Under Northern Lights

In northern Scandinavia, locals are taking on mining giants in a bid to save an ancient environment and way of life.

Europe's far north is a place of spectacular beauty, of mountains and forests, lakes and rivers, illuminated in winter by the ethereal glow of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.

It is also home to an astonishing array of plants and animals which have survived largely thanks to the indigenous people of the area - the Sami.

To this day many Sami follow herds of free-roaming reindeer, maintaining a tradition that has helped preserve their ancient environment into the 21st century.

But in recent years a new species has arrived: the multinational mining company. Keen to exploit the region's extraordinarily rich mineral deposits, the industry is being welcomed by Scandinavian governments who want to share in the bounty of jobs and income they promise to bring.

But the Sami feel that their way of life and the remarkable natural world they inhabit are being put under threat. So they have been fighting back.
Filmmaker Glenn Ellis investigates.

A case against mining in northern Scandinavia 

At first glance the picturesque town of Jokkmokk, which lies just inside the Arctic Circle, seems to exemplify the 'Swedish Model' – that much-vaunted image of Swedish perfection. There are neat clapperboard houses evenly spaced on wide streets and road signs warning drivers of passing moose; the air is clean, there is no litter, and all appears well with the world.

Yet I have come to Europe's far north to investigate a story which challenges the very notion of the Swedish Model. For here, in one of Europe's richest countries, renowned for human rights and social justice, an indigenous people find themselves fighting a last ditch battle against the state and a multinational mining company; at stake: their ancestral land and an ancient way of life.

It is a story being repeated across of much of the region, from Norway to Finland, for northern Scandinavia is currently experiencing a raw materials rush, as remarkable in its way as the gold rushes that took place in 19th century America - and the Sami, who inhabit much of this vast territory, are standing in front of it.

I arranged to meet Jonas Vannar, a Sami reindeer herder, high up in the Laponia Mountains, a spectacular wilderness, where the reindeer had just been gathered.
The region is so remote that a helicopter was the only practical means of getting there. As we approached our destination, I saw an extraordinary spectacle: vast herds of of reindeer swarming round the inside of an immense circular corral, which from this height looked like countless dots caught in a whirlpool.

The chopper landed some distance from the corral, but the sound of the charging animals carried for miles. Jonas came out to greet me. "The Sami are closely linked to reindeer herding," he explained, casually throwing a lasso over his shoulder. "We all have a strong bond with the reindeer; it is the cornerstone of our culture." Looking around, he added: "The grazing of the reindeer inhibits the birch forest - the reindeer have formed this landscape since time immemorial."

Laponia is quite a landscape: pristine forests, mountains and rivers, not to mention the world's fastest moving glacier. Crucially, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the area boasts what is unquestionably the largest and best preserved example of transhumance - the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. It is also home to many of Europe's largest mammals, including lynx, wolves, bears and wolverines.

Like many Sami, Jonas studied at university but chose to return to this rugged landscape to work with the reindeer. "It's something close to my heart," he told me. "Our biggest fear is that the mine with its connecting infrastructure would effectively cut off our possibilities of migrating to our winter pastures; and also the mine itself is where we have part of our reindeers in wintertime so we fear that we will not be able to continue reindeer herding in this area." In other words, according to Jonas, not only does the mine threaten the Sami herders, it also threatens the area's world heritage status.
From the high vantage point on which we are standing, I look down the valley to the Lilla Lule, a tributary of the mighty Lulea River, one of Sweden's largest. In the distance, Kallak, the site of the proposed mine, is clearly visible.

Over the summer it had been the scene of a bitter standoff between environmentalists and the police when people had come from all over Scandinavia to try to stop a British company, Beowulf Mining, from test drilling.

A camp was set up, barricades built and towers erected, but by the time I reached the site, the action was over - a combination of police numbers, multiple arrests and private security guards had enabled Beowulf to conduct its operations. The environmentalists, a mixture of self-styled eco-warriors, locals and Sami were busy clearing the site of rubbish, not wishing to leave a mess behind.

I spoke to Mosi, a young man who had spent the summer at the camp.

"The mining industry is one of the most dangerous and toxic industrial things you can imagine," he said. "Every year, just in Sweden, millions of tonnes of toxic waste leak out into rivers and the sea. All over Sweden this is happening right now."

I asked Mosi why he and his friends are trying to resist mining companies like Beowulf. "The mineral law is changing," he explained, adding: "And it's going to be even easier to open a mine in Sweden. There are corporations drilling for oil and gas and rare earth minerals. If these mines are started on a large scale it will be terrible for the environment and terrible for the people drinking the water that's polluted, breathing the air that's polluted. You've seen these things all over the world and you know that this is disastrous and yet still they continue, so I think in a way the question we should ask is not why we resist this project, but why are there not more people resisting?"

Many of the young activists who came here were given food and shelter by the residents of villages like Bjorkholmen, just 2km from the proposed mine. If it goes into production, it is said that 140 million tonnes of ore will be extracted right by the village's water supply.

Ulla Forsberg's worries are typical. "We have clean water here," she told me over a cup tea in her quaint summer cottage on the banks of a lake. "We can drink the water from the lake - and there's not many places in Sweden [where] we can drink water from the lake. All people in Bjorkholmen are sad because they don't want to have a mine here."
The sun is setting on the hour-long drive back to Jokkmokk. It is that time of day cameramen love, when colours are at their richest. The light bestows an almost mystical quality to the forests and rivers we pass and it is easy to see why so many people had converged here to try to save this remarkable landscape.

At my hotel I hear that Sven-Erik Österberg, the county governor, is in town on a rare visit. The government have appointed him arbiter between the Sami and Beowulf. I track him down at the council building where he is deep in discussions with Beowulf officials. But during a short interview he gives a fair and impartial account of the problems he is trying to unravel; on the one hand mining could bring many positive benefits in terms of jobs and money for the local economy, on the other he insists that the interests of the Sami reindeer herders must be protected too.

But when I ask him if he thinks it will be difficult for the Sami to oppose the mine he is unusually frank for a seasoned politician. "There's a lot of money in the area," he said, "and of course you know what - money talks."

I would have liked to put some of the same points to the Beowulf officials in the next room, but my questions would have to wait until I returned to London, where the company's chairman, Clive Sinclair-Poulton had agreed to an interview.

In the meantime I was due to leave Sweden and head to Finland, a country experiencing a similar mining bonanza and with comparable concerns about the consequences for its ecosystem. Indeed they are probably greater because of an episode last November when 200,000 cubic metres of uranium-rich water leaked from the Talvivaara mine into surrounding rivers and lakes - an incident some experts have dubbed Finland's worst-ever environmental disaster.

