Sunday, February 27, 2011



Voice of Vietnamese Americans: It is time to start the discussion of how to protect the assets that belong to the people of Vietnam, before another tragedy happen.

President Obama on Libya: "These Sanctions Therefore Target the Qaddafi Government, While Protecting the Assets that Belong to the People of Libya"
Posted by Jesse Lee on February 25, 2011 at 08:37 PM EST
Source: The White House

The President has just signed an Executive Order regarding Libya Sanctions. In addition, he sent a letter to Congress on the matter and issued the following statement:

The Libyan government’s continued violation of human rights, brutalization of its people, and outrageous threats have rightly drawn the strong and broad condemnation of the international community. By any measure, Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable. These sanctions therefore target the Qaddafi government, while protecting the assets that belong to the people of Libya.

Going forward, the United States will continue to closely coordinate our actions with the international community, including our friends and allies, and the United Nations. We will stand steadfastly with the Libyan people in their demand for universal rights, and a government that is responsive to their aspirations. Their human dignity cannot be denied.

Press Secretary Jay Carney also discussed the sanctions and broader context earlier in the day.




Source: NY1 News

A city council member in Benghazi, Libya says cities under the control of anti-government forces have appointed a former justice minister to lead their provisional government.

Libya's top envoy to the United States says opponents of Moammar Gadhafi are rallying behind efforts to form a new government led by the former minister.

The move comes hours after the United Nations voted unanimously Saturday to impose the sanctions against Libya.

The resolution freezes the assets of Gadhafi and his five children, and bans the family and ten of Gadhafi's close associates from traveling.

The 15-nation council also voted to refer the case to the permanent war crimes tribunal.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the measures send a strong message in support of basic human rights.

President Barack Obama is also calling on Gadhafi to leave immediately.

In his strongest comments since the violence began, the president this weekend said the Libyan leader has lost all legitimacy to rule.

He made the comments during a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers continue to show support for Libyans.

A rally in Times Square of Libyan-Americans was held Saturday to draw attention to the violence in the country.

"We are here to support them, we are with them," said one demonstrator.

"We are trying to change what we already suffered for the past 20, 30, 40 years. People start to talk and I think the people, once they taste freedom, they will never come back to the oppression," said another.

The rally drew about 200 people and was one of many held throughout the city over the past few days.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011




Vietnam: Self-immolation to protest corruption

A Vietnamese engineer named Pham Thanh Son apparently set himself afire to protest the confiscation of his family’s property by local authorities.

According to the blog Danlambao (which means citizen journalists), Son's self-immolation occurred on February 17 at 12:30pm outside the municipal offices of Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Son visited the People’s Committee of Da Nang earlier in the day to petition his case. When authorities refused to hear his appeal, the young engineer set fire to himself and his motorcycle on the sidewalk outside.

Outside Da Nang's People's Committee

Facebooker Tieu Dieu posted the pictures online.

Another eyewitness captured the scene on video:

Police initially indicated that Son’s death was a routine traffic accident. Authorities also described Son as a person with “mental problems.”

Meanwhile, authorities reportedly posted plainclothes police outside Son’s family residence and limited the family’s ability to receive visitors.

Danlambao reports:

The underlying cause for this sad incident was the corruption surrounding the Cau Rong (Dragon Bridge) project. It is known that the family of Pham Thanh Son repeatedly petitioned for adequate compensation for their property. Their appeals went nowhere as authorities went ahead with the project.

Da Nang, located along Vietnam’s central coast, is in the midst of a major construction boom. Initiated in 2009, Cau Rong is a 667-meter long bridge currently being built over the Han river. Municipal authorities claimed to have adequately compensated and resettled local residents.

In recent years, many farmers and urban residents in Da Nang and throughout Vietnam have complained about land seizures and organized small protest movements.
Creative Commons License

Written by Duy Hoang
Posted 20 February 2011


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Remarks at the Launch of Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society - Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State

Source: Department of State

Secretary Clinton: February 2011 » Remarks at the Launch of Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society
Remarks at the Launch of Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
William J. Burns
Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Rajiv Shah
USAID Administrator
Egyptian Activist Sherif Mansour and Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission Chair Sima Samar
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
February 16, 2011

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Good morning, everyone. I’m very pleased to welcome you to the Department of State and to the launch of this first-ever Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. Today’s event is the logical outgrowth of Secretary Clinton’s more than two years of intensive consultations and interaction with civil society representatives across the globe.

We are honored to have citizen activists with us today from virtually every continent. Some of you are here as alumni of the Department’s Leadership Visitor Programs and have been asked to participate in recognition of your pioneering work at home, from launching alternative energy education programs to advocating on behalf of individuals with disabilities, to encouraging civic participation through a grassroots democracy movement. We deeply admire your passion and commitment to improving your communities.

In recent weeks, we have been awed by the power of committed citizens to effect change in their societies. We’ve borne witness to a remarkable triumph of human spirit and human courage in Cairo and in Tunis. As President Obama said of events in Egypt, we saw a new generation emerge, a generation that uses its own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that is responsive to its boundless aspirations.

History too reflects the moral force of individuals committed to securing rights and advancing opportunities for all citizens, from the group of bereaved mothers in Argentina who organized to protest the disappearances of their missing sons and daughters, to the millions of people who came together across the world to battle apartheid. Not every nation has a large-scale civil society movement. Sometimes it’s a lone voice who seizes the imagination or who pricks the conscience of a society, a journalist who continues to report in the face of threats and intimidation, an attorney who takes unpopular cases at considerable risk, or a blogger who engages in critical debate despite threats and persecution.

As President Obama has stressed, international relations are not just about ties between governments. They’re increasingly about the links between societies. The problems that all of us face today are too complex for governments alone to solve. As community activists in their own right, both President Obama and Secretary Clinton know this to be true and share a passionate conviction in the power of civil society to bend the arc of history. Secretary Clinton has championed human rights, democracy, and civil society for many years. Her longstanding efforts to advance women’s rights predate her famous 1995 speech in Beijing, and her establishment with former Secretary Albright of the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative, which today continues to train and organize women leaders across the globe.

As the Secretary said in Krakow, societies move forward when citizens are empowered to transform common interests into common actions that serve the common good. Each of you is an essential part of that great effort, and each of you can count on our enduring admiration and support. And so it’s in that spirit that I’m proud and honored to introduce to you the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Bill. (Applause.) Thank you very much, Under Secretary Burns, and let me welcome all of you to the Ben Franklin Room here at the State Department for this inaugural session of the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet you and to welcome you to this effort, and I also want to welcome Foreign Minister Azubalis from Lithuania, which is now holding the presidency of the Community of Democracies. Foreign Minister, thank you for joining us for this Civil Society meeting.

We have a broad cross-section of global civil society here today, and we have thousands of others who are participating via interactive videoconferences at 50 of our embassies around the world. Even more are taking part in live online chats in Arabic, Russian, and Spanish. I want to start by acknowledging the many brave people who could not be with us today because they are doing what civil society does. They are fighting for human rights and dignity. In the last weeks, we have seen their courage on display in the streets of Tunis and the town squares of Cairo. We have watched with great anticipation as they have stood up for their rights and aspirations.

For decades, Egyptian activists worked under a repressive system of official controls, including laws that required them to register before they could start work, the kinds of measures that impede the work of many of you here today and many more who are joining us by conference. But you are here because you have not been deterred. You have gone on with your work despite harassment and persecution. And we have seen the progress that can be made because of your commitment.

The events of the past few weeks, which we never could have predicted when we began to plan for this months ago, makes our meeting even more timely and the issues more urgent. If we’re going to take advantage of this historic moment, we have to tap the expertise, experience, and energy of civil society. Across the Middle East today, we see people calling on governments to be more open, more accountable, more responsive. They want a stronger voice in their own affairs. They want to be treated fairly and with dignity. As I’ve said before, it is in the interests of governments to answer these demands, to reflect the will of their own people. Countries with vibrant and representative institutions settle differences not in the streets, but in city halls and parliament buildings. That, in turn, makes them more stable, and they tap the potential of all of their people, which gives them the base for greater prosperity and progress.

