ON THE OCCASION OF RAMADAN 2018 – TO BEGIN ON THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2018

On behalf of the United States Department of State, I offer best wishes to Muslims around the world for a peaceful and blessed Ramadan.

For those observing this month, it is a time of reverence, generosity, and spiritual introspection. Ramadan is also a cherished time of community, often spent reconnecting with family and friends. It calls Muslims to come together to give charitably to the less fortunate.

Muslims in the United States and around the world make valuable contributions to their societies every day, and millions will honor this month in a special way with acts of service and giving back to their neighbors. In recognition of this, every year many of our embassies and consulates around the world host Ramadan activities bringing together Muslims and people of other faiths who are committed to our shared goal of fostering peace, stability, and prosperity. These conversations and collaborations are one of the core strengths of our diplomacy, paving the way for stronger communities through partnerships and respect for diversity.

As the holy month begins, I wish all those celebrating a very happy and prosperous Ramadan Kareem.

Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 15, 2018

Ellsworth Airmen With The 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron Respond To Use Of Chemical Weapons By Assad in Douma, Syria

By Jim Garamore

WASHINGTON -The Syrian regime killed at least 45 people and sickened hundreds of others in a chemical weapons attack on Douma, Syria, April 7, and on April 13, U.S., British and French service members launched attacks that severely degraded the Syrian chemical arsenal and sent a message to Syrian leader Bashir Assad to stop using chemical weapons against his own people.

A civilian and a Marine stand behind lecterns and take questions from reporters.
Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Staff, discuss operations in Syria during a news briefing at the Pentagon, April 14, 2018. DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Joint Staff director, briefed the press today from the Pentagon on the operation saying it was successful and that there were no allied casualties.

White said the attack on innocent civilians in Douma “demanded a response,” and the allies targeted the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons infrastructure. “We launched these strikes to limit Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons in the future,” she said.

Operation Carefully Planned

The operation was carefully orchestrated and methodically planned to lessen chances of civilian casualties, the spokesperson said. The missiles hit targets during the Syrian pre-dawn hours, and planners, weaponeers and aircrew were careful to ensure little collateral damage. “We successfully hit every target,” White said.

Missiles hit three distinct military chemical weapons targets. “The three facilities are – or more appropriately, were – the fundamental components of the regime’s chemical weapons warfare infrastructure,” McKenzie said.

Video Player

VIDEO | 00:15 | Pentagon Spokesperson Denounces Use of Chemical Weapons

One target, the Barzah center, housed the regime’s research, development and production center for chemical and biological weapons. Photos taken after the strike show that where once three buildings stood, there is now nothing but rubble.

Strikes also hit a chemical weapons storage facility and a chemical bunker facility. “We selected these targets carefully to minimize the risk to innocent civilians,” the general said.

“We are still conducting a more detailed damage assessment, but initial indications are that we accomplished our military objectives without material interference. I would use three words to describe the operation: Precise, overwhelming and effective,” he said.

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VIDEO | 00:38 | White Says Airstrikes Support Values of the American People

Allies Fired 105 Weapons

The allies fired 105 weapons at these targets. The missiles came from British, French and American platforms in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean, McKenzie said.

“All weapons hit their targets close to the designated time on target,” he said. The American ships were: the USS Monterrey, the USS Laboon, the USS Higgins and the submarine USS John Warner. Two B-1 Lancer bombers launched joint air-to-surface stand-off missiles. Support aircraft – tankers, fighters, electronic warfare aircraft and more – also participated. B-1B Lancers deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, employed 19 Joint Air to Surface Standoff Munitions as part of the strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities, making this the first-ever operational use of  the JASSM-Extended Range munition.  The B-1Bs are from the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, are deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.

” We’re very proud of the 28th Bomb Wing Airmen From Ellsworth AFB who flew this mission,” said Col. John Edwards, 28th Bomb Wing Commander. ” They trained hard, were ready and lethal in executing this operation.”
A 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer aircraft assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing prepares to depart from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in support of the multinational response to Syria’s chemical weapons use. The B-1B was used as part of a strike on Syria as part of the U.S. response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. The B-1B employed 19 Joint Air to Surface Standoff Munitions against Syrian chemical weapons targets, marking the first operational use of the JASSM-ER. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)
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VIDEO | 00:31 | Joint Staff Director Describes Mission Success

“None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses,” McKenzie said. “We have no indication that Russian air defenses were employed.”