To my surprise the incident (and the negative publicity that followed) had done little to deter foreign mining companies from swarming to the region. In fact, Finland has just been ranked the second-best place to do business by a corporate mining survey. To find out why I headed for the pretty town of Tampere, where a mining trade fair was underway.

Here I met Pekka Pera, Tavlivaara's CEO, who was eager to downplay the uranium leak. "We've had our difficulties, we've had the gypsum pond leak and there was a threat that there could be a major impact upon nature but so far we've been able to mitigate it."
I asked him if I can see for myself and he agreed to let me visit the mine later, but was keen I hear his views on his industry's importance to the European Union.

"In history there has been very strong metal production in Europe," he said. "And because of this the production chain exists - we have a lot of base metals and smelting units. But what has been lacking in western Europe is our own minerals and sources for minerals - and particularly now for instance uranium. In Europe there are hundreds of nuclear power plants which have to supply their uranium from outside Europe and in this volatile world I think it would be safer to have our own source for nuclear power."
I find this an interesting observation because, as I understand it, Talvivaara is a nickel mine which currently has no permission to mine uranium.

"We have actually constructed a uranium extraction plant which is completed and waiting for an environmental permit," Pera explained. "Then we can extract uranium from our process solutions."

At the Tampere trade fair later that day Pera took part in a panel discussion entitled ' Who believes in sustainable mining?' It had been billed as open to comments from the public, but when a well-known environmentalist tried to address the panel he was thrown out.

The man in question was Hannu Hyvonen, one of Finland's most celebrated environmental filmmakers, who has been charting the Talvivaara saga for some years now and co-founded the Stop Talvivaara campaign. Hannu agreed to take me by boat to see some of the lakes and rivers that he says are at risk before I visit the mine. But first I had an appointment in Helsinki with one of Finland's top scientists.

Matti Sarnisto, who until recently was secretary-general of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, is scathing about the Talvivaara operation, calling it an environmental catastrophe.

"It has been a disaster from the beginning," he told me. "The main reason being it is not a real ore body - the metal content is so low, only 0.2 percent of nickel - and this means that huge amounts of rock must be crushed before a required amount of nickel can be produced. And this method (known as bioleaching) means that every year 300,000 tonnes of sulphuric acid is transported to Talvivaara and poured over the crushed rock piles, and this huge amount of acid and other chemicals within the area is not under control. There have been several serious dam failures polluting vast areas. Talvivaara is situated in the high watershed area and so the polluted water goes in two directions: to the west and to the south and so it means that the headwaters of our big water courses are at risk."

The professor adds that there are only three water systems in Finland and they are all interconnected, making them particularly vulnerable to this kind of contamination. The lakes of Finland actually make up one-third of the country's territory.

The next day I took up Hannu's offer and met him 400km north of the capital, Helsinki. To my delight he insisted on being interviewed on a rowing boat. "In earlier times in every village there was a boat maker," he told me as we clambered into a beautifully proportioned wooden rowing skiff. "Finnish people came to these lakes and rivers from the south and inhabited these areas thousands of years ago - our ancestors had gods for these rivers - Ahti was the god who was giving fish."

It is a truly magical place, the lake surface reflecting the perfect blue of a cloudless sky, while the shore, lined with autumnal russets, gives a sense of profound tranquility.
"I would say we are like indigenous people of these lakes," Hannu went on as he pulled us gently out across the water. "But we are not recognised as indigenous people so we don't have collective rights of these lakes and rivers. This is kind of paradise, but it is also a paradise for mining companies. They are coming and they are taking."

Hannu believes there is a wider political agenda behind Finland's mining policy.

"The more serious reason behind the mining boom is uranium," he said, adding: "In Finland in the stone there is uranium, not so much, but in every place there is enough to open up multi-metal mines where you have nickel, gold and almost always uranium. So it's not only metal politics but also energy politics that is behind this mining. So that is the kind of future which is planned for our country."

There are few hotels in this part of Finland, so Hannu had arranged for us to stay with a friend, Raili Eskelinenher, a dairy farmer in the Vieremä region. We arrive exhausted at the remote farmstead at around midnight but our host insisted on a sauna, a Finnish ritual that it is rude to refuse.

We piled into a 4X4 and drove some 20 minutes over moonlit fields down to a hut at the riverbank. A traditional smoke sauna had been prepared earlier, so despite the cold we stripped and were about to enter the hut when our host began a haunting chant, a traditional pre-Christian song of thanks. For me it underlined something important about the Finnish psyche, that here are a people for whom the bond with nature is every bit as profound as that of the Sami.

The following morning Raili took us to a vantage point on her farm overlooking undulating hills, a lake and a village, a vast area where a foreign mining company has just been granted a prospecting permit. "You can see in the distance," Raili said. "We have our village centre and even a cemetery there, and it is a historically significant area. Many people are shocked at the companies' arrogance and how they can make mining claims in places that for centuries have been owned by families. People are astonished that this is possible in a country called Finland."
Her anger is palpable.

We said our goodbyes. Now only 50 miles from Talvivaara, it was with some trepidation that me and my cameraman, Juha, approached the place. We had arranged to meet Olli-Pekka Nissinen, the company's press spokesman.

We arrived at the complex, passed through various security protocols, listened to a talk on safety, signed a disclaimer so that in the event of a mishap the company cannot be held responsible and were ushered into a room full of hardhats and protective jackets.
Finally we were given our own personal emergency device which included a pop-out oxygen mask and various other gizmos in case we encountered toxic gases during our tour. Last year, a worker died here, the death apparently caused by a lethal concentration of hydrogen sulphide in the air.

Olli turned out to be the perfect host, courteous and polite, but his undeniable charm sat oddly with the sight that greeted us from the high lookout post he took us to: In front of us was a vast hole in the landscape, covering many square miles. In the distance I could see dozens of excavators and dumper trucks. Next to the crater, huge mounds of excavated earth lay stretched out to the horizon, each heap 1.2km long, yet each having only yielded small quantities of nickel.

Beyond these, I could see enormous reservoirs of toxic-looking waste fading into the hazy distance. The scale of Talvivaara is simply breathtaking. It took us hours to drive around it, stopping to film where we could. When we finally returned to the reception building we had to stand on metal grids while our boots were sprayed with jets of water to remove toxic particles before we were allowed inside. The stench of sulphur was overpowering and seemed to cling to our clothes for days. I cannot help but feel sympathy for the villagers who live nearby and must endure this noxious smell all the time. It was with some relief that we got back into the car and drove away.

In Viaankiaapa in the far north of Finland, were we met 19-year-old Riikka Karrpinen, a remarkable girl who has become something of a local celebrity since starting a campaign in 2008 to save the nearby Viiankiaapa Natura 2000 nature reserve.

