Monday, April 30, 2012

NÉN HƯƠNG NGÀY 30 THÁNG 4



Ngày 30 tháng 4, xin thắp nén hương cho tất cả dân Việt đã hy sinh trong trận chiến vừa qua, tất cả những người đã bỏ mình trong ngục tù Cộng Sản, tất cả những hương hồn đã tử nạn trên đường vượt biển hay vượt bộ để tìm tự do, và vinh danh cùng cầu nguyện cho tất cả các chiến sĩ đang tranh đấu cho tự do dân chủ tại quê nhà.

Xin được tin rằng máu đổ xuống sẽ thành hồn thiêng sông núi.

Xin hồn nước linh thiêng hãy phù hộ cho chúng ta sáng suốt để tìm đến nhau, xóa bỏ những gì không phải của dân Việt mà đang làm dân Việt điêu đứng, để mang lại ấm no và tự do dân chủ thật sự cho người Việt.

Theo nhiều tài liệu đáng tin cậy, thì :

Tong cuộc chiến tranh Việt Nam tứ 1954 - 1975, con số lính Mỹ tử trận là 43,378 người; con số lính Việt tử trận là 223,748 người; con số lính Bắc Việt tử thương lên đến 1,100,000 người, trên dưới cả triệu, gấp 5 lần con số tử vong của chiến sĩ tự do miền Nam, và gấp 20 lần con số tử vong của lính Mỹ. [1]

Đó là chưa kể bao người chết dập vùi dọc Trường Sơn, trên đường mòn đáng hổ thẹn, và bao người còn bỏ xác sau này trên cái trận chiến tại Lào, sau 1975.

Nói về chiến thắng quân sự tại chiến trường, chúng ta cần nhớ một điều: chiến thắng đó thuộc về các người lính tự do của Việt Nam Cộng Hòa.

Điều này nói lên rõ ràng trên con số tử vong. Người lính Cộng Hòa đã hy sinh gấp 4 lần lính Mỹ, để giữ vững sự tự do tại miền Nam, và đã làm thiệt hại quân Bắc Việt đến gấp 5 lần hơn.

Trong trận Tết Mậu Thân, 1968, số lượng tử vong của lính Bắc Việt lên đến 45,000 người, so với lượng tử vong của lính miền Nam là 2,788 người, và lính Mỹ là 1,536 người.[2]

Chúng ta không vinh danh chiến tranh, nhưng trong cuộc chiến tự vệ để giữ vững tự do cho miền Nam từ 1954 đến 1975, hãy nói cho rõ, chúng ta phải vinh danh người lính Việt Nam Cộng Hòa trên chiến thắng quân sự tại chiến trường.

Những người đã may mắn trưởng thành trong tự do tại miền Nam vào thời gian 1954 - 1975, chúng ta đã mang ơn người lính tự do miền Nam rất nặng.

Hãy tưởng tượng, 37 năm sau, từ 1975 đến 2012, lớp con em chúng ta không may mắn sinh ra và lớn lên trong khung cảnh thiếu tự do kia, đồng bào chúng ta còn đang ngụp lặn trong đủ lọai ô nhiễm từ môi trường tới văn hóa kia, thì mới thấy được tất cả lý tưởng của người chiến sĩ tự do miền Nam trong suốt các năm 1954 - 1975.

Sự ngậm ngùi thương cảm lớn lao nhất, của Mẹ Việt Nam, chắc phải dành phần lớn hơn cho các con dân miền Bắc. Thương ôi, bao lý tưởng, bao tuổi trẻ, những bầu nhiệt huyết cuồn cuộn sóng sông Hồng, lấp loáng ánh Hồ Gươm, thắm thiết màu Phượng Vĩ Thái Bình, những người nông dân bất khuất tại Vân Giang, những người kỹ sư hiên ngang như anh Đoàn Văn Vươn, những người phụ nữ chân yếu tay mềm như chị Bùi Thị Minh Hằng, em Đỗ thị Minh Hạnh, Luật Sư Lê Thị Công Nhân, cô Huỳnh Thục Vy, và bao nhiêu người dân Việt khác, chỉ để ngậm ngùi biết, đã bị lợi dụng và bị lừa vào một sự phản bội dân tộc lớn nhất trong lịch sử Việt: làm tay sai cho Đảng Cộng Sản, bán rẻ đất nước cho Nga và Trung Cộng dưới hình thức Xã Hội Chủ Nghĩa theo Đệ Tam Quốc Tể.

Những ngỡ ngàng có còn tiếp tục,

Khi giòng máu lý tưởng kia vẫn còn đang phải hầu tòa, vì đã nói lên lý tưởng ban đầu của mình, những quan niệm dân chủ, tự do từng được dùng trong chiêu bài như một thứ "mẹo" của bọn bán nước buôn dân, thì người cầm quyền đã bước sang một ngã rẽ mới, bắt tay với tư bản, để ăn mày hàng chục tỷ đô la.

