DESIGN PUBLIC HEARING TO BE HELD ON PROPOSED PLANS FOR THIRD SEGMENT OF I-64 WIDENING PROJECT – Public invited to learn more about plans to provide congestion relief on I-64 in York County

DESIGN PUBLIC HEARING TO BE HELD ON PROPOSED PLANS FOR THIRD SEGMENT OF I-64 WIDENING PROJECT
Public invited to learn more about plans to provide congestion relief on I-64 in York County

SUFFOLK — The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will hold a design public hearing on Thursday, May 18, to present the proposed plans for the third segment of widening improvements on Interstate 64 in York County.

Design Public Hearing
Thursday, May 18, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Bruton High School
185 E. Rochambeau Drive
Williamsburg, VA  23188

The purpose of the meeting is to give citizens an opportunity to review the project exhibits on display, meet with VDOT representatives and provide input. This will be an open-house format meeting with no formal presentation. Media are invited to attend.

Citizens may provide oral and written comments at the hearing or submit them by May 28, 2017, to Janet Hedrick, P.E., Virginia Department of Transportation, 1992 South Military Highway, Chesapeake, Virginia 23320 or via email to Janet.Hedrick@VDOT.Virginia.gov. Please reference “I-64 Segment III Capacity Improvements Comment” in the subject line.

For more information on this project, please visit: http://www.i64widening.org/learn_more/segment_3.asp

 (END)

Information in VDOT news releases was accurate at the time the release was published. For the most current information about projects or programs, please visit the project or program Web pages. You may find those by searching by keyword in the search Virginia DOT box above.

Remarks at St Mark Coptic Orthodox Church

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you so much. Your Graces, Bishop Daniel and Paula. Reverend fathers and members of the congregation. Thank you so much for inviting Lucy and me to attend your mass this morning in this beautiful church.

We’re here together in this Coptic church, nearly 2,000 years of continuity to the time when the apostle Mark – who of course was born just to the west of Egypt in Cyrene – returned to Egypt and founded the church in Egypt, the Coptic Church.

Mark’s gospel begins with a passage from Isiah, which prophesised the coming of John the Baptist. But I wonder whether the apostle, when he wrote his gospel, was he thinking also of another passage of Isiah which foretold the coming of the church and the message of the Lord and the altar of the Lord, being established in the land of Egypt.

Surely nearly two millennia of history, an unbroken chain of Popes of the Coptic Church in Alexandria, that unbroken chain, says something very powerful. In the face of so much persecution and so much adversity, it says something very powerful not simply about the spirit and the indomitability of the Coptic people, but of the power of the Holy Spirit, reaching across all those years, maintaining your faith and that of your fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers before you over all that time, in the Word of the Lord.

So thank you so much for inviting us here today. I am, as you know, joined with Lucy of course and we are delighted to be here with you. With our colleagues, our parliamentary colleagues Alex Hawke, who has come with his wife Amelia and his children Jack and Lachlan. We are after all, the Party of family values. We have lots of babies in the Coalition at the moment so we’re practicing what we preach. And of course, the babies of the next generation. Lucy and I are now at the grandparent stage of our lives. But it’s wonderful also to be joined by Craig Laundy and David Coleman and Craig Kelly. John thank you very much for your generous appreciation and work with the Government. In particular, the work of immigration and I’ll pass on to Peter Dutton the kind words you had about him.

Let me say to you my friends, that we in Australia are the most successful multicultural society in the world. We are.

And you could not imagine modern Australia in all its diversity and magnificence, without you. What you have done, what your families have done, the commitment you’ve made – respecting our values, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, mutual respect – there is the foundation. That mutual respect is the foundation of the harmony we enjoy in Australia, in a world where regrettably, as we see, particularly in the Middle East where there is so little harmony and so much intolerance.

One of the greatest tragedies of our times has been the persecution of Christians right through the Middle East. It is a devastating tragedy to see the persecution of Churches that were founded by the apostles, by men who knew Jesus, men who had walked with Jesus, worked with Jesus. His apostles foundations, these Churches, the most ancient in the world, as Bishop Daniel described, these have been threatened. And I am delighted to hear from Bishop Paula, how strongly President el-Sisi is standing up to defend the Coptics and standing up for the unity of Egypt, defying the Islamist scourge that is seeking to destroy Christianity in the Middle East. But also, is a disease within Islam itself.

We mustn’t mince words here. We have to be very clear-eyed about this. As President el-Sisi and I have discussed this matter directly – and I’ll come to your requests in a moment your Grace, your Grace – I’ve discussed these matters with President el-Sisi and he has called it out for what it is. These terrorists, these people are blasphemers and heretics. They seek to destroy their own religion as they seek to destroy others.

They must be resisted, defied and destroyed. That is my commitment and the commitment of my Government. My friends, we stand with you to defy the terrorists.

You know, you have within your own history and the experience of many of you, all of your families, you have a reminder if how important mutual respect and multiculturalism is. In every respect. The most successful cities in the Mediterranean – Alexandria, Istanbul, Constantinople, Smyrna of course – were all cities that at their height, when they were greatest, were thoroughly multicultural. Diversity brings strength. A diverse society, a multicultural society, is a powerful society, because all of us are enriched by the experience, by the insight, by the culture of everybody else. That is the genius of a successful multicultural society. So much of that has been lost in Egypt. So much of that has been lost especially in other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean.

So what we have in Australia is precious. We can never be complacent about it. We live in a world where you see communities that have lived together with relative harmony for hundreds of years, that apparently no longer can do so. It is extraordinary in the 21st century, you would have to say that looking across the whole world, there is less tolerance than there was before. You would think with all of our sophisticated scientific advancement, we could have also made more progress in terms of our social interactions.

But Australia is different. We are stronger because we are diverse. We are stronger because we maintain that mutual respect. That is why we make no apologies for reinforcing the fundamental values of Australia and of Australian citizenship.