Syrian response was ineffectual as the Syrians launched surface-to-air missiles on a ballistic trajectory. “Most of the launches occurred after our strike was over,” the general said. “When you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it has to come down somewhere.”

Since the strike, U.S. officials have not seen any military response from actors within Syria. “We remain postured to protect our forces and those of the coalition should anything occur,” the general said.

WHY IT’S SO HARD TO DELETE FACEBOOK

File 20180327 109199 1f071dx.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Your finger may hover, but it’s hard get rid of it once and for all.
ymgerman/Shutterstock.com

S. Shyam Sundar, Pennsylvania State University; Bingjie Liu, Pennsylvania State University; Carlina DiRusso, Pennsylvania State University, and Michael Krieger, Pennsylvania State University

Here we go again: another Facebook controversy, yet again violating our sense of privacy by letting others harvest our personal information. This flareup is a big one to be sure, leading some people to consider leaving Facebook altogether, but the company and most of its over 2 billion users will reconcile. The vast majority will return to Facebook, just like they did the last time and the many times before that. As in all abusive relationships, users have a psychological dependence that keeps them hooked despite knowing that, at some level, it’s not good for them.

Decades of research has shown that our relationship with all media, whether movies, television or radio, is symbiotic: People like them because of the gratifications they get from consuming them – benefits like escapism, relaxation and companionship. The more people use them, the more gratifications they seek and obtain.

With online media, however, a consumer’s use provides data to media companies so they can serve up exactly what would gratify her most, as they mine her behavior patterns to tailor her online experiences and appeal to her individual psychological needs.

Aside from providing content for our consumption, Facebook, Twitter, Google – indeed all interactive media – provide us with new possibilities for interaction on the platform that can satisfy some of our innate human cravings.

Interactive tools in Facebook provide simplified ways to engage your curiosity, broadcast your thoughts, promote your image, maintain relationships and fulfill the yearning for external validation. Social media take advantage of common psychological traits and tendencies to keep you clicking – and revealing more of yourself. Here’s why it’s so hard, as a social network user, to pull the plug once and for all.

People get a lot of pleasure from their social media interactions – and that’s by design.
guruXOX/Shutterstock.com

Buoying your ‘friend’ships

The more you click, the stronger your online relationships. Hitting the ‘Like’ button, commenting on photos of friends, sending birthday wishes and tagging others are just some of the ways in which Facebook allows you to engage in “social grooming.” All these tiny, fleeting contacts help users maintain relationships with large numbers of people with relative ease.

Molding the image you want to project

The more you reveal, the greater your chances of successful self-presentation. Studies have shown that strategic self-presentation is a key feature of Facebook use. Users shape their online identity by revealing which concert they went to and with whom, which causes they support, which rallies they attend and so on. In this way, you can curate your online self and manage others’ impressions of you, something that would be impossible to do in real life with such regularity and precision. Online, you get to project the ideal version of yourself all the time.

Snooping through an open window

The more you click, the more you can keep an eye on others. This kind of social searching and surveillance are among the most important gratifications obtained from Facebook. Most people take pleasure in looking up others on social media, often surreptitiously. The psychological need to monitor your environment is deep-rooted and drives you to keep up with news of the day – and fall victim to FOMO, the fear of missing out. Even privacy-minded senior citizens, loathe to reveal too much about themselves, are known to use Facebook to snoop on others.

Enhancing your social resources

The more you reveal, the greater your social net worth. Being more forthcoming can get you a job via LinkedIn. It can also help an old classmate find you and reconnect. Studies have shown that active use of Facebook can enhance your social capital, whether you’re a college student or a senior citizen wanting to bond with family members or rekindle ties with long-lost friends. Being active on social media is associated with increases in self-esteem and subjective well-being.

Enlarging your tribe

The more you click, the bigger and better the bandwagon. When you click to share a news story on social media or express approval of a product or service, you’re contributing to the creation of a bandwagon of support. Metrics conveying strong bandwagon support, just like five stars for a product on Amazon, are quite persuasive, in part because they represent a consensus among many opinions. In this way, you get to be a part of online communities that form around ideas, events, movements, stories and products – which can ultimately enhance your sense of belonging.

