U.S. Policy Update for Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The view from near Stony Dome in Denali National Park, Alaska. (National Park Service)

Today’s topics:    Obama on Europe /  White House Science Fair / 30th Anniversary of Chornobyl /  National Parks / Brussels metro re-opens / Murder of USAID employee / N. Korea / Syria

 

Brussels Metro

Messages are seen on a memorial for victims at Maelbeek metro station in Brussels, Belgium, April 25, 2016.
Messages are seen on a memorial for victims at Maelbeek metro station in Brussels, Belgium, April 25, 2016.

25 April 2016 Brussels Metro Reopens as City Reaches for Normal     Commuters poured out of the newly reopened Brussels Maelbeek metro station Monday, in a fresh sign the city was returning to normal a month after the terrorist attacks — despite a struggling tourism industry and simmering criticism over the government’s fractured response to the crisis.

Commuters drew pictures and jotted a few lines on a newly erected memory wall, reflecting their views and testimony regarding the March 22 suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and metro that killed 32 people, including 16 at Maelbeek.

As of Monday, the city’s subway schedules were back to normal, after weeks of shortened service. Brussels’ Zaventem airport, where suicide bombers struck about an hour before the Maelbeek morning rush hour bombing, had also partially reopened, with plans for it to be fully operational in July.

 

 

EU Leaders & Obama Meeting

25 April 2016 Readout of the President’s Meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi   President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi met today for talks at Schloss Herrenhausen in Hannover, Germany.  The conversation covered the most urgent issues on the trans-Atlantic agenda.  The leaders agreed that the implications of irregular migration to Europe posed a severe challenge that needed to be addressed in a comprehensive and sustainable manner, reflecting the values that Europe and the United States share: this implies ongoing NATO and EU activities as well as efforts to tackle the root causes of flight and migration.

 

President Obama on Europe

25 April 2016 Remarks by President Obama in Address to the People of Europe  (Hannove Messe Fairgrounds, Hannover, Germany)

A strong, united Europe is a necessity for the world because an integrated Europe remains vital to our international order.  Europe helps to uphold the norms and rules that can maintain peace and promote prosperity around the world.

Consider what we’ve done in recent years:  Pulling the global economy back from the brink of depression and putting the world on the path of recovery.  A comprehensive deal that’s cut off every single one of Iran’s paths to a nuclear bomb — part of our shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons.  In Paris, the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change.  (Applause.)  Stopping Ebola in West Africa and saving countless lives.  Rallying the world around new sustainable development, including our goal to end extreme poverty.  None of those things could have happened if I — if the United States did not have a partnership with a strong and united Europe.  (Applause.)  It wouldn’t have happened.

White House Science Fair

(Portrait of Maya Varma)
(Portrait of Maya Varma)

25 April 2016 Teen’s ‘breathtaking’ device makes science fair history   When Maya Varma saw her friend suffer a severe asthma attack a few summers ago, she learned a lot about diagnostic spirometers, medical devices that measured and helped monitor her friend’s lung health.   But as soon as Maya discovered these lifesaving tools cost hundreds of dollars, she went to work. “I just felt there was something I could do about this,” the 17-year-old from San Jose, California, said.

With a 3-D printer, free, open-source software and a smartphone, Maya created a device that accurately diagnoses five different lung conditions, including asthma. The price? $35.

President Obama singled out Maya’s invention earlier in April during the 2016 White House Science Fair. “Her goal was to use smartphone technology to make diagnostic tests for all kinds of diseases a lot cheaper,” the president said.

 

30th Anniversary of Chornobyl

 A crucifix and a radiation sign mark the entrance to the out-of-bounds town of Pripyat near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
A crucifix and a radiation sign mark the entrance to the out-of-bounds town of Pripyat near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. (AP Images)

25 April 2016 State Dept on the 30th Anniversary of the Chornobyl Disaster    On this 30th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster, our thoughts remain with the victims, from the emergency workers who gave their lives to prevent an even greater disaster, to those living in the area affected by the fallout.  The United States marks this anniversary with a pledge of an additional $10 million dollars to help ensure the safety of future generations who live in the affected area. This pledge comes on top of the more than $400 million the U.S. has already committed to the international effort to help Ukraine restore the site of the accident to an environmentally safe and secure condition.

As we reflect on the tragedy of Chornobyl, so too must we recognize the progress that has been made to complete a new confinement structure for the destroyed reactor, which should soon be moved into place. The structure is designed to protect the surrounding environment for the next 100 years and allow for the safe clean-up of Chornobyl. We look forward to continuing our work with the Ukrainian Government and our international partners to improve the lives of Ukrainians there and across Ukraine.

