U.S. Policy Update for Friday, 22 July 2016

Today’s topics:  Conclusion of counter-ISIL Ministerial / U.S. Election conventions / Olympics: blind long-jump & rowing /

Counter-ISIL Ministerial

Man speaking at podium
Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the Counter-ISIL Ministerial Press Availability

21 July 2016 Joint Statement by Foreign and Defense Ministers of the Expanded Small Group of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL / Daesh    The Foreign and Defense Ministers of the Counter-ISIL (Da’esh) Coalition Small Group, Military Coalition and members that have made major non-military contributions met today in Washington at the invitation of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to build momentum and accelerate the multi-front campaign to defeat Da’esh in Iraq and Syria. The Coalition Small Group also refined its common approach to Da’esh’s affiliates in Libya and other regions of the world, reinforcing the shared determination to disrupt its global terrorist ambitions. This is a key moment in the campaign to put Da’esh on a lasting, irreversible path to defeat. The attacks in Nice, Baghdad, Dhaka Rukban, Istanbul, Qaa and others before them have only cemented our common resolve to destroy Da’esh and the toxic ideology that inspires its followers and sympathizers.

We welcome the steady progress Iraqi forces and moderate opposition forces in Syria have made in denying Da’esh’s access to territory, supply routes and resources. Backed by Coalition air operations, Iraqi forces have steadily advanced up the Euphrates River Valley, liberating Fallujah and Hiit, and capturing Rutbah to secure the economically important highway between Iraq and Jordan.

We are engaged in an historic effort. Nothing like this coalition has ever before been assembled. And we’re not following a manual on antiterrorist coalition-building, we’re writing it. We’re daily working together, sharing ideas, and in fact, learning more each day about a very different kind of challenge. The challenge of the last century defined mostly by state-on-state competition for territory or power. This is non-state actors who are challenging the very foundation of that structure. (Secretary Kerry)

U.S. Elections

Balloons fill the air in the 2012 Republican convention
Balloons fill the air in the 2012 Republican convention

21 July 2016 Thousands of delegates and even more balloons U.S. political conventions are colorful spectacles. Start with several thousand delegates. Add 15,000 or more print, Internet, radio and television journalists. Don’t forget the speeches. A little-known Illinois legislator named Barack Obama first drew national attention through his 2004 Democratic National Convention address.

And balloons. Lots of balloons. Republicans dropped 120,000 of them from the rafters at their 2012 Republican convention.

For Americans who like politics, the major party conventions are like the Super Bowl; they’re really entertaining, someone wins, and you can watch them on TV!

The vote itself is a highlight. The states report their tallies in alphabetical order. One delegate reports the totals for that state. Many use the occasion to offer the nation a colorful description of their state’s distinctive contributions to the national fabric.


Blind long jumper Lex Gillette is hoping for his fourth medal at the Paralympic Games in Rio. (© AP Images)
Blind long jumper Lex Gillette is hoping for his fourth medal at the Paralympic Games in Rio. (© AP Images)

21 July 2016 Lex Gillette has a vision for gold in the long jump With his guide’s voice pointing the way, Lex Gillette crosses the 40 meters in his mind even before he starts down the runway of the track. “On my 16th stride, I jump. And that’s when the magic happens. That’s when I fly.”

Gillette started to lose his sight when he was a young boy growing up in North Carolina. By his 8th birthday, he was completely blind. He had more than 10 surgeries to repair the nerve layers at the back of his eyes, but the retinas had become detached and couldn’t be fixed. Gillette has relied on his mother, who convinced him he could do amazing things.

21 July 2016 For Blake Haxton, rowing means more than racing about in boats  Six years ago, Blake Haxton was an accomplished

Rower Blake Haxton will compete in his first Paralympics in Rio. (© AFP/Getty Images/Valerie Macon)
Rower Blake Haxton will compete in his first Paralympics in Rio. (© AFP/Getty Images/Valerie Macon)

teenage rower in Columbus, Ohio, recruited by the best U.S. college teams. Then doctors told him the soreness in his leg was necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as “flesh-eating disease.”

The disease nearly took his life and led to the amputation of both legs. He spent a month in a coma and endured 20 surgeries before the infection was contained.

Haxton assumed he was done with rowing, a sport in which an athlete’s seat slides, allowing him to push down on footplates and drive the oars through the water using the power of his legs.

But his family didn’t let him give up. “You didn’t choose this,” Haxton recalls his brother saying, “but that doesn’t matter.” For Haxton, his brother’s comment was a turning point. He began experimenting with a rowing machine and para-rowing. It felt like a completely new sport, but it was also “sort of freeing,” he said.


State Department

21 July 2016 Secretary Kerry’s Remarks With Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari   “Iraq is working hard, fighting hard, to take back its country against Daesh. We are making extraordinary progress. And we are just about to now go upstairs – downstairs to join in the meeting with all of the foreign ministers and defense ministers who are assembled to talk about how we will complete the task of Iraqis liberating Iraq and of defeating Daesh.