We say that what we have done here is something of which we can all be proud.

We say what we have created here is a remarkable nation.

We say it is founded on Australian values which are right. They are good. They are eternal. They are strong and they are fundamentally committed to freedom, the rule of the law, democracy, mutual respect, the equality of men and women.

We all believe in that, and we say those who seek to come here and to be citizens in our country, should subscribe to those values as well. Because they’re ours and they’re right. That is our commitment.

Now as we have heard, we’ve heard today, and it is a sad tale, over the past six months, these Islamist terrorists in Egypt have targeted your community. Late last year Islamic State in Egypt claimed responsibility for the attack on St Mark Coptic Cathedral in Cairo. 27 worshippers were killed. Earlier this year, they drove 250 Coptics from north Sinai after ISIL threatened to kill them. In April as the Bishop described, ISIL attacked his church, your Grace’s church in Tanta and another in Alexandria, killing over 50 people. Of course, on the 26th of May, the ISIL terrorists attacked a convoy of Coptic Christians travelling to the monastery of Saint Samuel in Minya, killing nearly 30. Now I have written to his Holiness, Pope Tawadros II and offered the condolences of the Australian people, reaffirmed to him as I have to Bishop Daniel and I do again today, to this community, that Australia is united with the Coptic Christian community and all Egyptians and the President el-Sisi in the fight against these Islamist terrorists. They must be stopped.

Now I want to touch on the requests from the Bishop. As you know, I’m very attentive to requests from Bishops. Firstly, I look forward to joining you all during the course of Pope Tawadros’ visit to Australia later this year.

As you know the numbers are tight in the Federal Parliament so we’ll have to make sure that I’m there for votes, but we seem to be winning a few votes in the Parliament at the moment. Well, we win most of them actually, naturally, but often by very tight margins, so all of us have to be there. But we’ll certainly look forward to seeing the Pope.

Now as to your second request, it has already been granted!

I had a very good discussion with President Sisi in China recently at an international gathering, the G20 in fact, and we discussed all of these issues and many others. I encouraged him, invited him to come to Australia and he’s encouraged me to visit Egypt as well. So that would be good, if both could be achieved. But certainly we would look forward to President Sisi coming to Australia.

Can I say just on that subject of leadership, ISIL Islamist terrorists – and of course there are other Al-Qaeda … – but as you know, these are people that the vast majority of Muslims regard as blasphemers. In fact many leading Muslim leaders around the world have said to me: “They’re not Muslims at all. They are so vile, they are such terrorists, they’re blasphemers.” Our best allies in the battle to defeat ISIS are Muslim leaders of courage, who are prepared to stand up and defy them. To say that Islam is a religion that is compatible with democracy and moderation. That is what President Joko Widodo says in Indonesia. That is what President Sisi says in Egypt. Those leaders, moderate leaders of a moderate tradition, are vital allies in the war to defeat ISIL. Because it threatens, it seeks to destroy Islam, and undermine Islam, at the same time as it seeks to destroy other religions and of course, in particular in the Middle East, in this shocking, terrible tragedy, of the assault on the most ancient Christian churches in the world.

So I’m heartened to hear from Bishop Paula how strongly he your community sir, your Grace, is working with the President, with the government of Egypt, the armed forces of Egypt, in solidarity to defeat these terrorists.

Now you’ve noted the hard work of our ambassador in Egypt and you’ve thanked Julie Bishop as well for the great work that she and her Department have done. But I want to note, as you know I believe already, that in light of the recent terrorist attacks our Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Alex Hawke is now reviewing all of the protection applications by Coptic Christians that have been refused on administrative appeal, to ensure that our immigration decisions reflect the current situation in Egypt.

Since 2013, more than 550 protection visas have been granted to Coptic Christians fleeing persecution. We are, as the Bishop acknowledged, working with the Church in Egypt to assist with the victims of the Palm Sunday attacks which occurred earlier in the year.

Now our commitment is to keep Australians safe. That is the first duty of every Government. It is the first duty of my Government. We have been unrelenting in our support for our security and intelligence agencies, in our support for our Australian Defence Force. We have provided them with the legislation that they need to keep us safe.

We’ve change our laws and we do not take a set and forget approach. I want to assure you of this; yes, our agencies are the best in the world. Yes, our laws are the world’s best. In fact many other countries and other leaders are seeking to emulate what we’ve done. For example we changed the law very recently so that if a person is in jail on a terrorist charge and they’re getting to the end of their sentence, and it’s clear that they remain a threat to the community, in the sense that they remain an extremist, then they will be kept in jail after the end of their sentence. They will not be let out. This post-sentence detention is a tough law, there’s no question about that. But it gives you an indication of the determination we have to keep you and every other Australian safe from terrorism.

We’ve taken the same approach with parole and bail. You would have seen recently in a meeting with the Premiers, I secured their agreement to there being a presumption against giving parole or bail to anybody who is seeking it who has a connection with, or a history of advocacy for or support for terrorism. We’ve given the largest single commitment, over $300 million of additional funding to the Australian Federal Police, to enable them to have the capabilities to keeping us secure in the fight against terrorism.

And of course, we’ve given our Defence Forces who are fighting in the Middle East, supporting the Coalition forces to destroy ISIL both in Iraq and Syria, the legal means to target terrorists and destroy them, whatever they’re doing – whether they’re holding a gun, or working in a back office.

So we are absolutely determined to keep you safe.

Now let me say in conclusion, again, thank you for inviting us here today. As John described, I have an interest, I do, I have a great interest in the history of the early Church and particularly in the history of Alexandria. So this is just a joy for me to be here. I’m fascinated with the way in which the Greek alphabet was adapted and expanded a little bit to be used to write the Coptic language. Coptic is – again we talked about nearly 2,000 years of continuity from the visit of Mark to where he established the Church and the Coptic language of course, its continuity, is many thousands of years going right back to the time of the Pharaohs.

