Text of President Obama's NPR interview on the Middle East
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)-- Here is the text of President Obama's June 1 interview with National Public Radio's Michele Norris and Steve Inskeep, in anticipation of the speech to the Muslim world he will give today in Cairo, Egypt..
Q Mr. President, welcome to the program.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much.
Q Mr. President, thank you for joining us -- that we could join you, in this case. If you want to improve relations with the Muslim world, do you have to change or alter in some way the strong U.S. support for Israel?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't think that we have to change strong U.S. support for Israel. I think that we do have to retain a constant belief in the possibilities of negotiations that will lead to peace, and that that's going to require, from my view, a two-state solution; that it's going to require that each side -- Israelis and Palestinians -- meet their obligations.
I've said very clearly to the Israelis both privately and publicly that a freeze on settlements including natural growth is part of those obligations. I've said to the Palestinians that their continued progress on security and ending the incitement that I think understandably makes Israelis so concerned -- that that has to be -- those obligations have to be met.
So the key is to just believe that that process can move forward and that all sides are going to have to give. And it's not going to be an easy path, but one that I think we can achieve.
Q Mr. President, you mentioned a freeze on settlements. The Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is quoted today saying to Cabinet members in Israel that he will not follow your demand for a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, that it's not going to happen. What does it suggest that Israel is not taking your advice?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's still early in the process. They formed a government, what, a month ago? I think that we're going to have a series of conversations. Obviously the first priority of a Israeli Prime Minister is to think in terms of Israel's security. I believe that strategically the status quo is unsustainable when it comes to Israeli security; that over time, in the absence of peace with the Palestinians, Israel will continue to be threatened militarily and will have enormous problems along its borders.
And so it is not only in the Palestinians' interest to have a state; I believe it is in the Israelis, as well, and in the United States' interest as well.
Q But if the United States says for years that Israel should stop the settlements, and for years Israel simply does not, and the United States continues supporting Israel in roughly the same way, what does that do with American credibility in the Muslim world, which you're trying to address?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think what is certainly true is that the United States has to follow through on what it says. Now, as I said before, I haven’t said anything yet because it's early in the process. But it is important for us to be clear about what we believe will lead to peace and that there's not equivocation and there's not a sense that we expect only compromise on one side; it's going to have to be two-sided.
`And I don't think anybody would deny that in theory. When it comes to the concrete, then the politics of it get difficult both within the Israeli and the Palestinian communities. But, look, if this was easy it would have already been done.
Q Many people in the region are concerned; when they look at the U.S. relationship with Israel, they feel that Israel has favored status in all cases. And what do you say to people in the Muslim world who feel that the U.S. has, repeatedly over time, blindly supported Israel?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what I'd say is there's no doubt that the United States has a special relationship with Israel. There are a lot of Israelis who used to be Americans. There is huge cross-cultural ties between the two countries. I think that as a vibrant democracy that shares many of our values, obviously we're deeply sympathetic to Israel.
And I think I would also say that given past statements surrounding Israel -- the notion that they should be driven into the sea, that they should be annihilated, that they should be obliterated, the armed aggression that's been directed towards them in the past -- you can understand why not only Israelis would feel concern, but the United States would feel it was important to back this stalwart ally.
Now, having said all that, what is also true is that part of being a good friend is being honest, and I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory in the region is profoundly negative not only for Israeli interests, but also U.S. interests. And that's part of a new dialogue that I'd like to see encouraged in the region.
Q Does it undermine your effort, reaching out to the Muslim world, which you'll do with the speech in Cairo, that you'll be speaking in a country with an undemocratic government that is an ally of the United States?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, keep in mind I already spoke in Turkey. They have a democracy that I'm sure some Turks would say has flaws to it, just as there are some Americans who would suggest there are flaws to American democracy --
Q Are you about to say Egypt is just a country with some flaws?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, what I'm about -- don't put words in my mouth, Steve, especially not in the White House. (Laughter.) You can wait until the postscript.
There is a wide range of governments throughout the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world, and the main thing for me to do is to project what our values are, what our ideals are, what we care most deeply about -- and that is democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion.
Now, in every country I deal with, whether it's China, Russia, ultimately Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, allies as well as non-allies, there are going to be some differences. And what I want to do is just maintain consistency in affirming what those values that I believe in are, understanding that we're not going to get countries to embrace various of our values simply by lecturing or through military means. We can't force these approaches. What we can do is stand up for human rights; we can stand up for democracy. But I think it's a mistake for us to somehow suggest that we're not going to deal with countries around the world in the absence of their meeting all our criteria for democracy.
Q Michele Norris.
