Today, President Obama will sign the Cures Act into law. These letters from Americans across the country explain why.
President Obama will confront one of the great paradoxes of his tenure on Tuesday.
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Muslims worldwide will be listening.
‘………………by Steve Williams
Following the marriage equality ruling earlier today, there has been plenty of celebration. Here’s just a few of the reactions we’ve seen.
1. The Crowd Outside the Supreme Court Cheers
It has been a long wait, but the crowd outside the Supreme Court cheered when they heard the news that marriage equality will now be legal across the country:
2. President Obama Hails the Marriage Equality Ruling as “A Victory for America”
Said the President in an emotional speech:
This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so, they have reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law; that all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.
This decision will end the patchwork system we currently have. It will end the uncertainty hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples face from not knowing whether they’re marriage, legitimate in the eyes of one state, will remain if they decide to move or even visit another.
And this ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts. When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.
What an extraordinary achievement, but what a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things; what a reminder of what Bobby Kennedy once said about how small actions can be like pebbles being thrown into a still lake, and ripples of hope cascade outwards and change the world.
Those countless, often anonymous heroes, they deserve our thanks. They should be very proud. America should be very proud.
You can watch the President’s full remarks below:
3. Plaintiff Talks About the Importance of This Ruling
Shortly after the marriage equality ruling was released, the White House sent out the following letter attributed to Jim Obergefell, the namesake of the consolidated cases:
My husband John died 20 months ago, so we’re unable to celebrate together the Supreme Court’s decision on the case that bears my name, Obergefell v. Hodges.
Today, for the first time, any couple — straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender — may obtain a marriage license and make their commitments public and legal in all 50 states. America has taken one more step toward the promise of equality enshrined in our Constitution, and I’m humbled to be part of that.
John and I started our fight for a simple reason: We wanted the State of Ohio to recognize our lawful Maryland marriage on John’s impending death certificate. We wanted respect and dignity for our 20-year relationship, and as he lay dying of ALS, John had the right to know his last official record as a person would be accurate. We wanted to live up to the promises we made to love, honor, and protect each other as a committed and lawfully married couple.
Couples across America may now wed and have their marriage recognized and respected no matter what state they call home. No other person will learn at the most painful moment of married life, the death of a spouse, that their lawful marriage will be disregarded by the state. No married couple who moves will suddenly become two single persons because their new state ignores their lawful marriage.
Ethan and Andrew can marry in Cincinnati instead of being forced to travel to another state.
A girl named Ruby can have an accurate birth certificate listing her parents Kelly and Kelly.
Pam and Nicole never again have to fear for Grayden and Orion’s lives in a medical emergency because, in their panic, they forgot legal documents that prove both mothers have the right to approve care.
Cooper can grow into a man knowing Joe and Rob are his parents in all ways emotional and legal.
I can finally relax knowing that Ohio can never erase our marriage from John’s death certificate, and my husband can now truly rest in peace.
Marriage is about promises and commitments made legal and binding under the law, and those laws must apply equally to each and every American.
Today is a momentous day in our history. It’s a day when the Supreme Court of the United States lived up to the words inscribed above the front entrance of the courthouse:
Equal Justice Under Law.
4. The White House Changed its Profile Picture
Across its social media platforms and in its emails the White House currently looks like this:
I think we’re definitely somewhere over the rainbow now, right?
5. States Already Move to Start Performing Same-Sex Marriages
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, states like Georgia have already begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
Just two hours after the ruling the state’s attorney general, Samuel Olens, issued a memo saying that the ruling “requires Georgia to recognize same-sex marriage in the same way it recognizes marriage between a man and a woman.”
Shortly after that, Emma Foulkes and Petrina Bloodworth became the first same-sex couple in Georgia to legally wed now that Georgia’s ban has been ruled unconstitutional. You can read more on that here.
Couples have already started applying for marriage licenses in states like Michigan, which was directly represented in this ruling, while Missouri has similarly begun implementing the ruling. Marriage licenses have also been issued in Dallas County. At the moment, only Texas’ administration has indicated it will try to hold-out and “prioritize religious freedom” as Texas Governor Greg Abbott is quoted as saying.
We will keep you updated on that as more information becomes available, but until then the celebrations go on! …………’
Everybody has met self-centered people who behave as if they are the only people in the world who matter, and everybody else exists only to carry out their wishes.
If they are sufficiently rich and powerful, they can get away with this for a certain amount of time. But in the end, they wind up isolated and friendless.