So you’ve blessed us today. Thank you for that your Graces. But this has been a great blessing, a very moving occasion for Lucy and me to be here and our parliamentary colleagues and I should acknowledge Mr Atalla from the state parliament. It’s  good to be with you sir. Truly, we are the greatest multicultural society in the world. We would not be that great multicultural society without your contribution and that of many other groups who come from different parts of the world, all melding together, integrating, uniting.

Why are we uniting? Because we share the same values. Our values do not discriminate between religion, race, the colour of your skin or ethnicity. They are eternal, universal human values. They are ours. I know that you, and we, all of us, 24 million Australians are united in defending them, defeating the Islamist terrorists that seek to undermine them and defeat us.

We will defeat them.

We will stand with you. We will stand, 24 million Australians, determined forever to be free.

Thank you so much.

 [ENDS]

Counter-ISIS Strikes Continue in Syria, Iraq

SOUTHWEST ASIA, June 25, 2017 — U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria yesterday, conducting 37 strikes consisting of 79 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of yesterday’s strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

In Syria, coalition military forces conducted 34 strikes consisting of 50 engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Abu Kamal, three strikes destroyed 15 ISIS oil storage tanks, eight ISIS oil barrels, six ISIS oil stills and a vehicle.

— Near Dayr Az Zawr, six strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units and destroyed three ISIS-held buildings, two command-and-control nodes, an ISIS staging area, a mortar system, a tactical vehicle and an ISIS oil refinery.

— Near Raqqa, 25 strikes engaged 17 ISIS tactical units; destroyed 16 fighting positions, five vehicles, two ammo caches, a recoilless rifle, a supply cache and an unmanned aerial system launch site; and suppressed an ISIS tactical unit.

Strikes in Iraq

In Iraq, coalition military forces conducted three strikes consisting of 29 engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Mosul, three strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units; destroyed 11 fighting positons, a medium machine gun, a heavy machine gun and a mortar system; damaged two fighting positions; and suppressed an ISIS tactical unit and a sniper team.

June 22-23 Strikes

Additionally, 13 strikes were conducted in Syria and Iraq on June 22-23 that closed within the last 24 hours.

— On June 22, near Raqqa, Syria, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units; destroyed two fighting positions, two vehicles, a weapons cache and an ISIS staging area; and damaged 14 fighting positions.

— On June 23, near Abu Kamal, Syria, a strike destroyed 29 vehicle-borne bombs and damaged a front-end loader.

— On June 23, near Raqqa, Syria, seven strikes engaged four ISIS tactical units and suppressed two ISIS tactical units.

— On June 23, near Mosul, Iraq, three strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units; destroyed three fighting positions, two medium machine guns, a sniper position and a rocket-propelled grenade system; and suppressed four mortar teams and a sniper position.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said. 

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

Vice President Engages Troops at Schriever Air Force Base

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2017 — The service members at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, evolve the force, drive innovation and master space, Vice President Mike Pence said in a troop talk there yesterday.

The vice president told service members at the Air Force Space Command base that his visit was intended to pay a debt of honor and gratitude on behalf of the American people for their service to the nation.

“This Air Force base has really exemplified American leadership and American excellence now for more than 30 years,” Pence said. “There may not be any runways here, but every day you reach into the stars and you make it possible for your fellow warriors to be able to take the fight to the enemy with enhanced security and enhanced safety.

Guarding Nation’s Space, Cyberspace

“And you guard the nation in space and in cyberspace. You’re on the cutting edge of technology and arms and you complete the Air Force’s mission,” to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace, he noted.

Space is a priority for President Donald J. Trump’s administration and for the American people, and it will always be, Pence said in his troop talk.

“I’m pleased to report that nearly two decades after it was disbanded, in just a few short weeks the president will soon relaunch the National Space Council, said the vice president, who will chair the council.

Space: The Greatest Frontier

“The president recognizes that America needs a coherent and cohesive approach to the last, greatest frontier in history, and the National Space Council, as it has played a role before, will advise the president on both civilian and military national policy and strategy for space, and we look forward to the work of that new entity,” he said.

The council will strengthen opportunities and encourage investment at the national level, and add aspiration for Americans to look to space for careers and service, Pence said.

“And you, the men and women of Schriever Air Force Base, will play a leading role as America leads in space,” he said. “Under President Trump, your mission will be more important than ever before because this administration knows that your work, in the depths of space and cyberspace, is crucial to our security in the 21st century.”

20 Percent Increase in Air Force Space Program

Last month, the president signed a $21 billion increase in funding for U.S. armed forces, the largest investment in U.S. military readiness in nearly a decade, Pence told the troops. And the budget includes nearly a 20 percent increase in the Air Force space budget, he said, adding, “We’re going to fight to lead in space and we’re going to put the resources of the United States of America behind you.”

The airmen at Schriever have brothers-and-sisters-in-arms stationed across the wider world on the frontiers of freedom, in the mountains of South Korea, fields and forests of Eastern Europe, the deserts and valleys of Iraq and Afghanistan, and “it’s an enormous comfort to them and a great source of confidence that you’re here,” the vice president said. “[And] that your vigilance and your professionalism is here ensuring that they have the real-time information to accomplish their missions.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDOD)

Speech by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on the occasion of the G20 Dialogue Forum for the Science and Research Community (S20) in Halle (Saale) on 22 March 2017

begin 2017.03.22

Professor Hacker – I am also including all of your colleagues from the G20 nations or their representatives,
Minister-President, my dear Reiner Haseloff,
Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank you for the work that you have done. Science depends on curiosity, a thirst for knowledge, and the joy of discovery. In science, one person builds on the insights of another. It is precisely this that makes it different from politics. In politics, one can feel comfortable saying the same thing two or three times because the audience is always different. In science, however, there is the expectation that you won’t repeat what a predecessor has already said. In politics, one is sometimes pleased when two people in a party say the same thing. Reiner Haseloff knows what I am talking about.

