Saturday

President Barack Obama Weekly Address September 28, 2013 (Video/Transcript)


Weekly Address
The White House
September 28, 2013
Hi, everybody.  This Tuesday is an important day for families, businesses, and our economy. 
It’s the day a big part of the Affordable Care Act kicks in, and tens of millions of Americans will finally have the same chance to buy quality, affordable health care as everyone else.

It’s also the day that a group of far-right Republicans in Congress might choose to shut down the government and potentially damage the economy just because they don’t like this law.
I’ll get to that in a second.  But first – here’s what the Affordable Care Act means for you.
If you’re one of the vast majority of Americans who already have health care, you already have new benefits you didn’t before, like free mammograms and contraceptive care with no copay, and discounts on prescription medicine for seniors.  You’ve already got new protections in place too, like no more lifetime limits on your care, no more discriminating against children with preexisting conditions like asthma, or being able to stay on your parents’ plan until you turn 26.

That’s all in place and available to Americans with health insurance right now.
If you don’t have health insurance, or if you buy it on the individual market, then starting this Tuesday, October 1st, you can visit HealthCare.gov to find what’s called the health insurance marketplace in your state.  

This is a website where you can compare insurance plans, side-by-side, the same way you’d shop for a TV or a plane ticket.  You’ll see new choices and new competition.  Many of you will see cheaper prices, and many of you will be eligible for tax credits that bring down your costs even more.  Nearly 6 in 10 uninsured Americans will be able to get coverage for $100 or less.
If you’re one of the up to half of Americans with a preexisting condition, these new plans mean your insurer can no longer charge you more than anyone else.  They can’t charge women more than men for the same coverage.  And they take effect January 1st.

So get covered at HealthCare.gov.  And spread the word.  These marketplaces will be open for business on Tuesday, no matter what.  The Affordable Care Act is one of the most important things we’ve done as a country in decades to strengthen economic security for the middle class and all who strive to join the middle class.  And it is going to work.

That’s also one of the reasons it’s so disturbing that Republicans in Congress are threatening to shut down the government – or worse – if I don’t agree to gut this law. 

Congress has two responsibilities right now: pass a budget on time, and pay our bills on time. 
If Congress doesn’t pass a budget by Monday – the end of the fiscal year – the government shuts down, along with many vital services the American people depend on.  On Friday, the Senate passed a bill to keep the government open.  But Republicans in the House have been more concerned with appeasing an extreme faction of their party than working to pass a budget that creates new jobs or strengthens the middle class.  And in the next couple days, these Republicans will have to decide whether to join the Senate and keep the government open, or create a crisis that will hurt people for the sole purpose of advancing their ideological agenda.

Past government shutdowns have disrupted the economy.  This shutdown would, too.  At a moment when our economy has steadily gained traction, and our deficits have been falling faster than at any time in 60 years, a shutdown would be a purely self-inflicted wound.  And that’s why many Republican Senators and Republican governors have urged Republicans in the House of Representatives to knock it off, pass a budget, and move on.

This brings me to the second responsibility Congress has.  Once they vote to keep the government open, they must also vote within the next couple weeks to allow the Treasury to pay the bills for the money that Congress has already spent.  Failure to meet this responsibility would be far more dangerous than a government shutdown – it would be an economic shutdown, with impacts not just here, but around the world.

Unfortunately some Republicans have suggested that unless I agree to an even longer list of demands – not just gutting the health care law, but things like cutting taxes for millionaires or rolling back rules on big banks and polluters– they’ll push the button, throwing America into default for the first time in history and risk throwing us back into recession.

I will work with anyone who wants to have a serious conservation about our economic future.  But I will not negotiate over Congress’ responsibility to pay the bills it has already racked up.  I don’t know how to be more clear about this: no one gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America just to extract ideological concessions.  No one gets to hurt our economy and millions of innocent people just because there are a couple laws you don’t like.  It hasn’t been done in the past, and we’re not going to start doing it now.

The American people have worked too hard to recover from crisis to see extremists in their Congress cause another one. And every day this goes on is another day that we can’t continue the work of rebuilding the great American middle class.  Congress needs to pass a budget in time, pay its bills on time, and refocus on the everyday concerns of the people who sent them there.

That’s what I’m focused on.  That’s what I’ll keep fighting for.
Thank you.

Wednesday

United Nations
New York, New York

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen:  Each year we come together to reaffirm the founding vision of this institution.  For most of recorded history, individual aspirations were subject to the whims of tyrants and empires.  Divisions of race and religion and tribe were settled through the sword and the clash of armies.  The idea that nations and peoples could come together in peace to solve their disputes and advance a common prosperity seemed unimaginable.

It took the awful carnage of two world wars to shift our thinking.  The leaders who built the United Nations were not na├»ve; they did not think this body could eradicate all wars.  But in the wake of millions dead and continents in rubble, and with the development of nuclear weapons that could annihilate a planet, they understood that humanity could not survive the course it was on.  And so they gave us this institution, believing that it could allow us to resolve conflicts, enforce rules of behavior, and build habits of cooperation that would grow stronger over time.

For decades, the United Nations has in fact made a difference -- from helping to eradicate disease, to educating children, to brokering peace.  But like every generation of leaders, we face new and profound challenges, and this body continues to be tested.  The question is whether we possess the wisdom and the courage, as nation-states and members of an international community, to squarely meet those challenges; whether the United Nations can meet the tests of our time.

