General Information

Remarks by the President on the Ten Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Andrew Sanchez Community Center
New Orleans, Louisiana
4:00 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Everybody, have a seat.  Hello, everybody!  Where y’at?  It is good to be back in the Big Easy.  And this is the weather in August all the time, right?  (Laughter.)  As soon as I land in New Orleans, the first thing I do is get hungry.  When I was here with the family a few years ago, I had a shrimp po-boy at Parkway Bakery and Tavern.  I still remember it — that’s how good it was.  And one day, after I leave office, maybe I’ll finally hear Rebirth at the Maple Leaf on Tuesday night.  (Applause.)  I’ll get a chance to “see the Mardi Gras,” and somebody will tell me what’s Carnival for.  (Laughter.)  But right now, I just go to meetings.

I want to thank Michelle for the introduction and, more importantly, for the great work she’s doing, what she symbolizes, and what she represents in terms of the city bouncing back.  I want to acknowledge a great friend and somebody who has been working tirelessly on behalf of this city, and he’s following a family legacy of service — your mayor, Mitch Landrieu.  (Applause.)  Proud of him.  And his beautiful wife, Cheryl.  Senator Bill Cassidy is here.  Where did Senator Cassidy go?  There he is.  (Applause.)  Congressman Cedric Richmond.  (Applause.)  Where’s the Congressman?  There he is over there.  We’ve got a lifelong champion of Louisiana in your former senator, Mary Landrieu in the house.  Mary!  (Applause.)  I want to acknowledge a great supporter to the efforts to recover and rebuild, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries from New York, who has traveled down here with us.  (Applause.) 

To all the elected officials from Louisiana and Mississippi who are here today, thank you so much for your reception.

I’m here to talk about a specific recovery.  But before I begin to talk just about New Orleans, I want to talk about America’s recovery, take a little moment of presidential privilege to talk about what’s been happening in our economy.    This morning, we learned that our economy grew at a stronger and more robust clip back in the spring than anybody knew at the time.  The data always lags.  We already knew that over the past five and a half years, our businesses have created 13 million new jobs.  (Applause.)  These new numbers that came out, showing that the economy was growing at a 3.7 percent clip, means that the United States of America remains an anchor of global strength and stability in the world — that we have recovered faster, more steadily, stronger than just about any economy after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

And it’s important for us to remember that strength.  It’s been a volatile few weeks around the world.  And there’s been a lot of reports in the news, and the stock market swinging, and worries about China and about Europe.  But the United States of America, for all the challenges that we still have, continue to have the best cards.  We just got to play them right. 

Our economy has been moving, and continues to grow.  And unemployment continues to come down.  And our work is not yet done, but we have to have that sense of steadiness and vision and purpose in order to sustain this recovery so that it reaches everybody and not just some.  It’s why we need to do everything we can in government to make sure our economy keeps growing.  That requires Congress to protect our momentum — not kill it.  Congress is about to come back from a six-week recess.  The deadline to fund the government is, as always, the end of September.  And so I want everybody just to understand that Congress has about a month to pass a budget that helps our economy grow.  Otherwise, we risk shutting down the government and services that we all count on for the second time in two years.  That would not be responsible.  It does not have to happen. 

Congress needs to fund America in a way that invests in our growth and our security, and not cuts us off at the knees by locking in mindless austerity or shortsighted sequester cuts to our economy or our military.  I’ve said I will veto a budget like that.  I think most Americans agree we’ve got to invest in, rather than cut, things like military readiness, infrastructure, schools, public health, the research and development that keeps our companies on the cutting edge. 

That’s what great nations do.  (Applause.)  That’s what great nations do.  And you know, eventually, we’re going to do it anyway, so let’s just do it without too much drama.  (Laughter.)  Let’s do it without another round of threats to shut down the government.  (Applause.)  Let’s not introduce unrelated partisan issues.  Nobody gets to hold the American economy hostage over their own ideological demands.  You, the people who send us to Washington, expect better.  Am I correct?  (Applause.) 

So my message to Congress is:  Pass a budget.  Prevent a shutdown.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  Don’t worry our businesses or our workers by contributing unnecessarily to global uncertainty.  Get it done, and keep the United States of America the anchor of global strength that we are and always should be.

Now, that’s a process of national recovery that from coast to coast we’ve been going through.  But there’s been a specific process of recovery that is perhaps unique in my lifetime, right here in the state of Louisiana, right here in New Orleans.  (Applause.) 

Not long ago, our gathering here in the Lower 9 probably would have seemed unlikely.  As I was flying here today with a homegirl from Louisiana, Donna Brazile, she was — she saved all the magazines, and she was whipping them out, and one of them was a picture of the Lower 9th right after the storm had happened.  And the notion that there would be anything left seemed unimaginable at the time.

Today, this new community center stands as a symbol of the extraordinary resilience of this city, the extraordinary resilience of its people, the extraordinary resilience of the entire Gulf Coast and of the United States of America.  You are an example of what is possible when, in the face of tragedy and in the face of hardship, good people come together to lend a hand, and, brick by brick, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, you build a better future. 

And that, more than any other reason, is why I’ve come back here today — plus, Mitch Landrieu asked me to.  (Laughter.)  It’s been 10 years since Katrina hit, devastating communities in Louisiana and Mississippi, across the Gulf Coast.  In the days following its landfall, more than 1,800 of our fellow citizens — men, women and children — lost their lives.  Some folks in this room may have lost a loved one in that storm.

Thousands of people saw their homes destroyed, livelihoods wiped out, hopes and dreams shattered.  Many scattered in exodus to cities across the country, and too many still haven’t returned.  Those who stayed and lived through that epic struggle still feel the trauma sometimes of what happened.  As one woman from Gentilly recently wrote me, “A deep part of the whole story is the grief.”  So there’s grief then and there’s still some grief in our hearts.  

     Here in New Orleans, a city that embodies a celebration of life, suddenly seemed devoid of life.  A place once defined by color and sound — the second line down the street, the crawfish boils in backyards, the music always in the air — suddenly it was dark and silent.  And the world watched in horror.  We saw those rising waters drown the iconic streets of New Orleans.  Families stranded on rooftops.  Bodies in the streets.  Children crying, crowded in the Superdome.  An American city dark and under water.  

And this was something that was supposed to never happen here — maybe somewhere else.  But not here, not in America.  And we came to realize that what started out as a natural disaster became a manmade disaster — a failure of government to look out for its own citizens.  And the storm laid bare a deeper tragedy that had been brewing for decades because we came to understand that New Orleans, like so many cities and communities across the country, had for too long been plagued by structural inequalities that left too many people, especially poor people, especially people of color, without good jobs or affordable health care or decent housing.  Too many kids grew up surrounded by violent crime, cycling through substandard schools where few had a shot to break out of poverty.  And so like a body weakened already, undernourished already, when the storm hit, there was no resources to fall back on.