Q You've mentioned many times the importance of reaching out to Iran with an open hand, trying to engage that country. Are you also willing to try to engage with Hezbollah or Hamas, entities that have now had significant gains in recent elections?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let's just underscore a point here. Iran is a huge, significant nation state that has, I think, across the international community been recognized as such. Hezbollah and Hamas are not. And I don't think that we have to approach those entities in the same way. In the --
Q -- does that change with their electoral gains?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, if at some point -- Lebanon is a member of the United Nations -- if at some point they are elected as a head of state -- or a head of state is elected in Lebanon that is a member of that organization, then that would raise these issues. That hasn’t happened yet.
With respect to Hamas, I do think that if they recognize the Quartet principles that have been laid out -- and these are fairly modest conditions here -- that you recognize the state of Israel without prejudging what various grievances or claims are appropriate, that you abide by previous agreements, that you renounce violence as a means of achieving your goals -- then I think discussions with Hamas could potentially proceed.
And so the problem has been that there's been a preference oftentimes on the part of these organizations to use violence and not take responsibility for governance as a means of winning propaganda wars or advancing their organizational aims. At some point, though, they may make a transition -- there are examples of -- in the past, of organizations that have successfully transitioned from violent organizations to ones that recognize that they can achieve their aims more effectively through political means, and I hope that occurs.
Q Mr. President, because you mentioned Iran I want to ask a question about that and about your efforts to engage with the Muslim world in a different way. I'd like to know which development you think would be more harmful to America's prestige in the Muslim world, which is worse: An Iranian government that has nuclear weapons, or an Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm not going to engage in these hypotheticals, Steve, but I can tell you that my view is that Iran possessing a nuclear weapon would be profoundly destabilizing to the region -- not just with respect to Israel's response, but the response of other Arab states in the region, or Muslim states in the region that might be concerned about Iran having an undue advantage.
More broadly, I've got a concern about nuclear proliferation generally, something that I talked about in my speech in Prague. I think one of the things that we need to do is to describe to the Iranians a pathway for them achieving security, respect and prosperity that doesn’t involve them possessing a nuclear weapon. But we have to be able to make that same argument to other countries that might aspire to nuclear weapons, and we have to apply some of those same principles to ourselves, so that -- for example, I'll be traveling next month to Moscow to initiate START talks, trying to reduce our nuclear stockpiles, as part of a broader effort in the international community to contain our nuclear weapons.
Q And you want other nations to restrain themselves until you can complete that process?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's going to be the challenge. That's why we're so busy around here all the time.
Q Let me ask about one other challenge if I might.
Forgive me, Michele, go ahead.
Q No, go ahead.
Q Is your effort to engage the Muslim world likely to be complicated or even undermined by the fact that you're escalating a war in a Muslim country, Afghanistan, with the inevitable civilian casualties and other bad news that will come out of there?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there's no doubt that anytime you have civilian casualties that always complicates things, whether it was a Muslim or a non-Muslim country. I think part of what I'll be addressing in my speech is a reminder that the reason that we're in Afghanistan is very simple, and that is 3,000 Americans were killed and you had a devastating attack on the American homeland; the organization that planned those attacks intends to carry out further attacks and we cannot stand by and allow that to happen.
But I am somebody who is very anxious to have the Afghan government and the Pakistani government have the capacity to ensure that those safe havens don't exist. And so it's -- I think will be an important reminder that we have no territorial ambitions in Afghanistan. We don't have an interest in exploiting the resources of Afghanistan. What we want is simply that people aren’t hanging out in Afghanistan who are plotting to bomb the United States. And I think that's a fairly modest goal that other Muslim countries should be able to understand.
Q Mr. President, you have talked about creating a new path forward on Guantanamo, on the relationship that the U.S. has with countries in the Muslim world, and on several fronts. But at the same time, the former Vice President has been out talking about the policies in the former administration. He's forceful, he's unapologetic, and he doesn’t seem willing to scale back his rhetoric. How much does that undermine or complicate your effort to extend a hand, to explain the Obama doctrine and draw a line of demarcation between that administration and yours?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he also happens to be wrong. Right? And last time, immediately after his speech, I think there was a fact check on his speech that didn’t get a very good grade.
Does it make it more complicated? No, because I think these are complicated issues and there is a legitimate debate to be had about national security. And I don't doubt the sincerity of the former Vice President or the previous administration in wanting to protect the American people -- and these are very difficult decisions. If you've got a -- as I said in my speech, if you've got an organization that is out to kill Americans and is not bound by any rules, then that puts an enormous strain on not only our intelligence operations, our national security operations, but also our legal system.