Và những đứa con ưu tú của Mẹ Việt bỗng bị kết tội “Chống phá Đảng Cộng Sản và Nhà Nước Xã Hội Chủ Nghĩa vì đã tranh đấu cho Tự Do – Dân Chủ”

Và những đứa con cả tin của Mẹ Việt bỗng trở thành gián điệp. Gián điệp cho aỉ? Cho vợ con, gia đình, anh em, bạn bè, hàng xóm, những người Việt. Cho niềm tin không cùng của người Việt. Để nhận được gì? Bản án kết tội những niềm tin không tắt.

Thật miả mai, đau đớn và khôi hài.

Dân chủ và Tự do là điều kiện tiên quyết cho sự phát triển của đất nước và hạnh phúc đích thực của dân Việt.

Tất cả máu xương Việt đổ ra từ một thế kỷ qua, chỉ vì các chữ ĐỘC LẬP - TỰ DO - DÂN CHỦ - HẠNH PHÚC .

Nếu điều này đi ngược lại “Quyền lợi của Đảng Cộng Sản và Nhà nước XHCN” thì có phải chính Đảng Cộng Sản và Nhà Nước XHCN đang đi ngược lại quyền lợi tối thượng của Dân Tộc và Đất nước Việt? Ai cho phép cái đảng này độc quyền thao túng trên an sinh của 86 triệu người dân Việt, nếu không là sự dựa vào thế lực ngoại bang của Nga Xô và Trung Cộng từ 1954 cho đến nay? Ai cho phép một bè lũ tham nhũng từ trên xuống dưới chỉ 3 triệu đảng viên mà hút mòn xương máu của trên 86 triệu dân Việt? Khi người dân lên tiếng nói, thì bị bịt miệng, xóa bài, còng tay, bỏ tù, và bêu xấu, bôi nhọ?

Đến khi nào thì tiếng kêu của người Dân Việt mới đích thực được lắng nghe và thực thi theo các điều được ghi lại do đại diện chính thức của người dân thuộc mọi thành phần, mọi đảng phái, cùng góp sức chung lòng soạn nên trong một Quốc Hội đúng nghĩa?

Hay tất cả vẫn chỉ là trò hề do một Đảng Cộng Sản thao túng và tự biên, tự diễn, tự đào mồ chôn dân tộc chỉ để bảo vệ quyền lợi cho Đảng và 3 triệu đảng viên mà thôi?

Nếu chúng ta có phải làm một cuộc nhìn lại, xin được thắm nén hương đầu tiên mong giải oan cho tất cả các linh hồn lính Bắc, giải hờn cho tất cả các tuổi trẻ bị lừa, để nói với họ rằng, nếu các anh có khôn thiêng, hãy thành hồn nước, và biết rằng Mẹ và chúng tôi đã tha thứ cho các anh, đang cầu nguyện cho các anh, mong các anh hãy siêu thoát và phù hộ cho đất nước đến được bến bờ tự do, no ấm thực sự.

Nén hương thứ hai, xin lan tỏa đầu ghềnh cuối thác, ven suối cuối đèo, biển sâu núi cao, đến anh linh tất cả các con dân Việt đã bỏ mình trong hành trình tìm tự do.

Nén hương thứ ba, xin thắm trong lòng mỗi người Việt, ghi nhận chiến công hào hùng của tất cả các chiến sĩ tự do miền Nam, vô danh hay hữu danh, đã bỏ vũ khí xuống nhưng thời gian không ngừng vinh danh chiến thắng của họ.

Nén hương thứ tư, xin lan tỏa giữa chúng ta, bất cứ ai còn nghĩ mình là người Việt, hãy thấm thía mùi trầm hương của quá khứ chập chùng oan nghiệt, mà đến với nhau bằng những ngày mới rất tin yêu, và cùng lòng đứng sau các chiến sĩ đang thực sự tranh đấu cho tự do của dân tộc.

Nén hương cuối cùng, xin dâng lên Tổ Tiên, mong Bố Rồng Mẹ Tiên luôn dẫn dắt chúng ta.

30/4/2012
37 năm sau khi Việt Nam bị Cộng Sản xâm chiếm.

_____________

[1] http://www.rjsmith.com/kia_tbl.html

[2] http://www.rjsmith.com/kia_tbl.html 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

VVA Condemns the CPV for using armed forces to seize land in Van Giang

Voice of Vietnamese Americans condemns the CPV for using thousands of armed policemen to seize the farm land from the people of Van Giang, Hung Yen, Vietnam.







VVA urges the US State Department to immediately investigate the situation and advise any and all US companies having shares in the Ecopak Project to actively withdraw their participation in this criminal and inhumane project.