For much of my tenure as President, some of our most urgent challenges have revolved around an increasingly integrated global economy, and our efforts to recover from the worst economic crisis of our lifetime.  Now, five years after the global economy collapsed, and thanks to coordinated efforts by the countries here today, jobs are being created, global financial systems have stabilized, and people are once again being lifted out of poverty.  But this progress is fragile and unequal, and we still have work to do together to assure that our citizens can access the opportunities that they need to thrive in the 21st century.

Together, we’ve also worked to end a decade of war.  Five years ago, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in harm’s way, and the war in Iraq was the dominant issue in our relationship with the rest of the world.  Today, all of our troops have left Iraq.  Next year, an international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan, having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11.

For the United States, these new circumstances have also meant shifting away from a perpetual war footing.  Beyond bringing our troops home, we have limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible, and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.  We’re transferring detainees to other countries and trying terrorists in courts of law, while working diligently to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  And just as we reviewed how we deploy our extraordinary military capabilities in a way that lives up to our ideals, we’ve begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.

As a result of this work, and cooperation with allies and partners, the world is more stable than it was five years ago.  But even a glance at today’s headlines indicates that dangers remain.  In Kenya, we’ve seen terrorists target innocent civilians in a crowded shopping mall, and our hearts go out to the families of those who have been affected.  In Pakistan, nearly 100 people were recently killed by suicide bombers outside a church.  In Iraq, killings and car bombs continue to be a terrible part of life.  And meanwhile, al Qaeda has splintered into regional networks and militias, which doesn't give them the capacity at this point to carry out attacks like 9/11, but does pose serious threats to governments and diplomats, businesses and civilians all across the globe.

Just as significantly, the convulsions in the Middle East and North Africa have laid bare deep divisions within societies, as an old order is upended and people grapple with what comes next.  Peaceful movements have too often been answered by violence -- from those resisting change and from extremists trying to hijack change.  Sectarian conflict has reemerged.  And the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction continues to cast a shadow over the pursuit of peace.

Nowhere have we seen these trends converge more powerfully than in Syria.  There, peaceful protests against an authoritarian regime were met with repression and slaughter.  In the face of such carnage, many retreated to their sectarian identity -- Alawite and Sunni; Christian and Kurd -- and the situation spiraled into civil war.

The international community recognized the stakes early on, but our response has not matched the scale of the challenge.  Aid cannot keep pace with the suffering of the wounded and displaced.  A peace process is stillborn.  America and others have worked to bolster the moderate opposition, but extremist groups have still taken root to exploit the crisis.  Assad’s traditional allies have propped him up, citing principles of sovereignty to shield his regime.  And on August 21st, the regime used chemical weapons in an attack that killed more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children.

Now, the crisis in Syria, and the destabilization of the region, goes to the heart of broader challenges that the international community must now confront.  How should we respond to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa -- conflicts between countries, but also conflicts within them?  How do we address the choice of standing callously by while children are subjected to nerve gas, or embroiling ourselves in someone else’s civil war?  What is the role of force in resolving disputes that threaten the stability of the region and undermine all basic standards of civilized conduct?  What is the role of the United Nations and international law in meeting cries for justice?

Today, I want to outline where the United States of America stands on these issues.  With respect to Syria, we believe that as a starting point, the international community must enforce the ban on chemical weapons.  When I stated my willingness to order a limited strike against the Assad regime in response to the brazen use of chemical weapons, I did not do so lightly.  I did so because I believe it is in the security interest of the United States and in the interest of the world to meaningfully enforce a prohibition whose origins are older than the United Nations itself.  The ban against the use of chemical weapons, even in war, has been agreed to by 98 percent of humanity.  It is strengthened by the searing memories of soldiers suffocating in the trenches; Jews slaughtered in gas chambers; Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands.

The evidence is overwhelming that the Assad regime used such weapons on August 21st.  U.N. inspectors gave a clear accounting that advanced rockets fired large quantities of sarin gas at civilians.  These rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood, and landed in opposition neighborhoods.  It’s an insult to human reason -- and to the legitimacy of this institution -- to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.

Now, I know that in the immediate aftermath of the attack there were those who questioned the legitimacy of even a limited strike in the absence of a clear mandate from the Security Council.  But without a credible military threat, the Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all.  However, as I’ve discussed with President Putin for over a year, most recently in St. Petersburg, my preference has always been a diplomatic resolution to this issue.  And in the past several weeks, the United States, Russia and our allies have reached an agreement to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, and then to destroy them.

The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles.  Now there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so.  If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.  On the other hand, if we succeed, it will send a powerful message that the use of chemical weapons has no place in the 21st century, and that this body means what it says.

Agreement on chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic effort to reach a political settlement within Syria.  I do not believe that military action -- by those within Syria, or by external powers -- can achieve a lasting peace.  Nor do I believe that America or any nation should determine who will lead Syria; that is for the Syrian people to decide.  Nevertheless, a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country.  The notion that Syria can somehow return to a pre-war status quo is a fantasy.

It’s time for Russia and Iran to realize that insisting on Assad’s rule will lead directly to the outcome that they fear:  an increasingly violent space for extremists to operate.  In turn, those of us who continue to support the moderate opposition must persuade them that the Syrian people cannot afford a collapse of state institutions, and that a political settlement cannot be reached without addressing the legitimate fears and concerns of Alawites and other minorities.
We are committed to working this political track.  And as we pursue a settlement, let’s remember this is not a zero-sum endeavor.  We’re no longer in a Cold War.  There’s no Great Game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the wellbeing of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring that it does not become a safe haven for terrorists.