Shortly after I visited — shortly after the storm, I visited with folks not here because we couldn’t distract local recover efforts.  Instead, I visited folks in a shelter in Houston — many who had been displaced.  And one woman told me, “We had nothing before the hurricane.  And now we have less than nothing.”  We had nothing before the hurricane — now we had less than nothing.

And we acknowledge this loss, and this pain, not to dwell on the past, not to wallow in grief; we do it to fortify our commitment and to bolster our hope, to understand what it is that we’ve learned, and how far we’ve come. 

Because this is a city that slowly, unmistakably, together, is moving forward.  Because the project of rebuilding here wasn’t just to restore the city as it had been.  It was to build a city as it should be — a city where everyone, no matter what they look like, how much money they’ve got, where they come from, where they’re born has a chance to make it.  (Applause.)

And I’m here to say that on that larger project of a better, stronger, more just New Orleans, the progress that you have made is remarkable.   The progress you’ve made is remarkable.  (Applause.) 

That’s not to say things are perfect.  Mitch would be the first one to say that.  We know that African Americans and folks in hard-hit parishes like Plaquemines and St. Bernard are less likely to feel like they’ve recovered.  Certainly we know violence still scars the lives of too many youth in this city.  As hard as rebuilding levees are, as hard as —

PARTICIPANT:  (Inaudible) mental health. 

THE PRESIDENT:  I agree with that.  But I’ll get to that.  Thank you, ma’am.

As hard as rebuilding levees is, as hard as rebuilding housing is, real change — real lasting, structural change — that’s even harder.  And it takes courage to experiment with new ideas and change the old ways of doing things.  That’s hard.  Getting it right, and making sure that everybody is included and everybody has a fair shot at success — that takes time.  That’s not unique to New Orleans.  We’ve got those challenges all across the country.

But I’m here to say, I’m here to hold up a mirror and say because of you, the people of New Orleans, working together, this city is moving in the right direction.  And I have never been more confident that together we will get to where we need to go.  You inspire me.  (Applause.)

Your efforts inspire me.  And no matter how hard it’s been and how hard and how long the road ahead might seem, you’re working and building and striving for a better tomorrow.  I see evidence of it all across this city.  And, by the way, along the way, the people of New Orleans didn’t just inspire me, you inspired all of America.  Folks have been watching what’s happened here, and they’ve seen a reflection of the very best of the American spirit.

As President, I’ve been proud to be your partner.  Across the board, I’ve made the recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast a priority.  I made promises when I was a senator that I’d help.  And I’ve kept those promises.  (Applause.)

We’re cutting red tape to help you build back even stronger.  We’re taking the lessons we’ve learned here, we’ve applied them across the country, including places like New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.

If Katrina was initially an example of what happens when government fails, the recovery has been an example of what’s possible when government works together — (applause) — state and local, community — everybody working together as true partners. 

Together, we’ve delivered resources to help Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida rebuild schools and hospitals, roads, police and fire stations, restore historic buildings and museums.  And we’re building smarter, doing everything from elevating homes to retrofitting buildings to improving drainage, so that our communities are better prepared for the next storm.

Working together, we’ve transformed education in this city.  Before the storm, New Orleans public schools were largely broken, leaving generations of low-income kids without a decent education.  Today, thanks to parents and educators, school leaders, nonprofits, we’re seeing real gains in achievement, with new schools, more resources to retain and develop and support great teachers and principals.  We have data that shows before the storm, the high school graduation rate was 54 percent.  Today, it’s up to 73 percent.  (Applause.)  Before the storm, college enrollment was 37 percent.  Today, it’s almost 60 percent.  (Applause.)  We still have a long way to go, but that is real progress.  New Orleans is coming back better and stronger. 

Working together, we’re providing housing assistance to more families today than before the storm, with new apartments and housing vouchers.  And we will keep working until everybody who wants to come home can come home.  (Applause.)  

Together, we’re building a New Orleans that is as entrepreneurial as any place in the country, with a focus on expanding job opportunities and making sure that more people benefit from a growing economy here.  We’re creating jobs to rebuild the city’s transportation infrastructure, expanding training programs for industries like high-tech manufacturing, but also water management, because we’ve been building some good water management around here and we want to make sure everybody has access to those good, well-paying jobs.  Small businesses like Michelle’s are growing.  It’s small businesses like hers that are helping to fuel 65 straight months of private sector job growth in America.  That’s the longest streak in American history.  (Applause.) 

Together, we’re doing more to make sure that everyone in this city has access to great health care.  More folks have access to primary care at neighborhood clinics so that they can get the preventive care that they need.  We’re building a brand new VA Medical Center downtown, alongside a thriving biosciences corridor that’s attracting new jobs and investment.  We are working to make sure that we have additional mental health facilities across the city and across the country, and more people have access to quality, affordable health care –- some of the more than 16 million Americans who have gained health insurance over the past few years.  (Applause.) 

All of this progress is the result of the commitment and drive of the people of this region.  I saw that spirit today.  Mitch and I started walking around a little bit.  Such a nice day outside.  And we went to Faubourg Lafitte, we were in Tremé, and we saw returning residents living in brand new homes, mixed income — new homes near schools and clinics and parks, child care centers; more opportunities for working families. 

We saw that spirit today at Willie Mae’s Scotch House.  After Katrina had destroyed that legendary restaurant, some of the best chefs from the country decided America could not afford to lose such an important place.  So they came down here to help — helped rebuild.  And I just sampled some of her fried chicken.  (Laughter.)  It was really good.  (Laughter.)  Although I did get a grease spot on my suit.  (Laughter.)  But that’s okay.  If you come to New Orleans and you don’t have a grease spot somewhere — (applause) — then you didn’t enjoy the city.  Just glad I didn’t get it on my tie.  (Laughter.)   

We all just heard that spirit of New Orleans in the remarkable young people from Roots of Music.  (Applause.)  When the storm washed away a lot of middle school music programs, Roots of Music helped fill that gap.  And today, it’s building the next generation of musical talent — the next Irma Thomas, or the next Trombone Shorty, or the next Dr. John.  (Applause.)  There’s a Marsalis kid in here somewhere.  How you doing? 

And I saw it in the wonderful young men I met earlier who are part of “NOLA for Life,” which is focused on reducing the number of murders in the city of New Orleans.  (Applause.)  This is a program that works with the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative to make sure that all young people, and particularly our boys and young men of color who so disproportionately are impacted by crime and violence, have the opportunity to fulfill their full potential.