VVA urges Vietnam to immediately stop its brutal oppression and respect the people's land ownership.

VVA urges all international corporations having interests in the Ecopak project to immediately withdraw their shares.

VVA urges the United Nations and all International Human Rights Institutions to immediately investigate and mitigate the situation.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

US Marine troops helped to pick up trash at Tien Sa, Da Nang, Vietnam. Voice of Vietnamese Americans applauds this action and sincerely thanks the US Marine troops.

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US Marine troops helped to pick up trash at Tien Sa, Da Nang, Vietnam. Voice of Vietnamese Americans applauds this action and sincerely thanks the US Marine troops.

Báo trong nước: Hải quân Mỹ nhặt rác trên cảng Tiên Sa, Đà Nẵng!


Từ khi bắt đầu chuyến thăm Đà Nẵng hôm 23/4 đến nay, chiều nào thuỷ thủ trên các chiến hạm của Hạm đội 7 Hoa Kỳ cũng phân công nhau nhặt rác trên cầu cảng Tiên Sa!
 
Các thuỷ thủ trên soái hạm USS Blue Ridge dàn hàng ngang nhặt rác trên cầu cảng Tiên Sa (Đà Nẵng) - Ảnh: HC 
 
15g30 chiều 25/4, tại cảng Tiên Sa (Đà Nẵng), PV báo điện tử Infonet thấy một tốp hơn 10 thuỷ thủ từ soái hạm USS Blue Ridge của Hạm đội 7 Hoa Kỳ từ trên tàu bước xuống, trên tay mỗi người đều cầm một chiếc bao nilon to. 

 
Họ nhanh chóng dàn hàng ngang đi suốt cầu cảng số 1 và số 2 là nơi hai tàu USS Blue Ridge và USNS Safeguard đang cập vào trong chuyến thăm kéo dài 5 ngày của 3 chiến hạm thuộc Hạm đội 7 Hoa Kỳ. Thỉnh thoảng họ lại cúi xuống nhặt cái gì đó cho vào bao nilon. Hoá ra họ đang... nhặt rác!

Họ tỉ mỉ nhặt nhạnh mọi thứ rác, dù chỉ là một mẩu tàn thuốc bé tí! - Ảnh: HC 

Trong bộ quân phục trông rất... dữ dằn, cả tốp thuỷ thủ cao to tỉ mỉ nhặt từng cái rác, dù là vỏ chai nước, mảnh giấy lộn hay thậm chí chỉ là mẩu tàn thuốc bé tí, bất kể những thứ đó do ai vứt xuống cầu cảng này. Vừa nhặt rác họ vừa hô to hiệu lệnh rồi lại nói chuyện với nhau rất vui vẻ, cứ như không hề có những ánh mắt lạ lẫm đang nhìn vào họ!

Một công nhân làm tại cảng Tiên Sa cho hay, từ khi hai tàu USS Blue Ridge và USNS Safeguard cập vào hôm 23/4 đến nay, cứ đến cuối buổi chiều lại có một tốp thuỷ thủ trên tàu xuống nhặt rác ở cầu cảng. Đây là việc làm hoàn toàn tự nguyện của họ, và chính nhờ thế mà dù đón cùng lúc gần 2.000 quân "đổ bộ" nhưng cầu cảng Tiên Sa vẫn luôn sạch sẽ! 
 
Các thuỷ thủ Mỹ tỏ ra rất vui sau khi dọn sạch vệ sinh cầu cảng Tiên Sa - Ảnh: HC
"Tôi làm ở cảng Tiên Sa đã lâu năm, từng thấy đủ loại tàu lớn, tàu nhỏ, tàu hàng, tàu du lịch, tàu quân sự của nhiều nước trên thế giới cập vào đây nhưng hiếm khi thấy có chuyện thuỷ thủ trên tàu xuống nhặt rác ở cầu cảng như thế này. Họ làm như vậy khiến đôi khi mình quen tay định vứt thứ gì đó xuống cầu cảng thì tự nhiên cũng thấy chột dạ!" - anh công nhân nói.

Trong rất nhiều điều mà các sĩ quan, thuỷ thủ các chiến hạm thuộc Hạm đội 7 Hoa Kỳ mang đến Đà Nẵng trong chuyến thăm hữu nghị lần này, chuyện nhặt rác trên cầu cảng Tiên Sa dù rất nhỏ và chắc chắn không nằm trong chương trình "hợp tác huấn luyện", nhưng hẳn sẽ gợi lên nhiều suy nghĩ về ý thức bảo vệ môi trường ở mọi lúc, mọi nơi!
infonet.vn

VVA @ Georgetown April 29

Join us for an engaging discussion this Sunday, April 29!
Political Awareness Workshop
at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.