It is a spectacular marshland, home to 21 endangered birds and nine endangered plant types. Riikka, who describes herself as a Lappish girl with distant Sami ancestors, was raised in a log cabin nearby. "I grew up there and I visited this place many times. When I was 10 years old I used to go there hunting and fishing with my big brother."

But then, British mining giant, Anglo American (AA), the world's fourth-largest mining company, arrived. AA has its sights set on Europe's biggest nickel deposit, much of which lies deep beneath the marshlands of Viiankiappa.

For her part, Riikka is doing everything in her power to stop them getting it. She shared her real life David and Goliath story. " First of all I tried to get as much information as I could. I was about 14 and after that I started campaigning by meeting ministers and members of parliament. I travelled to Helsinki and told them about Viiankiappa and then the newspapers got interested."

She took us off on a five mile walk to get a flavour of what is at stake. The delicate beauty of the marshland is hard to convey in words. There are ancient forests, mires, lakes, moose and reindeer. An overall sense of fragility pervades.

"The company has said that they really respect the environment and they will try to do their best and they try to save the special areas in Finland. But why should they build a mine here if they really appreciate nature?" Riikka asked. "I feel that this would be a great opportunity for the company to show that they mean what they say."

We sat at the side of a lake watching a flotilla of wading birds land in the distance as Riikka told me she has repeatedly asked Anglo American whether or not they intend to mine uranium here in addition to nickel. She said the company have refused to answer her question.

Of course Anglo American is just one out of dozens of multinational mining companies that have come to Lapland. But the scale and speed of their arrival has taken many people by surprise. "I'm very worried that my generation is the generation which is going to carry all those responsibilities for what those companies have done here," Riikka said. "And of course I'm worried about the nature because if we destroy this area once we cannot get it back anymore. There are two different values: the mining values, and the other values of pure nature and local people which are much more important than the money the company would like to have from Lapland."

I flew back to London with these thoughts in my mind. I contacted Anglo-American to see if I could get answers to some of Riikka's questions, but they pulled out of our interview at the last minute. Nevertheless Beowulf's chairman, Clive Sinclair-Poulton, did keep his word. In a long interview, he insisted that the Sami reindeer herders have nothing to fear and that he would like closer links with the local community.
But when the interview was over, I reflected that one of his other, more forceful, statements seemed to me to be of more significance. It certainly underlined the gaping cultural gulf between the two sides. "What is the potential for growth in reindeer herding?" said Sinclair-Poulton. "Will this go ahead and employ hundreds more people? No, no it won’t. Will mining? Yes it will."

The anxiety of the Sami and others is that when decisions are being taken in Swedish and Finnish government circles about the future course of mining in Scandinavia's stunningly beautiful far north, the cold economic logic of such sentiments will prove all too irresistible.

President Barack Obama Weekly Address November 23, 2013 (Video/Trascript )

Weekly Address -- Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hi, everybody.  On behalf of all the Obamas – Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo, and the newest member of our family, Sunny – I want to wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. 
We’ll be spending today just like many of you – sitting down with family and friends to eat some good food, tell stories, watch a little football, and most importantly, count our blessings. 

And as Americans, we have so much to be thankful for. 

We give thanks for the men and women who set sail for this land nearly four centuries ago, risking everything for the chance at a better life – and the people who were already here, our Native American brothers and sisters, for their generosity during that first Thanksgiving. 

We give thanks for the generations who followed – people of all races and religions, who arrived here from every country on Earth and worked to build something better for themselves and for us. 

We give thanks for all our men and women in uniform – and for their families, who are surely missing them very much today.  We’re grateful for their sacrifice too. 

We give thanks for the freedoms they defend – the freedom to think what we want and say what we think, to worship according to our own beliefs, to choose our leaders and, yes, criticize them without punishment.  People around the world are fighting and even dying for their chance at these freedoms.  We stand with them in that struggle, and we give thanks for being free. 

And we give thanks to everyone who’s doing their part to make the United States a better, more compassionate nation – who spend their Thanksgiving volunteering at a soup kitchen, or joining a service project, or bringing food and cheer to a lonely neighbor.  That big-hearted generosity is a central part of our American character.  We believe in lending a hand to folks who need it.  We believe in pitching in to solve problems even if they aren’t our problems.  And that’s not a one-day-a-year belief.  It’s part of the fabric of our nation. 

And we remember that many Americans need that helping hand right now.  Americans who’ve lost their jobs and can’t get a new one through no fault of their own.  Americans who’ve been trapped in poverty and just need that helping hand to climb out.  Citizens whose prayers and hopes move us to act.

We are a people who are greater together than we are on our own.  That’s what today is about.  That’s what every day should be about.  No matter our differences, we’re all part of one American family.  We are each other’s keeper.  We are one nation, under God.  That core tenet of our American experience has guided us from the earliest days of our founding – and it will guide us to a future that’s even brighter than today. 

Thank you, God bless you, and from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.


Growing Risks: Government Bond Holdings Could Burden Banks

By Martin Hesse and Christoph Pauly
 Source: Der Spiegel International

European banks hold increasingly large shares of government bonds as a result of the debt crisis. If those states default and can no longer service their debt, it could lead to massive losses. Germany's Bundesbank is pushing for new rules at the ECB. 

German consulting firm Roland Berger did its bit for German-Italian relations last week when it named the head of Italy's UniCredit, Federico Ghizzoni, as "Italo-German Manager of the Year."

The ego massage is expected to boost strained ties between Germany and Italy. A manager for UniCredit, Italy's largest bank, recently accused Jens Weidmann, president of Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, of harboring a basic mistrust of Italy. The rift was quickly patched up following a flurry of diplomacy, but potentially deeper divisions loom on the horizon.

UniCredit, which has €46 billion ($62.1 billion) of sovereign debt on its books, is one of a number of European banks that have purchased enormous quantities of government bonds from their own country. In Italy, Spain and elsewhere the lending institutions have become the leading financiers of their own states. This may please their respective governments, but it also entails risks. If, at a certain point, a state can no longer service its debts, the banks could suffer huge losses. Consequently, many economists -- above all Bundesbank President Weidmann -- are urging the introduction of new regulations to break the so-called feedback loop between governments and private banks.

A Dilemma for the ECB
The Bundesbank proposal is well-intentioned, but it has drawbacks: It puts cash-strapped banks and crisis-ridden states in a bind. And, perhaps more urgently, it creates a dilemma for the European Central Bank (ECB), which is set to evaluate the stability of the euro zone's largest banks. Before the ECB assumes its new supervisory authority over euro-area banks in 2014, it intends to review their balance sheets, weed out toxic assets and evaluate whether these institutions are adequately prepared to weather future market turbulence.