I welcome the influence of all nations that can help bring about a peaceful resolution of Syria’s civil war.  And as we move the Geneva process forward, I urge all nations here to step up to meet humanitarian needs in Syria and surrounding countries.  America has committed over a billion dollars to this effort, and today I can announce that we will be providing an additional $340 million.  No aid can take the place of a political resolution that gives the Syrian people the chance to rebuild their country, but it can help desperate people to survive.

What broader conclusions can be drawn from America’s policy toward Syria?  I know there are those who have been frustrated by our unwillingness to use our military might to depose Assad, and believe that a failure to do so indicates a weakening of American resolve in the region.  Others have suggested that my willingness to direct even limited military strikes to deter the further use of chemical weapons shows we’ve learned nothing from Iraq, and that America continues to seek control over the Middle East for our own purposes.  In this way, the situation in Syria mirrors a contradiction that has persisted in the region for decades:  the United States is chastised for meddling in the region, accused of having a hand in all manner of conspiracy; at the same time, the United States is blamed for failing to do enough to solve the region’s problems and for showing indifference toward suffering Muslim populations.

I realize some of this is inevitable, given America’s role in the world.  But these contradictory attitudes have a practical impact on the American people’s support for our involvement in the region, and allow leaders in the region -- as well as the international community sometimes -- to avoid addressing difficult problems themselves.

So let me take this opportunity to outline what has been U.S. policy towards the Middle East and North Africa, and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presidency.
The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.

We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.
We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world.  Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply, and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.
We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people.  Wherever possible, we will build the capacity of our partners, respect the sovereignty of nations, and work to address the root causes of terror.  But when it’s necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attack, we will take direct action.

And finally, we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction.  Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security, we reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.

Now, to say that these are America’s core interests is not to say that they are our only interests.  We deeply believe it is in our interests to see a Middle East and North Africa that is peaceful and prosperous, and will continue to promote democracy and human rights and open markets, because we believe these practices achieve peace and prosperity.  But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action, particularly through military action.  Iraq shows us that democracy cannot simply be imposed by force.  Rather, these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and peoples of the region.

So what does this mean going forward?  In the near term, America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues:  Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.  While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace.

The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  This mistrust has deep roots.  Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs and of America’s role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War.  On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy and directly -- or through proxies -- taken American hostages, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.
I don’t believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight -- the suspicions run too deep.  But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.

Since I took office, I’ve made it clear in letters to the Supreme Leader in Iran and more recently to President Rouhani that America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully, although we are determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  We are not seeking regime change and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy.  Instead, we insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has just recently reiterated that the Islamic Republic will never develop a nuclear weapon.

So these statements made by our respective governments should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement.  We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people, while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful.  But to succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.  After all, it's the Iranian government’s choices that have led to the comprehensive sanctions that are currently in place.  And this is not simply an issue between the United States and Iran.  The world has seen Iran evade its responsibilities in the past and has an abiding interest in making sure that Iran meets its obligations in the future.  

But I want to be clear we are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course.  And given President Rouhani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government in close cooperation with the European Union -- the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.

The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested.  For while the status quo will only deepen Iran’s isolation, Iran’s genuine commitment to go down a different path will be good for the region and the world, and will help the Iranian people meet their extraordinary potential -- in commerce and culture; in science and education.

We are also determined to resolve a conflict that goes back even further than our differences with Iran, and that is the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.  I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.  Earlier this year, in Jerusalem, I was inspired by young Israelis who stood up for the belief that peace was necessary, just, and possible.  And I believe there’s a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state.  But the children of Israel have the right to live in a world where the nations assembled in this body fully recognize their country, and where we unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes or incite others to hate them.
Likewise, the United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state.  On the same trip, I had the opportunity to meet with young Palestinians in Ramallah whose ambition and incredible potential are matched by the pain they feel in having no firm place in the community of nations.  They are understandably cynical that real progress will ever be made, and they’re frustrated by their families enduring the daily indignity of occupation.  But they too recognize that two states is the only real path to peace -- because just as the Palestinian people must not be displaced, the state of Israel is here to stay.

So the time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace.  Already, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks.  President Abbas has put aside efforts to short-cut the pursuit of peace and come to the negotiating table.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has released Palestinian prisoners and reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state.  Current talks are focused on final status issues of borders and security, refugees and Jerusalem.

So now the rest of us must be willing to take risks as well.  Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depends upon the realization of a Palestinian state, and we should say so clearly.  Arab states, and those who supported the Palestinians, must recognize that stability will only be served through a two-state solution and a secure Israel.

All of us must recognize that peace will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists throughout the region, and embolden those who are prepared to build a better future.  And moreover, ties of trade and commerce between Israelis and Arabs could be an engine of growth and opportunity at a time when too many young people in the region are languishing without work.  So let’s emerge from the familiar corners of blame and prejudice.  Let’s support Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are prepared to walk the difficult road to peace.

Real breakthroughs on these two issues -- Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli-Palestinian peace -- would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa.  But the current convulsions arising out of the Arab Spring remind us that a just and lasting peace cannot be measured only by agreements between nations.  It must also be measured by our ability to resolve conflict and promote justice within nations.  And by that measure, it’s clear that all of us have a lot more work to do.

When peaceful transitions began in Tunisia and Egypt, the entire world was filled with hope.  And although the United States -- like others -- was struck by the speed of transition, and although we did not -- and in fact could not -- dictate events, we chose to support those who called for change.  And we did so based on the belief that while these transitions will be hard and take time, societies based upon democracy and openness and the dignity of the individual will ultimately be more stable, more prosperous, and more peaceful.