VVA: Civic Engagement and Southeast Asia Sea Disputes

and Viet Tan: Internet Freedom and Digital Activism

VVA @ Geogetown April 29
Flyer by GU VSA

 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

President Obama Calls on Students to Tell Congress: #DontDoubleMyRate

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President Obama asks students at the University of North Carolina to tell their members of Congress to prevent interest rates on federal student loans from doubling on July 1.

MyRate


President Obama was at the University of North Carolina this afternoon asking students to tell their members of Congress one thing: Don’t double my rates.
Five years ago, Congress cut the rates on federal student loans in half. That was a good thing to do. But on July 1st -- that’s a little over two months from now -- that rate cut expires.  And if Congress does nothing, the interest rates on those loans will double overnight.... And just to give you some sense of perspective -- for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt -- an extra thousand dollars.  That’s basically a tax hike for more than 7 million students across America -- more than 160,000 students here in North Carolina alone.
President Obama said that stopping this from happening -- and helping more young people afford college -- should be a no-brainer because in today's economy, a college degree is an economic imperative:
In today’s economy, there is no greater predictor of individual success than a good education.  Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average.  Their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma.
And a college education –whether from a two-year or four-year school – shouldn’t be something that only some families can afford. A good education should be within reach for all students willing to work for it. But tuition and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled since today’s college students were born, and students are taking on more debt to pay for it.
President Obama has worked to help more young people and their families afford a higher education. His Administration is offering incentives for states, colleges, and universities to keep costs down. And now he’s calling on Congress to do their part, and he’s asking students to help make sure they do.
But I’m asking everyone else who’s watching or following online -- call your member of Congress. Email them. Write on their Facebook page. Tweet them -- we’ve got a hashtag. Here’s the hashtag for you to tweet them:  #dontdoublemyrate. All right?  I’m going to repeat that -- the hashtag is #dontdoublemyrate.  
... Your voice matters. Stand up. Be heard. Be counted. Tell them now is not the time to double the interest rate on your student loans. Now is the time to double down on smart investments that build a strong and secure middle class. Now is the time to double down on an America that’s built to last.

Learn more:
President Barack Obama Delivers Remarks on Student Loan Interest Rates
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on student loan interest rates, at Carmichael Arena, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, April 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
 
.Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/04/24/president-obama-asks-students-tell-congress-dontdoublemyrate

Monday, April 23, 2012

President Obama Speaks on Preventing Mass Atrocities

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As we remember the Holocaust, let's not forget hundreds of millions of Chinese, Vietnamese, North Koreans, Cubans, are still suffering in China, Vietnam, North Korea, and Cuba. Culture and religions are being obliterated in Tibet, Uyghur, and in many remote areas bordering China. Fishermen are being harassed and killed daily in the South China Sea. Voice of Vietnamese Americans thanks President Obama for confirming the faith in humanity, liberty, and justice for all. - Voice of Vietnamese Americans



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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Washington, D.C.
10:00 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everyone.  It is a great honor to be with you here today.  Of course, it is a truly humbling moment to be introduced by Elie Wiesel.  Along with Sara Bloomfield, the outstanding director here, we just spent some time among the exhibits, and this is now the second visit I've had here.  My daughters have come here.  It is a searing occasion whenever you visit.  And as we walked, I was taken back to the visit that Elie mentioned, the time that we traveled together to Buchenwald.

And I recall how he showed me the barbed-wire fences and the guard towers.  And we walked the rows where the barracks once stood, where so many left this Earth -- including Elie’s father, Shlomo.  We stopped at an old photo -- men and boys lying in their wooden bunks, barely more than skeletons.  And if you look closely, you can see a 16-year old boy, looking right at the camera, right into your eyes.  You can see Elie.

And at the end of our visit that day, Elie spoke of his father.  "I thought one day I will come back and speak to him," he said, "of times in which memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill."  Elie, you've devoted your life to upholding that sacred duty.  You’ve challenged us all -- as individuals, and as nations -- to do the same, with the power of your example, the eloquence of your words, as you did again just now.  And so to you and Marion, we are extraordinarily grateful.

To Sara, to Tom Bernstein, to Josh Bolten, members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and everyone who sustains this living memorial -- thank you for welcoming us here today.  To the members of Congress, members of the diplomatic corps, including Ambassador Michael Oren of Israel, we are glad to be with you.

And most of all, we are honored to be in the presence of men and women whose lives are a testament to the endurance and the strength of the human spirit -- the inspiring survivors.  It is a privilege to be with you, on a very personal level.  As I’ve told some of you before, I grew up hearing stories about my great uncle -- a soldier in the 89th Infantry Division who was stunned and shaken by what he saw when he helped to liberate Ordruf, part of Buchenwald.   And I’ll never forget what I saw at Buchenwald, where so many perished with the words of Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil on their lips.

