U.S. Policy Update for Thursday, 14 April 2016

An Iraqi prisoner at al-Muthanna prison in Baghdad in 2010 (© AP Images)

Today’s topics:     Human Rights Reports 2015 / Russian planes in Baltic  /  Manatees / Obama on fight against ISIL / Oregon cuts CO2


Human Rights Report 2015

Assistant Secretary Malinowski Responds to Questions After Secretary Kerry Released the 2015 Human Rights Report in Washington
Assistant Secretary Malinowski Responds to Questions After Secretary Kerry Released the 2015 Human Rights Report in Washington

13 April 2016  2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices     Secretary Kerry submitted the 2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (commonly known as the Human Rights Reports) to the U.S. Congress. The reports, now in their 40th year, document the status of human rights conditions in 199 countries and territories around the world.

The 2015 Reports highlight the intensified global crackdown by an increasing number of states on members of civil society. Government efforts to stifle civil society were achieved through overt or direct means including through harassment, intimidation, detention, and restrictions on their ability to operate; through the implementation of overly broad counterterrorism or national security laws to control the freedom to assemble and to suppress dissent; and through more nuanced yet burdensome bureaucratic procedures such as the passage of NGO legislation that restricts the operating space for human rights organizations. The collective result of these measures has led to the silencing of independent voices, a growing impoverishment of political discourse, and diminishing avenues for peaceful expression and change.


13 April 2016  Just the facts: The State Department’s annual human rights reports    The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are the State Department’s most-read publication by far. Over 1 million readers access them online every year.

And, says Michael Kozak, a senior adviser in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, those readers can sort the accompanying online database by country or by issue, like the human rights of women or minority groups, or freedom of expression, or prison conditions.

The annual reports are not about passing judgment on other countries. Instead, Kozak asserts, they’re “to inform ourselves so that when we are making decisions, we are doing it with our eyes wide open about who we’re dealing with.”

Department of Defense – Russian Aggressian in Baltic

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very-low-altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Baltic Sea, 12 April 2016
A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very-low-altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Baltic Sea, April 12, 2016. The USS Donald Cook, a guided-missile destroyer forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operat

13 April 2016 Navy Ship Encounters Aggressive Russian Aircraft in Baltic Sea    A U.S. Navy destroyer operating in international waters in the Baltic Sea experienced several close interactions by Russian aircraft April 11 and yesterday, U.S. European Command officials reported today.   [The] USS Donald Cook encountered multiple, aggressive flight maneuvers by Russian aircraft that were performed close to the ship, officials said.

Yesterday, while Donald Cook was operating in international waters in the Baltic Sea, a Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter flew seven circles at low altitude around the ship at about 5 p.m. local time and were deemed unsafe and unprofessional by the ship’s commanding officer, officials said. About 40 minutes following the interaction with the Russian helicopter, two Russian SU-24 jets made 11 close-range and low-altitude passes, they added.

The Russian aircraft flew in a simulated attack profile and failed to respond to repeated safety advisories in both English and Russian, officials said.

“We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers,” Eucom officials said in a statement. “These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death.”



A manatee underwater
A manatee fishing (Ramos Keith/USFWS)

13 April 2016  Whiskery manatees make a comeback in Florida    Early explorers often mistook manatees for mermaids. Up to 4 meters long and weighing half a ton, the portly aquatic creatures are closely related to elephants.

After being driven almost to extinction, manatee populations in Florida have increased fivefold since 1991 as a result of conservation efforts.

Manatees have no natural predators, except maybe humans.  Manatee numbers dropped so low that they were one of the first animals placed under the protection of the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1966.



White House / Fight against ISIL

13 April 2016  Statement by the President on Progress in the Fight Against ISIL    “And finally, we will continue to work closely with our allies and partners, including in Europe, to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and prevent attacks.  I want to point out that our intelligence professionals and those of other nations have stopped numerous terrorist operatives in Syria and Iraq from entering Europe, thereby preventing attacks and gaining valuable intelligence.  The world does not always hear about the success of our intelligence services, but it’s a testament to the skills and tireless efforts of our intelligence professionals — and I want to make sure that the world does not forget it — our teams of experts, surge teams, recently returned from Brussels and Athens. ”

13 April 2016 Coalition Focuses on Dismantling, Fragmenting ISIL, OIR Spokesman Says   The coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has successfully degraded the enemy, with military efforts now focused on dismantling and fragmenting ISIL, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve said today.
In a briefing from Baghdad, Army Col. Steve Warren told Pentagon reporters the coalition has made significant progress since the start of the campaign in August 2014.

ISIL has lost more than 40 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, and has been routed from most of the Turkish border, Warren said.

White House Science Fair

13 April 2016 President Obama Hosts 6th White House Science Fair  President Obama hosted the 2016 White House Science Fair on Wednesday, 13 April 2016 and celebrated the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country.

As part of the Fair, President Obama highlighted the growing community of education, business, and nonprofit leaders who have responded to his State of the Union call to give every child the opportunity to learn computer science (CS), as well as his overall “Educate to Innovate” campaign to ensure all students have the tools to be innovators and problem-solvers.


Clean Power in Oregon

13 April 2016  How is one U.S. state cutting carbon emissions so much?   The U.S. state of Oregon is about to reduce carbon pollution a lot. It will cut emissions by 30 million metric tons under a new plan developed by power utilities and environmental groups. That’s the equivalent of taking 6.4 million cars off the road.

State and local initiatives like these are a big part of why U.S. carbon emissions are down. And the Oregon model shows how businesses, environmentalists and government working together can deliver big results in combating climate change.

See also:   Oregon – Astate in the Pacific Northwest