Unfortunately the United States conducts its foreign policy as if we Americans are the only people in the world who matter, and everybody else exists only to carry out Washington’s wishes.
This is bound to end badly.
Peter Van Buren, who was kicked out of the State Department for writing about the fouled-up U.S. occupation of Iraq, pointed out in an article for TomDispatch how this is playing out in current U.S. policy toward Iraq and the Islamic State (ISIS)
The fundamental problem underlying nearly every facet of U.S. policy toward…
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‘……………..By Ron Klain
Ron Klain was White House Ebola response coordinator from October 2014 to February.
When President Obama and his fellow Group of Seven leaders meet in Germany beginning today, Ebola will be on the agenda. The leaders will talk about the need to wipe out the relatively small number of remaining cases in West Africa, as well as the need for aid to rebuild the ravaged nations of the region. Both steps are critical.
But neither will address what should be our No. 1 lesson from the Ebola crisis: the need for substantial measures to keep us safe from the pandemic on the horizon, a catastrophic event that is inevitable if we don’t move quickly to prevent it. As Bill Gates recently said, “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus, rather than a war.” So why, with the Ebola epidemic serving as a fresh warning, aren’t the G-7 leaders doing more to tackle this critical health and security issue?
As scary as Ebola was, the world’s success in taming it may have given us a false sense of security. Ebola was, in many ways, a deceptively simple test of the world’s epidemic response system. Ebola is hard to transmit and easy to detect. The epidemic broke out in three relatively small countries that contained no mega-city and sent only a limited number of travelers out of the region.
The next time, the world might face a far more dangerous threat. A pandemic flu could be spread easily and quickly, carried by individuals with no obvious symptoms. It could explode like a wildfire in a massive city and be carried overnight by thousands of travelers to the world’s major commerce centers.
Here is what should be on the G-7 agenda:
First, the G-7 nations — especially the United States, Britain, Germany and France — should agree to retain the capacities their militaries developed during the Ebola epidemic for infectious disease response and patient airlift. These capacities could easily dissipate now that the most acute phase of epidemic is over. In a future pandemic, the world may not have the four to six months it took to assemble these specialized units and capabilities, such as the tools to airlift infectious patients to treatment.
Second, the G-7 should combine these national military resources into a single international entity — what German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called a “white helmet battalion” — that could respond to an outbreak before it becomes a full-scale epidemic. This body should have the capacity to deploy rapidly anywhere in the world with medical field facilities, lab equipment, security and medical teams. The European Union has pledged to take up the question of creating an E.U.-flagged unit; what is really needed, however, is a broader effort that includes the United States (and perhaps other non-E.U. countries).
Third, the G-7 nations need to convene the relevant experts and authorities to develop a coherent approach to the fast approval and deployment of new vaccines and treatments that might be required to respond to a pandemic. In West Africa we saw a plethora of clinical tests separately led by the United States, Britain, France and China with no coordination. Moreover, fights about who would be liable if anyone was injured by these unproven vaccines and treatments went unresolved. GAVI, the global vaccine alliance, runs hugely successful immunization programs for proven vaccines, but it lacks a mechanism for handling unproven vaccines (or therapeutics), or for dealing with the intellectual property and liability issues involved when new medicines are introduced without a track record. The time to resolve such issues is before an epidemic is raging.
Finally, the G-7 nations need to step up their commitment to global health security, because in the long run, the only way to keep all of us safe from outbreaks is to have every nation’s health-care system sufficiently resourced to provide at least a preliminary response to an outbreak. President Obama’s leadership in this area has been exceptional, and — in a rare act of bipartisanship — Congress appropriated more than $800 million to support this effort during the Ebola crisis. But all of the G-7 nations need to dig deep to advance this program.
The last time the G-7 met, the Ebola epidemic had not yet captured global attention; now, a year later, it has faded from public consciousness. But unless the world wants to consign itself to an endless cycle of repeating what transpired in the year between these two meetings, it needs to take steps to combat the next pandemic before it is upon us.
Michele Hickford, the editor-in-chief of former Rep. Allen West’s (R-FL) website, noted the timing of the President’s order and the military exercise, which some people believe is a cover for the implementation of martial law, in a blog post published Monday.“With the upcoming ‘Jade Helm’ military exercises planned throughout the southwest this July in civilian areas, some folks are concerned the federal government has grander plans than simply a practice session,” Hickford wrote. “ ‘Federalizing the police’ seems to come up in conversation – particularly since the Obama administration has been so uncomfortable with local law enforcement actually doing its job (quelling violent riots, looting and mayhem) in recent months.”