I’ve stood with survivors, in the old Warsaw ghettos, where a monument honors heroes who said we will not go quietly; we will stand up, we will fight back.  And I’ve walked those sacred grounds at Yad Vashem, with its lesson for all nations -- the Shoah cannot be denied.

During my visit to Yad Vashem I was given a gift, inscribed with those words from the Book of Joel:  "Has the like of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers?  Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs, and their children the next generation."  That’s why we’re here.  Not simply to remember, but to speak.

I say this as a President, and I say it as a father.  We must tell our children about a crime unique in human history.  The one and only Holocaust -- six million innocent people -- men, women, children, babies -- sent to their deaths just for being different, just for being Jewish.  We tell them, our children, about the millions of Poles and Catholics and Roma and gay people and so many others who also must never be forgotten.  Let us tell our children not only how they died, but also how they lived -- as fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who loved and hoped and dreamed, just like us.

We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen -- because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent.  Let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations.  Among them was Jan Karski, a young Polish Catholic, who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself.

Jan Karski passed away more than a decade ago.  But today, I’m proud to announce that this spring I will honor him with America’s highest civilian honor -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  (Applause.)

We must tell our children.  But more than that, we must teach them.  Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing.  In this sense, "never again" is a challenge to us all -- to pause and to look within.

For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women.  And we have seen it again -- madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself.  The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur -- they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.  These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.

"Never again" is a challenge to reject hatred in all of its forms -- including anti-Semitism, which has no place in a civilized world.  And today, just steps from where he gave his life protecting this place, we honor the memory of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, whose family joins us today.

"Never again" is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security -- and that includes the State of Israel.  And on my visit to the old Warsaw Ghetto, a woman looked me in the eye, and she wanted to make sure America stood with Israel.  She said, "It’s the only Jewish state we have."  And I made her a promise in that solemn place.  I said I will always be there for Israel.

So when efforts are made to equate Zionism to racism, we reject them.  When international fora single out Israel with unfair resolutions, we vote against them.  When attempts are made to delegitimize the state of Israel, we oppose them.  When faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

"Never again" is a challenge to societies.  We’re joined today by communities who’ve made it your mission to prevent mass atrocities in our time.  This museum’s Committee of Conscience, NGOs, faith groups, college students, you’ve harnessed the tools of the digital age -- online maps and satellites and a video and social media campaign seen by millions.  You understand that change comes from the bottom up, from the grassroots.  You understand -- to quote the task force convened by this museum -- "preventing genocide is an achievable goal."  It is an achievable goal.  It is one that does not start from the top; it starts from the bottom up.

It’s remarkable -- as we walked through this exhibit, Elie and I were talking as we looked at the unhappy record of the State Department and so many officials here in the United States during those years.  And he asked, "What would you do?"  But what you all understand is you don't just count on officials, you don't just count on governments.  You count on people -- and mobilizing their consciences.

And finally, "never again" is a challenge to nations.  It’s a bitter truth -- too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale.  And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.

Three years ago today, I joined many of you for a ceremony of remembrance at the U.S. Capitol.  And I said that we had to do "everything we can to prevent and end atrocities."  And so I want to report back to some of you today to let you know that as President I’ve done my utmost to back up those words with deeds.  Last year, in the first-ever presidential directive on this challenge, I made it clear that "preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America."

That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there’s an injustice in the world.  We cannot and should not.  It does mean we possess many tools -- diplomatic and political, and economic and financial, and intelligence and law enforcement and our moral suasion -- and using these tools over the past three years, I believe -- I know -- that we have saved countless lives.

When the referendum in South Sudan was in doubt, it threatened to reignite a conflict that had killed millions.  But with determined diplomacy, including by some people in this room, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation.  And our diplomacy continues, because in Darfur, in Abyei, in Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile, the killing of innocents must come to an end.  The Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan must have the courage to negotiate -- because the people of Sudan and South Sudan deserve peace.  That is work that we have done, and it has saved lives.

When the incumbent in Côte D’Ivoire lost an election but refused to give it up -- give up power, it threatened to unleash untold ethnic and religious killings.  But with regional and international diplomacy, and U.N. peacekeepers who stood their ground and protected civilians, the former leader is now in The Hague, and Côte D’Ivoire is governed by its rightful leader -- and lives were saved.

When the Libyan people demanded their rights and Muammar Qaddafi’s forces bore down on Benghazi, a city of 700,000, and threatened to hunt down its people like rats, we forged with allies and partners a coalition that stopped his troops in their tracks.  And today, the Libyan people are forging their own future, and the world can take pride in the innocent lives that we saved.