The United States supports democratic change. It is in line with our values and our interests. We support citizens working to make their governments more open, transparent, and accountable. We uphold the universal rights of every person to live freely, to have your voice heard, and your vote count. And we want to work with all partners, governments, the private sector, civil society, the entire cross-section that gives us the chance to make real and lasting change.

Now, of course, we recognize there are many paths to democracy, and we recognize that true and sustainable democracy is about far more than elections. Each society will work to realize its own democratic values and build its own democratic institutions in its own way, because we also recognize the uniqueness of culture and history and experience. But let me be clear, our support for democracy and human rights is not about siding for or against either governments or citizens. This is about standing up for universal principles and for those in and out of government who support them. So as our partners take steps to open their own political and economic systems, we will support those efforts. And we will urge others to follow that path. Governments that pursue democratic change, economic openness, will have a friend in the United States.

We’re also continuing to work with civil society and those who are outside of government to lay a groundwork for reform because, as I said earlier this month in Munich, the transition to democracy is more likely to be peaceful and permanent when it involves both the government in power and a broad cross-section of the governed. Civil society holds governments accountable, keeps them honest, and helps them be more effective. But you play an even more fundamental role than that. You help to strengthen the basic bonds of trust that are essential to democracy.

We had a wonderful phrase that came to us from the French observer Alexis de Tocqueville, who talked about the habits of the heart. Because we understand that building trust is the glue that holds democratic societies together, and trust is often in very short supply. Working with others toward a common purpose, contributing to the life of your community, that’s how we practice those habits through civil society.

I’ve talked often about the three-legged stool that upholds stable societies – a responsive, accountable government; an energetic, effective private sector economy; and then civil society, which represents everything else that happens in the space between the government and the economy, that holds the values, that represents the aspirations. If one of those legs on the stool is too short or too tall, the stool is not stable. And we’ve seen a lot of unstable stools that now no longer can hold the weight of their societies. And what we hope to do is to bring that into balance with you.

Now, what consists of the individual actions of civil society joining religious organizations of your choice to pursue your spiritual fellowship, donating to humanitarian causes, working to improve your school or clean your street or provide other kinds of citizen activism may not be life-altering events, they may not change the world, but they serve a very important purpose. They ground people in the life of a community. They build that trust with neighbors and they remind us all that we have a stake in the future, that we can work with our fellow citizens in pursuit of a common good even when we disagree. Those are the building blocks of a healthy democracy.

Both President Obama and I have deep personal connections to civil society. He began his career as a community organizer; I began mine as an advocate for women and children’s rights. Both of us are committed to defending civil society. In Krakow last July, I spoke about how, in many countries, governments are trying to crush civic activism. Well, we will continue to stand up for you. And we are backing that commitment with action. I’m very pleased to announce we are more than doubling our financial support for efforts to respond to threats to civil society, to help human rights workers who have been arrested, activists who’ve been intimidated, journalists who have been censored. We have launched an international fund that will provide quick assistance, such as communications gear and legal support to NGOs affected by government crackdowns.

We also recognize that new technology opens up new ways for governments to restrict civil society. And yesterday, I spoke at George Washington University about our commitment to Internet Freedom and outlined steps we are taking to protect and advance it.

We’re also using diplomatic channels. Last October, I asked every U.S. ambassador and embassy to engage with civil society as a cornerstone of our diplomacy. I’ve also asked every assistant secretary who travels overseas to meet with civil society groups in addition to governments. I’ve had that opportunity in my travels as Secretary. Students and professors at a women’s college in Saudi Arabia, survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia, business leaders in Brazil. It’s one of the best parts of my job. And I also raise these issues with government leaders. I recently wrote the foreign minister of Cambodia about proposed legislation that would impose burdensome reporting requirements on NGOs and prevent many small organizations from operating at all. They’ve now begun a dialogue with civil society about this law, and we are following that debate closely.

Finally today, we are launching this new Strategic Dialogue. This is the first time we’ve held a strategic dialogue with any group other than a government, but we know very well the benefits that such dialogues offer. They help break down barriers across governments by creating a forum for regular contact between senior people on both sides. They build habits of cooperation, which increases understanding and helps translate that understanding into practical results. They make it easier for us to identify common problems, set common goals, and share what we are learning.

In our ongoing dialogue with countries, we make progress in areas like nonproliferation, climate change, health and development, agriculture, and other critical issues. We’re rolling up our sleeves and getting to work, and that’s exactly what we want to do with each of you because our work together on women’s rights, corruption, religious freedom, and other issues is just as important as anything we do with governments.

Now, many of our current dialogues involve civil society, and that will continue. But we need to elevate our engagement beyond the discussions we’re already having. We have a lot of ideas about what we might accomplish together, and we have many of our senior diplomats here who will be working on specific issues. Under Secretary Bob Hormats will lead a working group on governance and accountability. Assistant Secretary Mike Posner will focus on democracy and human rights. And Ambassador Melanne Verveer will lead a group focused on empowering women. Now, this is our initial plan, but we want to hear from you about what we need to do to be responsive to what you are facing and how we can build this project together over the next months.

None of us can ever predict what will spark the kind of movements we’ve seen or even from the past, the firing of a Polish shipyard worker who inspired a democratic movement that changed the face of Europe. But we know that the power of human dignity is always underestimated until the day it finally prevails. So come with us on this journey, because that’s what democracy is. It is a road traveled rather than a destination. We know where that journey begins, with the people here in this room and the men and women of civil society everywhere.

So thank you for your courage and your commitment, and please join us in this discussion that we will begin right now. (Applause.) (Inaudible) many distinguished representatives here from our government and also from civil society. I want to begin, though, as I think it would it be only appropriate to do so, with Sherif Mansour, a prominent Egyptian activist. And I think it’s particularly timely that he would be the person who would kick off this discussion about civil society.


MR. MANSOUR: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mrs. Secretary and thank you for the invite and for your kind words today. I was very much expecting that all these nice words would come, and I think, as you recognized, this is a change that can – only attributed to people in Egypt and Tunisia who proved that ultimately, civil society is a change-maker and the permanent partners for the U.S. in the long run. I think – I was very happy to listen – like to hear from you that U.S. foreign policy did not – do not have to choose between oppressive governments and the aspiration of the people.

And I think in order for this dialogue, which we’re starting today, to be effective, I think we should look back, recognize the mistakes of the past. And let’s be honest. The record of the U.S. foreign policy on Egypt and on Tunisia is not very good. I think what we’ve seen over the last 30 years is that the U.S. have had very biased relationship with complete support for the governments of those countries without enough leverage for civil society.

And I can mention a few facts for the audience. One of them is specifically the support, the – like the U.S. aid support package we’ve seen in Egypt civil society over the last 30 years, the amount of civil society fund did not exceed 1 percent. And specifically over the last three years, where there was a lot of dissent and people were advocating for reform, and they were preparing for election, the State Department actually conceded to pressure from the Egyptian Government to cut down funds for democracy and to make it only available for government-approved NGOs. I think from now on we need to hear it clearly from State Department that should never happen again. Government recipients of foreign aid should not control U.S. aid money and should not decide what the civil society should do or are able to do.

I think also – like, I’m reminded – was a conversation that when I first hear the word “civil society” which in Arabic means (in Arabic), I heard it for the first time from my previous boss, who is a democracy activist, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim. And when he first said the word in front of President Mubarak – and let me say that clearly, former President Mubarak – President Mubarak interrupted him and said, “So what’s wrong with military society?” And I think that shows that this is how these people think. And of course, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim went to explain that they are not mutually exclusive, and that civil society is the best guarantee for stability of the country.