In fact, after the storm, this city became a laboratory for urban innovation across the board.  And we’ve been tackling with you, as a partner, all sorts of major challenges — fighting poverty, supporting our homeless veterans.  And as a result, New Orleans has become a model for the nation as the first city, the first major city to end veterans’ homelessness — (applause) — which is a remarkable achievement.

You’re also becoming a model for the nation when it comes to disaster response and resilience.  We learned lessons from Katrina.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed stricter standards, more advanced techniques for levees.  Here in Louisiana, we built a $14 billion system of improved levees and pump stations and gates — a system that stood the test of Hurricane Isaac. 

We’ve revamped FEMA — and I just have to say, by the way, there’s a man named Craig Fugate who runs FEMA — (applause) — and has been doing extraordinary work, and his team, all across the country, every time there’s a disaster.  I love me some Craig Fugate.  (Laughter.)  Although it’s a little disturbing — he gets excited when there are disasters — (laughter) — because he gets restless if everything is just quiet.  But under his leadership, we’ve revamped FEMA into a stronger, more efficient agency.  In fact, the whole federal government has gotten smarter at preventing and recovering from disasters, and serving as a better partner to local and state governments.

And as I’ll talk about next week, when I visit Alaska, making our communities more resilient is going to be increasingly important, because we’re going to see more extreme weather events as the result of climate change — deeper droughts, deadlier wildfires, stronger storms.  That’s why, in addition to things like new and better levees, we’ve also been investing in restoring wetlands and other natural systems that are just as critical for storm protection. 

So we’ve made a lot of progress over the past 10 years. You’ve made a lot of progress.  That gives us hope.  But it doesn’t allow for complacency.  It doesn’t mean we can rest.  Our work here won’t be done when almost 40 percent of children still live in poverty in this city.  That’s not a finished job.  That’s not a full recovery.  Our work won’t be done when a typical black household earns half the income of white households in this city.  The work is not done yet.  (Applause.)

Our work is not done when there’s still too many people who have yet to find good, affordable housing, and too many people — especially African American men — who can’t find a job.  Not when there are still too many people who haven’t been able to come back home; folks who, around the country, every day, live the words sung by Louis Armstrong, “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?”

But the thing is, the people of New Orleans, there’s something in you guys that is just irrepressible.  You guys have a way of making a way out of no way.  (Applause.)  You know the sun comes out after every storm.  You’ve got hope — especially your young people reflect hope — young people like Victor York-Carter.  Where’s Victor?  Victor York-Carter.  Stand up, Victor.  I was just talking to Victor.  I had some lunch with him.  He’s this fine young man that I just met with.  (Applause.)  Stand up — everybody.  See, these are the guys who I ate chicken with.  (Applause.)  Really impressive — have overcome more than their fair share of challenges, but are still focused on the future.  Yes, sit down.  I don’t want you to start getting embarrassed.  (Laughter.) 

So I’ll just give you one example.  Victor grew up in the 8th Ward.  Gifted art student, loved math.  He was 13 when Katrina hit.  And he remembers waking up to what looked like something out of a disaster movie.  He and his family waded across the city, towing his younger brother in a trash can to keep him afloat. 

They were eventually evacuated to Texas.  Six months later, they returned, and the city was almost unrecognizable.  Victor saw his peers struggling to cope, many of them still traumatized, their lives still disordered.  So he joined an organization called Rethink to help young people get more involved in rebuilding New Orleans.  And recently, he finished a coding bootcamp at Operation Spark; today, he’s studying to earn a high-tech job.  He wants to introduce more young people to science and technology and civics so that they have the tools to change the world. 

And so Victor and these young men that I just met with, they’ve overcome extraordinary odds.  They’ve lived through more than most of us will ever have to endure.  (Applause.)  They’ve made some mistakes along the way.  But for all that they’ve been through, they have been just as determined to improve their own lives, to take responsibility for themselves, but also to try to see if they can help others along the way.

So when I talk to young men like that, that gives me hope.  It’s still hard.  I told them they can’t get down on themselves.  Tough stuff will happen along the way.  But if they’ve come this far, they can keep on going.  (Applause.)

And Americans like you — the people of New Orleans, young men like this — you’re what recovery has been all about.  You’re why I’m confident that we can recover from crisis and start to move forward.  You’ve helped this country recover from a crisis and helped it move forward.  You’re the reason 13 million new jobs have been created.  You’re the reason the unemployment rate fell from 10 percent to 5.3.  You’re the reason that layoffs are near an all-time low.  You’re the reason the uninsured rate is at an all-time low and the high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, and the deficit has been cut by two-thirds, and two wars are over.  (Applause.)  And nearly 180,000 American troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have now gone down to 15,000.  And a clean energy revolution is helping to save this planet. 

You’re the reason why justice has expanded and now we’re focused on making sure that everybody is treated fairly under the law, and why people have the freedom to marry whoever they love from sea to shining sea.  (Applause.)

I tell you, we’re moving into the next presidential cycle and the next political season, and you will hear a lot of people telling you everything that’s wrong with America.  And that’s okay.  That’s a proper part of our democracy.  One of the things about America is we’re never satisfied.  We keep pushing forward.   We keep asking questions.  We keep challenging our government.  We keep challenging our leaders.  We keep looking for the next set of challenges to tackle.  We find what’s wrong because we have confidence that we can fix it.

But it’s important that we remember what’s right, and what’s good, and what’s hopeful about this country.  It’s worth remembering that for all the tragedy, for the all images of Katrina in those first few days, in those first few months, look at what’s happened here.  It’s worth remembering the thousands of Americans like Michelle, and Victor, and Mrs. Willie Mae and the folks who rallied around her — Americans all across this country who when they saw neighbors and friends or strangers in need came to help.  And people who today still spend their time every day helping others — rolling up their sleeves, doing the hard work of changing this country without the need for credit or the need for glory; don’t get their name in the papers, don’t see their day in the sun, do it because it’s right. 

These Americans live the basic values that define this country — the value we’ve been reminded of in these past 10 years as we’ve come back from a crisis that changed this city, and an economic crisis that spread throughout the nation — the basic notion that I am my brother’s keeper, and I am my sister’s keeper, and that we look out for each other and that we’re all in this together. 

That’s the story of New Orleans — but that’s also the story of America — a city that, for almost 300 years, has been the gateway to America’s soul.  Where the jazz makes you cry, the funerals make you dance — (laughter) — the bayou makes you believe all kinds of things.  (Laughter.)  A place that has always brought together people of all races and religions and languages.  And everybody adds their culture and their flavor into this city’s gumbo.  You remind our nation that for all of our differences, in the end, what matters is we’re all in the same boat.  We all share a similar destiny.

If we stay focused on that common purpose, if we remember our responsibility to ourselves but also our responsibilities and obligations to one another, we will not just rebuild this city, we will rebuild this country.  We’ll make sure not just these young men, but every child in America has a structure and support and love and the kind of nurturing that they need to succeed.  We’ll leave behind a city and a nation that’s worthy of generations to come. 