And when the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony continued its atrocities in Central Africa, I ordered a small number of American advisors to help Uganda and its neighbors pursue the LRA.  And when I made that announcement, I directed my National Security Council to review our progress after 150 days.  We have done so, and today I can announce that our advisors will continue their efforts to bring this madman to justice, and to save lives.  (Applause.)  It is part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA, and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family and no girl is raped and no boy is turned into a child soldier.

We’ve stepped up our efforts in other ways.  We’re doing more to protect women and girls from the horror of wartime sexual violence.  With the arrest of fugitives like Ratko Mladic, charged with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the world sent a message to war criminals everywhere:  We will not relent in bringing you to justice.  Be on notice.  And for the first time, we explicitly barred entry into the United States of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Now we’re doing something more.  We’re making sure that the United States government has the structures, the mechanisms to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities.  So I created the first-ever White House position dedicated to this task.  It’s why I created a new Atrocities Prevention Board, to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission.  This is not an afterthought.  This is not a sideline in our foreign policy.  The board will convene for the first time today, at the White House.  And I’m pleased that one of its first acts will be to meet with some of your organizations -- citizens and activists who are partners in this work, who have been carrying this torch.

Going forward, we’ll strengthen our tools across the board, and we'll create new ones.  The intelligence community will prepare, for example, the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide.  We're going to institutionalize the focus on this issue.  Across government, "alert channels" will ensure that information about unfolding crises -- and dissenting opinions -- quickly reach decision-makers, including me.

Our Treasury Department will work to more quickly deploy its financial tools to block the flow of money to abusive regimes.  Our military will take additional steps to incorporate the prevention of atrocities into its doctrine and its planning.  And the State Department will increase its ability to surge our diplomats and experts in a crisis.  USAID will invite people and high-tech companies to help create new technologies to quickly expose violations of human rights.  And we’ll work with other nations so the burden is better shared -- because this is a global responsibility.

In short, we need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities -- because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people.  (Applause.)

We recognize that, even as we do all we can, we cannot control every event.  And when innocents suffer, it tears at our conscience.  Elie alluded to what we feel as we see the Syrian people subjected to unspeakable violence, simply for demanding their universal rights.  And we have to do everything we can.  And as we do, we have to remember that despite all the tanks and all the snipers, all the torture and brutality unleashed against them, the Syrian people still brave the streets.  They still demand to be heard.  They still seek their dignity.  The Syrian people have not given up, which is why we cannot give up.
And so with allies and partners, we will keep increasing the pressure, with a diplomatic effort to further isolate Assad and his regime, so that those who stick with Assad know that they are making a losing bet.  We’ll keep increasing sanctions to cut off the regime from the money it needs to survive.  We’ll sustain a legal effort to document atrocities so killers face justice, and a humanitarian effort to get relief and medicine to the Syrian people.  And we’ll keep working with the "Friends of Syria" to increase support for the Syrian opposition as it grows stronger.
Indeed, today we’re taking another step.  I’ve signed an executive order that authorizes new sanctions against the Syrian government and Iran and those that abet them for using technologies to monitor and track and target citizens for violence.  These technologies should not empower -- these technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them.  And it’s one more step that we can take toward the day that we know will come -- the end of the Assad regime that has brutalized the Syrian people -- and allow the Syrian people to chart their own destiny.
Even with all the efforts I’ve described today, even with everything that hopefully we have learned, even with the incredible power of museums like this one, even with everything that we do to try to teach our children about our own responsibilities, we know that our work will never be done. There will be conflicts that are not easily resolved.  There will be senseless deaths that aren’t prevented.  There will be stories of pain and hardship that test our hopes and try our conscience.  And in such moments it can be hard to imagine a more just world.

It can be tempting to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to man’s endless capacity for cruelty.  It’s tempting sometimes to believe that there is nothing we can do.  And all of us have those doubts.  All of us have those moments -- perhaps especially those who work most ardently in these fields.

So in the end, I come back to something Elie said that day we visited Buchenwald together.  Reflecting on all that he had endured, he said, "We had the right to give up."  "We had the right to give up on humanity, to give up on culture, to give up on education, to give up on the possibility of living one's life with dignity, in a world that has no place for dignity."  They had that right.  Imagine what they went through.  They had the right to give up.  Nobody would begrudge them that.  Who’d question someone giving up in such circumstances?

But, Elie said, "We rejected that possibility, and we said, no, we must continue believing in a future."  To stare into the abyss, to face the darkness and insist there is a future -- to not give up, to say yes to life, to believe in the possibility of justice.

To Elie and to the survivors who are here today, thank you for not giving up.  You show us the way.  (Applause.)  You show us the way.  If you cannot give up, if you can believe, then we can believe.  If you can continue to strive and speak, then we can speak and strive for a future where there’s a place for dignity for every human being.  That has been the cause of your lives.  It must be the work of our nation and of all nations.