But I’m reminded now that this is a conversation that I am actually having to do right now, is that Egypt have a military government and have civil society who is advocating for reform. And I think from now on, the U.S. foreign policy should be clear about their support not just morally, financially as well. I am hoping to see a formalized instruction from the U.S. to its diplomat across the world to say that civil society is not just an afterthought. Civil society are equally important in terms of building partnership and future of the countries that you work with.

I hope you take my remarks in good sense. I know that I’m being critical. And I think it’s important if we want to move forward to look back, recognize our mistakes and ensure they never happen again. Thank you so much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Sharif, thank you very much, and I appreciate your remarks and the very clear commitment that you have to civil society and to a path forward in Egypt that will realize a best outcome for the people of Egypt.

And we have given exactly what you asked for, the direction to all of our ambassadors to do what you have said last October, when I gave the instructions to all of our ambassadors that they must engage with civil society. And it sometimes quite hard to do that, you understand. And we will have to keep working for ways to be more effective in how we approach civil society, depending upon the country and the conditions that we find. But the general policy is exactly as you have offered. It must be that we engage with civil society as well as governments, and where we can, try to bring the two together, because together, they make up for a much stronger, more stable future for people. And that’s really what we should be seeking. So thank you very much.

MR. MANSOUR: Thank you.

Let me turn now to USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah.

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Thank you, Secretary Clinton, and thank you, Sharif, for your candid remarks. USAID firmly believes in the Secretary’s goal to elevate the quality and depth of our partnerships with civil society. Our Administration, under President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s leadership, has pledged to pursue a new approach to development through a comprehensive new development policy that prioritizes democratic governance and that is defined fundamentally by partnership, innovation, and, in everything we do, seeking real, genuine, lasting results.

At USAID, we seek to create the conditions so that ultimately our assistance is no longer needed, and we know that the only real replacements for the type of work that we support are vibrant civil societies, effective private sectors, and accountable governments that provide effective services broadly to all parts of their populations.

In pursuing this new approach, we will seek to elevate our crucial partnership with civil society. We recognize that civil society organizations create the basics for accountability and have tremendous relevance and significance in all aspects of our work, of course, in the democracy and governance portfolios that will perhaps be the largest part of today’s conversation, but also in our efforts to create inclusive economic growth, to fight disease and hunger through agriculture and global health initiatives, and to create more educational opportunities more broadly for all members of society. That’s why we are now at a point where nearly 40 percent of our funding goes to nongovernment organizations. And in each of our countries, through all of our missions, we’re setting specific targets so that we can increase the percentage of support that we provide to local organizations and local entrepreneurs and local NGOs.

We also recognize that civil society creates transparency and encourages accountable governance more broadly, from reporting on financial practices, identifying and highlighting individual cases of corruption, and reporting on human rights. Using new technologies and supporting innovative new efforts to enable those activities to be more effective is a big focus for us, and we’ve launched a development innovation venture fund to support the creativity that technology now enables in our collective work.

The Secretary also mentioned our effort to double the size of the global Legal Enabling Environment Program so that local NGOs have technical support when governments do create less space for effective operations.

And finally, of course, we recognize civil society’s crucial role in transitions to democracy as we’ve all been reminded of and inspired by over the last few weeks.

I just would like to close, Madam Secretary, with a brief comment about a package of reforms that we’ve launched through the QDDR and under your leadership, the USAID Forward reforms. As part of that, we’re actually fixing our procurement systems, and I know that’s not always a high-visibility topic. But we’ve taken a number of steps over the course of the last year and under the Secretary’s leadership to just make it easier and more transparent for smaller local organizations to work directly with our missions in the 82 countries where we are operating. And some of these are quite arcane, but at the end of the day, I think they will make a big, big difference in providing flexible resources – smaller money, faster moving money – to the kinds of innovative entrepreneurial NGOs that clearly make up the most vibrant sectors of change in all forms of society, and certainly in civil societies.

So we are pursuing that effort, and we welcome your continued candid feedback and also your guidance on how to put that in place in a way that’s most effective. And I’ll take this opportunity to thank some of the partners here around this table that have been actively informing that effort. So thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Raj. And let me turn, now, to Dr. Sima Samar, director of the Afghan Independent Commission on Human Rights, for her opening remarks.

MS. SAMAR: Thank you very much. I’m happy to be a part of this event, and I hope that this strategic dialogue on civil society will continue, and it should not be one event.

I’m coming from a country where we are in wars since 30 years. Although, the civil society is very young and still there’s civil society and NGO was able to play a vital role to the people of Afghanistan who were able to survive the 30 years of violent war in the country. I think it’s very, very clear that we cannot have a – cannot push for good governance and accountability and transparency for the governments and fight against corruption without having a strong civil society in the country. In this century, I think Afghanistan is the most difficult and problematic country for all of us, and especially for the people in Afghanistan who are suffering everyday from the violence of the terrorist group.

So my recommendation would be in order to continue and support civil society for good governance in Afghanistan would be: One, more stronger support for human rights defenders and civil society in the country not only politically, but also financial support to the civil society.

Two, more support on capacity building of the civil society group, men and women, in Afghanistan in order to be able to keep the government in Afghanistan responsive and accountable and try to bring to justice the perpetrator of human rights and stop the culture of impunity in Afghanistan.

Three, I think more focus should be put on the education in order to build the capacity of civil society. If you don’t have a proper and good quality of education for young men and women in Afghanistan, we cannot really have a strong civil society. So that would be one of the issues that I recommend to do within Afghanistan.

Four, I think please do not use the excuse of respecting culture and religion in Afghanistan not to touch on human rights, and specifically on women’s rights. I mean, we should not use that excuse not to touch the issues or the values of human rights in Afghanistan. It is of universal value, and it’s the value of human being not (inaudible) value.

And finally, I would like to say that acknowledging women’s role and women’s participation and women’s existence in a society like Afghanistan, I don’t think a – civil society without full participation of women will be effective on keeping the governments accountable. And I say that acknowledging the existence of women and then, of course, include the women on the decision-making policies and then support them. It’s not only – I mean, unfortunately in our country mostly women are not acknowledged; their existence is very, very symbolic, although we all put a lot of pressure in the government.

And finally, I would say that please do not have only contact with the governments. As Sharif said – I completely agree – unfortunately the U.S. has been supporting very, let’s say, undemocratic leaders in the Muslim countries, so that will affect Afghanistan. If we like it or not, that is the reality. And please do continue to be supportive and have contact with the civil society, men and women in the country, and thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Sima. The press is going to leave at this point so that we can begin our discussion.

PRN: 2011/224


INTERNET FREEDOM - Remarks by Hillary Clinton - Secretary of State


Secretary Clinton: February 2011 » Internet Rights and Wrongs: Choices & Challenges in a Networked World
Internet Rights and Wrongs: Choices & Challenges in a Networked World

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

George Washington University
Washington, DC
February 15, 2011

Thank you all very much and good afternoon. It is a pleasure, once again, to be back on the campus of the George Washington University, a place that I have spent quite a bit of time in all different settings over the last now nearly 20 years. I’d like especially to thank President Knapp and Provost Lerman, because this is a great opportunity for me to address such a significant issue, and one which deserves the attention of citizens, governments, and I know is drawing that attention. And perhaps today in my remarks, we can begin a much more vigorous debate that will respond to the needs that we have been watching in real time on our television sets.

A few minutes after midnight on January 28th, the internet went dark across Egypt. During the previous four days, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had marched to demand a new government. And the world, on TVs, laptops, cell phones, and smart phones, had followed every single step. Pictures and videos from Egypt flooded the web. On Facebook and Twitter, journalists posted on-the-spot reports. Protestors coordinated their next moves. And citizens of all stripes shared their hopes and fears about this pivotal moment in the history of their country.