Expressing yourself and being validated

The more you reveal, the greater your agency. Whether it’s a tweet, a status update or a detailed blog post, you get to express yourself and help shape the discourse on social media. This self-expression by itself can be quite empowering. And metrics indicating bandwagon support for your posts – all those “likes” and smiley faces – can profoundly enhance your sense of self worth by appealing to your ingrained psychological need for external validation.

In all these ways, social media’s features provide us too many important gratifications to forego easily. If you think most users will give all this up in the off chance that illegally obtained data from their Facebook profiles and activities may be used to influence their votes, think again.

Social media train us to crave the feedback and respond to the nudges.
SPF/Shutterstock.com

Algorithms that never let you go

While most people may be squeamish about algorithms mining their personal information, there’s an implicit understanding that sharing personal data is a necessary evil that helps enhance their experience. The algorithms that collect your information are also the algorithms that nudge you to be social, based on your interests, behaviors and networks of friends. Without Facebook egging you on, you probably wouldn’t be quite as social. Facebook is a major social lubricant of our time, often recommending friends to add to your circle and notifying you when a friend has said or done something potentially of interest.

A Facebook ‘nudge’ can push you to attend a local event.
Facebook screenshot, CC BY-SA

Consider how many notifications Facebook sends about events alone. When presented with a nudge about an event, you may at least consider going, probably even visit the event page, maybe indicate that you’re “Interested” and even decide to attend the event. None of these decisions would be possible without first receiving the nudge.

What if Facebook never nudged you? What if algorithms never gave you recommendations or suggestions? Would you still perform those actions? According to nudge theory, you’d be far less likely to take action if you’re not encouraged to do so. If Facebook never nudged you to attend events, add friends, view others’ posts or wish friends Happy Birthday, it’s unlikely you would do it, thereby diminishing your social life and social circles.

Are you willing to say goodbye?
Facebook screenshot, CC BY-ND

Facebook knows this very well. Just try deleting your Facebook account and you will be made to realize what a massive repository it is of your private and public memory. When one of us tried deactivating her account, she was told how huge the loss would be – profile disabled, all the memories evaporating, losing touch with over 500 friends. On the top of the page were profile photos of five friends, including the lead author of this article, with the line “S. Shyam will miss you.”

The ConversationThis is like asking if you would like to purposely and permanently cut off ties with all your friends. Now, who would want to do that?

S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communication & Co-Director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University; Bingjie Liu, Ph.D. Student in Mass Communications, Pennsylvania State University; Carlina DiRusso, Ph.D. Student in Mass Communications, Pennsylvania State University, and Michael Krieger, Ph.D. Student in Mass Communications, Pennsylvania State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Fear Of Falling

Photo: Geralt/Pixabay.com

By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates And Yoga

Winter has only just begun and already I’ve heard about several incidents of injuries from falls, at least one of them serious.  Of course, anyone can fall at any time of the year, but it seems like winter is a particularly dangerous time when ice and snow accumulate all around us. Some falls result from what we call “black ice”.  This is that devilish condition when a thin layer of ice on asphalt is invisible to the eye.  When encountered it can cause supports like feet, bicycle tires or even autos to slide perilously.  Another insidious form of hidden ice occurs frequently in my area where daytime sunshine causes standing snow to melt and then refreeze when the sun goes down and temperatures fall.  This condition can be particularly precarious when another layer of snow falls on top obscuring the ice layer below so you don’t know where it is until you step on it.

Although older adults seem more prone to falls, and many studies show that the consequences of falling for older adults can be particularly dire, no one is immune from falls.  There are many articles featuring suggestions for preventing falls.  All you have to do is Google “Fall Prevention” and you will find examples.  But I would like to focus on the causes that I see most frequently and that I think can be at least partially addressed with training.  First and foremost is failure to pay attention.  Our modern lifestyle seems to encourage hurrying.  We worry about slowing down when there are people behind us.  Or making that car wait for more than a few seconds while we cross a street.  Something distracts us and we forget to pay attention to our surroundings.  Have you ever been looking down at your feet (or your cell phone) and suddenly been hit in the head with a tree branch?  Admittedly I’m guilty of that one.  So the first piece of advice I would give is slow down.  Look around you in all directions.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Make sure your next step is on firm ground.  Sometimes I will take my foot and just slide it back and forth in front of me to make sure my next step is not on ice.  That car that’s waiting for you to pass is most likely not going to run you over.  And no matter where you’re going, the extra few minutes will not make any difference in the long run.  Unless they save you from injury.  Then, in fact, the extra few minutes might make a huge difference!