In science, interaction and cooperation are very important. Openness and interconnectedness are virtually taken for granted as part of life. This is also why science presents itself as a driver of globalisation on the one hand, and benefits from globalisation on the other. The fact that globalisation exists also makes scientific activity simpler and more normal.

Three hundred and sixty five years ago, four doctors laid the foundation for the Leopoldina in order to promote the exchange of ideas in the medical and natural sciences. Back in the era of stagecoaches, it was still somewhat more complex to communicate with each other than it is today in the digital age. But the urge for knowledge and understanding, the urge to learn from and with one another, already existed back then. The same rule that applied in those days still does today: Only those who demonstrate an openness to the world, and engage in cooperation beyond professional and physical boundaries, can fully benefit from it.

This is basically true for science, as it is for the economy. In both areas, we increasingly face the same challenges through the growing interconnectedness worldwide. Developments on one side of the globe have more and more impact on the other side of the globe. This applies in a positive sense, just as it does in a negative sense. One of the most concrete examples was surely the international financial and economic crisis at the end of the last decade.

Globalisation is taking place. Whoever tries to evade it, whoever focuses on isolation and protectionism, may perhaps expect to gain some advantages in the short term. However, it is clear to me that this will cause one’s own innovative capabilities and competitiveness to weaken in the medium and long term. After all, we find a great many examples of this in history.

In a closely networked world, we need – more than ever – answers that are consistent and don’t undermine each other in their effects. Therefore, global questions also require global answers. The G20 at the heads of state and government level – I wish to repeat this – was the result of the financial and economic crisis in the years 2007 and 2008. It was then that the heads of state and government met for the first time at G20 level. Previously, this was a forum for finance ministers. We saw back then that our joint action – concerning bank regulation as well as efforts to stimulate the world economy – actually made it more possible to deal with this global crisis.

At the beginning of July, the heads of state and government of the G20 member nations will meet for a summit in Hamburg. On this occasion, too, we will have guests in attendance. They are the representatives of regional organisations as well as representatives of international organisations, such as the United Nations, the IMF, the OECD, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Labour Organisation. For this reason, too, G20 summits are always global meetings, as it were. We have now included the scientific community, as well as other areas of civil society, in the summit process. Civil-society groups will be present from the very start this time – such as representatives of the business community as well as the trade unions. Also because of the good experiences from the G7 or G8 process, we had decided to expand the group of participants this year at the G20 level as well.

Therefore, this is a world premiere today, so to speak: the first meeting of science academies in the G20 format. I thank you for making the journey, which involved very long distances and travel times in some cases. I would also like to express my gratitude to Professor Hacker and his team, as well as all other participants, for deciding to convene here, for preparing the meeting, for thinking about the topics, for making a note of the conclusions, and all of this – I’ll come back to it later – in sensible language that we, as politicians, can understand.

Apart from business and trade-union representatives, the other groups we will meet with include non governmental organisations, think tanks, women and young people. As a result, this G20 process also has an impact on society.

In reference to science, it is clear that responsible policy depends on scientific recommendation. This is self evident for us in national politics. For this reason, we time and again seek the advice of scientists. This is enriching for policymakers, I would say.

Naturally, I am also pleased that Minister-President Reiner Haseloff is here and has said that his daily work routine is also enriched by this. I also thank the state of Saxony-Anhalt for being such a good host state for the German National Academy of Sciences. If the budget is already secured for the next two years, then that is much more than I can predict for our budgetary commitments. So, congratulations.

I mentioned earlier that you have developed a policy brief. It is important that the language of science is translated in such a way that it can also be comprehended by non scientists. In this sense, as presidents and representatives of your national academies, you are the builders of bridges into society. Because when it comes to the many problems that we have to solve, we can only benefit from scientific knowledge. This applies to the topic of health just as much as it does to other subjects, such as digitalisation, climate and environmental protection, poverty reduction, the empowerment of women, and the G20 partnership with Africa. All of this is crucial for the shaping of sustainable development.

We have adopted the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda. A topic that plays a central role in the 2030 Agenda is health. The United Nations says in this sustainability charter that every person in the world is entitled to reasonable health care. Of course, serious illnesses are a bitter stroke of fate for those affected and their relatives, first of all. Many diseases also lead to life threatening situations or even to death. But as Professor Hacker already said: There aren’t just individual repercussions; illnesses can also devastate entire regions economically. They can cause social tensions and they can lead to violent conflicts. Therefore, it’s not for nothing that the 2030 Agenda gives a great deal of recognition to the topic of health.

As I have said, we have already had the scientific academies present in the G7 process and focused on health issues. We know – most notably from the Ebola crisis – that health issues can become a global topic very quickly and unexpectedly. People travel today, in times of globalisation, from one place to another – and the pathogens travel with them. The president of the World Bank, himself a physician, repeatedly points out the following: If we were to get another pandemic like the Spanish flu, as we had at the start of the 20th century, then the world – with the intense interconnectedness that we have today – would very quickly find itself in a very, very difficult state.

For this reason, a topic like health belongs on the G20 agenda. Perhaps the related organisational efforts sometimes can be quite burdensome. But I hope that you have also enjoyed getting to know each other. Of course, I also express my gratitude for the communiqué, in which you deal with the issues that particularly concern us.

Professor Hacker, I agree with you: It is essential to have strong health systems on the ground in order to prevent the outbreak of epidemics. Many epidemics could be confined locally if the health systems were sustainable and stable. This is a problem that affects many poorer countries, in particular. If you take one look at the African continent, you will know what a huge amount of work is ahead of us.