Millions worldwide answered in real time, “You are not alone and we are with you.” Then the government pulled the plug. Cell phone service was cut off, TV satellite signals were jammed, and internet access was blocked for nearly the entire population. The government did not want the people to communicate with each other and it did not want the press to communicate with the public. It certainly did not want the world to watch.

The events in Egypt recalled another protest movement 18 months earlier in Iran, when thousands marched after disputed elections. Their protestors also used websites to organize. A video taken by cell phone showed a young woman named Neda killed by a member of the paramilitary forces, and within hours, that video was being watched by people everywhere.

The Iranian authorities used technology as well. The Revolutionary Guard stalked members of the Green Movement by tracking their online profiles. And like Egypt, for a time, the government shut down the internet and mobile networks altogether. After the authorities raided homes, attacked university dorms, made mass arrests, tortured and fired shots into crowds, the protests ended.

In Egypt, however, the story ended differently. The protests continued despite the internet shutdown. People organized marches through flyers and word of mouth and used dial-up modems and fax machines to communicate with the world. After five days, the government relented and Egypt came back online. The authorities then sought to use the internet to control the protests by ordering mobile companies to send out pro-government text messages, and by arresting bloggers and those who organized the protests online. But 18 days after the protests began, the government failed and the president resigned.

What happened in Egypt and what happened in Iran, which this week is once again using violence against protestors seeking basic freedoms, was about a great deal more than the internet. In each case, people protested because of deep frustrations with the political and economic conditions of their lives. They stood and marched and chanted and the authorities tracked and blocked and arrested them. The internet did not do any of those things; people did. In both of these countries, the ways that citizens and the authorities used the internet reflected the power of connection technologies on the one hand as an accelerant of political, social, and economic change, and on the other hand as a means to stifle or extinguish that change.

There is a debate currently underway in some circles about whether the internet is a force for liberation or repression. But I think that debate is largely beside the point. Egypt isn’t inspiring people because they communicated using Twitter. It is inspiring because people came together and persisted in demanding a better future. Iran isn’t awful because the authorities used Facebook to shadow and capture members of the opposition. Iran is awful because it is a government that routinely violates the rights of its people.

So it is our values that cause these actions to inspire or outrage us, our sense of human dignity, the rights that flow from it, and the principles that ground it. And it is these values that ought to drive us to think about the road ahead. Two billion people are now online, nearly a third of humankind. We hail from every corner of the world, live under every form of government, and subscribe to every system of beliefs. And increasingly, we are turning to the internet to conduct important aspects of our lives.

The internet has become the public space of the 21st century – the world’s town square, classroom, marketplace, coffeehouse, and nightclub. We all shape and are shaped by what happens there, all 2 billion of us and counting. And that presents a challenge. To maintain an internet that delivers the greatest possible benefits to the world, we need to have a serious conversation about the principles that will guide us, what rules exist and should not exist and why, what behaviors should be encouraged or discouraged and how.

The goal is not to tell people how to use the internet any more than we ought to tell people how to use any public square, whether it’s Tahrir Square or Times Square. The value of these spaces derives from the variety of activities people can pursue in them, from holding a rally to selling their vegetables, to having a private conversation. These spaces provide an open platform, and so does the internet. It does not serve any particular agenda, and it never should. But if people around the world are going come together every day online and have a safe and productive experience, we need a shared vision to guide us.

One year ago, I offered a starting point for that vision by calling for a global commitment to internet freedom, to protect human rights online as we do offline. The rights of individuals to express their views freely, petition their leaders, worship according to their beliefs – these rights are universal, whether they are exercised in a public square or on an individual blog. The freedoms to assemble and associate also apply in cyberspace. In our time, people are as likely to come together to pursue common interests online as in a church or a labor hall.

Together, the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online comprise what I’ve called the freedom to connect. The United States supports this freedom for people everywhere, and we have called on other nations to do the same. Because we want people to have the chance to exercise this freedom. We also support expanding the number of people who have access to the internet. And because the internet must work evenly and reliably for it to have value, we support the multi-stakeholder system that governs the internet today, which has consistently kept it up and running through all manner of interruptions across networks, borders, and regions.

In the year since my speech, people worldwide have continued to use the internet to solve shared problems and expose public corruption, from the people in Russia who tracked wildfires online and organized a volunteer firefighting squad, to the children in Syria who used Facebook to reveal abuse by their teachers, to the internet campaign in China that helps parents find their missing children.

At the same time, the internet continues to be restrained in a myriad of ways. In China, the government censors content and redirects search requests to error pages. In Burma, independent news sites have been taken down with distributed denial of service attacks. In Cuba, the government is trying to create a national intranet, while not allowing their citizens to access the global internet. In Vietnam, bloggers who criticize the government are arrested and abused. In Iran, the authorities block opposition and media websites, target social media, and steal identifying information about their own people in order to hunt them down.

These actions reflect a landscape that is complex and combustible, and sure to become more so in the coming years as billions of more people connect to the internet. The choices we make today will determine what the internet looks like in the future. Businesses have to choose whether and how to enter markets where internet freedom is limited. People have to choose how to act online, what information to share and with whom, which ideas to voice and how to voice them. Governments have to choose to live up to their commitments to protect free expression, assembly, and association.

For the United States, the choice is clear. On the spectrum of internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness. Now, we recognize that an open internet comes with challenges. It calls for ground rules to protect against wrongdoing and harm. And internet freedom raises tensions, like all freedoms do. But we believe the benefits far exceed the costs.

And today, I’d like to discuss several of the challenges we must confront as we seek to protect and defend a free and open internet. Now, I’m the first to say that neither I nor the United States Government has all the answers. We’re not sure we have all the questions. But we are committed to asking the questions, to helping lead a conversation, and to defending not just universal principles but the interests of our people and our partners.

The first challenge is achieving both liberty and security. Liberty and security are often presented as equal and opposite; the more you have of one, the less you have of the other. In fact, I believe they make it each other possible. Without security, liberty is fragile. Without liberty, security is oppressive. The challenge is finding the proper measure: enough security to enable our freedoms, but not so much or so little as to endanger them.

Finding this proper measure for the internet is critical because the qualities that make the internet a force for unprecedented progress – its openness, its leveling effect, its reach and speed – also enable wrongdoing on an unprecedented scale. Terrorists and extremist groups use the internet to recruit members, and plot and carry out attacks. Human traffickers use the internet to find and lure new victims into modern-day slavery. Child pornographers use the internet to exploit children. Hackers break into financial institutions, cell phone networks, and personal email accounts.

So we need successful strategies for combating these threats and more without constricting the openness that is the internet’s greatest attribute. The United States is aggressively tracking and deterring criminals and terrorists online. We are investing in our nation’s cyber-security, both to prevent cyber-incidents and to lessen their impact. We are cooperating with other countries to fight transnational crime in cyber-space. The United States Government invests in helping other nations build their own law enforcement capacity. We have also ratified the Budapest Cybercrime Convention, which sets out the steps countries must take to ensure that the internet is not misused by criminals and terrorists while still protecting the liberties of our own citizens.

In our vigorous effort to prevent attacks or apprehend criminals, we retain a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms. The United States is determined to stop terrorism and criminal activity online and offline, and in both spheres we are committed to pursuing these goals in accordance with our laws and values.

Now, others have taken a different approach. Security is often invoked as a justification for harsh crackdowns on freedom. Now, this tactic is not new to the digital age, but it has new resonance as the internet has given governments new capacities for tracking and punishing human rights advocates and political dissidents. Governments that arrest bloggers, pry into the peaceful activities of their citizens, and limit their access to the internet may claim to be seeking security. In fact, they may even mean it as they define it. But they are taking the wrong path. Those who clamp down on internet freedom may be able to hold back the full expression of their people’s yearnings for a while, but not forever.