While the ECB wants to test the potential impact that losses from sovereign bonds would have on euro banks, there is debate over how rigorously sovereign holdings should be assessed. Weidmann's proposal, which could mean more banks would ultimately fail the tests, is likely to compound the challenges facing the ECB.

A team of 15 economic and financial advisers to the ECB's European Systematic Risk Board -- founded by the EU in late 2010 and tasked with recognizing and eliminating risks in the financial system -- were recently reminded of the politically sensitive nature of the topic of sovereign bonds. Doing their due diligence, the advisers had presented the board with recommendations on how to unravel the intricate ties between banks and sovereigns.

The experts came to the conclusion that when, for example, Spanish banks primarily hold Spanish sovereign bonds, and Irish financial institutions predominately hold Irish government bonds, this poses a risk that is comparable to when a bank grants a large proportion of its loans to a single company. To avoid such concentrations of risk, the advisers suggested that the banks be required to limit their sovereign bonds to a predetermined proportion of their investments. Another possibility would be to buttress these bonds with capital reserves, which would at least make it possible to adequately contain the risk over the medium term.

However, if such rules were introduced for banks, euro-zone states would have to find entirely new ways to finance themselves in the future. ECB President Mario Draghi immediately recognized the potentially explosive nature of these proposals. He returned the recommendations "for revision" to the financial advisory committee, which includes German economists Martin Hellwig, of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn, and Claudia Buch, the head of the Halle Institute for Economic Research. The economists declined to comment on Draghi's request.

Credit Limits? 
Central bank officials are concerned that a fundamental debate on the risky system of state financing could come at an inopportune moment. Still, Draghi is also worried that the ECB's authority could be undermined before it even takes over banking supervision, if the risks of a national bankruptcy are simply ignored during the stress test. "We have to make a decision here," he told the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs at the European Parliament in September, and promised that there would be an "initial communication" in mid-October.

But Europe's banks and governments have been waiting in vain for Frankfurt to lay down the law on sovereign bonds. Part of the reason for hesitation is that Draghi doesn't have a majority on the ECB Governing Council to back a plan for risk-weighting sovereign debt on bank balance sheets. "The battle lines are drawn according to the degree of impact," says an individual who is taking part in the discussions.

Southern European countries are particularly reticent to change the current standards. Until now, banks have had to maintain absolutely no capital reserves to safeguard sovereign bonds, as if there were no risk involved. For instance, Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo has acquired some €100 billion ($135 billion) in bonds issued by its own government.

ECB monetary policy plays a role in all of this, too. For years, it has been supplying euro-zone banks with cheap liquidity in a bid to boost the economy. But Italian banks are not using those funds to grant loans to Italian companies. Instead, they have increased their holdings of sovereign bonds since late 2011 from €240 billion to €415 billion.

"We are observing an evasive reaction that we have caused ourselves through monetary policy interventions," argues Weidmann. Indeed, he thinks it is necessary "that we treat sovereign bonds the way we treat corporate bonds." According to normal banking practice, financial institutions are only allowed to grant companies loans up to a certain limit. In Weidmann's opinion, a similar credit limit should also be introduced for states -- specifically, the bonds issued by each individual country.

A Political Issue 
Experts like Daniel Gros, the director of the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels, take a similar view. "The most consistent instrument for dealing with sovereign bonds would be the use of credit limits," says Gros, who is also a member of the advisory committee of the European Systematic Risk Board. Gros notes that it may be advisable to set aside capital to cover the sovereign debt, depending on the level of risk. "We should not orient ourselves according to ratings here, but simply according to the level of sovereign debt in relation to the gross domestic product."

The ECB does not plan to include such fundamental considerations in next year's stress test. But to make the test credible, the central bank has to somehow take into account the risk of sovereign debt on banks' balance sheets. The financial markets realized long ago that sovereign bonds constitute a risk for the banks. The rating agency Standard&Poor's (S&P) already calculates deductions for these risks when it assesses the creditworthiness of banks. This is one reason why S&P says that European financial institutions are generally not as well-capitalized as they portray themselves.

"There are banks whose risks are too strongly concentrated on the sovereign loans of individual countries," says S&P bank analyst Markus Schmaus. He thinks it would make sense for the stress test to simulate possible losses, and thus identify the corresponding need for capital.

Nevertheless, Schmaus realizes that this is a highly political issue: "By adjusting the sovereign bond lever, you can fairly well control the result of the entire stress test."

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen

IRS sets its sights on political 'dark money'

Proposed rule changes could curb 'social welfare' nonprofits' ability to spend on elections


Nearly four years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision helped usher in a surge of political spending by “social welfare” nonprofits, the Internal Revenue Service is proposing new rules that could curtail the groups’ ability to influence elections while concealing their donors.

The agency’s action will have massive implications for politically engaged nonprofits from the Republican-aligned Crossroads GPS, which was co-founded by former Bush strategist Karl Rove, to the pro-Democratic Patriot Majority USA — as well as for ideological groups such as the League of Conservation Voters and Americans for Prosperity.

Such nonprofits organized under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code must be “operated exclusively to promote social welfare” and function “primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community,” according to the IRS.

Citizens United opened the door for such groups to expand their political activities, including allowing them to advocate for the election or defeat of candidates. But the IRS definition of what exactly constitutes political spending is murky, and the agency has never defined how much money social welfare groups can spend on express political advocacy. Until now most nonprofits have been working under the rule of thumb that express political advocacy cannot constitute more than 50 percent of their spending.
The new proposed rules seek to clarify both.

The IRS is calling for the creation of a new legal term known as “candidate-related political activity,” which would not overlap with activities for the “promotion of social welfare.” And the agency is seeking input from the public on whether the level of political spending should be restricted to a certain percentage.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, social welfare nonprofits spent more than $240 million on advertising calling for the election or defeat of federal political candidates during the 2012 election cycle.

As the Center for Public Integrity previously reported, the League of Conservation Voters alone spent more than 40 percent of its budget on express advocacy in 2012, while such expenditures amounted to nearly 46 percent of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spending last year.

Social welfare groups also spent hundreds of millions more on “issue ads” — so called because they name a candidate but stop short of explicitly calling for their election or defeat.

When these advertisements were broadcast within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election, they were required to be reported to the FEC as “electioneering communications.”

Even so, most social welfare nonprofit groups did not define such advertising as political activity for the purposes of their IRS reporting.

For instance, one pro-business social welfare group with ties to the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch — the American Energy Alliance — told the FEC it spent $1.36 million on ads urging viewers in Virginia and Ohio to "stand with coal" and "vote no on Obama's failing energy policy."

Yet the American Energy Alliance later told the IRS it did not spend a dime on “direct or indirect political campaign activities on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office."