So God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
10:27 A.M. EDT

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/23/remarks-president-united-states-holocaust-memorial-museum

Friday, April 20, 2012

Petition Response: Pursuing Progress on Human Rights with Vietnam


Voice of Vietnamese Americans thanks the White House and the Honorable Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, for responding to Vietnamese Americans' concerns about Human Rights violations in Vietnam. 

 
Pursuing Progress on Human Rights with Vietnam

By Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at Department of State
I would like to thank all of you who signed this petition underscoring Americans' concern for human rights in Vietnam and the United States-Vietnam relationship. As our dialogue with Vietnam evolves, we are especially cognizant of the views of the Vietnamese community in the U.S.

The United States will remain diligent in pursuing progress on human rights in our high-level engagement as we pursue a wide array of security, economic, and strategic interests with Vietnam. In our discussions with the Vietnamese government, we emphasize that progress on human rights, including the release of political prisoners and freedom of religion, is a necessary part of improving United States-Vietnam relations. Secretary of State Clinton raised our human rights concerns with President Sang when they met at the November 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear has raised similar concerns in all of his high-level meetings since arriving in Vietnam last August, and he and the Mission regularly engage Vietnamese government officials, nongovernmental organizations, and other individuals as part of our Government's commitment to promote greater respect for human rights in Vietnam.

During the annual United States-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue meeting in November, I, along with Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook and other high-level officials, urged Vietnam to release all political prisoners, strengthen religious freedom, ratify and implement the Convention Against Torture, and take other steps to protect and promote universal human rights.
My colleague, Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, underscored these concerns directly with Vietnamese officials during his most recent visit to Hanoi on February 2. Read a transcript of his press conference in Hanoi here (PDF).

In addition, our engagement with Vietnam on trade, including through its interest in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and its participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, has provided opportunities to raise these issues. Both GSP and TPP include commitments to labor rights protections, including freedom of association.

The Obama Administration is committed to an ongoing dialogue with the Vietnamese American community. On March 5, 2012, my colleagues and I participated in a briefing held by the White House Office of Public Engagement for 165 Vietnamese Americans from 30 states who work across diaspora communities in order to promote human rights, global partnerships, and opportunities for Vietnamese abroad. During the meeting, we stressed that human rights issues are a key component of ongoing discussions with Vietnam and that the United States continuously engages Vietnam on human rights through many different channels, including the annual United States-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue.

I encourage everyone involved in this petition to continue to express your views and concerns to the Administration, and most importantly to the Vietnamese government. I also encourage you to follow our work on http://www.humanrights.gov. (Also, see the State Department's 2010 Human Rights Report for Vietnam and the latest International Religious Freedom Report for Vietnam).

We look forward to meaningful dialogue and partnerships with your community in the future.
Check out this response on We the People.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fair Share: How to Implement the Concept

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Warren Buffett's Tax Rate is Lower than His Secretary's



Warren Buffett Crushes Republicans On Taxes

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The Buffett Rule: A Basic Principle of Tax Fairness

The Buffett Rule is the basic principle that no household making over $1 million annually should pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay.

The average tax rate paid by the very highest-income Americans has fallen to nearly the
lowest rate in over 50 years. The wealthiest 1-in-1,000 taxpayers pay barely a quarter of their income in Federal income and payroll taxes today—half of what they would have contributed in 1960. And, the top 400 richest Americans—all making over $110 million—paid only 18 percent of their income in income taxes in 2008.

Average tax rates for the highest income Americans have plummeted even as their incomes
have skyrocketed. Since 1979 the average after-tax income of the very wealthiest Americans –
the top 1 percent – has risen nearly four-fold. Over the same period, the middle sixty percent of Americans saw their incomes rise just 40 percent. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her worker now earns 110 times more.

 Some of the richest Americans pay extraordinarily low tax rates—as they hire lawyers and
accountants to take particular advantage of loopholes and tax expenditures. The average tax
rate masks the fact that some high-income Americans pay near their statutory tax rate, while
others take advantage of tax expenditures and loopholes to pay extraordinarily low rates—and
it is these high-income taxpayers that the Buffett rule is meant to address .

 Of millionaires in 2009, a full 22,000 households making more than $1 million annually paid less than 15 percent of their income in income taxes — and 1,470 managed to
paid no federal income taxes on their million-plus-dollar incomes, according to IRS data.

 Of the 400 highest income Americans, one out of every three in this group of the most
financially fortunate Americans paid less than 15 percent of their income in income
taxes in 2008.