The second challenge is protecting both transparency and confidentiality. The internet’s strong culture of transparency derives from its power to make information of all kinds available instantly. But in addition to being a public space, the internet is also a channel for private communications. And for that to continue, there must be protection for confidential communication online. Think of all the ways in which people and organizations rely on confidential communications to do their jobs. Businesses hold confidential conversations when they’re developing new products to stay ahead of their competitors. Journalists keep the details of some sources confidential to protect them from exposure or retribution. And governments also rely on confidential communication online as well as offline. The existence of connection technologies may make it harder to maintain confidentiality, but it does not alter the need for it.

Now, I know that government confidentiality has been a topic of debate during the past few months because of WikiLeaks, but it’s been a false debate in many ways. Fundamentally, the WikiLeaks incident began with an act of theft. Government documents were stolen, just the same as if they had been smuggled out in a briefcase. Some have suggested that this theft was justified because governments have a responsibility to conduct all of our work out in the open in the full view of our citizens. I respectfully disagree. The United States could neither provide for our citizens’ security nor promote the cause of human rights and democracy around the world if we had to make public every step of our efforts. Confidential communication gives our government the opportunity to do work that could not be done otherwise.

Consider our work with former Soviet states to secure loose nuclear material. By keeping the details confidential, we make it less likely that terrorists or criminals will find the nuclear material and steal it for their own purposes. Or consider the content of the documents that WikiLeaks made public. Without commenting on the authenticity of any particular documents, we can observe that many of the cables released by WikiLeaks relate to human rights work carried on around the world. Our diplomats closely collaborate with activists, journalists, and citizens to challenge the misdeeds of oppressive governments. It is dangerous work. By publishing diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks exposed people to even greater risk.

For operations like these, confidentiality is essential, especially in the internet age when dangerous information can be sent around the world with the click of a keystroke. But of course, governments also have a duty to be transparent. We govern with the consent of the people, and that consent must be informed to be meaningful. So we must be judicious about when we close off our work to the public, and we must review our standards frequently to make sure they are rigorous. In the United States, we have laws designed to ensure that the government makes its work open to the people, and the Obama Administration has also launched an unprecedented initiative to put government data online, to encourage citizen participation, and to generally increase the openness of government.

The U.S. Government’s ability to protect America, to secure the liberties of our people, and to support the rights and freedoms of others around the world depends on maintaining a balance between what’s public and what should and must remain out of the public domain. The scale should and will always be tipped in favor of openness, but tipping the scale over completely serves no one’s interests. Let me be clear. I said that the WikiLeaks incident began with a theft, just as if it had been executed by smuggling papers in a briefcase. The fact that WikiLeaks used the internet is not the reason we criticized its actions. WikiLeaks does not challenge our commitment to internet freedom.

And one final word on this matter: There were reports in the days following these leaks that the United States Government intervened to coerce private companies to deny service to WikiLeaks. That is not the case. Now, some politicians and pundits publicly called for companies to disassociate from WikiLeaks, while others criticized them for doing so. Public officials are part of our country’s public debates, but there is a line between expressing views and coercing conduct. Business decisions that private companies may have taken to enforce their own values or policies regarding WikiLeaks were not at the direction of the Obama Administration.

A third challenge is protecting free expression while fostering tolerance and civility. I don’t need to tell this audience that the internet is home to every kind of speech – false, offensive, incendiary, innovative, truthful, and beautiful.

The multitude of opinions and ideas that crowd the internet is both a result of its openness and a reflection of our human diversity. Online, everyone has a voice. And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects the freedom of expression for all. But what we say has consequences. Hateful or defamatory words can inflame hostilities, deepen divisions, and provoke violence. On the internet, this power is heightened. Intolerant speech is often amplified and impossible to retract. Of course, the internet also provides a unique space for people to bridge their differences and build trust and understanding.

Some take the view that, to encourage tolerance, some hateful ideas must be silenced by governments. We believe that efforts to curb the content of speech rarely succeed and often become an excuse to violate freedom of expression. Instead, as it has historically been proven time and time again, the better answer to offensive speech is more speech. People can and should speak out against intolerance and hatred. By exposing ideas to debate, those with merit tend to be strengthened, while weak and false ideas tend to fade away; perhaps not instantly, but eventually.

Now, this approach does not immediately discredit every hateful idea or convince every bigot to reverse his thinking. But we have determined as a society that it is far more effective than any other alternative approach. Deleting writing, blocking content, arresting speakers – these actions suppress words, but they do not touch the underlying ideas. They simply drive people with those ideas to the fringes, where their convictions can deepen, unchallenged.

Last summer, Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, made a trip to Dachau and Auschwitz with a delegation of American imams and Muslim leaders. Many of them had previously denied the Holocaust, and none of them had ever denounced Holocaust denial. But by visiting the concentration camps, they displayed a willingness to consider a different view. And the trip had a real impact. They prayed together, and they signed messages of peace, and many of those messages in the visitors books were written in Arabic. At the end of the trip, they read a statement that they wrote and signed together condemning without reservation Holocaust denial and all other forms of anti-Semitism.

The marketplace of ideas worked. Now, these leaders had not been arrested for their previous stance or ordered to remain silent. Their mosques were not shut down. The state did not compel them with force. Others appealed to them with facts. And their speech was dealt with through the speech of others.

The United States does restrict certain kinds of speech in accordance with the rule of law and our international obligations. We have rules about libel and slander, defamation, and speech that incites imminent violence. But we enforce these rules transparently, and citizens have the right to appeal how they are applied. And we don’t restrict speech even if the majority of people find it offensive. History, after all, is full of examples of ideas that were banned for reasons that we now see as wrong. People were punished for denying the divine right of kings, or suggesting that people should be treated equally regardless of race, gender, or religion. These restrictions might have reflected the dominant view at the time, and variations on these restrictions are still in force in places around the world.

But when it comes to online speech, the United States has chosen not to depart from our time-tested principles. We urge our people to speak with civility, to recognize the power and reach that their words can have online. We’ve seen in our own country tragic examples of how online bullying can have terrible consequences. Those of us in government should lead by example, in the tone we set and the ideas we champion. But leadership also means empowering people to make their own choices, rather than intervening and taking those choices away. We protect free speech with the force of law, and we appeal to the force of reason to win out over hate.

Now, these three large principles are not always easy to advance at once. They raise tensions, and they pose challenges. But we do not have to choose among them. Liberty and security, transparency and confidentiality, freedom of expression and tolerance – these all make up the foundation of a free, open, and secure society as well as a free, open, and secure internet where universal human rights are respected, and which provides a space for greater progress and prosperity over the long run.

Now, some countries are trying a different approach, abridging rights online and working to erect permanent walls between different activities – economic exchanges, political discussions, religious expressions, and social interactions. They want to keep what they like and suppress what they don’t. But this is no easy task. Search engines connect businesses to new customers, and they also attract users because they deliver and organize news and information. Social networking sites aren’t only places where friends share photos; they also share political views and build support for social causes or reach out to professional contacts to collaborate on new business opportunities.

Walls that divide the internet, that block political content, or ban broad categories of expression, or allow certain forms of peaceful assembly but prohibit others, or intimidate people from expressing their ideas are far easier to erect than to maintain. Not just because people using human ingenuity find ways around them and through them but because there isn’t an economic internet and a social internet and a political internet; there’s just the internet. And maintaining barriers that attempt to change this reality entails a variety of costs – moral, political, and economic. Countries may be able to absorb these costs for a time, but we believe they are unsustainable in the long run. There are opportunity costs for trying to be open for business but closed for free expression – costs to a nation’s education system, its political stability, its social mobility, and its economic potential.

When countries curtail internet freedom, they place limits on their economic future. Their young people don’t have full access to the conversations and debates happening in the world or exposure to the kind of free inquiry that spurs people to question old ways of doing and invent new ones. And barring criticism of officials makes governments more susceptible to corruption, which create economic distortions with long-term effects. Freedom of thought and the level playing field made possible by the rule of law are part of what fuels innovation economies.