Therefore, German development cooperation has been drawing on exactly this point for years now. In Africa alone, we will make available about 600 million euros by 2020 in order to improve health systems. However, I would also add that good government leadership should always go with it – particularly in the cooperation with Africa – so that the funds don’t get stuck somewhere “unsustainably,” as it were, but rather that sustainable structures emerge out of this financial support.

With the World Health Organization, we have also started the “Healthy Systems – Healthy Lives” initiative, which serves to develop a common understanding of how we can strengthen health systems in a sustainable way. The goal is an action framework with specific agreements, with which we support countries in their efforts to provide better medical care. I promote this project among the G20 partners as well.

Within the G7, we spoke on several occasions – including when Germany held the presidency – about strong health systems. In 2015, when we hosted the summit, the G7 countries committed themselves to providing aid for at least 60 nations, in order to truly implement the international health regulations of the WHO. We have clear guidelines from the World Health Organization, but we haven’t introduced them everywhere. At the summit that followed last year in Japan, we broadened this goal. On the list, there are now 76 countries that we want to support in the development of an efficient health system. The G7 nations are doing this. Of course, we also need the governments concerned to have their own initiatives. Naturally, this process always involves evaluating the implementation of measures. I may say that we have completed such an evaluation in 30 countries. This is also planned for 30 more countries.

Strengthening national health systems is one aspect. The other one is to be prepared for emergencies at an international level as well, if diseases were to spread internationally in spite of preventive measures. In this case, the main issue is speed. A rapid response is critical. Medical staff, materials and mobile laboratories must be on the spot quickly in a crisis. Sufficient money must also be available.

I would like to add one more point because it is very sensitive. The World Health Organization is structured in such a way that it has regional offices. These regional offices have a relatively autonomous status. That means there is no chain of command from the head of the World Health Organization and no clear reporting obligation when something happens in a region. Instead, it is largely at the discretion of the regional offices to report on it.

Naturally, there is then something similar to shame: If I identify a looming pandemic in my region, should I report it and thereby trigger an alarm worldwide, so to speak, with all the consequences that this could involve – a collapse of tourism, economic repercussions? Should I have the courage to make myself heard in order to prevent major damage? There has been much discussion about this at the World Health Organization. The voluntary commitments – shall we say – were reinforced. I am relatively optimistic that it will work better in future. But this is, of course, a very important point. Because in order to trigger an alarm and to start a chain of action, I naturally need someone to tell me that something is going on somewhere – and, if possible, at a point in time when the spread of the disease isn’t that far advanced yet.

We must also ensure effective coordination. Therefore, the World Health Organization is of great importance in two respects. It must be the organisation from which we get the information and the assessment. It can employ the help of specialists for this purpose. There must also be the capability of triggering a chain of action for the international community.

The World Bank also plays an important role in this context. In particular, it has established the basis for poorer countries to be able to insure themselves against pandemic risks. This means it’s no longer necessary to just sit there alone with a huge burden in one’s hour of need because such insurance makes it possible to put to use the chain of action that we are still building up. For example, Japan and Germany are participating in this emergency programme. Naturally, there are huge debates, as there always are in science: Can one be insured against pandemics? Who wants to calculate and assess the risk? How long could it take for me to ever get into such a situation? It can take a very long time for the damaging event to occur. But it can then become very expensive once the damage has been done. These are all wonderful topics and they are all being dealt with.

A broad field of research opens up when it involves developing effective means to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases. In relation to potential pandemics in regions that may not have received the full focus of our attention so far, there should also be diagnostic and treatment options. You know how long it took with the Ebola vaccination. If it had involved measles, then perhaps we would have had it a lot sooner. Therefore, it is also important to be fair and to create similar treatment options for the different risks in the world.

In Germany – which I want to mention at this point – we have made great efforts to attend to health research, particularly in the past few years. I recently opened a health-research centre for neurodegenerative illnesses in Bonn. We have created a framework programme for health research in order to be well equipped to deal with the most diverse illnesses and to be a good partner in international collaborative arrangements.

However, we see that the incentive to go into certain fields of research also has to be kindled. In this regard, a global view is of great importance to all of us in order to concentrate not just on the diseases that we deal with in industrialised countries, but also to take into consideration other illnesses. At this point, I would like to mention the so called neglected, often tropical, diseases that were already a topic of interest during our G7 presidency. The research commitment for this doesn’t seem to be paying off at all in some cases. But if you consider that up to 1 billion people could be affected by such illnesses, you realise that it is a huge issue.

Therefore, I also expressly welcome an initiative that was launched at the beginning of this year – it was given the go ahead in Davos – and is called the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, abbreviated as CEPI. This will promote the research and development of new vaccines. Various countries, foundations and companies are participating in the initiative. Germany is also joining this public private partnership with a contribution of 10 million euros.

Professor Hacker has already pointed out that the development of new antibiotics and antibiotic resistance are also huge issues. We risk falling behind again in some areas because antibiotics that we had once researched no longer have the desired effect due to antimicrobial resistance. Therefore, the topic is one of the pillars of our health commitment in the G20.

In the G7, we reached agreement that we should rely on the so called One Health approach. That means there is just one health that applies to humans and animals in equal measure. That is to say, we carefully examine the food products that we humans ingest, looking at how the food came about and what types of antibiotics were used on the animals that we consume.

The G20 agriculture ministers have already held a meeting and committed themselves to the goal of allowing the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine exclusively for therapeutic purposes and no longer for the purpose of promoting animal growth. But one must say that the definition of therapeutic purpose is an intriguing matter because the question of how much room hens and chicks have in their coops, for example, plays a part in deciding whether antibiotics must be used in order to prevent diseases, or whether one can forgo antibiotics because there is enough space for the poultry. We should give very good consideration to how high a price we are paying when there is resistance to an antibiotic and we aren’t finding new antibiotics so easily. Achieving success in antibiotic research in the pharmaceutical industry – I am no specialist, of course, but I’ve taken a look at it; indeed, all of you here are experts – is like getting five numbers right, or probably six, in Lotto. You can’t plan this easily. Success doesn’t grow on trees.