The second most frequent cause of falls I’ve observed or heard about is not taking proper precautions.  For example, not wearing appropriate shoes.  You think “I’m only going out for a few minutes.  I can make it in my high heels.”  Perhaps that’s a little extreme, but you get the picture.  You get away with it once and think it won’t be a problem the next time.  And maybe it’s not.  Until it is.  Wouldn’t it be better to just take that extra few moments to be safe.  I could go into a big rant here about the footwear industry and how it encourages us (especially women) to wear inappropriate shoes, but I’ll save that for another time.  Suffice it to say that most of you know what works in these situations.  It often comes down to the choices you make.  It’s also important to remember that just because you’ve been careful to clear your own walkways, this may not be the case everywhere you need to go.

There are many reasons why people fall.  Some of them are related to physical conditions or side-effects of medication.  If you have these types of concerns hopefully you will get professional advice on how to deal with them.   But so many falls result from preventable circumstances that it’s worth another reminder.  This provides yet another reason to tout the benefits of movement practices.  Mind-body practices like yoga, Pilates and others can help you to learn to pay more attention to the way you move.  These practices help encourage strength, flexibility and balance.  We think of balance as being able to stand on one foot.  But practicing balance exercises can also be a way to strengthen the muscles that will help you catch yourself and avoid falling.  Or help you get up if you do fall.  Holding onto something because you fear falling might be helpful, but wouldn’t it be better if the muscles that support you were stronger.

Mobility has been described as more than just being able to move, but also maintaining strength through a full range of motion.  Stability is the quality that enables one to retain or regain position when impacted by an external force.  So, for example, if you’re standing and something pushes you, you’re ability to recover your position would be a way to measure stability.  So you can see how mobility and stability go hand in hand.  Then there is flexibility which might be described as the quality of being able to bend without breaking.  Clearly all of these traits are also necessary components for good balance.  If you feel stronger and more stable you will also gain confidence.  Fear can make us tense.  Tension makes us brittle and rigid.  Rigidity is the opposite of flexibility. Tension zaps energy and strength.  So learning to relax can be as important as all the other elements of balance.  Breathing practices, also an important component of mind-body practices such as yoga and Pilates, can help relieve tension and encourage relaxation.  They also help you slow down and recognize that few circumstances merit the hurrying we often feel is so necessary.

Finally, being in good physical condition might not prevent a fall, but it will certainly help you recover from one.  And cultivating more conscious awareness of your mind and your movements can help you in all aspects of your life.   If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s never too late.  If you can move and breathe, there is a practice for you.  Take the time to find one.  You won’t be sorry.  And it just might save you from yourself.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation
Delivered 8 December 1941, Washington, D.C.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.1

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

US Orders Closures of Russian Consulate in San Francisco

The United States has fully implemented the decision by the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia. We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries.

In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City. These closures will need to be accomplished by September 2.

With this action both countries will remain with three consulates each. While there will continue to be a disparity in the number of diplomatic and consular annexes, we have chosen to allow the Russian Government to maintain some of its annexes in an effort to arrest the downward spiral in our relationship.

The United States hopes that, having moved toward the Russian Federation’s desire for parity, we can avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides and move forward to achieve the stated goal of both of our presidents: improved relations between our two countries and increased cooperation on areas of mutual concern. The United States is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted.