That’s what you’ve gotten started.  Now we got to finish the job.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

4:36 P.M. CDT

General Information

Press Releases: Senior State Department Official On Secretary Kerry's Participation in the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER)

MODERATOR: Thanks, Brad, and thanks to everyone for joining us on Friday afternoon. Happy Friday. As you know, the U.S. Department of State will host the Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience conference, otherwise known as GLACIER, in Anchorage, Alaska on August 30 to 31st, 2015, so next week, with foreign ministers and high-level leaders from the seven other Arctic nations as well as countries in intergovernmental bodies with strong interest in the Arctic. And Secretary Kerry obviously will be there; President Obama’s also scheduled to address the conference.

We’re very fortunate to have with us today [Senior State Department Official] to talk a little bit about the goals and objectives for the conference and why we’re holding it, and then to answer some of your questions. An important reminder: This is an on-background call, so [Senior State Department Official] should be referred to as a senior State Department official going forward. So appreciate that courtesy professionally, and without further ado, I’ll hand it over to senior State Department official so [Senior State Department Official] can introduce the call and make a few remarks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you very much, [Moderator], and good morning to everybody. I’m [Senior State Department Official]. I’m talking to you this morning from Anchorage, Alaska. It’s a beautiful day here in Anchorage, not a cloud in the sky, sunny, a little chilly at 45 degrees Fahrenheit, about 43 when I went out for my run this morning around the city.

The excitement and momentum are building here in Anchorage as we approach the GLACIER conference. I’ve been here, I think, as I said, since Monday, and have been involved with one other conference, the Alaskan Arctic Conference, which was organized by former Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, who is currently the president of Pt Capital, and Alice Rogoff, who owns the Alaska Dispatch News. I spoke at that conference on Tuesday to wrap that up. And over the intervening days, I’ve had an opportunity to meet with the mayor, the governor, and other senior officials here in Alaska. I visited the University of Alaska; I traveled down to Seward, Alaska to the Alaska SeaLife Center; and also took a walk out to, most appropriately, the Exit Glacier since we’re here for the GLACIER conference. It was a special treat to go out there not just to see the glacier and the beauty of the Alaska countryside, but also to see the dramatic changes that have occurred over the years, particularly looking at pictures and the geography out there on how that particular glacier has receded, and particularly over the last couple of decades.

So it’s a great scene setter for me. I returned to Anchorage yesterday after the seward trip. I met with a series of people, including students at the University of Alaska. Today, I’ll be going out to Alaska Command to talk about our U.S. leadership efforts in the Arctic Council, doing a couple of interviews both on TV and with the press, and most importantly, speaking to all of you today.

Saturday, I will go over and monitor the preparations being done at the Dena’ina Convention Center here in Anchorage. We have the entire convention center reserved for our conference. And on Sunday, delegates and – will come in from around the world. We’re expecting delegations from 20 countries and about 450 people made up of policymakers, diplomats, scientists, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, and most importantly, over half the crowd will be made up of Alaskans themselves, and a large portion of that is Alaskan natives, who are, of course, most impacted by the changes that are happening up here in the Arctic.

GLACIER is going to be a historic event. The media outlets up here have been promoting not just the conference, but in particular, the fact that our final speaker on Monday will be the President of the United States. Even beyond that, he is coming in for the GLACIER conference, but I think as everybody knows now, he’s going to spend some time in Alaska and he will be the first president – the first sitting president to visit the American Arctic, going above the Arctic Circle here in Alaska.

We have a jam-packed day on Monday. There’ll be an opening plenary session with senior officials, leadership from Alaska and Alaska native groups speaking to the entire session. Secretary Kerry, Dr. John Holdren, the science advisor to the President will speak, and then the ministers will be involved in a track for the remainder of the day covering various topics, talking about the challenges in the Arctic. And the other participants – the 300 or so other participants in addition to the delegations will be broken down into two separate tracks which will cover various issues throughout the day as well. Everybody’s brought back together at the end of the day for the final plenary session, at which time we’ll have the President speak to us and we’re all, as I said, very excited about that.

This is obviously a very significant event for Alaska, but I think it’s also a significant event for the world. Whenever the United States gets involved in a project, whenever the United States puts its focus on problems or issues, there is usually action that occurs. And as an individual, as an American, as a retired Coast Guardsman, an employee of the State Department, I could not be more excited that we are now gaining this focus on our Arctic challenges all brought together here in this wonderful conference that’s going to occur on Monday.

So with that as a sort of a scene setter, I’ll be glad to turn it over to you at this point and attempt to answer any questions that you might have. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks so much, [Senior State Department Official]. At this point we’ll open it up to your questions. Brad, can you go ahead and get our first questioner? Thanks.

OPERATOR: Of course. And ladies and gentlemen, if there are any questions from the phone lines at this time, please press * followed by the 1 on your touchtone phone. You will hear a tone indicating you’ve been placed in queue, and all questions will be pulled in the order they are received.

Our first question today comes from the line of Andrew Revkin with The New York Times. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks for hosting the call, and it’s kind of neat that the President will be above the Arctic Circle; it’s important.

Two questions. One is about – there’s some environmental groups that are complaining about Arctic drilling approvals that the President has made seem to be in contrast with his concerns about global warming and the statements and recent videos related to the trip. And the other is about the Law of the Sea. Russia has been pushing harder; they had a military presence on the sea ice near the North Pole for the first time this spring and they’ve filed a new claim at the UN, and the U.S. has still not – even though Republican and Democratic presidents have pushed for it – gone ahead with the Law of the Sea ratification. So is that going to be part of his message?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you, Andrew. It’s good to hear from you. Let me address the drilling situation first. What I would say in response to that is yes, there are people who are protesting against the drilling; there are people that are upset and believe that the President has gone too far in terms of opening up the Arctic. There is an equal number of people who believe that the – it has not been opened up enough. And I’m not talking about the oil companies; I’m talking about the citizens of Alaska, and in particular, Alaskan natives. The people of Alaska want sustainable development that also protects the environment. There has to be a balance; the Administration has been taking a balanced approach to this. The Administration has been looking at alternate energy sources, renewable energy sources.

But at the same time, in a very pragmatic approach, we understand that we’re going to need the petroleum products at least for the foreseeable future, and certain segments of the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea have been opened up for leases, and the companies that are up there have been doing things under a legal process and with strict review by the Department of Interior and the United States Coast Guard, and that is proceeding.

So while not everybody’s happy, I think there has been a very balanced approach and Alaskans are interested in development and in fact, for some of them, they don’t think things are moving along fast enough. So as I said, it’s been a balanced approach by the Administration and the fact that we probably have parties on both sides of the issue that are not completely satisfied is probably an indicator that we’re on a fairly safe course here.