President Obama announced that negotiators from Iran, the U.S. and other countries agreed to a framework for a final agreement to curb Tehran’s nuclear program. (AP)
LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Negotiators from Iran and major world powers reached agreement Thursday on a framework for a final agreement to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions, an accord that President Obama hailed as a “good deal” that would make the world a safer place.
Participants in the talks said the sides, including the United States and its key European allies, would promptly start drafting a final accord to be completed by a June 30 deadline.
Obama, in an appearance in the White House Rose Garden shortly after the deal was announced, said the United States and its partners “reached a historic understanding with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
He said he was convinced that the deal would leave the United States, its allies and the world safer.
“It is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives,” he said. “This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”
He said Iran has agreed to “the most robust and intrusive inspections” ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history. Obama added: “If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it. Iran’s past efforts to weaponize its program will be addressed.”
Seeking to head off what he called “inevitable” criticism, he asked whether anyone really thinks that the deal is “a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East.”
Warning that “our work is not yet done,” Obama said that “if there is backsliding on the part of the Iranians” and verification standards are not met, “there will be no deal.”
He offered assurances of “mutual respect” to the Iranian people, and he cited a fatwa, or Islamic religious edict, issued by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in which he declared that nuclear weapons are forbidden by Islam and renounced any intention by Iran to acquire them. “This framework gives Iran the opportunity to verify that its program is, in fact, peaceful,” the president said.
Obama also said he would personally assure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a forceful critic of the negotiations with Iran, that the accord is the best way to ensure that Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons. He said he would also “make clear our unshakable commitment” to Israel’s security.
“Big day,” tweeted Secretary of State John F. Kerry. He said the European Union, the six major world powers and Iran “now have parameters to resolve major issues on nuclear program. Back to work soon on a final deal.”
Kerry later said in a news conference that if Iran violates the agreement, the sanctions can be “snapped back into place.”
He expressed hope that members of Congress would “give us the time and space” needed to fully explain the agreement.
“Today we have taken a decisive step,” said Federica Mogherini, the foreign policy chief of the European Union. “We have reached solutions on key parameters of a joint comprehensive plan of action.”
In a statement read to reporters, Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said Iran would limit the operation of uranium-enrichment centrifuges to one site — Natanz — and would convert its controversial Fordow enrichment site into a center for nuclear physics and technology research. The Fordow site, which Iran secretly built deep inside a mountain near Qom, had raised alarm because it was less vulnerable to attack if used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.
“There will not be any fissile material at Fordow,” Mogherini said in English. Zarif read the same statement in Farsi.
They also said that a heavy-water nuclear reactor at Arak would be rebuilt so that it could not be used to produce any weapons-grade plutonium. “There will be no reprocessing, and the spent fuel will be exported,” they said.
In return, nuclear-related sanctions against Iran will be terminated by the European Union and the United States, subject to verification that Iran is meeting terms of the agreement, the statement said.
A fact sheet distributed by the State Department said Iran agreed to reduce its installed centrifuges by approximately two-thirds — from about 19,000 today to 6,104 — with only 5,060 of them enriching uranium for 10 years. It said all 6,104 would be first-generation machines, not the more advanced ones that Iran has acquired.
The fact sheet said Iran further agreed not to enrich uranium above the level of 3.67 percent for at least 15 years. That level of low-enriched uranium is suitable as fuel for nuclear power plants — Iran’s stated rationale for enriching uranium — but not as fissile material for nuclear weapons, which require uranium enriched to about 90 percent purity.
Iran has agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kilograms (22,000 pounds) of low-enriched uranium to 300 kilograms (660 pounds) for 15 years, the fact sheet said.
The summary said Iran’s “breakout” timeline — the time it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material to build one atomic bomb, if it chose to pursue such weapons — would be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least 10 years, compared to the current assessment of two to three months.
The agreement calls for tightened monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure that nuclear materials or components are not diverted to any secret weapons program.
The breakthrough came after an all-night session, followed by further talks a few hours later, in a last-ditch effort to get a preliminary agreement to constrain Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons in return for an easing of the sanctions that have severely crimped the Iranian economy.
“Found solutions. Ready to start drafting immediately,” tweeted Zarif. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani followed that up with a tweet from Tehran saying: “Solutions on key parameters of Iran #nuclear case reached. Drafting to start immediately, to finish by June 30th.”
“Good news,” said a tweet from Mogherini.