So it’s not surprising that the European-American Business Council, a group of more than 70 companies, made a strong public support statement last week for internet freedom. If you invest in countries with aggressive censorship and surveillance policies, your website could be shut down without warning, your servers hacked by the government, your designs stolen, or your staff threatened with arrest or expulsion for failing to comply with a politically motivated order. The risks to your bottom line and to your integrity will at some point outweigh the potential rewards, especially if there are market opportunities elsewhere.

Now, some have pointed to a few countries, particularly China, that appears to stand out as an exception, a place where internet censorship is high and economic growth is strong. Clearly, many businesses are willing to endure restrictive internet policies to gain access to those markets, and in the short term, even perhaps in the medium term, those governments may succeed in maintaining a segmented internet. But those restrictions will have long-term costs that threaten one day to become a noose that restrains growth and development.

There are political costs as well. Consider Tunisia, where online economic activity was an important part of the country’s ties with Europe while online censorship was on par with China and Iran, the effort to divide the economic internet from the “everything else” internet in Tunisia could not be sustained. People, especially young people, found ways to use connection technologies to organize and share grievances, which, as we know, helped fuel a movement that led to revolutionary change. In Syria, too, the government is trying to negotiate a non-negotiable contradiction. Just last week, it lifted a ban on Facebook and YouTube for the first time in three years, and yesterday they convicted a teenage girl of espionage and sentenced her to five years in prison for the political opinions she expressed on her blog.

This, too, is unsustainable. The demand for access to platforms of expression cannot be satisfied when using them lands you in prison. We believe that governments who have erected barriers to internet freedom, whether they’re technical filters or censorship regimes or attacks on those who exercise their rights to expression and assembly online, will eventually find themselves boxed in. They will face a dictator’s dilemma and will have to choose between letting the walls fall or paying the price to keep them standing, which means both doubling down on a losing hand by resorting to greater oppression and enduring the escalating opportunity cost of missing out on the ideas that have been blocked and people who have been disappeared.

I urge countries everywhere instead to join us in the bet we have made, a bet that an open internet will lead to stronger, more prosperous countries. At its core, it’s an extension of the bet that the United States has been making for more than 200 years, that open societies give rise to the most lasting progress, that the rule of law is the firmest foundation for justice and peace, and that innovation thrives where ideas of all kinds are aired and explored. This is not a bet on computers or mobile phones. It’s a bet on people. We’re confident that together with those partners in government and people around the world who are making the same bet by hewing to universal rights that underpin open societies, we’ll preserve the internet as an open space for all. And that will pay long-term gains for our shared progress and prosperity. The United States will continue to promote an internet where people’s rights are protected and that it is open to innovation, interoperable all over the world, secure enough to hold people’s trust, and reliable enough to support their work.

In the past year, we have welcomed the emergence of a global coalition of countries, businesses, civil society groups, and digital activists seeking to advance these goals. We have found strong partners in several governments worldwide, and we’ve been encouraged by the work of the Global Network Initiative, which brings together companies, academics, and NGOs to work together to solve the challenges we are facing, like how to handle government requests for censorship or how to decide whether to sell technologies that could be used to violate rights or how to handle privacy issues in the context of cloud computing. We need strong corporate partners that have made principled, meaningful commitments to internet freedom as we work together to advance this common cause.

We realize that in order to be meaningful, online freedoms must carry over into real-world activism. That’s why we are working through our Civil Society 2.0 initiative to connect NGOs and advocates with technology and training that will magnify their impact. We are also committed to continuing our conversation with people everywhere around the world. Last week, you may have heard, we launched Twitter feeds in Arabic and Farsi, adding to the ones we already have in French and Spanish. We’ll start similar ones in Chinese, Russian, and Hindi. This is enabling us to have real-time, two-way conversations with people wherever there is a connection that governments do not block.

Our commitment to internet freedom is a commitment to the rights of people, and we are matching that with our actions. Monitoring and responding to threats to internet freedom has become part of the daily work of our diplomats and development experts. They are working to advance internet freedom on the ground at our embassies and missions around the world. The United States continues to help people in oppressive internet environments get around filters, stay one step ahead of the censors, the hackers, and the thugs who beat them up or imprison them for what they say online.

While the rights we seek to protect and support are clear, the various ways that these rights are violated are increasingly complex. I know some have criticized us for not pouring funding into a single technology, but we believe there is no silver bullet in the struggle against internet repression. There’s no app for that. (Laughter.) Start working, those of you out there. (Laughter.) And accordingly, we are taking a comprehensive and innovative approach, one that matches our diplomacy with technology, secure distribution networks for tools, and direct support for those on the front lines.

In the last three years, we have awarded more than $20 million in competitive grants through an open process, including interagency evaluation by technical and policy experts to support a burgeoning group of technologists and activists working at the cutting edge of the fight against internet repression. This year, we will award more than $25 million in additional funding. We are taking a venture capital-style approach, supporting a portfolio of technologies, tools, and training, and adapting as more users shift to mobile devices. We have our ear to the ground, talking to digital activists about where they need help, and our diversified approach means we’re able to adapt the range of threats that they face. We support multiple tools, so if repressive governments figure out how to target one, others are available. And we invest in the cutting edge because we know that repressive governments are constantly innovating their methods of oppression and we intend to stay ahead of them.

Likewise, we are leading the push to strengthen cyber security and online innovation, building capacity in developing countries, championing open and interoperable standards and enhancing international cooperation to respond to cyber threats. Deputy Secretary of Defense Lynn gave a speech on this issue just yesterday. All these efforts build on a decade of work to sustain an internet that is open, secure, and reliable. And in the coming year, the Administration will complete an international strategy for cyberspace, charting the course to continue this work into the future.

This is a foreign policy priority for us, one that will only increase in importance in the coming years. That’s why I’ve created the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, to enhance our work on cyber security and other issues and facilitate cooperation across the State Department and with other government agencies. I’ve named Christopher Painter, formerly senior director for cyber security at the National Security Council and a leader in the field for 20 years, to head this new office.

The dramatic increase in internet users during the past 10 years has been remarkable to witness. But that was just the opening act. In the next 20 years, nearly 5 billion people will join the network. It is those users who will decide the future.

So we are playing for the long game. Unlike much of what happens online, progress on this front will be measured in years, not seconds. The course we chart today will determine whether those who follow us will get the chance to experience the freedom, security, and prosperity of an open internet.

As we look ahead, let us remember that internet freedom isn’t about any one particular activity online. It’s about ensuring that the internet remains a space where activities of all kinds can take place, from grand, ground-breaking, historic campaigns to the small, ordinary acts that people engage in every day.

We want to keep the internet open for the protestor using social media to organize a march in Egypt; the college student emailing her family photos of her semester abroad; the lawyer in Vietnam blogging to expose corruption; the teenager in the United States who is bullied and finds words of support online; for the small business owner in Kenya using mobile banking to manage her profits; the philosopher in China reading academic journals for her dissertation; the scientist in Brazil sharing data in real time with colleagues overseas; and the billions and billions of interactions with the internet every single day as people communicate with loved ones, follow the news, do their jobs, and participate in the debates shaping their world.

Internet freedom is about defending the space in which all these things occur so that it remains not just for the students here today, but your successors and all who come after you. This is one of the grand challenges of our time. We are engaged in a vigorous effort against those who we have always stood against, who wish to stifle and repress, to come forward with their version of reality and to accept none other. We enlist your help on behalf of this struggle. It’s a struggle for human rights, it’s a struggle for human freedom, and it’s a struggle for human dignity.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

PRN: 2011/217


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Top Officials Push Obama Budget Request - Geithner, Lew testify - CSPAN

Source: CSPAN

President Obama sent his FY2012 budget proposal to Congress yesterday, which contain $3.73 trillion in spending and claims $1.1 trillion in spending cuts. The budget proposal contains a five-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending, which the White House says will save $400 billion. Today, White House budget chief Jack Lew and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are testifying before several Committees on the Hill to sell the plan to members of congress.