Over the last few years, particularly in Egypt, we’ve seen just how hard this transition will be.  Mohamed Morsi was democratically elected, but proved unwilling or unable to govern in a way that was fully inclusive.  The interim government that replaced him responded to the desires of millions of Egyptians who believed the revolution had taken a wrong turn, but it, too, has made decisions inconsistent with inclusive democracy -- through an emergency law, and restrictions on the press and civil society and opposition parties.

Of course, America has been attacked by all sides of this internal conflict, simultaneously accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, and engineering their removal of power.  In fact, the United States has purposely avoided choosing sides.  Our overriding interest throughout these past few years has been to encourage a government that legitimately reflects the will of the Egyptian people, and recognizes true democracy as requiring a respect for minority rights and the rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly, and a strong civil society.
That remains our interest today.  And so, going forward, the United States will maintain a constructive relationship with the interim government that promotes core interests like the Camp David Accords and counterterrorism.  We’ll continue support in areas like education that directly benefit the Egyptian people.  But we have not proceeded with the delivery of certain military systems, and our support will depend upon Egypt’s progress in pursuing a more democratic path.

And our approach to Egypt reflects a larger point:  The United States will at times work with governments that do not meet, at least in our view, the highest international expectations, but who work with us on our core interests.  Nevertheless, we will not stop asserting principles that are consistent with our ideals, whether that means opposing the use of violence as a means of suppressing dissent, or supporting the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We will reject the notion that these principles are simply Western exports, incompatible with Islam or the Arab World.  We believe they are the birthright of every person.  And while we recognize that our influence will at times be limited, although we will be wary of efforts to impose democracy through military force, and although we will at times be accused of hypocrisy and inconsistency, we will be engaged in the region for the long haul.  For the hard work of forging freedom and democracy is the task of a generation.

And this includes efforts to resolve sectarian tensions that continue to surface in places like Iraq, Bahrain and Syria.  We understand such longstanding issues cannot be solved by outsiders; they must be addressed by Muslim communities themselves.  But we’ve seen grinding conflicts come to an end before -- most recently in Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants finally recognized that an endless cycle of conflict was causing both communities to fall behind a fast-moving world.  And so we believe those same sectarian conflicts can be overcome in the Middle East and North Africa.

To summarize, the United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries.  The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.  Indeed, as recent debates within the United States over Syria clearly show, the danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries or to take on every problem in the region as its own.  The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war -- rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world -- may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill.

I believe such disengagement would be a mistake.  I believe America must remain engaged for our own security.  But I also believe the world is better for it.  Some may disagree, but I believe America is exceptional -- in part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interests, but for the interests of all.

I must be honest, though.  We're far more likely to invest our energy in those countries that want to work with us, that invest in their people instead of a corrupt few; that embrace a vision of society where everyone can contribute -- men and women, Shia or Sunni, Muslim, Christian or Jew.  Because from Europe to Asia, from Africa to the Americas, nations that have persevered on a democratic path have emerged more prosperous, more peaceful, and more invested in upholding our common security and our common humanity.  And I believe that the same will hold true for the Arab world.

This leads me to a final point.  There will be times when the breakdown of societies is so great, the violence against civilians so substantial that the international community will be called upon to act.  This will require new thinking and some very tough choices.  While the United Nations was designed to prevent wars between states, increasingly we face the challenge of preventing slaughter within states.  And these challenges will grow more pronounced as we are confronted with states that are fragile or failing -- places where horrendous violence can put innocent men, women and children at risk, with no hope of protection from their national institutions.

I have made it clear that even when America’s core interests are not directly threatened, we stand ready to do our part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights.  But we cannot and should not bear that burden alone.  In Mali, we supported both the French intervention that successfully pushed back al Qaeda, and the African forces who are keeping the peace.  In Eastern Africa, we are working with partners to bring the Lord’s Resistance Army to an end.  And in Libya, when the Security Council provided a mandate to protect civilians, America joined a coalition that took action.  Because of what we did there, countless lives were saved, and a tyrant could not kill his way back to power.

I know that some now criticize the action in Libya as an object lesson.  They point to the problems that the country now confronts -- a democratically elected government struggling to provide security; armed groups, in some places extremists, ruling parts of a fractured land.  And so these critics argue that any intervention to protect civilians is doomed to fail -- look at Libya.  No one is more mindful of these problems than I am, for they resulted in the death of four outstanding U.S. citizens who were committed to the Libyan people, including Ambassador Chris Stevens -- a man whose courageous efforts helped save the city of Benghazi.  But does anyone truly believe that the situation in Libya would be better if Qaddafi had been allowed to kill, imprison, or brutalize his people into submission?  It’s far more likely that without international action, Libya would now be engulfed in civil war and bloodshed.
We live in a world of imperfect choices.  Different nations will not agree on the need for action in every instance, and the principle of sovereignty is at the center of our international order.  But sovereignty cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder, or an excuse for the international community to turn a blind eye.  While we need to be modest in our belief that we can remedy every evil, while we need to be mindful that the world is full of unintended consequences, should we really accept the notion that the world is powerless in the face of a Rwanda or Srebrenica?  If that’s the world that people want to live in, they should say so and reckon with the cold logic of mass graves.