The major difference between politically active social welfare group and traditional political committees that are organized under Sec. 527 of the tax code is that the latter must regularly disclose their funders. This includes candidates’ campaigns, parties, political action committees and super PACs.

The FEC has interpreted the law to require politically active nonprofits to disclose only the names of donors who give for the specific purpose of “furthering” particular ads — something that rarely happens.

Critics have dubbed the influx of ads bankrolled by unnamed sources “dark money,” and they have argued the true donors of the money should be disclosed.

Supporters, meanwhile, assert they are spending within their constitutional rights and are complying with existing disclosure rules.

The new IRS proposal comes down closer to the side of the dark money opponents.
The new category of “candidate-related political activity” would encompass all spending reported to the FEC — including express advocacy and electioneering communications — as well as some additional activities, such as get-out-the-vote drives and events featuring candidates.

In a press release Tuesday, Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur called the proposal “a critical step toward creating clear-cut definitions of political activity by tax-exempt social welfare organizations.”

Meanwhile, pro-campaign finance reform advocacy group Democracy 21 released a statement to “applaud” the action taken by the IRS as “an important step further.”
Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer further encouraged the agency to “seize this opportunity to end the scandalous practice of groups abusing the tax laws to hide from the American people campaign finance information to which they are entitled.”

But the proposal also immediately drew criticism from campaign finance reform opponents.

David Keating, the president of the Center for Competitive Politics, said the proposal went “seriously off track” by including “electioneering communications” as “candidate-related political activity.”

He argued that groups may be compelled to run issue ads on controversial legislation in the two months before Election Day because of the timetable under which Congress decides to act.

For instance, he cited votes on an alternative to sequestration, an omnibus appropriations bill and the reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act among high-profile votes occurring within 60 days of the November election last Congress.

“It is absurd to categorize ads on such legislation as per se political activity simply because an incumbent is mentioned in the communication,” Keating said. “Many social welfare groups are active on a single issue and are at the mercy of the congressional schedule.”

Representatives of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Crossroads GPS and Patriot Majority USA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Spokesmen for both the League of Conservation Voters and Americans for Prosperity declined to comment.
Benjamin Cole, the communications director of the pro-coal American Energy Alliance, said his group was “looking closely at the administration's proposal.”

“Behold, the tax man cometh," Cole continued, adding that the president's "political agenda" and "his personal contempt for the Citizens United decision" were both "nakedly obvious in this latest move."

President Obama Pardons White House Turkey (Video/Transcript)

HE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody, and happy Thanksgiving.

The office of the presidency -- the most powerful position in the world -- brings with it many awesome and solemn responsibilities.  This is not one of them.  (Laughter.)  But the White House Turkey Pardon is a great tradition.  And I know Malia loves it -- as does Sasha.

Generally speaking, Thanksgiving is a bad day to be a turkey.  Especially at a house with two dogs.  So I salute our two guests of honor -- Caramel and Popcorn -- for their bravery. They came all the way from outside Badger, Minnesota to be with us.  They, like my Chief of Staff, are Vikings fans.  (Laughter.) I’m not sure that they know -- (turkeys gobble) -- uh-oh.  (Laughter.)  See.  I'm not sure they know that that my Bears are heading to Minnesota on Sunday, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'm going to give them a break.  (Laughter.)

We are also excited to have students from Badger High School here.  (Applause.)  Where are you guys?  There they are, right there.  And finally, let me say thank you to John Burkel,  chairman of the National Turkey Federation.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.) 

Now, 80 turkeys on John’s farm competed for the chance to make it to the White House, and stay off the Thanksgiving table. It was, quite literally, the hunger games.  (Laughter.)  and then, after weeks of vocal practice and prepping for the cameras, the two tributes, Caramel and Popcorn went head-to-head together for America’s vote as top gobbler.

The competition was stiff, but we can officially declare that Popcorn is the winner -- (applause) -- proving that even a turkey with a funny name can find a place in politics.  (Laughter.)   As for Caramel, he’s sticking around, and he’s already busy raising money for his next campaign.  (Laughter.)  

On a more serious note, later today, Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and I will bring a couple less fortunate turkeys to a great organization that works to help out our neighbors here in D.C. who need it most.  And I want to thank Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania, for donating those dressed birds for the fifth year in a row.  This is a reminder that this is a season to not only be thankful for the incredible blessings that we have, but also to remember the neediest and generously serve those who are not as fortunate.

This is a quintessentially American holiday, and during this time we give thanks to our friends and our family, for citizens who show compassion to those in need, and for neighbors who help strangers they’ve never met.  We give thanks for the blessings of freedom and opportunity that previous generations worked so hard to secure for.  And we give thanks for the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform who serve our nation around the world.

For those of you who are watching, you keep us safe.  You make us proud, and you remind us of our own obligations to build on the work of our predecessors and leave something better for our own kids.

So on behalf of the Obama family, I want to wish everybody a very happy Thanksgiving.  Tomorrow, as we gather with our own friends and family, we’ll count ourselves lucky that there’s more to be thankful for than we can ever say, and more to be hopeful for than we can ever imagine.

And now, before these turkeys get away -- with the power vested in me, I want to grant Popcorn a full reprieve.  Come on. (Laughter.)  Popcorn, you have a full reprieve from cranberry sauce and stuffing.  We wish you well.  And we’re going to give Carmel a break as well.

All right?  (Laughter.)  Congratulations, everybody.  (Applause.)   Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.  See you, Popcorn. (Applause.)  Get out of the rain.  (Laughter.)


Declassified Documents: NSA Wanted To Collect Geolocation Data

By Christian Stöcker

The White House had to declassify NSA documents once again this week. The papers show that the NSA also wanted to collect and save mobile phone location information domestically and may already be doing so.

At the very latest, it's been clear since the scandal surrounding spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone that when American intelligence services comment on their practices, every single word has meaning. If an official says, for example, "We don't do that and we will not do so in the future," it could well mean, "We did that up until now."

In that light, one statement written by the NSA in secret documents declassified in redacted form by the US government on Monday seems of particular interest. In the 2010 document, a staff member for a US senator on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence asked the agency to "Please clarify when NSA can collect FISA geolocation data, either through telephony or Internet."

In other words, the senator wanted to know if, in addition to telephone and Internet metadata, the US intelligence agency was also tracking the location of everybody who has a mobile phone or Internet connection. FISA is a reference to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which permits US intelligence agencies to undertake certain types of eavesdropping and data collection within the scope of the law.