Earlier today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) held the first of two hearings this week with the goal of examining the President's budget request.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jacob Lew appeared in front of the House Budget Committee stating that the administration’s budget will act as a “down payment.” He also explained that the budget plan addresses the next 5 to 10 years and provides room for compromise in the long- term. This afternoon, Lew is now before the Senate Budget Committee for more member inquiries into the budget request figures.

The House Ways and Means Committee delved into the basic elements of Pres. Obama's 2012 budget request during a hearing with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) recently announced that his panel will review the President's budget proposals and "explore ways in which we can work on a bipartisan basis to reduce complexity and develop the pro-growth tax policies our families and job creators need."

Releasing the White House's 2012 budget is only the first step in an approval process that involves 40 congressional committees, 24 subcommittees, a variety of hearings and a number of floor votes in the House and Senate

Updated: 37 min. ago

The President Unveils a Budget to Win the Future for Our Kids

Source: The White House blog
Posted by Jesse Lee on February 14, 2011 at 12:21 PM EST

The budget going through Congress can often come off as boring process, one too mired in details and political back-and-forth to be worth following. But the President traveled to Parkville Middle School and Center for Technology in Baltimore to unveil his budget plan this morning in a reflection of the fact that in the tough choices we face as a nation, our kids' futures are at stake. That's why the President's Budget would get our deficits under control, but it's also why he stands by investments in education, and it has a lot to do with why he supports investments in building a 21st Century infrastructure and fostering American innovation -- in short, a budget to win the future:

And I just came to Parkville on a day where we are unveiling our budget, and I'm doing so for a reason. But before I do that I just want to thank Principal Buddy Parker, who is showing us around, as well as Susan Yoder, the eighth grade science teacher who we just visited with in her classroom.

Over the last few weeks I’ve traveled the country, talking about what we need to do to win the future; talked about the need to invest in innovation, so that the next big idea is discovered here in the United States of America. I’ve talked about the need to invest in high-speed rail and high-speed Internet, so that companies can move goods and information faster than ever. And this week, I’ll be talking about the need to invest in education -– in places like Parkville -– so that every American is equipped to compete with any worker, anywhere in the world.

These investments are an essential part of the budget my administration is sending to Congress. Because I’m convinced that if we out-build and out-innovate and out-educate, as well as out-hustle the rest of the world, the jobs and industries of our time will take root here in the United States. Our people will prosper and our country will succeed.

But I’m also convinced that the only way we can make these investments in our future is if our government starts living within its means, if we start taking responsibility for our deficits. That’s why, when I was sworn in as President, I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term. The budget I’m proposing today meets that pledge -– and puts us on a path to pay for what we spend by the middle of the decade. We do this in part by eliminating waste and cutting whatever spending we can do without.

As I start -- as a start, I’ve called for a freeze on annual domestic spending over the next five years. This freeze would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, bringing this kind of spending -- domestic discretionary spending -- to its lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Let me repeat that. Because of our budget, this share of spending will be at its lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower was President. That level of spending is lower than it was under the last three administrations, and it will be lower than it was under Ronald Reagan.

Now, some of the savings will come through less waste and more efficiency. To take just one example, by getting rid of 14,000 office buildings, lots and government-owned properties we no longer need, we can save taxpayers billions of dollars. And when it comes to programs we do need, we’re making them work better by demanding accountability. Instead of spending first, and asking questions later, we’re rewarding folks inside and outside government who deliver results. And to make sure that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, I’ve pledged to veto any bill that contains earmarks.

Still, even as we cut waste and inefficiency, this budget freeze will require some tough choices. It will mean cutting things that I care deeply about -- for example, community action programs in low-income neighborhoods and towns, and community development block grants that so many of our cities and states rely on. But if we’re going to walk the walk when it comes to fiscal discipline, these kinds of cuts will be necessary.

President Barack Obama, with science teacher Susan Yoder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan at Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology

President Barack Obama, with science teacher Susan Yoder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, talks with 8th grade science students at Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology in Baltimore, Maryland, February 14, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vietnamese American Scouts Celebrated the 4890th Vietnamese Lunar New Year of the Progressive Cat 2011 in Virginia


Asian-Americans discuss redistricting


Source: Richmond Times Dispatch
By Michael Martz
Published: February 12, 2011

Virginia's Asian-American community is looking to make the most of its increasing presence as the state redraws political districts.

Fresh from an annual rally at the General Assembly, Asian-American organizations talked at a meeting of a gubernatorial advisory board on Friday about what political redistricting could mean for their communities, which now make up 5.5 percent of the state's population.

"It's time that we work together and make ourselves well-represented," said Genie Giao Nguyen, chair of Voice of Vietnamese Americans, based in Fairfax County. "We need government to pay attention to our community of interest."

The discussion arose at a meeting of the Virginia Asian Advisory Board that featured a presentation on redistricting based on new population numbers released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Asian population — now at about 440,000 in the state — has grown by more than 68 percent since the last census.

The trend is especially strong in the suburbs of the state's Urban Crescent, including Henrico County, where Asian-Americans have topped 20,000, about 6.5 percent of the county's population.

Redistricting also is likely be part of the discussion today at the Asian Pacific American Policy Forum at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Henrico. The forum begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m.

Economic development and immigration issues are the main topics at the forum, which will feature a speech by Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade James Cheng.

While the immigration debate has focused on the Hispanic population, particularly in Northern Virginia, Asian-Americans have a stake in the outcome, too, said Eric L. Jensen, chairman of the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans in Virginia. "We have a role in that. We need to be aware of it."

Jenson's organization has joined for six years with the Virginia Asian Advisory Board and the Asian American Society of Central Virginia for the policy forum in Richmond, which this year also included the Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce.

For the Virginia Asian Advisory Board, reporting to Gov. Bob McDonnell, the principal focus on Friday was jobs and international investment.

"If you have an event relevant to business and job creation, I'll be there," promised Jimmy Rhee, assistant secretary of commerce and trade.

However, some board members said the census numbers could represent an opportunity for a more visible presence in the state's political process.

Unlike the African-American community, Asians "really haven't had too many candidates," said Angela Chiang, a member of both the state advisory board and the central Virginia association board. "By and large, we are not voting for our own people."

At the same time, board member Andrew Ko cautioned, "We are a nonpartisan board. We need to be removed from the politics of it."


Saturday, February 12, 2011

President Obama on a Historic Day in Egypt



The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 11, 2011
Remarks by the President on Egypt
Grand Foyer

3:06 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. This is one of those moments. This is one of those times. The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.

By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change. But this is not the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s a beginning. I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead, and many questions remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers, and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks. For Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.

The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state, and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people. That means protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free. Above all, this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table. For the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change.

The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary -- and asked for -- to pursue a credible transition to a democracy. I’m also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity -- jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight. And I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region but around the world.

Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years. But over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights.

We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like.

We saw a young Egyptian say, “For the first time in my life, I really count. My voice is heard. Even though I’m only one person, this is the way real democracy works.”

We saw protesters chant “Selmiyya, selmiyya” -- “We are peaceful” -- again and again.

We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect.

And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for those who were wounded, volunteers checking protesters to ensure that they were unarmed.

We saw people of faith praying together and chanting – “Muslims, Christians, We are one.” And though we know that the strains between faiths still divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes remind us that we need not be defined by our differences. We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.

And above all, we saw a new generation emerge -- a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears; a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations. One Egyptian put it simply: Most people have discovered in the last few days…that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore, ever.

This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence -- not terrorism, not mindless killing -- but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.

And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can’t help but hear the echoes of history -- echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice.