This year, not only you from the science academies have met, but we also have a conference of health ministers at the G20 level for the first time in order to once again make a good professional evaluation of what you tell us here. We have also asked the health ministers to carry out the simulation of a pandemic outbreak – a kind of dry run – for the first time and to describe action plans. At a national level, we conduct regular training exercises for anything and everything back in our home country in order to practice how we should act in the event of a catastrophe. But on a global level, we aren’t familiar with such exercises, which led to a situation in which the most efficient helpers in the fight against Ebola were military units because they were able to act with clear chains of command and clear capabilities, while the civilian structures were not prepared for it: Who will do the transporting? Who will procure the medicines? What does the chain of command look like? Who will boost hospital capacity? There were quite different approaches. In this respect, we want to be better prepared for crisis situations.

The state and government heads are supposed to be presented with a short version – so to speak – of the simulation exercise. I’m still not quite sure how theoretical or how clear the thing will be. I always look at my summit Sherpa quite eagerly when something is being presented to me. But it should be the case that we, as state and government heads, are also able to understand what is being presented to us. Because such presentations then lead to action recommendations, which we can prepare in our governments.

I really consider this topic to be extraordinarily important. For this reason, I would like to once again sincerely thank you for facing this joint undertaking. I hope that it was rewarding for you as well. It certainly is for us. Many thanks, Professor Hacker, and to your colleagues as well.

I have forgotten one other thing. We saw how poorly things worked when handling the Ebola crisis. We then considered what lessons were to be learned from Ebola. We thought that was something only the United Nations could carry forward – the World Health Organization indeed belongs to the United Nations system. Then three countries initially – Germany, Ghana and Norway – formulated an appeal to the UN Secretary-General to address the issue. The UN Secretary-General then commissioned three other countries to prepare recommendations for action. That was somewhat strange. I said: I haven’t heard anything more about it because three other countries are now dealing with it. The international community is large, but we were allowed to again bring in our experts in the second panel. The action recommendations were then delivered to the UN Secretary-General. After that, he named a special officer to oversee it further in cooperation with the WHO. It finally found a way, so to speak, into the mechanism of the United Nations. As a result, the issue was formalised and therefore has relevance at the United Nations as well. Now they should just make sure not to lose sight of it.

Speech by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the “G20 Africa Partnership – investing in a common future” conference on 12 June 2017 in Berlin

begin 2017.06.12

Messrs Presidents,
Prime Minister Gentiloni, my friend Paolo,
Distinguished representatives of international organisations, G20 nations and partner countries,
My honoured fellow Cabinet members Wolfgang Schäuble and Gerd Müller,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Some of you have travelled a very long way to be here today. So let me wish you all a very warm welcome to this partnership conference entitled “investing in a common future”. We hope that this conference will help ensure that these are not just nice words on paper. We really want to work during this conference to put cooperation into practice.

Our economic relations form an ever closer-knit web around the globe. Thanks to the Internet, we now know more about each other than ever before. Distance has lost its import when it comes to making new contacts and maintaining them. Developments like these of course bring tremendous opportunities. However, they also mean that we have to work towards sustainable and inclusive economic development for the entire world. A single country acting alone cannot make much headway on such a project. Yet globalisation is not a destiny to which we must yield without demur. On the contrary, it is something we must forge in partnership with others.

The Agenda 2030 is a great achievement, because all the countries on our planet have agreed on a common pathway for development. In contrast to the Millennium Development Goals, which defined targets for the developing countries, this time all countries – developed and developing nations alike – are part of this Agenda 2030.

It is on this basis that we have adopted the motto, “shaping an interconnected world”, for our G20 Presidency. The G20 Summit will take place in Hamburg. We have chosen a maritime image – a reef knot – as the symbol of our Presidency. The harder you pull on it, the better it holds. It symbolises the ties between our countries.

We know that pan-global development can only succeed if all continents share in such development. This also means, first and foremost, that the African continent has to make progress on its development pathway over the next few years. Even today, the economies of some African countries are remarkably dynamic. Some are even growing faster than the industrialised and newly industrialised economies of the G20. Success stories like those should inspire others. They reveal the potential that lies in African countries – for example in the field of renewable energy and digital development. There are many good examples of decentralised energy supply and much more besides. But much still remains to be done.

We in the industrialised countries have to consider whether we have always taken the right path in providing our traditional development aid. I don’t think we have. We have to focus more strongly on each specific country’s own economic development. That’s what gave rise to the idea – proposed first and foremost by our Finance Minister and our Development Minister – of saying we need an initiative through which we don’t speak about Africa, but speak with Africa. The result was the G20 Compact with Africa Initiative. The countries of Africa have also set their own targets in their Agenda 2063 and have clearly stated what they believe development should bring. That’s why it’s called the Compact with Africa, not the Compact for Africa. The idea is for each country to say what development steps it considers necessary and how it thinks we can help and how, together, we can make available suitable instruments, so that the relevant development projects do succeed. You will talk about this in more detail today and tomorrow.

We want to lend support for regional market integration, not least in order to enhance the transfer of technology and know-how. We also want to ensure that trade flows between Europe and African countries really benefit everyone. We still have a lot to do in this regard.

The next European Union-African Union summit will take place in November. Today’s meeting, which we are hosting as part of our G20 Presidency, will also serve to prepare the ground for that summit. We are aware that our achievements of the past years are not yet enough. In many countries, development lags behind what is needed given the speed of population growth. Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050.