The one thing that I'm absolutely persuaded by, though, is that if we are true to our ideals and our values, if these decisions aren’t made unilaterally by the executive branch, but rather in consultation and in open fashion and in democratic debate, that the Muslim world and the world generally will see that we have upheld our values, been true to our ideals, and that ultimately will make us safer.
Q It's unusual for the debate to be playing out in a public forum, though. Have you picked up the phone? Have you talked to him? Have you had a conversation?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think it's that unusual. As I remember, there were some speeches given by Vice President Gore that differed with President Bush's policies. And I think that's healthy; that's part of the debate. And I don't in any way begrudge, I think, anybody in debating, sometimes ferociously, these issues that are of premium importance to the United States. And I am constantly listening and gauging whether or not there's new information out there that I should take into account.
I will tell you that based on my reviews, I am very confident about the policies that we've taken being the right ones for the American people.
Q We're told that our time is up. So you've been very generous.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, guys.
Text of President Obama's BBC interview on the Middle East
WASHINGTON, D.C (Press Release)--Here is the text of President Obama's June 1 interview with Justin Webb of the British Broadcasting Corporation in advance of his Middle East trip:
Q Mr. President, thank you very much for talking to the BBC.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me.
Q It's really good to be here. Let's turn straight to your big speech -- a hugely important speech you're making in Cairo on Thursday. Many Muslims think they're owed an apology, actually, for the Bush years and the sins that, in their view, were committed by the United States during those years. Is this speech in any way an apology?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think what we want to do is open a dialogue. And, you know, there are misapprehensions about the West on the part of the Muslim world and obviously there are some big misapprehensions about the Muslim world when it comes to those of us in the West. And it is my firm belief that no one speech is going to solve every problem, there are no silver bullets. There are very real policy issues that have to be worked through that are difficult, and ultimately it's going to be action and not words that determine the path of progress from here on out.
But it did seem to me that this was an opportunity for us to get both sides to listen to each other a little bit more and hopefully learn something about different cultures.
Q You say "both sides," so I take from that that Muslims listening to this speech you are hoping will also be changed by it and their attitude to the United States perhaps change. What needs to change on the behalf of those you're actually speaking to?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I mean, look, let's just take one small example -- the U.S. Muslim population is more numerous than the populations of many majority-Muslim countries. So, you know, we have a huge and thriving Muslim American community. We have Muslim Americans represented or who are serving in Congress. We've got a President who's got family members who are Muslim.
So this notion that somehow America is detached, is removed, sees some clash of civilizations as inevitable -- I think a lot of the propaganda and dogma that's churned out there is inaccurate.
Now, the flip side is, is that in the wake of 9/11 what is also true is that in a whole host of our actions, and sometimes in our words, America has not been as careful to distinguish our very real need to hunt down extremists who would do us harm -- something that's necessitated by our self defense -- and broader policy differences or cultural differences that exist that are best approached through diplomacy and conversation and some self-reflection on our part. And so that's the kind of back and forth that I think is going to need to take place.
And the last point I made, because I should actually correct myself, when I said "both sides," there are actually many sides to this because one of the misapprehensions about -- misperceptions about the Muslim community is that it's somehow monolithic. And, you know, setting aside differences between Shia and Sunni, the Muslim country that I lived in when I was a child, Indonesia, obviously is very different from Pakistan, is very different from Saudi Arabia. And so we have to also recognize that there are going to be differences based on national identity and not just faith.
Q You're making this speech in Cairo. Amnesty International says there are thousands of political prisoners in Egypt. How do you address that issue?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, obviously in the Middle East, across a wide range of types of governments, there are some human rights issues. I don't think there's any dispute about that. The message I hope to deliver is that democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion -- those are not simply principles of the West to be hoisted on these countries, but rather what I believe to be universal principles that they can embrace and affirm as part of their national identity.
Now, the danger I think is when the United States or any country thinks that we can simply impose these values on another country with a different history and a different culture. Our job is --
Q But you can encourage --
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely we can encourage, and I expect we will be encouraging --
Q You will.
THE PRESIDENT: And I think the thing that we can do most importantly is serve as a good role model. And that's why, for example, closing Guantanamo, from my perspective, as difficult as it is, is important, because part of what we want to affirm to the world is that these are values that are important even when it's hard, maybe especially when it's hard, and not just when it's easy.
Q Do you regard President Mubarak as an authoritarian ruler?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I tend not to use labels for folks. I haven't met him; I've spoken to him on the phone. He has been a stalwart ally, in many respects, to the United States. He has sustained peace with Israel, which is a very difficult thing to do in that region, but he has never resorted to unnecessary demagoguing of the issue and has tried to maintain that relationship.