As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, “There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom.” Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square, and the entire world has taken note.

Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in.

The word Tahrir means liberation. It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forevermore it will remind us of the Egyptian people -- of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world.

Thank you.

END 3:13 P.M. EST


Friday, February 11, 2011

VVA Radio Message on Thursday Feb 10,, 2011



VVA Radio Message on Monday Feb 7, 2011



For Immediate Release
Feb 11, 2011 - 12:00 pm EST
The 9th Day of the First Month,
Vietnamese 4890 Lunar Year – 12:00 AM PST
Contact: Genie Nguyen


Washington, D.C and Saigon, Vietnam: At 12:00 noon EST on February 11 and 12:00 am PST on the 09th day of the first month of the 4890th Vietnamese Lunar Year of the Progressive Cat, Voice of Vietnamese Americans celebrates all Egyptians for having turned the history of Egypt to a new page with hope to build a better, sustainable democratic and prosperous Egypt.

Never before such power of the people has vividly been illustrated.
Never before such power of the army has been dedicated to protect its people and its nation, not the dictator.
Never before such passionate dictator like President Mubarak able to let go of his tremendous wealth and power for the sake of his people.

This is the day of joy for the Egyptians and all people on earth. Voice of Vietnamese Americans shares your overwhelming happiness.

The road ahead is very challenging and would require lots of conviction to bring together a sustainable democracy that all Egyptians deserve.

Voice of Vietnamese Americans wishes the Egyptians all the best.

Voice of Vietnamese Americans urges the current Vietnamese Communist Party Leaders to follow the wise decision of President Mubarak.

Voice of Vietnamese Americans urges the current Army of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to follow the Egyptian Army, to stand with its people, to protect its nation’s sovereignty against China, and to strive for real Democracy and Prosperity in Vietnam.

Voice of Vietnamese Americans wishes the Vietnamese people the best wisdom, courage, will power, and compassion, to bring about sustainable democracy for Vietnam.

May God bless all of us



Egyptian President Mubarak steps down


Egyptian President Mubarak steps down
Egypt's ElBaradei celebrates 'best day of life'

Updated: Friday, 11 Feb 2011, 11:27 AM EST
Published : Friday, 11 Feb 2011, 11:06 AM EST

* PAUL SCHEMM and MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) - Egypt's Hosni Mubarak resigned as president and handed control to the military on Friday, bowing down after a historic 18-day wave of pro-democracy demonstrations by hundreds of thousands. "The people ousted the president," chanted a crowd of tens of thousands outside his presidential palace in Cairo.

Several hundred thousand protesters massed in Cairo's central Tahrir Square exploded into joy, waving Egyptian flags, and car horns and celebratory shots in the air were heard around the city of 18 million in joy after Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on national TV just after nightfall.

Mubarak had sought to cling to power, handing some of his authorities to Suleiman while keeping his title. But an explosion of protests Friday rejecting the move appeared to have pushed the military into forcing him out completely. Hundreds of thousands marched throughout the day in cities across the country as soliders stood by, besieging his palace in Cairo and Alexandria and the state TV building.

"In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic," a grim-looking Suleiman said. "He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state. God is our protector and succor."

Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, whose young suporters were among the organizers of the protest movement, told The Associated Press, "This is the greatest day of my life."

"The country has been liberated after decades of repression," he said adding that he expects a "beautiful" transition of power.

Copyright Associated Press, Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

POLICY ALERT: Views from Asia on Turmoil in Egypt


February 10, 2011
Rising Powers Initiative
Sigur Center for Asian Studies

As Washington is closely following developments in Egypt, what are other countries saying about events in Egypt and the Middle East? This Policy Alert brings you the domestic viewpoints from Japan, China, Russia, Iran and India.


The press appears preoccupied with Japan’s domestic politics, paying surprisingly little attention to events in Egypt.

• The Asahi Shimbun, however, has explicitly called for President Hosni Mubarak to “resign immediately.” It also points out that Japan is one of the main providers of foreign aid to Egypt, and urges the Japanese government to work with Western countries in pressing for a democratic transition in Egypt.


The Chinese government has blocked keyword searches of Egypt on the internet, while official reporting and commentary are downplaying any prospects of democratic change.

• “Color revolutions will not bring about real democracy,” runs the headline of an editorial in the Global Times. “Whether the [democratic] system is applicable in other countries is in question, as more and more unsuccessful examples arise,” says the Communist Party-sponsored English daily.

• Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of the People Daily’s online, predicts that a seizure of power by the Muslim Brotherhood would “spell a helpless nightmare for Washington's Middle East policy,” and that “the U.S. must be playing with fire if its…will to usher in political reforms to the region turn out to set a political stage for the radical and even extremist forces.”


Official rhetoric in Iran is spinning the Egyptian uprising as an Islamic movement, expressing solidarity with Egyptians while interpreting the fall of Mubarak as a sign of America’s loss of influence in the region.

• One commentary in the Tehran Times says that “[Mubarak’s] dysfunctional regime has received the support of the United States for decades, to the dismay of most Egyptians,” and calls for the Egyptian president to step down.

• Another op-ed paints the West as trying to take advantage of a domino effect of regime change in the Arab world: “The Western powers will allow the authoritarian regimes of the Arab world to collapse and attempt to replace them with fake democracies run by puppet rulers beholden to their masters in the West.”


• In Russia, the official reaction has been rather low-key. Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, explains that "Russia does not have any special levers for influencing how the situation develops." Other analysts attribute the Kremlin’s cautious stance to its worries that events in Egypt could spark similar movements in Eurasia.

• Commentators, on the other hand, have voiced a range of opinions, from warnings that the Middle East may see the emergence of fundamentalist regimes, to insinuations that America bears some responsibility for the Egyptian uprising.

• As for the impact on Russian domestic politics, a former State Duma deputy comments that Russia’s aging population and growing political apathy mean that an Egyptian-style, youth-led movement is not going to happen in Russia.


In stark contrast, the world’s largest democracy is abuzz with excitement and optimism over change in Egypt.

• Editorials in leading newspapers express strong support for democracy in Egypt:
The Hindu says “the Egyptian state has lost all legitimacy” and that “we are almost certainly witnessing a transformative moment in the modern history of West Asia.”

The Economic Times writes, “This could well be the moment when democracy gets its chance in the Arab nations, India, the US and all other democracies should embrace the change in Arabia.” The Indian Express characterizes the Egyptian uprising as “a re-emergence of the Arab tradition of liberalism.”

• Salman Haidar, former Foreign Secretary, writes that even though the events in Egypt will have “little direct impact” on India, the shared “love of freedom as a basic value” means that “[Indians] can only rejoice when others choose to do the same, so their sympathies are closely engaged with the struggle of the mass of Arabs who have come out in defiance of seemingly immovable rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and other parts of West Asia.”

• One op-ed in The Times of India says “Western governments, as well as India, should commit themselves to the establishment of full democracy in Egypt.” Another commentator sees this as a reaffirmation of India’s democracy, which has been key to domestic stability because it “allows for oppositional voice”

• However, there are also worries about the rise of an Islamist regime in Egypt and the impact on Indian domestic security. Ved Marwah, Professor at Centre For Policy Research, warns that if “if the Islamic forces succeed - like a repeat of the Iranian revolution - it could be a potentially dangerous situation. Such disturbing developments could impact not only our external relations with the Arab countries where we have vital interests but also our internal situation.”

POLICY ALERTS of the Rising Powers Initiative inform U.S. policymakers and media professionals of the ongoing debates in China, India, Japan, Russia and Iran on current issues and events relevant to American foreign policy. The Rising Powers Initiative includes a research project that identifies and tracks the worldviews of major and aspiring powers in Asia and Eurasia. This project is supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

To subscribe to RPI Policy Alerts, please send your name and affiliation to For further information and analysis, visit the project website at and the RPI blog at