Special Briefing
US Department of State
Senior Administration Official

Via Teleconference
August 31, 2017

MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for joining us today for this background call on Russia. On the phone with us from the State Department we have [Senior Administration Official]. [Senior Administration Official] will be identified as the Senior Administration Official. This call is on background and is embargoed until the end of the call. So now let me turn it over to [Senior Administration Official], who will make a few opening remarks before we take your questions.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hello, everyone, and thanks for your interest in this issue and for joining us on short notice. I hope you’ve seen the statement that we released a short time ago. I want to first reiterate some of the points that were made in that statement. First, although we believe that Russia’s decision to limit the size of our mission was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries, I can confirm that we have implemented the decision. Today we informed the Russian Government that in the spirit of parity, which was the principle that they invoked in insisting that we reduce the size of our mission, we will reduce – we will require the closure of the Russian consulate general in San Francisco. In addition, we will require that they close a chancery annex in Washington, D.C. and a consular annex in New York City. These closures must be completed by September 2nd.

I want to point out that even after these closures, Russia will still maintain more diplomatic and consular annexes in the United States than we have in Russia. We’ve chosen to allow the Russian Government to maintain some of its annexes in an effort to arrest the downward spiral in our relationship.

I want to also highlight that it’s our hope that with this move in the direction of parity, which the Russians said they were seeking, we can avoid further retaliatory actions by both sides. Our goal is really to find a way to get to better relations between our two countries. That’s all I will say at the top.

MODERATOR: Okay. With that, we’ll take your questions.

OPERATOR: Our first question comes from the line of Josh Lederman with the Associated Press. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Two questions. One, if you could just give us a little bit of detail about the – what these facilities outside of San Francisco are. I mean, obviously the Russians have a consulate in New York, so what is the consular annex that you’ve targeted and why, and also the chancery annex?

And second, given that this all – this escalating tit for tat over kicking out diplomats and shuttering each other’s facilities seemed to start in December of 2016 when the U.S. PNGed all those Russians and shuttered their recreational facilities – given that we were the first ones to take that action and now we’re doing it again, what reasonable expectation can you have that the Kremlin is not going to feel some type of pressure to now step it up and retaliate again as you’ve urged them in your statement today not to do? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, thanks for that question. So the first part of your question had to do with the annexes. So the – Russia – in San Francisco, what we required to be closed was the Russian consulate general, and there is also an official residence, so that’s what they will be closing there. And in Washington, D.C. and New York, they have a number of annexes that have different offices. The annex in Washington, D.C. is – currently houses their trade mission and the one in New York also houses a trade mission.

Regarding previous actions, the actions that this government took in December – I think you all know the reasons why we took those steps. It had to do with harassment of our diplomats and interference in our domestic affairs, in our elections. So I think those actions spoke for themselves. I think that we are responding in this instance to the Russian desire for parity in the diplomatic relationship, and we have taken these steps in that measure, in that spirit, and it is our hope that the Russians will recognize that since they were the ones who started the discussion on parity and we’re responding and complying with what they required of us.

MODERATOR: (Off-mike.) Okay, we’ll go to the next question, please.

OPERATOR: Next question is Yeganeh Torbati from Reuters. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks so much. I was just wondering if you could speak to the importance of the consulate in San Francisco. Is it the largest Russian diplomatic operation outside of the embassy or is it behind New York, and maybe why did you choose that one as opposed to the consulates in Seattle or Houston or New York?

And then also, what impact do you think this move will have on U.S. business ties to Russia and the ability of Americans to do business in Russia, since they’ll probably have a harder time applying for Russian visas? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So – I’m sorry, the first question was – oh, selection. Well, we had – so relative sizes. I think the Russian consulates, I can’t really speak to how large each of them are, but they have four consulates now. They’ll be going down to three. They’re all on the smaller side compared to the embassy. San Francisco is the one that is the oldest and most established of the three – of the four. So I think in looking at which annexes or which consulates to close, we weighed a variety of criteria, and that just for a variety of reasons appeared to be the one that made the most sense.

And then what was the other question?

QUESTION: Just about, like, the impact on U.S. business.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Visas – oh, visas, yeah. The Russian visas or U.S. visas?

QUESTION: Americans trying to do business in Russia now possibly having to wait a longer time for Russian visas.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that’s a question I think to direct to the Russian embassy. Certainly, they have three other consulates and the embassy that issue visas, as far as I’m aware. So that’s best – question directed to them.

MODERATOR: All right, thank you. We’ll take the next question now.