So I think he has been a force for stability and good in the region. Obviously there have been criticisms of the manner in which politics operates in Egypt and, as I said before, you know, the United States' job is not to lecture but to encourage, to lift up what we consider to be the values that ultimately will work not just for our country but for the aspirations of a lot of people.
Q A lot of people are looking for specifics in your speech, and one of the areas they're going to be fascinated by, hanging on your every word, is Israel and the Palestinians and what you say about that. You've made it very clear in recent weeks to the Israeli government that you want settlement building to be frozen in existing settlements. They've made it equally clear that they're not going to do that. So what happens now?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's still early in the conversation. I've had one meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I think that we have not seen a set of potential gestures from other Arab states or from the Palestinians that might deal with some of -- some Israeli concerns. I do believe that if you follow the road map approach that has been laid out, if Israel abides by its obligations that includes no settlements, if the Palestinians abide by their obligations to deal with the security situation, to eliminate incitement, if all the surrounding Arab states, working with the Quartet, are able to encourage economic development and political development, then I think that we can actually make some progress.
So, you know, one of the things that in the 24/7 news cycle is very difficult to encourage is patience, and diplomacy is always a matter of a long, hard slog. It's never a matter of quick results.
Q I accept that, but you have the Israeli -- a senior member of the Israeli cabinet, the transport minister saying, "I want to say in a crystal-clear manner [that] the current Israeli government will not accept in any fashion that legal settlement activity ¼ be frozen." I mean, you've got a job of work, can I at least put it like that?
THE PRESIDENT: Always have a lot of work, yes. I mean, nobody thought this was going to be easy. If it was easy, it would have been done. But I do think that we're going to be able to get serious negotiations back on track and we're going to do everything we can because not only is it in the interests of the Palestinian people to have a state, it's in the interests of the Israeli people to stabilize the situation there, and it's in the interests of the United States that we've got two states living side by side in peace and security.
Q What George Bush senior did to concentrate the minds of the then-Israeli government was freeze loan guarantees to Israel. Is there -- I don't want to ask you about specifics, because obviously you don't want to say at this stage, but are there potentially sanctions, if I could put it like that, that you could employ, that you would consider employing against Israel if this Israeli government doesn't do what you want it to do?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that I've said my piece on this matter. We're going to continue negotiations. We think that it's early in the process, but we think we can make some progress.
Q What the Israelis say is that they have managed to persuade you at least to concentrate on Iran and to give what's -- behind the scenes they're calling it a bit of an ultimatum to the Iranians: By the end of this year there must be some real progress.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the only thing I'd correct on that is I don't think the Israelis needed to convince me of that, since I've been talking about it for the last two years. What I have said is that it is in the world's interests for Iran to set aside ambitions for a nuclear weapon, but that the best way to accomplish that is through tough, direct diplomacy.
And what I was very clear about was that although I don't want to put artificial time tables on that process, we do want to make sure that by the end of this year we've actually seen a serious process move forward, and I think that we can measure whether or not the Iranians are serious.
My personal view is that the Islamic state of Iran has the potential to be a extraordinarily powerful and prosperous country. They are more likely to achieve that in the absence of nuclear weapons -- they could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, not just responses from Israel, by the way, but potentially other states in the region -- and that if what's preventing them from seeing that reality is 30 years of loggerheads between Iran and the United States, then this may be an opportunity for us to open the door and see if they walk through.
Now, there's no guarantees that they respond in a constructive way. That's part of what we need to test.
Q A couple of former members of the National Security Council actually suggest that you should go further, though, and that Iran should be regarded in the same way as Japan; in other words, nuclear reprocessing should be accepted and monitored by the international community. Is that remotely possible?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that the key right now is to initiate a process that is meaningful, that is rigorous between not only the United States and Iran bilaterally, but also continuing with the P5-plus-one discussions in a way that's constructive. Without going into specifics, what I do believe is that Iran has legitimate energy concerns, legitimate aspirations. On the other hand, the international community has a very real interest in preventing a nuclear arms race in the region. Now one --
Q But could Iran have the right to reprocess energy?
THE PRESIDENT: One point that I want to make is that in my speech in Prague I talked about how we need to reinvigorate a much broader agenda for nuclear nonproliferation, including the United States and Russia, drawing down our stockpiles in very significant ways.
To the extent that Iran feels that they are treated differently than everybody else, that makes them embattled. To the extent that we're having a broader conversation about how all countries have an interest in containing and reducing over time the nuclear proliferation threat, that I think has to be part and parcel of our broader agenda.
