources.
  • Cutting investments to those schools that need help most by allowing states to cut federal resources for schools that need it most, while giving it to wealthier schools instead. The 100 school districts facing the largest cuts in dollar terms face an average 15 percent cut, and some especially high-poverty school districts would see cuts as large as 74 percent.
  • Eliminating accountability for taxpayer dollars rather than working to use them in ways that improve student learning and ensuring that all students succeed and we do what works to improve even the lowest performing schools.

President Obama has a different vision to improve schools and help teachers by giving them the resources they need, identifying what is working, and fixing what doesn’t work so that we can guarantee every child has a world-class education. He would reduce student testing to the bare minimum to let teachers get back to teaching, while ensuring that parents and teachers know how students and schools are doing each year so we can ensure that every child is learning and problems in low-performing schools are addressed. And his Budget would strengthen our schools by investing an additional $2.7 billion in ESEA programs next year alone and expand high-quality preschool, so teachers, principals and educators have the support and resources they need to help students succeed in the classroom.


FACT SHEET: Executive Order Promoting Private Sector Cybersecurity Information Sharing

FACT SHEET: Executive Order Promoting Private Sector Cybersecurity Information Sharing

Today, President Obama will sign an Executive Order to encourage and promote sharing of cybersecurity threat information within the private sector and between the private sector and government. Rapid information sharing is an essential element of effective cybersecurity, because it enables U.S. companies to work together to respond to threats, rather than operating alone. This Executive Order lays out a framework for expanded information sharing designed to help companies work together, and work with the federal government, to quickly identify and protect against cyber threats.


Encouraging Private-Sector Cybersecurity Collaboration


Encourage the development of Information Sharing Organizations: This Executive Order encourages the development of information sharing and analysis organizations (ISAOs) to serve as focal points for cybersecurity information sharing and collaboration within the private sector and between the private sector and government. Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) are already essential drivers of effective cybersecurity collaboration, and could constitute ISAOs under this new framework. In encouraging the creation of ISAOs, the Executive Order expands information sharing by encouraging the formation of communities that share information across a region or in response to a specific emerging cyber threat.  An ISAO could be a not-for-profit community, a membership organization, or a single company facilitating sharing among its customers or partners.

Develop a common set of voluntary standards for information sharing organizations: The Executive Order also directs the Department of Homeland Security to fund the creation of a non-profit organization to develop a common set of voluntary standards for ISAOs. Developing this baseline will enable ISAOs to quickly demonstrate their policies and security protocols to potential partners. This will make collaboration safer, faster, and easier, and ensure greater coordination within the private sector to respond to cyber threats.


Enabling Better Private-Public Information Sharing

Clarify the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to enter into agreements with information sharing organizations: The Executive Order also increases collaboration between ISAOs and the federal government by streamlining the mechanism for the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) to enter into information sharing agreements with ISAOs. This will ensure that robust, voluntary information sharing continues and expands between the public and private sectors. The administration intends this expanded sharing to complement existing effective relationships between government and the private sector.

Streamline private sector companies’ ability to access classified cybersecurity threat information: Classified threat information can often provide valuable context to network defenders and enhance their ability to protect their systems. The Executive Order adds the Department of Homeland Security to the list of Federal agencies that approve classified information sharing arrangements and takes steps to ensure that information sharing entities can appropriately access classified cybersecurity threat information.


Providing Strong Privacy and Civil Liberties Protections


The Executive Order ensures that information sharing enabled by this new framework will include strong protections for privacy and civil liberties. Private sector ISAOs will agree to abide by a common set of voluntary standards, which will include privacy protections, such as minimization, for ISAO operation and ISAO member participation. In addition, agencies collaborating with ISAOs under this order will coordinate their activities with their senior agency officials for privacy and civil liberties and ensure that appropriate protections for privacy and civil liberties are in place and are based upon the Fair Information Practice Principles.

Paving the Way for Future Legislation

The Executive Order also complements the Administration’s January 2015 legislative proposal, and paves the way for new legislation, by building out the concept of ISAOs as a framework for the targeted liability protections that the Administration has long asserted are pivotal to incentivizing and expanding information sharing. The Administration intends this proposal to complement and not to limit existing effective relationships between government and the private sector.

FACT SHEET: White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection

FACT SHEET: White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection

As a nation, the United States has become highly digitally dependent.  Our economy, national security, educational systems, and social lives have all become deeply reliant on cyberspace.  Our use of digital networks provides a platform for innovation and prosperity and a means to improve general welfare around the country and around the globe, driving unparalleled growth. But this dependency also creates risks that threaten national security, private enterprises and individual rights. It is a threat not just here in the United States, but one that everyone, everywhere who is connected to cyberspace faces.

On February 13, the President is convening leaders from throughout the country who have a stake in bolstering cybersecurity – from industry, tech companies, and consumer and privacy advocates to law enforcement, educators, and students.  Participants will discuss opportunities to spur collaboration and develop partnerships in the cybersecurity and consumer financial worlds to share best practices, promote stronger adherence to security standards, improve cyber threat information sharing, and encourage the adoption of more secure payment technologies.