'Exploring the Possibility of Acquiring Such Mobility Data'
The NSA's answer is long and convoluted, and at least 13 lines have been blacked out in the published version. Near the very end, though, the official who provided the answer gets to the point:
"With the exception of test data sampling acquired from one provider, NSA does not currently obtain cellular mobility data (cell site location information) pursuant to this Court-authorized program."
But in this case, the addition of the concrete program -- referring to the FISA program of collecting telephone and Internet metadata -- is at the very least odd. The reason is that it opens up the possibility that the NSA may long have been collecting geolocation data based on other legal bases. The answer also includes another potentially explosive sentence right at the end:
"NSA is, however, exploring the possibility of acquiring such mobility data under this program in the near future under the authority currently granted by the Court."
In this instance, the court is a reference to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret court charged with critical oversight of the government's FISA spying programs.

Did NSA Implement Program in 2010?
The document indicates that the NSA already had concrete plans in 2010 to save the geolocations of all mobile phone and Internet users in the United States in addition to the connection data for phone calls, emails and Internet connections. Apparently officials didn't feel additional laws were needed for monitoring that kind of data.
Equipped with this power, almost every movement of every single mobile phone user in the United States could be captured for years at a time. The NSA currently saves metadata for at least five years.

There are indications the NSA already implemented its bold plan since that answer in 2010. In a September hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden repeatedly asked NSA chief Keith Alexander if his agency was collecting location information from mobile devices. Alexander once again answered by providing another qualifier. "Under Section 215," Alexander responded, "NSA is not collecting cell site data."

The Section 215 Alexander was referring to is part of the so-called Patriot Act. Again, Alexander dodged giving a clear and unambiguous answer by attaching a qualification - he said the NSA does not collect such data under one concrete passage of one specific law. He didn't say: "No."

But Wyden refused to let Alexander get away with this evasion. "I'm asking: Has the NSA ever collected or ever made any plans to collect cell site information. That was the question we still respectfully have not gotten an answer to. Could you give me an answer to that?"

This time Alexander dodged the question. "What I don't want to do, Senator, is put out in an unclassified forum anything that's classified here."

Source: Der Spiegel International 

President Barack Obama Weekly Address November 23, 2013 (Video/Trascript )

Weekly Address
The White House
November 23, 2013
Hi, everybody.  Over the past couple months, most of the political headlines you’ve read have probably been about the government shutdown and the launch of the Affordable Care Act.  And I know that many of you have rightly never been more frustrated with Washington.

But if you look beyond those headlines, there are some good things happening in our economy.  And that’s been my top priority since the day I walked into the Oval Office.
After decades in which the middle class was working harder and harder just to keep up, and a punishing recession that made it worse, we made the tough choices required not just to recover from crisis, but to rebuild on a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth.

Five years later, we have fought our way back.  Our businesses have created 7.8 million new jobs in the past 44 months.  Another 200,000 Americans went back to work last month.

The American auto industry has come roaring back with more than 350,000 new jobs – jobs churning out and selling the high-tech, fuel-efficient cars the world wants to buy.  And they’re leading the charge in a manufacturing sector that has added jobs for the first time since the 1990s – a big reason why our businesses sell more goods and services “Made in America” than ever before.

We decided to reverse our addiction to foreign oil.  And today, we generate more renewable energy than ever, more natural gas than anybody, and for the first time in nearly 20 years, America now produces more oil than we buy from other countries.
We decided to fix a broken health care system.  And even though the rollout of the marketplace where you can buy affordable plans has been rough, so far, about 500,000 Americans are poised to gain health coverage starting January 1st.  And by the way, health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.

And one more thing: since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by more than half.  And that makes it easier to invest in the things that create jobs – education, research, and infrastructure.

Imagine how much farther along we could be if both parties were working together.  Think about what we could do if a reckless few didn’t hold the economy hostage every few months, or waste time on dozens of votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act rather than try to help us fix it. 

In the weeks ahead, I’ll keep talking about my plan to build a better bargain for the middle class.  Good jobs.  A good education.  A chance to buy a home, save, and retire.  And yes, the financial security of affordable health care.  And I’ll look for any willing partners who want to help.

Because of your hard work and tough sacrifices over the past five years, we’re pointed in the right direction.  But we’ve got more work to do to keep moving that way.  And as long as I’m President, I’ll keep doing everything I can to create jobs, grow the economy, and make sure that everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead.  

 Thanks, and have a great weekend.


John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
A half century ago, the nation absorbed a massive shock assembled around television sets, huddled around the nearest radio, drawn by word that John F. Kennedy had been shot. They learned together that their young and vibrant President was gone. There was no 24-hour news back then. Just a few major networks and old antenna TVs. When the shooting happened, the networks cut in and viewers of NBC stations suddenly saw Frank McGee standing over the anchor desk in New York, explaining what the news division was doing to collect information. The technology of the day was under massive strain. Every radio and telephone circuit connecting Dallas to the rest of the world was snarled. The anchors in New York began relaying whatever reporting from Dallas and Parkland Memorial Hospital they could collect. They confirmed that the President had been shot.

5 signs the rich have way too much money

You know our economic system is out of whack when someone can buy a $5,000 hamburger or a $500 milkshake

Here’s something to read after you get done trying to figure out how to make the mortgage or the rent or the car payment this month. It’s a little story about how the other half lives. Well, maybe not the other half, exactly. More like the obscenely wealthy .01%.

What do you do when you just have too darn much money? Let’s say you already have your mansion(s), your jet, your yacht, your cars, your $50,000 watches, and you’ve still got too much money left over. (Yes, this really is a problem some people have.) While many, many Americans are struggling to get by, and a very few ultra-wealthy have too much money, here are five signs that the rich are just too rich.

1) You can eat a $95,000 truffle. The restaurant Nello, a Wall Streeter hangout in New York, offers a truffle for $95,000. A Russian billionaire named Vladimir Potanin recently ate one. Keep in mind that $95,000 is to a billion as 95 cents is to $10,000. If $10,000 is an amount you find too much to fathom, it’s like 9.5 cents to $1000. (PS, enjoy the terrible reviews the place gets on Yelp.)

2) You can get a $5,000 hamburger for lunch. The Fleur de Lys restaurant in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay offers the “Fleurburger 5000″ for $5,000. The burger consists of a Kobe beef patty “topped with a rich truffle sauce and served on a brioche truffle bun. And this burger comes with its own beverage, a bottle of 1990 Chateau Petrus that is served in Ichendorf Brunello stemware that you get to keep.”

3) You can get a $500 milkshake to go with your $5,000 hamburger. The Powder Room restaurant in Los Angeles is selling a milkshake for $500. For your money you get “special stuff: edible gold, Belgian chocolate, and a crystal ring.”

What Next?

A lunch with a $95,000 truffle, a $5000 hamburger and a $500 milkshake doesn’t even add up to pocket change. So how about a bottle of wine? Of course, you can’t just swill down any bottle of wine—life is too short. So let’s go for it.
4) A bottle of 1811 Chateau d’Yquem sold at auction for $117,000. If you want a larger bottle of wine, the Le Clos wine shop in Dubai International Airport is offering three 12-liter bottles of 2009 Château Margaux for $195,000 each.