But I believe we can embrace a different future.  And if we don’t want to choose between inaction and war, we must get better -- all of us -- at the policies that prevent the breakdown of basic order.  Through respect for the responsibilities of nations and the rights of individuals.  Through meaningful sanctions for those who break the rules.  Through dogged diplomacy that resolves the root causes of conflict, not merely its aftermath.  Through development assistance that brings hope to the marginalized.  And yes, sometimes -- although this will not be enough -- there are going to be moments where the international community will need to acknowledge that the multilateral use of military force may be required to prevent the very worst from occurring.

Ultimately, this is the international community that America seeks -- one where nations do not covet the land or resources of other nations, but one in which we carry out the founding purpose of this institution and where we all take responsibility.  A world in which the rules established out of the horrors of war can help us resolve conflicts peacefully, and prevent the kinds of wars that our forefathers fought.  A world where human beings can live with dignity and meet their basic needs, whether they live in New York or Nairobi; in Peshawar or Damascus.

These are extraordinary times, with extraordinary opportunities.  Thanks to human progress, a child born anywhere on Earth today can do things today that 60 years ago would have been out of reach for the mass of humanity.  I saw this in Africa, where nations moving beyond conflict are now poised to take off.  And America is with them, partnering to feed the hungry and care for the sick, and to bring power to places off the grid.

I see it across the Pacific region, where hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty in a single generation.  I see it in the faces of young people everywhere who can access the entire world with the click of a button, and who are eager to join the cause of eradicating extreme poverty, and combating climate change, starting businesses, expanding freedom, and leaving behind the old ideological battles of the past.  That’s what’s happening in Asia and Africa.  It’s happening in Europe and across the Americas.  That’s the future that the people of the Middle East and North Africa deserve as well -- one where they can focus on opportunity, instead of whether they’ll be killed or repressed because of who they are or what they believe.

Time and again, nations and people have shown our capacity to change -- to live up to humanity’s highest ideals, to choose our better history.  Last month, I stood where 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. told America about his dream, at a time when many people of my race could not even vote for President.  Earlier this year, I stood in the small cell where Nelson Mandela endured decades cut off from his own people and the world.  Who are we to believe that today’s challenges cannot be overcome, when we have seen what changes the human spirit can bring?  Who in this hall can argue that the future belongs to those who seek to repress that spirit, rather than those who seek to liberate it?

I know what side of history I want to the United States of America to be on.  We're ready to meet tomorrow’s challenges with you -- firm in the belief that all men and women are in fact created equal, each individual possessed with a dignity and inalienable rights that cannot be denied.  That is why we look to the future not with fear, but with hope.  And that’s why we remain convinced that this community of nations can deliver a more peaceful, prosperous and just world to the next generation.
Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Sunday

President Barack Obama Weekly Address September 21, 2013 (Video/Transcript)


Weekly Address
The White House
September 21, 2013

Hi, everybody.  It was five years ago this week that a financial crisis on Wall Street spread to Main Street, and very nearly turned a recession into a depression.

In a matter of months, millions of Americans were robbed of their jobs, their homes, their savings – after a decade in which they’d already been working harder and harder to just get by.

It was a crisis from which we’re still trying to recover.  But thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, we are steadily recovering.

Over the past three and a half years, our businesses have created seven and a half million new jobs. Our housing market is healing. We’ve become less dependent on foreign oil.  Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.  And in just over a week, millions of Americans without health care will be able to get covered for less than $100 a month.

So our economy is gaining traction. And we’re finally tackling threats to middle-class prosperity that Washington neglected for far too long.  But as any middle-class family listening right now knows, we’ve got a long way to go to get to where we need to be.  And after five years spent digging out of crisis, the last thing we need is for Washington to manufacture another.
But that’s what will happen in the next few weeks if Congress doesn’t meet two deadlines.

First: the most basic Constitutional duty Congress has is passing a budget.  But if it doesn’t pass one before September 30th – a week from Monday – the government will shut down.  And so will many services the American people expect.  Military personnel, including those deployed overseas, won’t get their paychecks on time.  Federal loans for rural communities, small business owners, and new home buyers will be frozen.  Critical research into life-saving discoveries and renewable energy will be immediately halted. All of this will be prevented if Congress just passes a budget.

Second: Congress must authorize the Treasury to pay America’s bills.  This is done with a simple, usually routine vote to raise what’s called the debt ceiling.  Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it, and every President has signed it – Democrats and Republicans, including President Reagan.  And if this Congress doesn’t do it within the next few weeks, the United States will default on its obligations and put our entire economy at risk.

This is important: raising the debt ceiling is not the same as approving more spending.  It lets us pay for what Congress already spent.  It doesn’t cost a dime, or add a penny to our deficit.  In fact, right now, our deficits are already falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War II.  And by the end of this year, we’ll have cut our deficits by more than half since I took office. 
But reducing our deficits and debt isn’t even what the current standoff in Congress is about. 
Now, Democrats and some reasonable Republicans are willing to raise the debt ceiling and pass a sensible budget – one that cuts spending on what we don’t need so we can invest in what we do.  And I want to work with those Democrats and Republicans on a better bargain for the middle class.

But there’s also a faction on the far right of the Republican party who’ve convinced their leadership to threaten a government shutdown if they can’t shut off the Affordable Care Act.  Some are actually willing to plunge America into default if they can’t defund the Affordable Care Act.

Think about that.  They’d actually plunge this country back into recession – all to deny the basic security of health care to millions of Americans.

Well, that’s not happening.  And they know it’s not happening.