This Summit comes at a crucial point.  The President has been committed to strengthening our Nation’s cybersecurity since the beginning of his Administration and we have made significant progress.  Yet, cyber threats to individuals, businesses, critical infrastructure and national security have grown more diffuse, acute, and destructive. Despite improvements in network defense, cyber threats are evolving faster than the defenses that counter them. Malicious actors ranging from sophisticated nation states to common criminals to hacktivists take advantage of the anonymity, reach, and broad range of effects that cyberspace offers. Because of the interconnected nature of the Internet, no one is isolated from these threats. We are at an inflection point, both domestically and internationally, and now is the time to raise the call for greater collective action.


Public and Private Commitments

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility.  The Federal government has the responsibility to protect and defend the country and we do this by taking a whole-of-government approach to countering cyber threats. This means leveraging homeland security, intelligence, law enforcement, and military authorities and capabilities, which respectively provide for domestic preparedness, criminal deterrence and investigation, and our national defense.   Yet much of our nation’s critical infrastructure and a diverse array of other potential targets are not owned by the Federal government.  The Federal government cannot, nor would Americans want it to, provide cybersecurity for every private network.  Therefore, the private sector plays a crucial role in our overall national network defense.   To that end, both the Federal government and the private are announcing key commitments today.


The Cybersecurity Framework

In 2013, the President signed an Executive Order on Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity which resulted in the development of the Cybersecurity Framework, released on February 12, 2014.  In taking a risk management approach, the Framework recognizes that no organization can or will spend unlimited amounts on cybersecurity.  Instead, it enables a business to make decisions about how to prioritize and optimize its cybersecurity investments. The Framework also offers a flexible benchmarking tool for a wide range of organizations. For organizations that don’t know where to start, the Framework provides a roadmap. For organizations that are already sophisticated, the Framework offers a yardstick to measure against – and to use in communicating with partners and suppliers. Finally, the Framework creates a common vocabulary that can be used to effectively communicate about cyber risk management. The Framework is emerging as an important tool for technologists to communicate with organizational leaders on managing cyber risks. We have been encouraged by industry use of the Framework, and we will continue to promote its broad uptake both within the government and across the private sector.  Today, the following corporations are announcing a commitment to using the Framework.

  • Intel is releasing a paper on its use of the Framework and requiring all of its vendors to use the Framework by contract.
  • Apple is incorporating the Framework as part of the broader security protocols across its corporate networks.
  • Bank of America will announce that it is using the Framework and will also require it of its vendors.
  • U.S. Bank and Pacific Gas & Electric are announcing that they are committed to using the Framework.
  • AIG is starting to incorporate the NIST framework into how it underwrites cyber insurance for large, medium-sized, and small businesses and will use the framework to help customers identify gaps in their approach to cybersecurity.
  • QVC is announcing that it is using the Cybersecurity Framework in its risk management.
  • Walgreens is announcing its support for the Cybersecurity Framework and that it uses it as one of its tools for identifying and measuring risk.
  • Kaiser Permanente is committing to use the Framework.

Information Sharing


Today the President is also signing an Executive Order to encourage and promote the sharing of cybersecurity threat information within the private sector and between the private sector and Federal government. Rapid information sharing is an essential element of effective cybersecurity because it ensures that U.S. companies work together to respond to threats, rather than operating alone. This Executive Order lays out a framework for expanded information sharing designed to help companies work together with the federal government to quickly identify and protect against cyber threats.  From removing barriers, to helping to improve the delivery of timely and relevant intelligence to the private sector, to advocating for needed legislation, the President is committed to improving information sharing and collaboration with the private sector.

The following organizations will also be making commitments today:


  • The Cyber Threat Alliance (including Palo Alto Networks and Symantec, Intel Security, and Fortinet) will announce that its new cyber threat sharing partnership is starting to build best practices and standards consistent with the new information sharing Executive Order.
  • The Entertainment Software Association is announcing the creation of a new information sharing and analysis organization that will be built consistent with the new information sharing Executive Order.
  • Crowdstrike is announcing that it will form an information sharing and analysis organization.
  • Box is announcing that it will participate in the standards-development process for ISAOs, and that it will explore ways to use the Box platform to enhance collaboration among ISAOs.
  • FireEye is launching its “Information Sharing Framework,” which allows FireEye customers to receive threat intelligence in near-real-time, and provides anonymized threat indicators

Secure Payment Technologies

In October 2014, the President signed an Executive Order to advance consumer financial protection and launched the Buy Secure Initiative.  Today, the following organizations will announce new commitments to promote more secure payment technologies.

  • Visa is committing to tokenization – substituting credit card numbers with randomly generated tokens for each transaction – by the end of the 1st quarter of 2015.
  • MasterCard will invest more than $20 million in new cybersecurity tools, including the deployment of Safety Net, a new security solution that will reduce the risk of large-scale cyber attacks.
  • Apple, Visa, MasterCard, Comerica Bank and U.S. Bank are committed to working together to make ApplePay, a tokenized, encrypted service, available for users of federal payment cards, including DirectExpress and GSA SmartPay cards.
  • Square is working with the Small Business Administration to roll out an education program aimed at convincing small business to adopt more secure payment technologies.
  • The Financial Services Roundtable and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, on behalf of a partnership of 19 associations, are jointly announcing today the release of two papers to enhance collaboration in the development of technology standards and principles for the development of next generation technologies that minimize the value of payments information if it is stolen or lost.