As far as the Law of the Sea and Russian claims, I’ve been articulating this for the last month or so since the Russians have submitted their most recent claim: They are doing things entirely under the process of the Law of the Sea Treaty. They – and in fact, this is not the first time they’ve submitted a claim. They submitted a claim before and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf told them to go back and provide better science documenting their extended continental shelf claim. Much has been made over the fact that their claim includes the North Pole; not much of a fuss was made when Denmark made a similar claim. In fact, their claim encompasses the North Pole and a large section of the Arctic Ocean as well. And I’ve had preliminary looks at what Canada might submit as their claim; it also claims the North Pole and a rather large portion of the Arctic Ocean.

So for me, it comes as no surprise that the Russians’ claim is so large; they have half the coastline of the Arctic Ocean and they have devoted a lot of science to documenting their claim, and they’re going through the proper process within the Law of the Sea Treaty. And my only regret is that the United States is not able to have standing under that treaty because we have not acceded to it yet. And we at the State Department and the Administration remain hopeful that at some point in the future the Senate will ratify that treaty so that we can become a party in that as well. Thank you.


MODERATOR: Great. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: And we do have a question from the line of Dmitry Kirsanov from TASS. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. Great to hear your voice again, [Senior State Department Official]. I’m sorry I’m not in Anchorage. I’m here in D.C. Two questions, if I may. First, what kind of tangible results you expect from the GLACIER conference? And secondly, speaking about U.S.-Russian bilateral cooperation in the Arctic, it was sort of shielded from the general downturn in the bilateral relations recently; at least, that was my understanding. Is it still the case, or this cooperation is also suffering now as a result of the general tensions and – in the bilateral relationship?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Good morning, Dmitry. It’s good to hear from you again as well. Let me just clarify that second question. It was a little bit garbled. You wanted to know if some portion of bilateral relationships had deteriorated, and I didn’t quite pick up on that.

QUESTION: No, I wanted to know if the cooperation in the Arctic, if the bilateral cooperation in the Arctic is still going on quite well or not. It was kind of shielded from the general downturn in the relationship, and I wanted to know if this is still the case or not.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay, so let me go back to your first question. Well, actually, as long as we’ve clarified that, let me talk to the second question first of all. I would say that our relationships, our bilateral relationship as it regards the Arctic, is still good. I think there’s always going to be some small level of underlying tension because of other issues that are going on and because of the sanctions over the activities in Ukraine and Crimea.

However, I deal directly with the Arctic officials. Vladimir Barbin, who is Russia’s senior Arctic official, is one of the most professional persons that I have dealt with. He has given us very thorough reviews of our Arctic Council chairmanship program. He’s one of the most important participants in that. We rely upon him in terms of keeping and advancing our chairmanship program going forward. As you know, nothing is accomplished within the Arctic Council without the consensus of all eight countries, so we view our cooperation with Russia as very important to making sure that we – that the Arctic remains an area of cooperation and peace and advancing our various program issues.

So I have seen no issue there. I’ve met a number of times with Ambassador Kislyak in Washington talking about our Arctic issues. He will lead the delegation here to the GLACIER conference, and I’m confident that our great sense of cooperation will continue at least for the foreseeable future.

The tangible results – I’ll tell you, officially what we are saying is – and these are the things that you can actually reach out and touch – there’ll be a chairman’s summary statement for the activities of the GLACIER conference that will be put out by the Secretary of State, and also the eight Arctic countries are working on a joint statement on the climate which I think will add momentum and some – and the Arctic Council, or rather the Arctic countries’ voice to efforts that will be accomplished in Paris later in the year during COP21.

So those are the two things that you can actually reach out and touch, but I think there’s a third deliverable that is probably the most important one, and that’s just simply raising awareness of the challenges of the Arctic. And I would say a subset of that is it’s raising the awareness of the Arctic for the American people. I’ve stated many times when I’ve spoken publicly that there’s a challenge for the United States because we are so disconnected from our Arctic; it’s not necessarily a part of our culture.

This is a grand opportunity for us to raise awareness of the American people because we need to have the American taxpayers, American citizens understand that they have fellow citizens that live within the Arctic that have needs that are becoming even more serious because of the challenges brought about by the changing climate. So this is a tremendous opportunity when you can get the Secretary of State, leaders of 20 countries, various scientific and policymaking organizations, and then the President of the United States coming in to draw attention to these challenges.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.


MODERATOR: Great. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: And if there are any additional questions at this time, please press * followed by the 1 on your touchtone phone. You’ll hear a tone indicating you’ll be placed in queue. And one moment please for our next question. And our next question comes from the line of Matt Simon with Chinese TV. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, thanks again for doing this. A question about – you mentioned Alaskans being interested in development but also concerns about climate change. I’m looking to connect the dots a little bit on that, there is, obviously, a changing way of life for many Alaskans and people living in the Arctic or near the Arctic. How much is that a concern that’s going to be addressed about, for example, no longer using dog sleds, now they can afford snowmobiles? The sort of life changing as a result of increased development and, obviously, more money coming in?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think it’s very easy for people, and I don’t presume one way or the other whether you’ve spent any time in the Arctic. I’ve spent a lot of time up on the North slope in Barrow and other places, and people always focus on things like snow mobiles and other things. What I would focus on is we have people up there in a very challenging, demanding, harsh environment who sometimes have to struggle just to get running water into their homes. They depend upon diesel generators that are burning a very expensive diesel fuel. They have sanitation problems and other things. And while you may see a couple of snowmobiles or automobiles going around, it’s just an introduction of modern conveniences up there that normal citizens and the rest of our countries take for granted and have expectations, and it is a challenge for the people who live up in the North.

We have a high incidence of communicable diseases. We have higher than average suicide rates in the North. And all of these things are brought upon by sort of these rapid changes that are occurring in this very harsh environment. And one of the tracks that we have for both our Arctic Council chairmanship and within the GLACIER conference itself is how do you improve the economic and, most importantly, the living conditions of the people in the North.

Clearly, economic conditions help facilitate improved living conditions. And how do we meet those challenges? A for instance that I’ll give you is I said we have these small grid electrical power systems that many of the villages, particularly across North America, both Canada and the United States, that are highly dependent upon diesel generators, which are both expensive and produce pollution in the form of black carbon which accelerates the deterioration of the ice.

How do we come up with alternative power sources, renewable energy sources? How do we use those to sustain the water systems? People in other southern latitudes take for granted they can turn on the faucet and have running water. It’s much more of a challenge when you’re dealing at 45 degree below zero at certain points in the year. You’ve got to heat up water just so it will get through the pipes. You’ve got to insulate pipes so it doesn’t thaw the permafrost, and then get it back up into homes again. And consequently, it’s very expensive for people who don’t make a lot of money to begin with. So it’s not an easy problem to confront. These people are entitled to the same conveniences and modern devices that other are as well, and they want these things.