Q You're going on to Europe, to Normandy, scene of a great ally coming together. Have you convinced European leaders, do you think, taking a sort of broad look at Europe as a whole, that it is necessary sometimes to use force to get your way in the world? And I'm thinking, obviously, particularly of Afghanistan, but almost in a wider sense, a kind of Venus and Mars issue. Are the Europeans going to be more onboard now to the American way of thinking?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I think any student of European history understands that the devastation of not just two world wars but centuries of war across the continent and across the Channel means that Europeans understand better than anybody the costs of war, and it is legitimate and understandable that they are hesitant. I think the United States has a similar attitude; that we should be thinking in terms of our national defense, not where can we initiate war.
We had an attack against the United States that killed 3,000 Americans. There had been multiple terrorist attacks planned, and some successfully executed, against European states. And at some point we have to make sure that we are eliminating those networks that would -- could do our citizens harm. That is our first job as a state, as a government, and --
Q And European leaders are onboard for that?
THE PRESIDENT: And I think that they are onboard on that. Now, there are going to be tactical issues and strategies, and the politics of this can sometimes be difficult. Listen, the idea of U.S. troops in Afghanistan seven years after 9/11 -- or eight years after 9/11 is hardly popular. At some point we have to make the case that it is necessary, and I think that -- you know, what we tried to do with our strategic review was to give a broader framework of not just military but also diplomatic and development initiatives that would move in tandem with the military. And that framework, I think, is one that was heartily embraced by European leaders, by NATO. Now we've just got to execute, and executions are always tough, especially in a world recession where people are looking at their budgets.
Q We're almost out of time, Mr. President. I wanted to finish by asking you just sort of a personal question. We've been through all these issues, and they must weigh on your mind constantly, how do you relax? What do you read? What do you -- what does President Obama do?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, nothing is better at pulling you out of your world than having a couple of children. So I've got a 10-year-old and a seven-year-old, and they're planning pool parties and talking about homework and trying to figure out how to get the dog back on the leash and --
Q And family life works in this one.
THE PRESIDENT: And it really does. I mean, one of the huge benefits of being President is I now have this nice home office, and I go upstairs and I can have dinner with my family just about every night, and they can travel with me when they're able. And so we've got, I think, a very good deal, and I'm grateful that I've got such a wonderful wife and kids. That's my main form of relaxation.
Now, if I can get in a basketball game or a round of golf or I pick up a novel every once in a while, that doesn't hurt.
Q Are you reading at the moment?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I'm reading a book called "Netherland" by Joseph O'Neill. Almost finished. Excellent novel.
Go to top of right column
Q I'll let you get back to it. I'm sure you have other things to do before you go.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Appreciate it. Thank you.
U.S. government broadcasters build up to Obama's Cairo speech today
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)--As President Obama seeks to reach Muslim audiences with his June 4 speech in Cairo, BBG broadcasters will engage their audience (of 175 million people weekly), bringing them into a discussion of the address and of broader issues in US-Muslim relations.
The BBG's 60 broadcast languages will cover Obama's speech, and it will be broadcast live with simultaneous translation in a number of languages, including Arabic, Urdu, Pashto and Persian. BBG multimedia broadcasts will feature reaction from the streets and from experts in the United States and throughout the Arab and Muslim world.
For example, Alhurra TV's three hour evening program Al Youm is asking viewers to share their expectations for Obama's remarks through e-mails and Al Youm's Facebook page. The program will interview students from Alazhar University in Cairo and throughout the Middle East before and after the speech. Radio Sawa will also broadcast the speech live, with simultaneous Arabic translation. In addition, Alhurra is conducting online polling in Arabic and English to gauge real-time reactions.
In the lead-up to the speech VOA's audience has interacted via e-mail, Twitter, YouTube and myVOA.com. VOA correspondents asked Muslims around the world how the United States could improve relations and compiled video clips online of audience expectations for Obama's Cairo speech. The Obama remarks will be streamed live on TV, radio and online in English with post-speech analysis and live feeds from Cairo, Jerusalem, London and Kabul.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Radio Free Afghanistan will review feedback from across the region. In addition, correspondents in Indonesia, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Morocco, Iraq and the UAE will gauge expectations and impact on the ground.
VOA reporters in Michigan and Alhurra reporters in New York will cover the reactions of the large Arab and Muslim populations there.
Radio and TV Marti will cover the address for Cuban audiences, while Radio Free Asia will report for its audiences, including China's Muslim Uyghur minority.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency, supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international broadcasting, whose mission is to promote freedom and democracy and to enhance understanding through multimedia communication of accurate, objective, and balanced news, information, and other programming about America and the world to audiences overseas. BBG broadcasting organizations include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). BBG broadcasts reach over 175 million people worldwide on a weekly basis.