Multi-Factor Authentication

In order to replace the password as our primary means of security online, we must have new technologies that combine greater security and convenience.  This technology moves beyond usernames and passwords to employ multiple security steps to better ensure a person is who they say they are.

Through the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, the US Government has invested more than $50 million over the past four years to advance this market in partnership with the research and development community and technology firms.

The following companies are announcing new initiatives to advance multi-factor authentication:

  • Intel is releasing a new authentication technology that will not rely on a password, but will instead employ other technologies, such as biometrics.
  • American Express is announcing rollout of new multi-factor authentication technologies for their consumers.
  • MasterCard, in partnership with First Tech Credit Union, will announce that they will implement a new pilot later this year that will allow consumers to authenticate and verify their transactions using a combination of unique biometrics such as facial and voice recognition.
  • In September of last year, CloudFlare enabled more than a million of its customers’ Web sites to support Universal SSL–for free.  Now, they are taking another step to secure the Web by enabling every CloudFlare customer to support DNSSEC, the open standard for authenticating domain names, by the end of the year.

Credit Score Transparency – A number of leaders in the financial services industry will be making credit scores more readily available to all Americans, improving consumers’ awareness of credit health, and providing them a tool to identify major shifts in their credit score – a key first sign of identity theft.

  • In partnership with FICO, Nationstar will join the growing list of firms making credit scores available for free to their customers by the end of the year

Call for Legislative Action

The government and private sector have made significant commitments to advance cybersecurity and consumer protection.   While we applaud Congress for successfully passing several pieces of important cybersecurity legislation last year, we still need Congress to pass key cybersecurity legislation.  To support that call for action, last month the President sent our updated cybersecurity legislative proposal to Congress.


Enabling Cybersecurity Information Sharing: The Administration’s updated proposal promotes better cybersecurity information sharing between the private sector and government and enhances collaboration and information sharing amongst the private sector.  Specifically, the proposal encourages the private sector to share appropriate cyber threat information with the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), which will then share it with relevant federal agencies and with private sector-developed and operated Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations (ISAOs), by providing targeted liability protection for companies that share information.

The legislation also encourages the formation of private-sector led Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations.  The Administration’s proposal safeguards Americans’ personal privacy by requiring private entities to comply with certain privacy restrictions such as removing unnecessary personal information and taking measures to protect any personal information that must be shared to qualify for liability protection.  The proposal further requires the Department of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, in consultation with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and others, to develop receipt, retention, use, and disclosure guidelines for the federal government’s sharing of cyber threat indicators.  Finally, the Administration intends this proposal to complement and not to limit existing effective relationships between government and the private sector.  These existing relationships between law enforcement and other federal agencies are critical to the cybersecurity mission.

Modernizing Law Enforcement Authorities to Combat Cyber Crime: Law enforcement must have appropriate tools to investigate, disrupt and prosecute cyber crime.  The Administration’s proposal contains provisions that would allow for the prosecution of the sale of botnets, criminalize the overseas sale of stolen U.S. financial information like credit card and bank account numbers, expand federal law enforcement authority to deter the sale of spyware used to stalk or commit identity theft, and give courts the authority to shut down botnets engaged in distributed denial of service attacks and other criminal activity.  It also reaffirms important components of the Administration’s 2011 cyber legislative proposals to update the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a key law used to prosecute organized crime, so that it applies to cybercrimes, clarifies penalties for computer crimes, and makes sure these penalties are in line with other similar non-cyber crimes.  Finally, the proposal modernizes the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by ensuring that insignificant conduct does not fall within the scope of the statute, while making clear that it can be used to prosecute insiders who abuse their ability to access information to use it for their own purposes.


National Data Breach Reporting: State laws have helped consumers protect themselves against identity theft while also encouraging business to improve cybersecurity.  These laws require businesses that have suffered an intrusion to notify consumers if consumers’ personal information has been compromised.  The Administration’s updated proposal helps businesses and consumers by simplifying and standardizing the existing patchwork of 46 state laws (plus the District of Columbia and several territories) that contain these requirements into one federal statute, and by putting in place a single clear and timely notice requirement to ensure that companies notify their employees and customers about security breaches.


Moving Forward

The Cybersecurity Summit marks a milestone in our Nation’s efforts to strengthen its cyber defenses.  It provides an opportunity to discuss what we have accomplished to date and to highlight immediate commitments that the Federal government and the private sector are making to improve the security of cyberspace.   However, in cybersecurity, we can never rest on past achievements.  Therefore, even as we and the private sector make good on these commitments, we need to keep moving forward.   We will continue to focus on strengthening the defenses of our critical infrastructure and government networks, improving our ability to disrupt, respond to, recover from, and mitigate malicious cyber activity, enhance our international cooperation, and shape the future of cyberspace to be inherently more secure.  And we look forward to doing this in close collaboration with our private sector partners.

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