The United States of America is not a deadbeat nation.  We are a compassionate nation.  We are the world’s bedrock investment.  And doing anything to threaten that is the height of irresponsibility.  That’s why I will not negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States.  I will not allow anyone to harm this country’s reputation, or threaten to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people, just to make an ideological point.

So, we are running out of time to fix this.  But we could fix it tomorrow.  Both houses of Congress can take a simple vote to pay our bills on time, then work together to pass a budget on time.

Then we can declare an end to governing by crisis and govern responsibly, by putting our focus back where it should always be – on creating new jobs, growing our economy, and expanding opportunity not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
Thank you.

Monday

President Barack Obama Weekly Address September 14, 2013 (Video/Transcript)




President Barack Obama Weekly 
Address The White 
House September 14, 2013

This week, when I addressed the nation on Syria, I said that – in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military force – there is the possibility of a diplomatic solution. Russia has indicated a new willingness to join with the international community in pushing Syria to give up its chemical weapons, which the Assad regime used in an attack that killed more than 1,000 people on August 21. I also asked Congress to postpone a vote on the use of military force while we pursue this diplomatic path. And that’s what we’re doing.


At my direction, Secretary of State Kerry is in discussions with his Russian counterpart. But we’re making it clear that this can’t be a stalling tactic. Any agreement needs to verify that the Assad regime and Russia are keeping their commitments: that means working to turn Syria’s chemical weapons over to international control and ultimately destroying them. This would allow us to achieve our goal – deterring the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons, degrading their ability to use them, and making it clear to the world that we won’t tolerate their use.

We’ve seen indications of progress. As recently as a week ago, the Assad regime would not admit that it possessed chemical weapons. Today, it does. Syria has signaled a willingness to join with 189 other nations, representing 98 percent of humanity, in abiding by an international agreement that prohibits the use of chemical weapons. And Russia has staked its own credibility on supporting this outcome.

These are all positive developments. We’ll keep working with the international community to see that Assad gives up his chemical weapons so that they can be destroyed. We will continue rallying support from allies around the world who agree on the need for action to deter the use of chemical weapons in Syria. And if current discussions produce a serious plan, I’m prepared to move forward with it.

But we are not just going to take Russia and Assad’s word for it. We need to see concrete actions to demonstrate that Assad is serious about giving up his chemical weapons. And since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of U.S. military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region to keep the pressure on the Assad regime. And if diplomacy fails, the United States and the international community must remain prepared to act.

The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere. As I have said for weeks, the international community must respond to this outrage. A dictator must not be allowed to gas children in their beds with impunity. And we cannot risk poison gas becoming the new weapon of choice for tyrants and terrorists the world over.

We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children. But if there is any chance of achieving that goal without resorting to force, then I believe we have a responsibility to pursue that path. Thank you.

Wednesday

President Barack Obama in Address to the Nation on Syria (Video/Transcript)


THE PRESIDENT:  My fellow Americans, tonight I want to talk to you about Syria -- why it matters, and where we go from here.

Over the past two years, what began as a series of peaceful protests against the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war.  Over 100,000 people have been killed.  Millions have fled the country.  In that time, America has worked with allies to provide humanitarian support, to help the moderate opposition, and to shape a political settlement.  But I have resisted calls for military action, because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The situation profoundly changed, though, on August 21st, when Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people, including hundreds of children.  The images from this massacre are sickening:  Men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas.  Others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath.  A father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk.  On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons, and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off-limits -- a crime against humanity, and a violation of the laws of war.
This was not always the case.  In World War I, American GIs were among the many thousands killed by deadly gas in the trenches of Europe.  In World War II, the Nazis used gas to inflict the horror of the Holocaust.  Because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them.  And in 1997, the United States Senate overwhelmingly approved an international agreement prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, now joined by 189 governments that represent 98 percent of humanity.

On August 21st, these basic rules were violated, along with our sense of common humanity.  No one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria.  The world saw thousands of videos, cell phone pictures, and social media accounts from the attack, and humanitarian organizations told stories of hospitals packed with people who had symptoms of poison gas.
Moreover, we know the Assad regime was responsible.  In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas.  They distributed gasmasks to their troops.  Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.  Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded.  We know senior figures in Assad’s military machine reviewed the results of the attack, and the regime increased their shelling of the same neighborhoods in the days that followed.  We’ve also studied samples of blood and hair from people at the site that tested positive for sarin.

When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory.  But these things happened.  The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America, and the international community, is prepared to do about it.  Because what happened to those people -- to those children -- is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security.
Let me explain why.  If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons.  As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them.  Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield.  And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and to use them to attack civilians. 
If fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan, and Israel.  And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction, and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran -- which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon, or to take a more peaceful path.

This is not a world we should accept.  This is what’s at stake.  And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.  The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use. 
That's my judgment as Commander-in-Chief.  But I’m also the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.  So even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress.  I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress.  And I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together. 

This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the President, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.
Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular.  After all, I've spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them.  Our troops are out of Iraq.  Our troops are coming home from Afghanistan.  And I know Americans want all of us in Washington
-- especially me -- to concentrate on the task of building our nation here at home:  putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class.

It’s no wonder, then, that you're asking hard questions.  So let me answer some of the most important questions that I've heard from members of Congress, and that I've read in letters that you've sent to me.

First, many of you have asked, won’t this put us on a slippery slope to another war?  One man wrote to me that we are “still recovering from our involvement in Iraq.”  A veteran put it more bluntly:  “This nation is sick and tired of war.”

My answer is simple:  I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.  I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan.  I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo.  This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective:  deterring the use of chemical weapons, and degrading Assad’s capabilities.