Telecommunications is another issue. I’ve been up in Barrow when they’ve tried to send out the results of a CAT scan so that it can be analyzed by a doctor down in the lower 48, and it took three hours to transmit the CAT scan because they have no fiber optic cables. They have to rely upon old microwave technology. So people have expectations of trying to come into the 21st century and have some of the same conveniences and other things that other Americans have.

So it’s a huge challenge, but these are some of the issues we’ll be talking about during GLACIER and then carrying on during our chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

MODERATOR: Thanks so much. I think we have time for just a couple more questions. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: We do have a question from the line of Tim Ellis with KUAC Radio. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello again, [Senior State Department Official], and welcome back to Alaska.


QUESTION: You bet. Say, I think your previous question or two leads perfectly into what I wanted to ask you about, which is our listenership and our people up here in Alaska – a question oriented toward folks up here. You alluded to that in your conversation there about the difficulty of living in a fairly harsh climate, maybe less so now than it was a few decades ago, but in any case still pretty chilly during the course of winter. High energy costs up here, ironically, because this being the oil patch of the North, but lack of refinery and transportation and God knows why else. It’s a very expensive, as you know. And so what I’m wondering is, do you have any thoughts – do you suppose the President might want to share some thoughts on how a place like the state of Alaska can do well economically with an industry, with an economy that’s based on fossil fuel, the extraction of this stuff ironically causing this whole climate change feedback loop and causing more problems? Any kind of proposal, initiative that the President or the federal government may be formulating on helping the state of Alaska to transition into an economy that’s not so dependent on fossil fuels, or at least to bridge to other ways to base the economy up here? Will anything like that be talked about during this conference, any sort of announcements or initiatives that might be mentioned during the course of the conference?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Tim, I wouldn’t presume to predict or to state what the President might announce while he’s up here. That’s something clearly that the White House has been working on and I don’t think they want anything out there in advance. And to be completely candid, I just don’t know.

What I do know and what has been gratifying to me is that there have been many people that have been consulted, myself included. And I believe I’ve been listened to because they’ve been coming to people who have experiences in Alaska, who have at least – and I’m – I would never presume to have a complete feel for all the needs of the people of Alaska, but I’ve been up here enough so I think I have a fairly good handle on it.

And what I can say is the White House has been very receptive to listening to people who have some idea about the challenges that are being faced up here. The President started out with producing a couple of years ago the National Arctic Strategy. Since then, we’ve developed an implementation plan for all these various issues and challenges that are being faced within the American Arctic. And they all – many of them involve a need for resources during a time when we have a crunch on our federal budget and people are looking to reduce the budget rather than add to it and most of these things in the Arctic are new starts. But what is encouraging is that the White House is looking at these things now and trying to find ways that we can help Alaska and our Arctic. So I’m very hopeful that there will be some positive things that will come out of this, some positive announcements.

But more importantly, the President – it’s obvious that the President has chosen climate change as one of his legacy issues. It is the broader global issue of climate change, but as he’s learned more about the American Arctic and the rather significant impact that climate change is having on his country, he’s made the time to come up here and take a look at it himself. So I couldn’t be more pleased. He – I was watching a segment on the television here this morning that went back in a retrospective of presidential visits to America, and as you know probably better than I do, most of them are limited to Elmendorf. The President’s here because he wants to learn. He wants to talk to Alaskans, and I think we all should applaud that and remain optimistic and hopeful that good things will come out of it.

MODERATOR: Great. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: And we do have a question from the line of Nicole Gaouette with Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. My question has been asked and answered, but thank you very much for the call.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You’re welcome. Thanks for coming in, Nicole.

MODERATOR: Thanks so much. And I think we have time for just maybe one more question, so our last questioner, please.

OPERATOR: Sure. Our last question then comes from the line of Lisa Friedman with ClimateWire. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks so much for this call, and thanks, [Senior State Department Official], for all these comments.

I’m hoping we could go back to the discussion of Paris and that you could put this trip in context of the UN negotiation session coming up. To what extent does the Administration see this as a way to build momentum, and how do you expect – bilateral discussions on the sidelines, what about? And do you see this as a place where the Administration might try to develop agreements on things like black carbon that you talked about earlier that’s affecting the Arctic and could go a long way in bridging the gap between what countries have pledged to do and what science says actually needs to be done? Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, the agreements, of course, as you know, we had a task – within the Arctic Council we had a task force on black carbon. And during our chairmanship we are – we will be working to take action on the recommendations of that task force within the eight countries of the Arctic Council. And also we believe that those member states – those observer states – if they want to be observer states and continue in good standing within the Arctic Council, that they should adapt those recommendations as well. And of course, the Arctic Council’s voice should be heard in Paris as well, and I’m sure that the Administration’s climate change policies will reflect that as they go forward.

The – there’s a certain level of – I don’t want to diminish this – let’s just say that GLACIER gives us the opportunity first and foremost to show and tell. This is a buildup to COP, but it also is a buildup to our U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council. So it’s sort of two purposes here: to raise awareness of the American Arctic but also to show that the global issue of climate change is impacting the U.S. – well, the entire Arctic, but the President’s focus, of course, will be on the United States.

So the GLACIER conference itself will not come up with any binding agreements similar to what we do within the Arctic Council because this is not held under the auspices of the Arctic Council. We had this opportunity to gather the countries and to get the President. A conference of this magnitude, if done under the rules of the Arctic Council, requires you to submit agendas and plans and everything else and work to gain the consensus of all eight countries. In this particular case, it’s United States leadership saying we want to hold this conference to draw attention to these issues, and this has been put together – I think for a conference of this magnitude, it’s been put together in record time. We want – would not have been able to do that if we ran it as an Arctic Council event because it would take many more months of negotiations, et cetera. And clearly this – the timing is right now, if you’re using this as a preliminary and as a buildup to COP. So I think that probably – I hope that – response to your question that you’re looking for.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yeah.

MODERATOR: Great. Thanks to everyone for joining us, as I said, on this lovely Friday, both here in Washington and obviously in Alaska as well. I really appreciate the Senior State Department Official joining us and walking us through the upcoming GLACIER conference. And thanks again to everyone for joining us and have a happy and healthy weekend. Take care.