OPERATOR: Next is the line of Laura Koran with CNN. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks so much for doing the call. A couple questions. First, can you explain a little bit more how Russia was notified about this? Was it raised at all in the Secretary’s call with his counterpart yesterday? And then is the U.S. requiring that the staff at these offices actually be expelled, or could they theoretically be reabsorbed elsewhere?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, so the – Secretary Tillerson phoned Lavrov today to inform him that we had met their required reduction in size by their deadlines. And he also informed him of our plans to close the facilities in question. There was also a meeting between our acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs John Heffern, who conveyed the decisions and our response to the Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Dmitry Zhirnov.

And then what was the second part of the question? Oh, yeah. So we are not expelling any Russians at this time. We have informed the Russians that they may be reassigned to other diplomatic or consular posts in the United States if they choose to do so.

MODERATOR: All right, thank you. We’ll go on to the next question now.

OPERATOR: Next is Kylie Atwood from CBS News. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you so much for doing this. Two – one quick follow-up question. You said that these were where trade missions were housed. Where else does Russia have trade missions in the U.S.? Could you just give us some details on that?

And what do you expect them to do with these buildings? They have to close them, but do the actual buildings have to be turned over to the U.S. Government? In some instances, they’re connected to other Russian Government buildings. So what are they meant to do with the buildings? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don’t have information with me on other trade missions, but I – you would have to check with them. They may have them in other cities as well. Those activities do not have to be suspended; those activities can be carried out in other annexes or other locations if they choose to do so.

In terms of what will happen to the buildings, the Russians – the buildings that are owned by the Russians will continue to be owned by the Russians, and it will be up to them to determine whether they wish to sell those or dispose in some other way. They just will not be authorized for diplomatic or consular activities, and they won’t have – they won’t be recognized as such. I think as least one of the facilities is leased, so I would presume they’re just going to end their lease for that facility.

QUESTION: So what can they do in those buildings? Can they still have events there? What are they authorized to do?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: At this – any facility that is – that they continue to own that is not recognized as a diplomatic annex, there – the only authorized activities would be the protection and maintenance of the property.

MODERATOR: Okay. Go on to the next question now, please.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Dmitry Kirsanov with TASS. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) hear me?

MODERATOR: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about how long-term this decision is, or this is irrevocable, so to say. Because you were saying that the Russians are now essentially have to get rid of those properties. So there is no way back? It’s – this decision is final? Is that what you were saying?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think I didn’t say anything about how long-term this was. I mean, certainly we continue to want to improve our relations between the two countries. We have areas of contention between our countries and concerns that the Russian side has not addressed. So I can’t really say that this is permanent. Certainly, if the Russian side wanted to try to address some of our concerns, we would always be willing to listen and keep an open mind, because our fundamental goal is to find a way to improve the relations between our countries.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MODERATOR: All right. We’ll go on to the next question now, please.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Felicia Schwartz with The Wall Street Journal. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing the call. When you mentioned that the Secretary phoned Foreign Minister Lavrov, you said that he had told him they had met the fully required reduction. So are you confirming the number, 755, that the Russians have used? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m not confirming that number. I’m confirming the Russians required that we reduce our presence to a total of 455, so I’m confirming that we have met that requirement.

MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll go on to the next question.

OPERATOR: Next question comes from the line of Conor Finnegan with ABC News. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey. Sort of related to that question, can you say at all what the breakdown was between Russian staff, Russian nationals who worked at the U.S. diplomatic posts, and Americans, and whether or not those Americans now who have had to leave diplomatic posts in Russia are being reassigned elsewhere or any sort of details on what they’re doing next, as opposed to being laid off or something?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So I can’t really get into details on numbers. Let me just say that the Russian requirement had an impact on both Russian and American staff. And we’ve had to respond in both taking care of the Americans and the Russians in different ways. So I’m not really prepared to go into any details there.

MODERATOR: All right. Thank you. We’ll go on to the next question.

OPERATOR: Next question is from the line of Francesco Fontemaggi with AFP. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. Sergey Lavrov have just regretted the escalation of tensions between – after the U.S. decision, doesn’t seem to feel its kind of parity. So did the minister and Secretary Tillerson discuss some steps to go forward and to improve relations, as you said you wish?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, they discussed – they both expressed a desire to find a way to improve our relations and they agreed that they would meet in September.