What do you look at while you are eating and drinking your awesome, and awesomely expensive, luxury?

5) A piece by Francis Bacon sold for $142 million at an art auction. Three other pieces sold for more than $50 million; 11 for more than $20 million; and 16 sold for more than $10 million. An Andy Warhol piece sold for almost $60 million.

Too Much In The Hands Of Too Few

This really is all about too much money in the hands of too few people. Agustino Fontevecchia at Forbes writes in “The Reason Why Francis Bacon’s ‘Lucian Freud’ Is Worth $142 Million“:

“As the ultra-wealthy become even wealthier, the top-end of the art market, along with real estate and other luxury sectors, have experienced an incredible surge as cash is being channeled into alternative investments.”

 Fontevecchia explains,
 “The final, and possibly most important factor is the rise of the mega-rich. “Since the recession, the wealthy appear to be becoming even wealthier, while middle-class wages are more stagnant,” said Galbraith, who notes this is apparent in the art market where the high-end is experiencing more activity. “The ultra high net worth and the newly wealthy are looking to get into the art market,” said Markley, who notes contemporary art is accessible and acts well as a status symbol. If the Forbes 400 is any indication, the wealthy are getting wealthier, with the 400 richest Americans now worth a cumulative $2 trillion, up $300 billion from a year ago and with an average net worth of a record $5 billion, an $800 million increase from a year ago.”

So what if a very few people have such enormous sums? These expensive excesses of food, wine and art don’t really affect regular people like you and me. But it turns out that the distortions caused by the excesses of the ultra-wealthy affect all of us a lot.
Take the housing market. You may have noticed headlines like the following: Hedge funds crowd first-time buyers out of housing market or How Big Institutional Money Distorts Housing Prices. If you live in certain areas of the country, like the San Francisco Bay Area, rents are soaring and it is unimaginable that you might ever purchase a place to live. The ultra-wealthy are purchasing houses by the hundreds to be rented out.

Then, of course, comes the usual next step when the ultra-wealthy are involved: they use their wealth and power to get things the rest of us can’t. One frequent example is demands for tax cuts. In cash-strapped Dayton, Ohio, this story: Hedge Fund Turned Property Owner Seeks Large Tax Cuts:

“Magnetar Capital LLC, investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for its housing bets leading up to the property crash, acquired a rental business in January with about 1,900 properties from Charles H. Huber’s widow. In April, its management company applied for the largest cut to property tax assessments in the county’s history. The move could curb funding for public schools, the police and fire departments and services to the disabled, said Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith.”

A terrible, wealth-worshiping philosophy has taken hold among many of our conservative policymakers. A couple of months ago a piece in Forbes, Give Back? Yes, It’s Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%, spelled out this conservative philosophy:

“The community” never gave anyone anything. The “community,” the “society,” the “nation” is just a number of interacting individuals, not a mystical entity floating in a cloud above them. And when some individual person—a parent, a teacher, a customer–”gives” something to someone else, it is not an act of charity, but a trade for value received in return.

[. . .] Here’s a modest proposal. Anyone who earns a million dollars or more should be exempt from all income taxes. Yes, it’s too little. And the real issue is not financial, but moral. So to augment the tax-exemption, in an annual public ceremony, the year’s top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

The Forbes piece says that profit—no matter how attained—is the true measure of value in society. According to one example used by the author, Goldman Sachs has “done infinitely more for mankind” than people like Mother Teresa. The author knows this is true because of Goldman Sachs’ “billions in profits.”

You may remember reading that Goldman Sachs was accused of working with a hedge fund to sell “designed-to-fail” investments to customers like pension funds, so the hedge fund could profit from betting that the investments would fail. According to this conservative philosophy, Goldman Sachs’ profits are a measure of the “value created” by the “mental effort” that Goldman and the hedge fund put into developing this scheme.

The ultra-wealth of a few may be directly related to the way many people find themselves trying to figure out how to make their mortgage/rent, car payments, etc. Four hundred Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined, and just the six Walton heirs have more wealth than a third of all Americans combined. Yet companies like Walmart pays its employees so little that many of them have to turn to the taxpayers for assistance like food stamps just to get by.

This worship of the ultra-wealthy is manifested in policies that give privileges to the rich the rest of us don’t receive. The principle of one-person-one-vote gives way to power and our society eventually becomes ruled by the principle of one-dollar-one-vote.

Examples of our abandonment of the principles of democracy in favor of more-for-the-wealthier include the change from “high-occupancy lanes” where cars with two or three people can bypass traffic jams to toll lanes, where drivers who have more money can purchase the right to bypass traffic jams. We also experience this when we see first-class passengers allowed to bypass the long security lines at airports.

In a recent NY Times op-ed, The Extra Legroom Society, Frank Bruni writes about how people of greater wealth can purchase the right to board a plane earlier, even the right to bypass lines or make others wait while they go around again for rides at amusement parks. While these are examples of businesses, not our government, introducing tiers for the wealthier, they show how Americans have come to accept that people with more money should be allowed to bypass them.

Bruni writes, “But lately, the places and ways in which Americans are economically segregated and stratified have multiplied, with microclimates of exclusivity popping up everywhere. The plane mirrors the sports arena, the theater, the gym. Is it any wonder that class tensions simmer?”

These are a few examples of the excesses the super-wealthy indulge in, along with examples of ways their super-wealth harms the rest of us. There are far more examples in evidence these days. Our democracy—the ability of We the People to make our own decisions about how we should be governed—is what is really at stake as more and more wealth accumulates among fewer and fewer people.

Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient - Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is one of the world's most successful broadcast journalists. She is best known for creating The Oprah Winfrey Show, which became the highest rated talk show in America for 25 years. Ms. Winfrey has long been active in philanthropic causes and expanding opportunities for young women. She has received numerous awards throughout her career, including the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2002 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2010.
For more information visit


Wreath Laying Ceremony in Honor of President John F. Kennedy (Video)

President Obama Speaks at a Dinner in Honor of Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients

HE PRESIDENT:  Good morning!  (Applause.)  Good morning, everybody!  Everybody, please have a seat.  Have a seat.

Well, on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.  This is one of my favorite events every year, especially special this year, as I look at this extraordinary group of individuals and our opportunity to honor them with our nation’s highest civilian honor -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

And this year, it’s just a little more special because this marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy establishing this award.  We’re honored, by the way, today to have with us one of my favorite people -- Ethel Kennedy -- and a pretty good basketball player, President Kennedy’s grandson, Jack.  (Applause.)