General Information

Salva Kiir Comes to His Sense (Sorta)

Kiir has come under enormous pressure, including the threat of international sanctions. And now, it looks like he’ll sign a peace deal. But will he actually abide by it? “South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has finally agreed to sign a peace deal and power-sharing accord to end a 20-month civil war, his spokesman said Tuesday…Sources in IGAD also confirmed plans for the deal to be signed in Juba on Wednesday, with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and chief mediator Seyoum Mesfin due to attend. An IGAD official said rebel leader Machar would not be there because security provisions were not yet in place.” (AP

Whither Accountability? A UN report details horrific abuses committed by South Sudanese government soldiers. “The U.N. experts found that a government offensive in oil-producing Unity State between April and July this year had been “intent on rendering communal life unviable and prohibiting any return to normalcy following the violence.” “The intensity and brutality of violence aimed at civilians is hitherto unseen, in what has been so far — without a doubt — an incredibly violent conflict, where civilians have been targeted by all parties to the conflict,” the experts wrote in the interim reported submitted to U.N. Security Council members. Under a so-called “scorched earth policy” government-allied forces razed entire villages, sometimes with people inside their homes, raped women and abducted children, the experts said.

Water Used As Weapon in Syrian War…Disturbing new report from UNICEF. “In recent months, up to five million people living in cities and communities across the country have suffered the consequences of long and sometimes deliberate interruptions to their water supplies.In the northern city of Aleppo, where fighting has crippled the main pumping station for months at a time, UNICEF has recorded 18 deliberate water cuts this year alone. Taps in some communities were left dry for up to 17 days in a row – and for over a month in some areas of the city.” (UNICEF

Quote of the day: “Let’s not pretend that what the EU and its member states are doing is working. Migration is here to stay,” Francois Crepeau, the U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. (AP


A teenage suicide bomber detonated an explosive device strapped to her body in the northeastern Nigerian city of Damaturu early on Tuesday, killing six people and wounding about 30, police said. (Reuters

Around 1.5 million Zimbabweans are predicted to go hungry this year after a dramatic fall in maize production, the World Food Programme said on Tuesday. (Reuters

Cameroon says it is banning and destroying cheap vegetable oil imported from Indonesia and Malaysia to protect its home industries. The central African nation says thousands of workers may lose their jobs if the country continues to import cheaper vegetable oil. (VOA

The chairman of Nigeria’s corruption-fighting Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is appearing before the Senate to answer accusations that he diverted billions of dollars. (AP

Pest experts from across Africa have recommended vast vaccination and pest eradication programs to stop trans-border animal diseases that claim between 10 percent and 20 percent of the continent’s animals yearly. The experts are gathered in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, under the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s program. (VOA

Gangs of children are roaming the streets of Ivory Coast’s biggest city. Known as “les microbes” (French for “the germs”), they are accused of violent robberies — and have become the scourge of Abidjan, where they are spreading terror among residents. (GlobalPost

Hundreds of movie lovers gathered in front of a giant outdoor screen in Nairobi’s Mathare slum on Monday at the start of the Slum Film Festival, which aims to challenge perceptions of shanty towns as dens of crime and squalor. (TRF


Unidentified gunmen raided the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Yemeni port city of Aden on Monday, holding staff at gunpoint and stealing cars, cash and equipment, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday. (Reuters

Saudi Arabia has executed at least 175 people over the past 12 months, on average one person every two days, according to a report released Tuesday by Amnesty International. (AP

Around 5,300 migrants, mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa, were rescued in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast last week, EU border agency Frontex said Tuesday. (AFP


Nepal police shot dead a protester as fresh clashes erupted in the country’s southern plains Tuesday, a day after an 18-month-old boy and seven officers died during demonstrations against a new constitution. (AFP

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Tuesday it received substantive amounts of information from Iran aimed at quelling concerns its nuclear past had military elements, although it was too early to say whether any of it is new. (Reuters

India and the United Nations appealed for all parties to seek peace in Nepal, where hundreds of security forces on Tuesday were patrolling a western town after ethnic protesters demanding statehood attacked police a day earlier, leaving 11 people dead and many injured. (AP

An intensifying El Nino may bring the worst drought in 20 years to Papua New Guinea, the country’s prime minister said, raising fears that production of the country’s critical agricultural commodities may drop. (Reuters

The “waterman of India” will walk across five continents to raise awareness for his campaign to have the human rights to river water and access to nature recognised by the UN. (Guardian

The Americas

U.S. stocks jumped at the open after China’s central bank cut interest rates to support its economy. (AP

Gay rights activists in Panama presented a bill to lawmakers that would make hate crimes against gays, lesbians and transsexuals illegal — and punishable by up to a year in jail. (AFP

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro vowed to extend a crackdown on illegal migrants from neighboring Colombia he blames for rampant crime and widespread shortages, while authorities across the border struggled to attend to droves of returning. (VOA

Colombia has condemned deportations of its citizens after Venezuela closed its border with its western neighbour last week. The crossings were shut after an attack by smugglers left three soldiers and a civilian injured. (BBC

…and the rest

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says nearly 300,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe across the Mediterranean Sea this year. Most went to Italy and Greece. The UNHCR warns the situation is not sustainable and is calling for a comprehensive solution. (VOA

As demand for water grows, the world must focus on how the precious resource will be shared among farmers, the energy sector and cities if it is to achieve the United Nations’ new development agenda, a World Bank expert said. (TRF

Photo essay: The race to beat Hungary’s border fence (IRIN


Do we still care about the F word? (IRIN

Confessions of a humanitarian: ‘The life of a veggie aid worker is no bed of kale’ (Guardian

Thailand, One Week After the Bombings. Is Another Free Speech Crackdown Coming? (UN Dispatch

Development under conflict: How to react to a crisis (Devex

Buying condoms won’t make you Africa’s “HERO” (WhyDev

China bashing: American campaign ritual or harbinger of tougher policy? (The Interpreter

5 trends that explain why civil society space is under assault around the world (From Poverty to Power

A U.S. Court Jeopardizes Corporate Transparency Rules, in the Name of Free Speech (Global Anticorruption Blog

Rwanda’s gender gap: banks must stop failing female entrepreneurs (Guardian

Why the New Sustainable Development Goals Won’t Make the World a Fairer Place (The Conversation



General Government

WHO Warns of a Coming Meningitis Outbreak in West Africa

UNICEF, MSF, WHO and the IFRC are urging vaccine manufacturers to ramp up production of the meningitis vaccine. “‘In just the first six months of 2015, there have been 12,000 cases of meningitis C in Niger and Nigeria, and 800 deaths. At the same time, there has been a critical shortage of vaccine,’” said Dr Myriam Henkens, International Medical Coordinator, MSF. ‘The campaigns consequently were limited to the critically affected age groups and areas, and even so, had to be delayed until vaccine supply became available and we believe next year will be worse. We need vaccine manufacturers to plan production of multivalent vaccine now to allow sufficient lead time and capacity to meet this demand.’” (WHO )

Here’s How Many Yemeni’s The UN Can Reach With Humanitarian Aid If Only There Were A Pause in Fighting…The latest attempt at a humanitarian pause in Yemen “has not been respected by any party to the conflict,” the U.N. humanitarian chief said Tuesday, adding that a plan to reach 3 million Yemenis with aid is ready to go if only the fighting would stop. Stephen O’Brien briefed the Security Council and repeated the call for an “unconditional freeze” in the months-long fighting between a Saudi-led coalition and Shiite Houthi rebels in the Arab world’s poorest country. A five-day humanitarian pause announced by the Saudi-led coalition quickly fell apart early Monday. An earlier pause announced this month by the U.N. also failed.” (NYT

Quote of the Day: Obama, at the AU… “I have to say Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk from leaders who refuse to step aside when their terms end,” Obama told delegates from across the continent.