QUESTION: And they discussed some new steps or not yet?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m not prepared to go into greater detail.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Okay. On to the next question, please.

OPERATOR: Our next question is from the line of Michelle Dubert with NBC News. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks so much for doing this. I’m wondering if —

MODERATOR: I’m sorry. You cut out there. Could you repeat the question?

QUESTION: — can – if you’re able to provide the addresses for those annexes in Washington and New York that are being ordered to close.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I can’t provide those addresses right now.

MODERATOR: All right. We’ll go on to the next question, please. (Pause.) We can take the next question now. (Pause.) Operator, we can take the next question now. (Pause.) We can take the next question now. (Pause.) Please hold while we figure out the technical error that —

OPERATOR: Mr. Ackerman, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thanks very much. Thanks for doing this call. Quickly, can you confirm in New York that the facility you are closing, you’re ordering closed, is in the Bronx or on the Upper East Side, to follow on that question. And then secondly, and broadly, does the State Department anticipate that for the near term, the suggestion reportedly mulled by the White House to return the new – the Long Island and Maryland facilities used by the Russians is a dead letter for now?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can’t – I have to say I’m not a New Yorker. I have no idea where these – where the property is. You’re asking the wrong person. And then the question of the recreational facilities is – there’s no development on that right now.

MODERATOR: All right. Thank you very much. We’ll go on to the next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Cindy Saine with Voice of America. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Could you tell us where Tillerson and Lavrov will meet in September? And do you have any more of Lavrov’s reaction on the call?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So I think it’s likely that they will meet on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September, in New York. And the call with Foreign Minister Lavrov was very professional, and the Russian foreign minister agreed with the sentiment that it was important to find a way to improve our relations.

MODERATOR: All right. Now we’ll have time for one last question. We can go there.

OPERATOR: Our last question comes from the line of Michele Kelemen with NPR. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, hi. I know you weren’t going to speak about how many Americans were pulled out, but I wonder if you were able to choose which officials were taken out, and just confirm that they’re still on the payroll, unlike what President Trump seemed to be suggesting. And also, when do you expect to be resuming normal visa processing in Russia, given the staff reductions?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So the Russians imposed a ceiling on our number of our employees, so yes, it was up to the United States to determine which were the functions and personnel that we wanted to retain. And in terms of the Americans, Americans are – the diplomatic personnel are like military personnel; they can be transferred and sent to other duties. The President’s comments – he was being sarcastic, as he said.

Then the second part of the question was –

QUESTION: About resuming visa processing? I mean —

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, yeah. So —

QUESTION: — are we to assume that a lot of the people that were pulled out were consular officials? Is that why?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So the – so in terms of our visa processing, we had to temporarily suspend it because of the disruption caused, and we will be resuming shortly visa processing but at a much reduced rate because of the reduction in personnel.

MODERATOR: All right. I’d like to thank everyone for joining us today on the call and a special thanks to [Senior Administration Official] for joining us and giving us this information. I just want to remind everyone this call was on background. It’s attributable to a senior administration official and the embargo is now lifted. Thank you, everyone.

Israel’s National Day

Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 2, 2017

On behalf of President Trump and the American people, I am delighted to offer my congratulations to all Israelis as you celebrate your 69th Independence Day.

As the President remarked before meeting Prime Minister Netanyahu in February, “the partnership between our two countries built on our shared values has advanced the cause of human freedom, dignity and peace.” As Israel has endured and flourished over nearly seven decades despite unfathomable challenges, so too has the unbreakable bond between our two nations.

In these uncertain times, the steadfast commitment of the United States to the State of Israel will remain a constant. We look forward to even further strengthening a partnership that has long contributed to our mutual security and prosperity. I wish the people of Israel a Yom Ha’atzmaut sameach.

International Women’s Day – March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day

March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day  is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since in the early 1900’s – a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. International Women’s Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity. No one government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women’s network or media hub is solely responsible for International Women’s Day. Many organizations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause, and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others.

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights,” says world-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist Gloria Steinem. Thus International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century – and continue’s to grow from strength to strength.

Learn about the values that underpin and guide IWD’s ethos.