Indictments announced against plotters against synagogue, JCC
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (Press Release)—Lev L. Dassin, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the filing of an eight-count Indictment against James Cromitie, a/k/a "AbdulRahman," a/k/a "Abdul Rehman," David Williams, a/k/a "Daoud,"a/k/a "DL," Onta Williams, a/k/a "Hamza," and Laguerre Payen, , a/k/a "Amin," a/k/a "Almondo," arising from their plot to detonate explosives near a synagogue and Jewish community center in the Riverdale section of Bronx, New York, and to shoot military planes located at the New York Air National Guard Base at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York, with Stinger surfaceto-air guided missiles.
All four defendants were arrested on May 20, 2009, in
Bronx, New York, on the basis of charges set forth in a sworn
criminal Complaint. They were presented before United States
Magistrate Judge Lisa M. Smith on May 21, 2009, and ordered detained pending trial.
The Indictment filed Tuesday in White Plains federal court charges Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Payen with the following offenses, carrying the following potential
Count Charge and Maximum Prison Term
1 Conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States— Life
2-4 Attempt to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States—Life on each cout.
5 Conspiracy to acquire and use antiaircraft missiles—Life*
6 Attempt to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles—Life*
7 Conspiracy to kill officers and employees of the United States—Life
8 Attempt to kill officers and employees of the United States—
*Counts Five and Six also carry mandatory minimum penalties of 25 years in prison.
The four defendants were scheduled to be arraigned on
the Indictment in White Plains federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Paul E. Davison on Wednesday, June 3, and the case will be assigned to a United States District Judge at that time.
Mr. Dassin praised the New York Joint Terrorism Task
Force -- which principally consists of agents of the FBI and
detectives of the New York City Police Department -- the New YorkState Police, and the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations for their extraordinary work in the investigation of this case.
Assistant United States Attorneys Eric Snyder and David
Leibowitzare in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely
accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and
until proven guilty.
Lieberman deplores terrorist violence in Arkansas
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)– Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (Independent, Connecticut), issued the following statement Tuesday in response to the shooting death of one soldier and the wounding of another in Arkansas by an apparent homegrown terrorist:
“Hadassah and I offer our deepest sympathies to the families of the U.S. soldier shot and killed and a second soldier wounded in Arkansas yesterday. Members of the Armed Forces sacrifice every day to keep our nation safe, and we are grateful for their courageous service. This tragedy once again illustrates the very real dangers posed by homegrown terrorism in the United States and the urgent need for all of us - including federal, state, and local governments - to understand and combat this threat.”
Institute charges Christians discriminated against by schools
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (Press Release)-- In a 2-1 decision, a federal appeals court has ruled that school officials did not violate the free speech rights of a kindergartner and his mother when they refused to allow Donna Busch to read a selection from the Bible as part of a classroom "All About Me" program intended to spotlight her son Wesley and his favorite book, the Bible. In appealing to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute had argued that school officials violated the Busches' First Amendment rights by discriminating against them based on the religious nature of the selected reading.
"By excluding religious expression, and Christian expression and symbols in particular, from the classroom, school officials have exhibited the kind of hostility toward religion that should never be found in an American public school," stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "If these situations continue, there will be absolutely no freedom for religious people in public schools in this country."
The case began in October 2004, when Donna Busch accepted an invitation to visit her son Wesley's kindergarten classroom at Culbertson Elementary School in Newtown Square, Penn., and read an excerpt of Wesley's favorite book to his classmates. Wesley's teacher had invited Mrs. Busch because Wesley was the featured student of "All About Me," a school program intended to feature a particular student during the week and emphasize that student's personal characteristics, preferences and personality in classroom activities.
One activity made available to all featured students during "All About Me" is the opportunity to have the child's parent read aloud from his or her favorite book. Wesley, a Christian, had chosen the Bible as his favorite book, and Mrs. Busch planned to read an excerpt from Psalm 118. However, on the day of the reading, Wesley's teacher directed Mrs. Busch not to read the passage until the principal had determined if it could be read to the class. When Principal Thomas Cook was summoned, he informed Mrs. Busch that she could not read from the Bible in the classroom because it was against the law and that the reading would violate the "separation of church and state." Mrs. Busch was then allegedly offered the opportunity to read from a book about witches, witchcraft and Halloween, which she declined to do.