We also know that development is only possible if security is given. However, in many parts of Africa security is not yet sufficiently guaranteed – be it due to fragile sovereignty, conflicts, terrorism or humanitarian crises. Numerous human tragedies are being played out as we speak. For this reason, boosting the economy does not top the agenda in some African countries. They need to deal with day-to-day survival first.

As a result, the G20 Africa Partnership is concerned on the one hand with economic development, but on the other with fostering peace, stability and security – i.e. in creating the basic conditions for economic activity. There, too, we have to learn to think anew. For many years development policy-makers did not pay sufficient attention to security issues. For many years, we felt virtuous when we were not dealing with military equipment. But some of you have said to me that you are expected to combat terrorism, but are not given any support to do so.

I thus think we have to be more honest and admit that only where security is given can development take root. I consider it very courageous of some countries to take responsibility upon themselves in the fight against terrorism in Mali and its neighbourhood. France now wants a Security Council mandate in this connection. I can only say that Germany will support this.

Special attention will have to be devoted to the youth of Africa – as highlighted in the Agenda 2063. More than half of all Africans are under 25 years old. As I keep saying in Germany, the average age here in Germany is 43 years. The average age in Niger, Mali and other countries is less than 15 years. This just goes to show the very different situations we have to deal with. If we don’t give young people prospects for the future, if we don’t invest in education and skills, if we don’t strengthen the position of girls and young women, the development agenda will not succeed.

In other words, as part of our work in the G20 we will do everything we can, through the compacts with African countries and through special initiatives for women’s education and female entrepreneurship, to improve the prerequisites that should enable Africa to develop and grow as we need it to.

If hopelessness is too widespread in Africa, young people are also more likely to seek a better life elsewhere in the world. Thus, by working together with you for your countries, we are also enhancing our own security and will be able to put a stop to the activities of criminals who are toying with refugees and migrants’ fates and extracting large sums of money from them. Many refugees have terrible tales to tell of human smuggling and trafficking in human beings. States thus have to work together. We have to create legal options for movement and must not permit people to make money from the suffering of others.

Ladies and gentlemen, this conference also serves to draw attention to the differences between your countries, to the diversity of challenges faced in Africa. For this reason, too, let me thank you for coming. Many people in Germany are not yet as well informed about either the good or the difficult aspects of life in your countries as we would wish. Getting to know each other better, learning more about each other, and assuming responsibility together are all also aspects of shaping an interconnected world. I hope that this conference will make a contribution to this end. And so let me ask all of you here today not to mince your words, to talk “tacheles”, as we say in Germany. Simply saying nice things doesn’t achieve anything. We have to learn from one another. And we need results. That’s what we’re here for.

A very warm welcome to you all.

Ensuring prosperity for all

How can an economically prosperous, ecologically sustainable and socially integrative future be created for the world population? Academics, politicians and business representatives met at the Think20 Dialogue Forum to draw up recommendations for the G20 Summit in July which were then presented to Peter Altmaier.

Head of the Federal Chancellery Peter Altmaier at the Think20 Dialogue ForumPeter Altmaier, Head of the Federal Chancellery, accepted the Think20 recommendations on the Chancellor’s behalf Photo: PwC

The global economy is growing ever more connected and is shaped by rapid technical progress. Nevertheless, economic progress no longer seems to go hand in hand with social progress. One of the goals of the G20 should, ultimately, be to shape the global economy in such a way that people’s most pressing needs can be met. But that also means that the G20 should make efforts to promote not just economic growth but also robust, integrative and sustainable prosperity.

Academics, politicians and business representatives spent two days at the Think20 Dialogue Forum in Berlin discussing solutions to these global challenges. They then presented their recommendations to Peter Altmaier, Head of the Federal Chancellery.

Tackling global problems

Peter Altmaier said that innovation was driven by global problems which needed to be solved and by technical developments, not by politics. That was why it was necessary, he said, to create governmental structures so that problems could be discussed globally in a networked world. “We now understand that technical progress will only be possible and the risks associated with climate change, migration, poverty and terrorism can only be tackled in our closely networked world if we act together,” the Head of the Federal Chancellery said.

Migration and flight are huge challenges, Altmaier said. Events in the autumn of 2015 had showed that there was no fully functional international framework in place for dealing with such problems. Many countries in Europe, as well as in Africa, were helping to prevent a humanitarian disaster. The G20, Altmaier said, should focus on more than just economic and financial issues. The G20 countries needed to act together to address social and ecological risks. The problems faced in Africa, in particular, needed to be tackled collaboratively, said Altmaier.

Finding solutions to new challenges

It was of course important to increase military spending; foreign and security policy was on the agenda, but in a different way than in the past. It was not so much rockets and weapons which were important today, Altmaier said, but above all education, vocational training and integrating women into the world of work and the political debate. That could best be achieved in the context of democratic structures and global initiatives.

The experts recommended that the G20 countries develop a joint vision. That vision would need to enable the global population to shape an economically prosperous, ecologically sustainable and socially integrative future which was capable of withstanding any unforeseen shocks. The G20 countries as well as all the other nations of the world needed to each go their own way and at the same time find a common vision for tackling problems which affected them all, they explained.

Three simple ideas

Such a common vision should be based on three simple ideas: Firstly, the future of humanity is dependent on the stabilisation and cultivation of global public goods, including the global economy and the biosphere. These global public goods are the precondition for peace, security and human well-being going forward.

Secondly, cultivating these global public goods requires an overall culture of global cooperation as well as a system of global collective action. Thirdly, top-down global good governance will not work unless globalisation is focused on people.

As regards climate action, the Agenda 2030, which governments adopted in September 2015, already reflects the cornerstones of such an urgently required global vision. Consequently, the main emphasis of the G20 agenda, which is continually evolving, should be ensuring that people’s well-being across the globe is based on prosperity, their ability to actively participate and social integration.