The German Foreign Ministry tweeted, “Agreement for framework for final agreement reached.”
The negotiators have been keeping the kind of hours usually reserved for college students cramming for exams, working double-overtime after pushing past their own self-imposed Tuesday midnight deadline.
Kerry and the top foreign envoys from Britain, Germany and the European Union were joined late Wednesday by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who had flown home to Paris earlier in the day but then returned unexpectedly.
Fabius is usually the one who takes the firmest stance on Iran’s nuclear program, frequently insisting that Iran must make many more concessions before an agreement can be reached.
But on his arrival, he sounded a slightly more optimistic note for the fate of this phase of talks, which aim to reach a preliminary agreement that will guide three more months of negotiations on complex and difficult issues revolving around nuclear technology.
“We are a few meters from the finishing line, but it’s always the last meters that are the most difficult,” he told reporters. “We will try and cross them. We want a robust and verifiable agreement, and there are still points where there needs to be progress, especially on the Iranian side.”
Iran’s chief negotiator, Zarif, sounding hoarse and sleep-deprived when he spoke briefly with reporters Thursday morning, said the negotiators would be doing an overview of the progress made so far.
At around 6 a.m. local time Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf tweeted that the talks had recessed after the marathon all-night session but would resume after only a a short break.
The day’s first meeting then began five hours later — shortly before 11 a.m. — involving the full contingent of diplomats from Iran, the United States and its five negotiating partners, plus the European Union.
The U.S. State Department said late Wednesday that enough progress had been made in meetings between Kerry and Zarif to warrant continuing the tricky talks into Thursday morning. But the short period appeared to reflect lasting difficulties between the negotiators.
Iran and the six world powers, which also include Russia and China, had cited progress as a reason for abandoning their March 31 deadline for the basic understanding that would prepare the ground for a new phase of negotiations on a substantive deal.
The talks appeared to be on ever-more-shaky ground as Wednesday elapsed. The White House said Iran had not made commitments about its nuclear program in the sessions Wednesday, and Iran’s foreign minister described negotiations with the West as “always problematic.”
Though the talks continued, Germany’s foreign minister said it was possible they could collapse.
“It is clear the negotiations are not going well,” two prominent Republican senators who have been wary of an agreement — John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) — said in a joint statement. “At every step, the Iranians appear intent on retaining the capacity to achieve a nuclear weapon.”
The Obama administration had sought a broad political framework for an agreement by Tuesday, with three additional months to negotiate the technical details. But a deadline that perhaps was intended to pressure Iran to make concessions came and went as the country’s representatives bargained hard. A temporary nuclear agreement with Iran remains in effect until June 30.
Diplomats and politicians sounded exasperated Wednesday, even as they acknowledged they were still exploring proposals to find a way out of their impasse.
In Washington, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the talks were productive but that there were unresolved details. He said the United States would not arbitrarily end the negotiations if they were making progress, “but if we are in a situation where we sense that the talks have stalled, then yes, the United States and the international community is prepared to walk away.”
Zarif, Iran’s chief negotiator, was critical of his counterparts when he was approached by reporters as he strolled along the shores of Lake Geneva on Wednesday.
“I’ve always said that an agreement and pressure do not go together; they are mutually exclusive,” he said. “So our friends need to decide whether they want to be with Iran based on respect or whether they want to continue based on pressure. They have tested the other one. It is high time to test this.”
Earlier, speaking to Iranian reporters outside the Beau Rivage Palace, where talks are being conducted, Zarif sounded weary with the approach taken by the multiple negotiating teams on the other side of the table.
“The negotiations’ progress depends on political will,” he said, according to Iran’s Mehr News Agency. “The other party’s political will has always been problematic.”
The Obama administration and its negotiating partners sought an agreement that would sharply limit Iran’s ability to build nuclear weaponsfor at least a decade and maintain lesser restrictions in subsequent years. Iran says that its nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian purposes. It is seeking the lifting of international sanctions that have battered its economy.
Before Thursday’s announcement in Lausanne, Netanyahu kept up his unrelenting criticism of an agreement with Iran.
“Yesterday, an Iranian general brazenly said, and I quote, Israel’s destruction is nonnegotiable. But evidently giving Iran’s murderous regime a clear path to a bomb is negotiable,” he said in a statement from Jerusalem.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who was visiting Israel on Wednesday with a congressional delegation, said in an appearance with Netanyahu: “Regardless of where in the Middle East we’ve been, the message has been the same: You can’t continue to turn your eye away from the threats that face all of us.”