In filing suit against the Marple Newtown school district in May 2005, Institute attorneys alleged that the reading incident was just one example of the school's efforts to suppress the right of Christians to freely express their religious beliefs. For example, although Mrs. Busch was not permitted to read from the Bible, another parent was allowed to read a book about Judaism; teach the class the dreidel game; and display a menorah in celebration of Hanukkah.
In upholding the lower court's ruling, the court of appeals held that "educators may appropriately restrict forms of expression in elementary school classrooms" even when they have invited speakers into the classroom. However, Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman issued a vigorous dissent, pointing out that the reading of a passage from Psalms to Wesley's class was within the subject matter of the "All About Me" unit, which was to highlight things of interest and important to Wesley, and the exclusion constituted viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment because it was based solely upon its religious character.
LOS ANGELES (Press Release)—California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner on Thursday introduced historic regulations to prevent the practice of unfair rescissions in the individual health insurance industry. These regulations mark California's first-ever regulatory steps to clarify rescission laws, preventing the industry practice of unfairly rescinding health insurance policies.
"Since taking office, I have made it clear to insurance companies that improperly rescinding health insurance policies will not be tolerated in California," said Commissioner Poizner. "Consumers deserve to have their insurance companies hold up their end of the deal, paying out claims and not canceling coverage when it's needed most. Today I am pleased to introduce regulations that will give insurers the guidance they need to follow the law and help prevent illegal rescissions in the first place."
Insurance companies have previously taken advantage of ambiguity in existing laws to inappropriately rescind health insurance policies for individuals when they need health insurance coverage the most - after filing claims for medical treatment. By introducing these regulations, Commissioner Poizner is making it clear to insurance companies that the Department of Insurance will make sure they do all their underwriting before they accept a policyholder and stop the insurer practice of reviewing policy applications for incriminating data once the policyholder becomes sick.
“These regulations deliver a dose of preventive medicine for rescissions,” Commissioner Poizner added. “Coupled with our previous enforcement actions, we now have powerful and continuing legal standards in place that will protect consumers from the ills of unlawful rescissions and force insurers to honor commitments to policyholders.”
Commissioner Poizner has taken decisive action against improper rescissions since taking office in 2007, cracking down on the three largest individual health insurance companies in the state for engaging in the practice. The Commissioner established requirements within each settlement to ensure that these companies would not illegally rescind policies in the future. Poizner also worked to get offers of reinstated coverage for 4,000 customers whose policies CDI alleges were illegally rescinded.
The settlement provisions covered the 85 percent of the market represented by the three companies – Health Net, Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The new regulations announced on Thursday will cover the remaining 15 percent of the market by preventing improper rescissions from happening in the first place. The regulations will also provide additional protections that supplement and strengthen the existing settlements. By presenting these common-sense regulations, the Commissioner is taking bold steps to protect the entire private health insurance market.
The new regulations will do the following:
- Set clear and rigorous standards that insurers must meet before they issue a health insurance policy. Insurers must do their underwriting job before they issue the policy.
- Put insurers on notice that they must prove that they have met ALL of the underwriting standards before they can consider rescission.
- Put an end to lightweight sloppy underwriting if insurers want to keep the right to rescind.
- Put insurers on notice that they must be 100% sure that an individual knew the answer to a health history question and failed to provide it before considering rescinding that person.
- Require insurers to make sure that health insurance applications are accurate and complete.
- Require insurers to ask clear and unambiguous health history questions and avoid confusing applicants.
- Require agents who assist applicants with their questions to attest to the insurer regarding their assistance, at every stage of the application process.
- Encourage insurers to use Personal Health Records instead of potentially confusing health history questionnaires to underwrite applicants.
- Provide fair due process protections for consumers who are being investigated for possible rescission including early notice, opportunity to provide input to the insurers, and the chance to clarify their application. No hidden rescission investigations are allowed under the new rules and this encourages insurers to work with their insureds to resolve questions about the accuracy of their responses.
- Require insurers to share documentation used during rescission investigations with the insured under investigation.
The notice of the regulations will be officially published by the Office of Administrative Law on Friday, June 5. Implementation of the regulations is expected by the end of 2009, following a public hearing, public comment and regulation finalization period.
Soille Hebrew Day auctions off student art works at June 7 gala
SAN DIEGO—Art works on silk created by students at Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School under the direction of their art teacher, Avril Butbul, will be auctioned off June 7 at the school's fundraising gala beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the San Diego Hall of Champions in Balboa Park.
Generally measuring three by five feet, the framed art works will start at a minimum bid of $350.