Others have asked whether it's worth acting if we don’t take out Assad.  As some members of Congress have said, there’s no point in simply doing a “pinprick” strike in Syria.
Let me make something clear:  The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks.  Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.  I don't think we should remove another dictator with force -- we learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next.  But a targeted strike can make Assad, or any other dictator, think twice before using chemical weapons.

Other questions involve the dangers of retaliation.  We don’t dismiss any threats, but the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military.  Any other retaliation they might seek is in line with threats that we face every day.  Neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise.  And our ally, Israel, can defend itself with overwhelming force, as well as the unshakeable support of the United States of America.
Many of you have asked a broader question:  Why should we get involved at all in a place that's so complicated, and where  -- as one person wrote to me -- “those who come after Assad may be enemies of human rights?”

It’s true that some of Assad’s opponents are extremists.  But al Qaeda will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death.  The majority of the Syrian people -- and the Syrian opposition we work with -- just want to live in peace, with dignity and freedom.  And the day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism.

Finally, many of you have asked:  Why not leave this to other countries, or seek solutions short of force?  As several people wrote to me, “We should not be the world’s policeman.”

I agree, and I have a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions.  Over the last two years, my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warning and negotiations -- but chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime.

However, over the last few days, we’ve seen some encouraging signs.  In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action, as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin, the Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons.  The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons, and even said they’d join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use. 

It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments.  But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies.

I have, therefore, asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path.  I’m sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin.  I’ve spoken to the leaders of two of our closest allies, France and the United Kingdom, and we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons, and to ultimately destroy them under international control.  We’ll also give U.N. inspectors the opportunity to report their findings about what happened on August 21st.  And we will continue to rally support from allies from Europe to the Americas -- from Asia to the Middle East -- who agree on the need for action. 

Meanwhile, I’ve ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad, and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails.  And tonight, I give thanks again to our military and their families for their incredible strength and sacrifices.

My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security.  This has meant doing more than forging international agreements -- it has meant enforcing them.  The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world is a better place because we have borne them. 

And so, to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.  To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor.  For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.

Indeed, I’d ask every member of Congress, and those of you watching at home tonight, to view those videos of the attack, and then ask:  What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?

Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideals and principles that we have cherished are challenged.”  Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.

America is not the world’s policeman.  Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong.  But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.  That’s what makes America different.  That’s what makes us exceptional.  With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth. 
Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.

Tuesday

Educating the world (Video)

With millions of people worldwide still unable to read and write, we examine the challenge of global literacy.

Source:Al Jazeera 

 It is described as a basic right and a foundation for life-long learning, but the United Nations says millions of people around the world are still unable to read and write.

Security is challenging all the development processes in Afghanistan, that includes the development process of education .... Still we have hundreds of schools which are closed because of security concerns. And we still have two million children which are out of the schools. They can't go to school because of these problems .... 50 percent of the schools have no buildings ....
Kabir Haqmal, the spokesman for Afghanistan's minister of education
A statement released by the UN's education arm, UNESCO, to mark International Literacy Day said: "Literacy is much more than an educational priority - it is the ultimate investment in the future. We wish to see a century where every child is able to read and to use this skill to gain autonomy."

According to UNESCO, almost 774 million people in the world lack basic reading and writing skills, and of those, almost two-thirds are women and girls.

Some 123 million young people, aged 15 to 24, are unable to read and write, and again the female share is more than 60 percent.

The lowest literacy rates are in south and west Asia, which is home to half of the global illiterate population, and sub-Saharan Africa, which has some of the lowest rates - below 50 percent in 10 countries, and dropping to 25 percent in Guinea.

Providing universal primary education is among the UN's eight Millennium Development Goals, and there has been progress.

By the target year of 2015, two-thirds of adults and three-quarters of youth in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to be able to read and write, and in south and west Asia about nine out of 10 young adults are projected to be literate.

But obstacles remain as the world strives to provide education for all.
So what are the challenges facing UNESCO? Why are so many people still unable to read and write? And what can be done to educate girls and women across the world?

Inside Story, with presenter Shiulie Ghosh, is joined by guests: Jordan Naidoo, a senior adviser on education for the UN children's charity UNICEF, and Kabir Haqmal, the director of Information and spokesman for Afghanistan's minister of education.

"There has been immense progress over the last 10 to 15 years ... but it still needs a lot more attention to providing access [to education] for girls that [is] closer to the communities, where girls don't have to travel too far, because parents and community members see the issue of threats along the way. But [we also need] ... to encourage parents and community members to see the value of education for all children, not just boys.

While literacy rates in general have increased, women still make up over 60 percent of those that are illiterate. There's a number of reasons and one of the main reasons is that even when girls are enrolled often they are forced to drop out for various reasons .... I think one of the main reasons remains social attitudes, but it's also a question of providing infrastructure, schools closer to communities ... we also have to change teaching practices .... The issue is not only about access but also improving the quality of learning .... Often, even when girls are enrolled, they face many other problems - acute discrimination, [a] curriculum [that] is not accurately matched to the needs of all children .... We have to work on access, quality and other measures to ensure that girls not only get into school but actually do learn."

Jordan Naidoo, a senior adviser on education for the UN children's charity UNICEF.

Sunday

Why are emerging economies failing? (Video)

Counting the Cost revisits emerging markets and asks who is to blame for falling currencies and rising inflation.

Source:Al Jazeera

 Emerging markets are having a tough time the world over, but who is to blame? Is it the rich world's monetary policies or have more deep-seated problems merely been masked for years by stellar economic growth?