 Many high-income Americans are paying less in taxes than middle class Americans in taxes.
Nearly one-quarter of all millionaires (about 55,000 taxpayers) face a tax rate that is lower than more than millions of middle-income taxpayers. This is fundamentally unfair.
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THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
Editorial
Beyond the 'Buffett rule'
Making taxes progressive is the right goal. But instead of shortcuts, the tax code should be overhauled.
April 14, 2012
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-buffett-rule-20120414,0,4504843.story


Standing with millionaires and their assistants, President Obama makes a statement about the "Buffett Rule" in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images / April 11, 2012)


The Senate will soon take up President Obama's proposed "Buffett rule," which would require people earning $2 million or more to pay at least 30% of their income in federal taxes. The inspiration for the rule was financier Warren Buffett's observation that because he makes his living from investments, he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. The notion behind the bill is sound: A fair tax system should ask high-income households to pay a greater share of their earnings as taxpayers with smaller paychecks. But the measure addresses just the symptoms of the federal government's badly malfunctioning tax code, not the actual problems.

It may be a pointless exercise to delve into the pros and cons of the Buffett rule, given that the bill has no chance of making it past a Senate filibuster. Besides, as a tax measure originating in the Senate, it violates the constitutional requirement that all such bills start in the House — where the GOP majority has no plans to slap a new minimum tax rate on the wealthy. The fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took the bill (S 2230) straight to the Senate floor, with no hearings or committee action, is a good indication that the point is simply to grandstand.

Still, Democrats and the Obama administration have identified a real drawback to the current system. Although average working- and middle-class taxpayers theoretically pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthy, in practice, they often pay a larger share than many taxpayers with stratospheric incomes. That disparity is largely a result of tax limits, preferences and deductions that benefit the wealthy more than other taxpayers.

One is the cap that limits the Social Security tax to the first $110,100 in salary or wages earned this year (the cap rises in step with the national average wage). Everyone who makes $110,100 or more pays the same amount in tax — $6,826 — but that represents a bigger sacrifice from someone making $120,000 than someone making $1.2 million.

Another is the lower tax rate — 10% to 15% — applied to income from dividends and capital gains. That's a boon mainly to higher-income households, which invest more and derive a significantly higher percentage of their money from those sources.

A third is the deductions that lawmakers provide for activities they wanted to encourage, such as charitable donations, retirement savings, and mortgage interest payments. Although those deductions are available to everyone, upper-income taxpayers are the ones who benefit the most from them.

Such tax breaks undermine the progressivity that is a principle of federal income tax policy. That progressivity is supposed to be enforced by the higher rates levied on dollars earned above certain thresholds — for example, a married couple would pay a 10% tax on their first $17,400 in income, a 15% tax on the next $53,300, and so on.

The Senate bill rolls back the preferences, exemptions and deductions for roughly 0.1% of U.S. taxpayers. Those earning more than $2 million (and to a lesser extent, those earning between $1 million and $2 million) would have to calculate how much they owe in payroll and income taxes under the current system, and if it amounted to less than 30% of their gross income, pay a "fair share" tax to bring the total up to 30%.

The only exception would be for charitable contributions, but that exception highlights the trade-offs inherent in the Buffett rule that proponents all but ignore. Each of the tax breaks the Buffett rule would override was designed to provide an incentive for something Congress wanted to promote, or to restrict something lawmakers wanted to discourage. For example, the lower rate for investment income is designed to encourage saving and to make more money available for businesses to grow. The cap on wages subject to Social Security taxes limits the amount of monthly benefits that those with high incomes can collect when they retire. And the deduction for mortgage interest is designed to help families acquire large assets and promote more stable neighborhoods.

It's worth having a debate over whether these carve-outs are effective and whether they promote the economic growth that's in all Americans' interests. We have long argued that the proliferation of preferences, credits and the like has made the tax code not just unfair but also inefficient, maddeningly complex and counterproductive. Vast amounts of money are spent figuring out how to game the system. It's long past time for Congress to overhaul the tax code, clearing out the thicket of breaks in order to broaden the base, improve compliance and ensure progressivity.

Obama's budget proposals have urged Congress to reconsider many of the preferences in the tax code. The proposed Buffett rule, however, is a shortcut that skips the debate over the policy intricacies. Rather than simply bashing Republicans for defending tax breaks for millionaires, Democrats should be trying to reconcile the conflict between a fair, progressive tax code and one that provides incentives for all the things Congress wants to encourage.

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Champions of Change: AAPI "What's Your Story" Challenge Winners

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Voice of Vietnamese Americans congratulates the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who championed the changes to build our community.






The White House honors nine Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders who were selected to represent their community through the "What's Your Story" video challenge. These The Champions of Change represent the millions of Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders who are making a difference in their community, many of whom continue to make a difference without being formally recognized. The nine leaders and organizations have stood out as demonstrating exceptional leadership in civil rights, immigration, community empowerment, LGBT engagement, anti-bullying, health, and the arts. Their work has been an integral part ensuring that the underserved among them are given a voice.

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