The artwork at the top of this article is " "Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden" and is the product of the 1st grade class of Mrs. Kapln-Nadel's. Just below that is "Tree of life in Gan Eden," a collaboration by 3rd graders B. Ertel, A. Feinberg, B. Fleury, S. Flores, S. Gardenswartz, A. Ghadishah, B. Halperin, T. Kaplan, G. Kucinski, A. Levin, A. Mendelsohn, O. Mizan, S. Peikes, B. Rosenberg.
If you cannot attend and would like to bid - email the name of the art and your maximum bid to email@example.com
San Diego Councilmember Marti Emerald reads at Benjamin library
SAN DIEGO (Press Release)--Councilmember Marti Emerald’s office today announced the celebration of the 44th Annual Benjamin Birthday Bash, to be held on Saturday, June 6, at the San Diego City Council 7th District’s Benjamin Library in Allied Gardens.
Councilmember Emerald will read from the Dr. Seuss classic, The Cat in the Hat at 11:00 am and present a City Council resolution proclaiming June 6, 2009 Benjamin Library
Sources close to the library have confirmed a special guest appearance from the Cat in the Hat himself. The Cat will join Councilmember Emerald to present a special donation of Cat in the Hat books and hats and will be available to take photographs and sign autographs.
Children of all ages are encouraged to attend to participate in a variety of family-friendly games and compete for prizes, generously donated by the Friends of the Library. Food will be provided.
The Benjamin Library is located at 5188 Zion Avenue, San Diego, CA. More information on the Benjamin Library is available online.
Filner announces progress on new national cemetery in S.D. County
SAN DIEGO – Congressman Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs has chosen a San Diego firm, Van Dyke Landscape Associates, to design the Miramar Satellite Cemetery.
The Cemetery contract for $961,004 includes 11,700 conventional burial sites, 4,900 in-ground sites for cremated remains, and 10,300 niches for cremated remains in a columbarium wall, plus a public assembly area, administrative and maintenance buildings, roads, signs, and landscaping.
“Progress at last!” said Congressman Filner. “We need to move this along as quickly as possible. Veterans’ families should not be required to travel to the Riverside National Cemetery to pay respect to their loved ones.”
Congressman Filner was instrumental in bringing about the development of the cemetery annex by working with the other members of the San Diego Congressional Delegation, the Navy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. A Construction Award is tentatively planned for April 2010 and is expected to take two years with the possibility of an early burial section to open by late 2010.
'Living with HIV' topic at
SAN DIEGO (Press Release)— Dr. Linda Robinson, Associate Professor of Nursing at San Diego State University, will be the guest speaker at the 2nd Friday Community
Roundtable at Congregation Dor Hadash on June 12, 2009 at7:30pm. She will be speaking on the topic of "Living With HIV."
Dr. Robinson has done extensive research on this topic and has published many articles in avariety of journals such as the Journal of Palliative Care, Nursing Research, and the Journal of Nursing Education.
Congregation Dor Hadash is located at 4858 Ronson Court, San Diego.
Jewish Family Service offers 'brain fitness' classes for older adults
SAN DIEGO (Press Release)--Everyone wants to stay sharp, vital, independent and in control. Participants at the University City Older Adult Center and College Avenue Older Adult Center have the opportunity to! Participants can take part in brain fitness classes, designed to strengthen communication, memory, and thinking. Classes feature the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program—a breakthrough computer-based technology designed by top scientists to improve memory and sharpen thinking.
“It just made me want to learn more, read more, study more, and play the piano more. My children said, ‘Mom, we really see a glimmer in your eye.’” -Sigrid, 70
The Brain Fitness Program is an innovative cognitive fitness program currently being implemented at leading retirement communities across the country. With the help of the Gary and Mary West Foundation, Jewish Family Service is one of the first agencies to implement this type of training program.
The Posit Science Brain Fitness Program™ challenges the commonly held belief that the brain can’t retrain itself. Scientists have spent 30 years showing it is possible to “teach an old brain new tricks.” While this training program has been clinically validated, the most fascinating results are found in the stories of those who use the program. There are a number of older adults who have benefited from their mental workouts. The initial program focuses on auditory processing and memory. After just 40 hours, participants, on average, have experienced 10+ years improvement in standarized measures of auditory memory and cognition.
Transforming Lives— Mental sharpness leading to happier, healthier relationships may be the most important benefit of the Brain Fitness program, but it’s not the only one. Here are a few more:
Listen more clearly
Feel more alert, have more energy and focus
Gain the self confidence to try new things
Orientation Sessions will be conducted Thursday, June 4 - 1:00-2:00pm; Tuesday, June 9 - 5:30-6:30pm at the University City Older Adult Center (Located at Congregation Beth Israel).
9001 Towne Centre Dr., SD, 92122. For more information or to RSVP, call (858) 637-3223