“Let me be honest with you – I just don’t understand this. I am in my second term … I love my work but under our constitution, I cannot run again. I actually think I’m a pretty good president: I think if I ran I could win, but I can’t.” (Guardian

Obama in Africa

During his visit to Ethiopia, U.S. President Barack Obama took the time Tuesday to meet with Ethiopians who have benefited from U.S. development initiatives. (VOA

On Burundi: “When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife, as we’ve seen in Burundi,” said Obama during his remarks to the African Union. (Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that Ethiopia “cannot unleash the full potential of its people” if it jails journalists and restricts legitimate opposition groups. (Reuters


Cameroon will send around 2,000 extra troops to the north of the country to fight Boko Haram, the Nigerian jihadist movement behind bloody cross-border raids and suicide bombings, state television said Tuesday. (AFP

A high court in the Ghanaian capital Accra sentenced a man to a 10-year prison term Tuesday after he confessed to having planned to kill President John Dramani Mahama. (AFP

War-torn Somalia will not be able to hold full elections due next year, lawmakers said Tuesday, although it remained unclear whether some kind of voting process would still be held. (AFP

In between the run-down buildings in a seemingly inauspicious part of Lagos, a city of around 21 million, tech start-ups are taking root and creating a buzz that is drawing international venture capitalists and more established digital firms. (VOA

Mozambique’s president travelled to the country’s northwest where fighting between government troops and opposition fighters has forced hundreds to flee to neighboring Malawi, state-run radio reported on Tuesday. (AP

Kenya will be getting new support to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS among adolescent girls. President Obama announced Sunday that Kenya would be included in the DREAMS project. It’s funded by the U.S., the Nike Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (VOA

Corruption is pervasive throughout the asylum process in South Africa, according to a report published this month. (VOA

Thousands of small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe fear they will be going hungry this winter after abandoning traditional staples like maize, sorghum and groundnuts for tobacco, a cash crop known locally in this southern African nation as “green gold.” (VOA

Proposed laws to allow the seizure of land and property to redress the imbalance of ownership between black and white South Africans, could be unconstitutional and subject to the whims of ministers, rights groups told parliament on Tuesday. (Reuters

Former Tanzanian prime minister Edward Lowassa on Tuesday defected from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, accusing it of “oppressive leadership”, less than three months ahead of a general election scheduled for October 25. (AFP


The United Nations human rights office is “deeply disturbed” by death sentences handed down in a trial of former officials who served under Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, it said on Tuesday. (Reuters

Since March, nearly 25,000 people a day have slipped into hunger in Yemen, and every second person – or nearly 13 million people – is now struggling to find enough to eat, according to Oxfam. (Guardian

Human Rights Watch condemned as an “apparent war crime” on Tuesday a Saudi-led air raid in Yemen last week that it said killed at least 65 civilians in residential compounds. (AFP

Insurgents have launched a major offensive on government-held areas in northwestern Syria in a bid to advance towards a coastal region vital to President Bashar al-Assad’s control of the west, a monitoring group and activists said on Tuesday. (Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said the formation of a safe zone inside war-torn Syria, free from the Islamic State group, would help the return of 1.7 million refugees. (AFP

A dissident Moroccan journalist on Tuesday ended a monthlong hunger strike protesting his treatment by the government after an official said he could get a new passport in three days, a member of his support committee said. (AP


Thailand has hit back after being blacklisted in a US report for the second consecutive year for not combatting modern-day slavery, arguing it has made serious steps to tackle human trafficking. (Guardian

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday his government would make available loans of up to 1 billion pounds to Indonesia to help finance infrastructure projects. (VOA

South Korea on Tuesday declared the effective end to a deadly outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome that killed 36 people, triggered widespread panic and stymied growth in Asia’s fourth-largest economy. (AFP

The nationwide death toll from this month’s flash floods in various parts of Pakistan rose to 81 on Tuesday as floodwater inundated hundreds of villages, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless, authorities said. (AP

The Americas

Forensic experts in Colombia have begun a search for dozens of bodies at a landfill site believed to be one of the largest urban mass graves in the world. (BBC

UN experts have called on the government of the Dominican Republic to stop the “arbitrary deportations” of Dominicans of Haitian descent, warning that its actions risk violating international laws as well as the country’s own constitution. (Guardian

Brazil’s penitentiaries are notorious for rampant overcrowding and violence endured by all inmates. But advocates say few prisoners are as vulnerable as transvestites and transgender people, who are often singled out for taunting and physical and sexual abuse. (AP

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday called for citizens to break the pacts of silence that have covered up human rights violations during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship, praising a former soldier who helped the investigation into the burning death of a U.S. resident. (VOA

…and the rest

Rescuers found 13 dead migrants on a boat off the coast of Libya with more than 500 others aboard, an Italian coast guard spokesman said on Tuesday, giving no details about how they had died. (Reuters

A prominent Russian human rights group said on Tuesday it is closing down its operations this week because of a repressive law, but has come up with a plan to continue its work. (AP


Did Obama Avoid the Difficult Questions in Kenya? (OZY

Obama just pulled off two important firsts for a sitting US president (GlobalPost

Justin Forsyth: ‘If NGOs stay politically correct, we won’t have an impact’ (Guardian

On corruption and mass atrocities (Reinventing Peace

Did You Hear About the Great Ebola Land Grab? Expect a Wave of Mystery Plagues (East African

This Nicaraguan native community endured Spanish conquest. Will it survive modern times? (GlobalPost

Drones: a force for good when flying in the face of disaster (Guardian

4 Ways Your Phone May Be Fueling Instability Around the World (UN Dispatch

The things we do: The connection between sleep and poverty (People, Spaces, Deliberation

Where should money go to manage global health’s ‘silent epidemic’? (Devex

Look Out Pelley, Muir And Holt. Rapping Reporters Could Give You A Jolt (Goats and Soda

Learning by un-doing: the magic of immersion (From Poverty to Power
Feeding West Africa: An Agenda for Regional Trade (Africa Can End Poverty