Think20 (T20), a network of international think tanks from the G20 countries, supports the solving of these challenges by delivering recommendations and new perspectives to the G20 heads of state and government which can serve as guides when it comes to shaping policy.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Vice President Engages Troops at Shriever Air Force Base

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2017 — The service members at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, evolve the force, drive innovation and master space, Vice President Mike Pence said in a troop talk there yesterday.

The vice president told service members at the Air Force Space Command base that his visit was intended to pay a debt of honor and gratitude on behalf of the American people for their service to the nation.

“This Air Force base has really exemplified American leadership and American excellence now for more than 30 years,” Pence said. “There may not be any runways here, but every day you reach into the stars and you make it possible for your fellow warriors to be able to take the fight to the enemy with enhanced security and enhanced safety.

Guarding Nation’s Space, Cyberspace

“And you guard the nation in space and in cyberspace. You’re on the cutting edge of technology and arms and you complete the Air Force’s mission,” to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace, he noted.

Space is a priority for President Donald J. Trump’s administration and for the American people, and it will always be, Pence said in his troop talk.

“I’m pleased to report that nearly two decades after it was disbanded, in just a few short weeks the president will soon relaunch the National Space Council, said the vice president, who will chair the council.

Space: The Greatest Frontier

“The president recognizes that America needs a coherent and cohesive approach to the last, greatest frontier in history, and the National Space Council, as it has played a role before, will advise the president on both civilian and military national policy and strategy for space, and we look forward to the work of that new entity,” he said.

The council will strengthen opportunities and encourage investment at the national level, and add aspiration for Americans to look to space for careers and service, Pence said.

“And you, the men and women of Schriever Air Force Base, will play a leading role as America leads in space,” he said. “Under President Trump, your mission will be more important than ever before because this administration knows that your work, in the depths of space and cyberspace, is crucial to our security in the 21st century.”

20 Percent Increase in Air Force Space Program

Last month, the president signed a $21 billion increase in funding for U.S. armed forces, the largest investment in U.S. military readiness in nearly a decade, Pence told the troops. And the budget includes nearly a 20 percent increase in the Air Force space budget, he said, adding, “We’re going to fight to lead in space and we’re going to put the resources of the United States of America behind you.”

The airmen at Schriever have brothers-and-sisters-in-arms stationed across the wider world on the frontiers of freedom, in the mountains of South Korea, fields and forests of Eastern Europe, the deserts and valleys of Iraq and Afghanistan, and “it’s an enormous comfort to them and a great source of confidence that you’re here,” the vice president said. “[And] that your vigilance and your professionalism is here ensuring that they have the real-time information to accomplish their missions.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDOD)

Officials Release Details of Latest Strikes Against ISIS in Syria, Iraq

SOUTHWEST ASIA, June 24, 2017 — U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria yesterday, conducting 34 strikes consisting of 85 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of yesterday’s strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

In Syria, coalition military forces conducted 31 strikes consisting of 43 engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Abu Kamal, six strikes destroyed 10 ISIS oil storage tanks, four front-end loaders, two vehicles, a vehicle-borne-bomb facility and a pumpjack.

— Near Dayr Az Zawr, a strike destroyed a front-end loader.

— Near Hasakah, two strikes destroyed four artillery systems and two tanks.

— Near Raqqa, 21 strikes engaged 15 ISIS tactical units; destroyed 10 fighting positions, six vehicles, a vehicle-borne bomb, an ISIS staging area, a tactical vehicle, a mortar tube and a mortar system; damaged an ISIS supply route; and suppressed an ISIS tactical unit.

— Near Shadaddi, a strike destroyed an ISIS vehicle-borne-bomb factory.

Strikes in Iraq

In Iraq, coalition military forces conducted three strikes consisting of 42 engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Mosul, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and two snipers; destroyed 14 fighting positons, five medium machine guns, four mortar systems, three supply caches, two rocket-propelled grenade systems and a sniper position; and suppressed a mortar team.

— Near Rawah, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS staging area.

June 21-22 Strikes

Additionally, three strikes were conducted in Syria and Iraq on June 21-22 that closed within the last 24 hours.

— On June 21, near Raqqa, Syria, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit; destroyed four ISIS staging areas, three vehicles, three fighting positons and a vehicle-borne bomb; damaged a vehicle-borne-bomb factory; and suppressed an ISIS tactical unit.

— On June 22, near Raqqa, Syria, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed two fighting positions.

— On June 22, near Kisik, Iraq, a strike damaged six ISIS supply routes.

— On June 22, near Mosul, Iraq, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units; destroyed seven vehicles, two medium machine guns, two rocket-propelled grenade systems, an ISIS staging area, a fighting positon and a vehicle-borne bomb; and suppressed two mortar teams.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said. 

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

In visit to Haiti, Security Council delegation to reaffirm support for country's stability and development

23 June 2017 – The United Nations Security Council on Thursday began a three-day visit to Haiti to reaffirm its support for the Haitian Government and people in strengthening institutions to contribute to the country’s stability and development.

The visit is led by Bolivia, which holds the Council’s presidency for the month of June. The Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the United Nations, Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz, is heading the delegation.

During the visit, Council members are expected to meet with President Jovenel Moïse, Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant, and other senior Haitian officials. They are also expected to meet with leaders of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the UN country team, United Nations police (UNPOL) and civil society actors.

The Council also intends to assess the state of implementation of its resolution 2350 (2017) on the closure of MINUSTAH and its transition to a new operation to be known as the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).

The aim of the new Mission will be to help the Haitian Government strengthen rule-of-law institutions, further develop and support the Haitian National Police and engage in human rights monitoring, reporting and analysis.

By the resolution that established the new Mission, MINUJUSTH would comprise up to seven formed police units (FPUs), or 980 FPU personnel, and 295 individual police officers, for an initial six months, from 16 October 2017 until 15 April 2018. MINUSTAH’s current military component would withdraw fully by 15 October.