A few months ago, the headline was simple: The blame for slumping currencies from Brazil to Indonesia was to be put firmly at the door of the United States Federal Reserve.

Guido Mantenga, Brazil's finance minister, made it clear when he declared: "We are now facing new turbulence in the financial markets caused by the Fed, which has caused serious problems not only in Brazil but around the world."

But there are those who say all is not as it seems.

In India, for example, Raghuram Rajan, the new governor of the Central Bank, faces an uphill challenge. That country's appetite for gold and oil means that it is running a current account deficit, while subsidies and welfare programmes have increased its budget deficit. And rampant inflation and corruption are only making the situation worse.

Then there is another aspect to this problem. According to Bloomberg, emerging markets, with the exception of China, have more than $2.8tn of currency reserves. But it seems that they are saving that money and using interest rates to stop the outflow of money, which is failing to have the desired impact of slowing a rout in currencies.

At the G20 in St Petersburg, BRICS nations pledged to create a $100bn pool of currency reserves to protect themselves from any shocks. Despite that pledge, China and Russia stressed the need for nations to look within to rebalance their economies, thus ruling out bailouts.

Indonesia is a key example of the troubles afflicting emerging markets. Until a year ago, its economy was doing well. But now its currency has plunged, growth is slowing and inflation is increasing rapidly. The government has announced new economic measures, including the easing of regulations and tax deductions, in a bid to restore investor confidence, but will this be enough to fix one of the most important economies in Asia?
On this edition of Counting the Cost, we revisit the world's falling currencies. But this time we turn the spotlight on emerging economies and ask if they need to share some of the blame for their malaise.

Water wars 
Will the wars of the future be fought over water?

Many of us can simply turn on a tap and have near unlimited access to water. But what happens when this isn't the case? And are many of us oblivious to just what a source of conflict water can be?

Take the River Nile, for example. That flows through 11 African countries and has prompted all sorts of battles for its control. Then there is the River Jordan. Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories depend on it. And the diversion of the river was one of the causes of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The Euphrates River has been at the heart of conflict between Turkey and Syria in the past, while India and Pakistan are in disagreement over the water that flows from Indian-administered Kashmir into Pakistan's Indus River basin.

Will these types of conflicts become more widespread and serious? It is World Water Week, so Counting the Cost decided to take a closer look at a potential source of conflict.

Africa's aviation hub?
If you think of an aviation hub, what comes to mind? London's Heathrow for Europe, Changi Airport in Singapore, or Dubai in the Middle East, perhaps?

But could Nigeria fulfil this role for Africa?

More than 10 million people travel through its 22 airports each year and that number is set to increase to 50 million over the next decade.

China has invested $500m to build more international terminals in the country and to assist with training and investment in virtually every area of the aviation sector.

"Essentially what we want to accomplish, at the end of the day, is to have Nigeria become the natural hub for the region, and then extend it for the continent, because we want to leverage on the population that we have," Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, Nigeria's minister of aviation, declared.

However, some travellers passing through Nigeria's 22 airports say they are yet to feel the changes and improvements being made in the sector.

"Its been chaotic. I think if there had been a little bit more organisation, in terms of where departures are, arrivals, in terms of customs checks and so forth, it would be a better experience," a passenger named Prithvi told Al Jazeera.

Analysts say previous governments have not been committed to improving the aviation sector, but that this administration is investing heavily in infrastructure and training to get its ambitious ideas off the ground.

So, will the Nigerian government achieve its goal? And if it does, how could this impact the Nigerian economy?

 

President Barack Obama Weekly Address September 7, 2013 (Video/Transcript)


Weekly Address
The White House
September 7, 2013
Almost three weeks ago in Syria, more than 1,000 innocent people – including hundreds of children – were murdered in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century.  And the United States has presented a powerful case to the world that the Syrian government was responsible for this horrific attack on its own people.

This was not only a direct attack on human dignity; it is a serious threat to our national security.  There’s a reason governments representing 98 percent of the world’s people have agreed to ban the use of chemical weapons.  Not only because they cause death and destruction in the most indiscriminate and inhumane way possible – but because they can also fall into the hands of terrorist groups who wish to do us harm.

That’s why, last weekend, I announced that, as Commander in Chief, I decided that the United States should take military action against the Syrian regime.  This is not a decision I made lightly.  Deciding to use military force is the most solemn decision we can make as a nation.
As the leader of the world’s oldest Constitutional democracy, I also know that our country will be stronger if we act together, and our actions will be more effective.  That’s why I asked Members of Congress to debate this issue and vote on authorizing the use of force.

What we’re talking about is not an open-ended intervention.  This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan.  There would be no American boots on the ground.  Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope – designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so.

I know that the American people are weary after a decade of war, even as the war in Iraq has ended, and the war in Afghanistan is winding down.  That’s why we’re not putting our troops in the middle of somebody else’s war.

But we are the United States of America.  We cannot turn a blind eye to images like the ones we’ve seen out of Syria.  Failing to respond to this outrageous attack would increase the risk that chemical weapons could be used again; that they would fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us, and it would send a horrible signal to other nations that there would be no consequences for their use of these weapons.  All of which would pose a serious threat to our national security. 

That’s why we can’t ignore chemical weapons attacks like this one – even if they happen halfway around the world.  And that’s why I call on Members of Congress, from both parties, to come together and stand up for the kind of world we want to live in; the kind of world we want to leave our children and future generations.  
Thank you.