 

U.S. National Parks

View of the Grand Canyon (National Park Service)

View of the Grand Canyon (National Park Service)

22 April 2016 America’s ‘best idea’ turns 100    The U.S. national park system has been called “America’s best idea” because it represents the first decision by any nation to conserve land in this way — both for the enjoyment of the public and for its own sake.

There are 59 designated national parks that boast everything from coral reefs and alpine peaks to salt flats and rain forests. They’re managed by the National Park Service, which was  created on August 25, 1916. To celebrate its 100th birthday, the service is inviting you to Find Your Park.

 

Meeting of Small Group of Global Coalition to Counter ISIL

25 April 2016 Meeting of the Small Group of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL in Kuwait   Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett McGurk will lead an interagency delegation to Kuwait for a meeting on April 27 with key members of the Counter ISIL Coalition. This meeting will be an opportunity for Coalition partners to discuss ways to further accelerate the campaign against Da’esh.

 

 North Korea

FILE - A South Korean army soldier walks by a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with superimposed letters that read: "North Korea's nuclear warhead" during a news program at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, March 9, 2016.
FILE – A South Korean army soldier walks by a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with superimposed letters that read: “North Korea’s nuclear warhead” during a news program at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, March 9, 2016.

26 April 2016  Yonhap News Agency: North Korea Preparing New Medium Range Missile Launch    South Korea’s Yonhap news agency says North Korea is preparing a second launch of a new, powerful mid-range missile capable of reaching U.S. military installations in the Pacific.   Yonhap says it learned from an unidentified government official that the military “is picking up signs which indicate” that the North will launch the Musudan “in the near future.”  But a spokesman for South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the ministry had no such intelligence to confirm Yonhap’s story.

The Musudan is based on an old Soviet submarine launched ballistic missile design that the North converted to be fired from a mobile land-based launcher.  It has a range of anywhere between 3,000-4,000 kilometers, which includes the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

25 April 2016  Pentagon Press Secretary: North Korean Test Violates U.N. Resolutions   North Korea continues to engage in provocative actions, and it poses a “significant threat” to the United States and its allies, the Pentagon’s press secretary said today.   The United States is still assessing the test North Korea carried out over the weekend, Peter Cook told reporters at the Pentagon in response to a question about Pyongyang’s latest reported ballistic missile launch.

He said North Korea’s pursuit of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capabilities “continues to pose a significant threat to the United States, to our allies in the region and remains, obviously, a significant concern.”

 

Syria

25 April 2016 Up to 250 More U.S. Forces to Deploy to Syria, Pentagon Spokesman Says   Up to 250 additional U.S. personnel are being deployed to Syria to support local forces on the ground and build on successes of U.S. forces already deployed there in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Pentagon’s press secretary said today.
The additional personnel include special operations forces and medical and logistics personnel, Peter Cook told reporters at the Pentagon. The forces are to build on the gains of 50 previously deployed special operators in Syria, he said.

State Department

25 April 2016  Secretary Kerry On the Murder of a Locally-Hired Employee of the U.S. Mission in Bangladesh      The men and women of the U.S. State Department join me today in condemning the barbaric murder of Mr. Xulhaz Mannan, a locally-hired employee of our embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and another of his activist friends. We are profoundly saddened by the loss of one of our own in such a senseless act of violence, and we extend our deepest condolences to Xulhaz’s family and loved ones.  Xulhaz, who worked for the United States Agency for International Development, was a trusted colleague, a beloved friend, and advocate for human rights and dignity in Bangladesh. In many ways, he embodied the spirit of the people of Bangladesh and the pride with which they guard their traditions of tolerance, peace, and diversity.

25 April 2016  The United States and China Complete Dialogue on Law of the Sea and Polar Issues  Experts from U.S. and Chinese foreign affairs and maritime agencies exchanged views on a wide range of issues related to oceans, the law of the sea, and the polar regions.  The United States and China supported deepening U.S.-China dialogue on these issues in future meetings, as called for by the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
The United States plans to host the next discussion round in 2017.

25 April 2016 Renewal of the Charter of the Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy  The Department of State has renewed the Charter of the Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy (ACICIP).
The committee serves the U.S. Government in a solely advisory capacity concerning current issues and concerns in international communications and information policy. The objective of the committee is to bring to the Department a unique source of expertise and knowledge to the U.S. Government on these issues.
The charter, which has been renewed until 2018, can be viewed at the “releases” link of the ACICIP site.