This medal has been bestowed on more than 500 deserving people.  Tonight, I’m looking forward to joining some of these honorees, as well as members of the Kennedy family, as we pay tribute to these 50 years of excellence.  And this morning, we’re honored to add 16 new names to this distinguished list.

Today, we salute fierce competitors who became true champions.  In the sweltering heat of a Chicago summer, Ernie Banks walked into the Cubs locker room and didn’t like what he saw.  “Everybody was sitting around, heads down, depressed,” he recalled.  So Ernie piped up and said, “Boy, what a great day!  Let’s play two!”  (Laughter.)  That’s “Mr. Cub” -- a man who came up through the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day, and became the first black player to suit up for the Cubs and one of the greatest hitters of all time.  And in the process, Ernie became known as much for his 512 home runs as for his cheer and his optimism and his eternal faith that someday the Cubs would go all the way.  (Laughter.) 

And that's serious belief.  (Laughter.)  That is something that even a White Sox fan like me can respect.  (Laughter.)  But he is just a wonderful man and a great icon of my hometown.

Speaking of sports, Dean Smith is one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history, but his successes go far beyond Xs and Os.  Even as he won 78 percent of his games, he graduated 96 percent of his players.  The first coach to use multiple defenses in a game, he was the pioneer who popularized the idea of “pointing to the passer” -- after a basket, players should point to the teammate who passed them the ball.  And with his first national title on the line, he did have the good sense to give the ball to a 19-year-old kid named Michael Jordan.  (Laughter.)  Although they used to joke that the only person who ever held Michael under 20 was Dean Smith.  (Laughter.) 

While Coach Smith couldn’t join us today due to an illness that he’s facing with extraordinary courage, we also honor his courage in helping to change our country -- he recruited the first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina and helped to integrate a restaurant and a neighborhood in Chapel Hill.  That's the kind of character that he represented on and off the court.

We salute innovators who pushed the limits of science, changing how we see the world -- and ourselves.  And growing up, Sally Ride read about the space program in the newspaper almost every day, and she thought this was “the coolest thing around.”  When she was a PhD candidate at Stanford she saw an ad for astronauts in the student newspaper and she seized the opportunity.  As the first American woman in space, Sally didn’t just break the stratospheric glass ceiling, she blasted through it.  And when she came back to Earth, she devoted her life to helping girls excel in fields like math, science and engineering.  “Young girls need to see role models,” she said, “you can’t be what you can’t see.”  Today, our daughters -- including Malia and Sasha -- can set their sights a little bit higher because Sally Ride showed them the way.
Now, all of us have moments when we look back and wonder, “What the heck was I thinking?”  I have that -- (laughter) -- quite a bit.  Psychologist Daniel Kahneman has made that simple question his life’s work.  In a storied career in Israel and America, he basically invented the study of human decision-making.  He’s helped us to understand everything from behavioral economics to “Does living in California make people happy?”  It’s an interesting question.  He’s also been called an expert on irrational behavior -- so I'm sure that he could shed some light on Washington.  (Laughter.)

But what truly sets Daniel apart is his curiosity.  Guided by his belief that people are “endlessly complicated and interesting,” at 79 he’s still discovering new insights into how we think and learn, not just so we understand each other, but so we can work and live together more effectively.

Dr. Mario Molina’s love of science started as a young boy in Mexico City, in a homemade laboratory in a bathroom at home.  And that passion for discovery led Mario to become one of the most respected chemists of his era.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize -- or the Nobel Prize, rather, not only for his path-breaking research, but also for his insistence that when we ignore dangerous carbon emissions we risk destroying the ozone layer and endangering our planet.  And thanks to Mario’s work, the world came together to address a common threat, and today, inspired by his example, we’re working to leave our planet safer and cleaner for future generations.
We also have to salute musicians, who bring such joy to our lives.  Loretta Lynn was 19 the first time she won the big -- she won big at the local fair.  Her canned vegetables brought home 17 blue ribbons -- (laughter) -- and made her “Canner of the Year.” (Laughter.)  Now, that’s impressive.  (Laughter.)

For a girl from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, that was fame.  Fortunately for all of us, she decided to try her hand at things other than canning.  Her first guitar cost $17, and with it this coal miner’s daughter gave voice to a generation, singing what no one wanted to talk about and saying what no one wanted to think about.  And now, over 50 years after she cut her first record -- and canned her first vegetables -- (laughter) -- Loretta Lynn still reigns as the rule-breaking, record-setting queen of country music.
As a young man in Cuba, Arturo Sandoval loved jazz so much it landed him in jail.  It was the Cold War, and the only radio station where he could hear jazz was the Voice of America, which was dangerous to listen to.  But Arturo listened anyway.  Later, he defected to the United States knowing he might never see his parents or beloved homeland again.  “Without freedom,” he said, “there is no life.”  And today, Arturo is an American citizen and one of the most celebrated trumpet players in the world.  “There isn’t any place on Earth where the people don’t know about jazz,” he says, and that’s true in part because musicians like him have sacrificed so much to play it.
We salute pioneers who pushed our nation towards greater justice and equality.  A Baptist minister, C.T. Vivian was one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s closest advisors.  “Martin taught us,” he says, “that it’s in the action that we find out who we really are.”  And time and again, Reverend Vivian was among the first to be in the action:  In 1947, joining a sit-in to integrate an Illinois restaurant; one of the first Freedom Riders; in Selma, on the courthouse steps to register blacks to vote, for which he was beaten, bloodied and jailed.  Rosa Parks said of him, “Even after things had supposedly been taken care of and we had our rights, he was still out there, inspiring the next generation, including me,” helping kids go to college with a program that would become Upward Bound.  And at 89 years old, Reverend Vivian is still out there, still in the action, pushing us closer to our founding ideals.

Now, early in the morning the day of the March on Washington, the National Mall was far from full and some in the press were beginning to wonder if the event would be a failure.  But the march’s chief organizer, Bayard Rustin, didn’t panic.  As the story goes, he looked down at a piece of paper, looked back up, and reassured reporters that everything was right on schedule.  The only thing those reporters didn’t know was that the paper he was holding was blank.  (Laughter.)  He didn’t know how it was going to work out, but Bayard had an unshakable optimism, nerves of steel, and, most importantly, a faith that if the cause is just and people are organized, nothing can stand in our way.

So, for decades, this great leader, often at Dr. King’s side, was denied his rightful place in history because he was openly gay.  No medal can change that, but today, we honor Bayard Rustin’s memory by taking our place in his march towards true equality, no matter who we are or who we love.  (Applause.)

Speaking of game-changers, disrupters, there was a young girl names Gloria Steinem who arrived in New York to make her mark as a journalist, and magazines only wanted to write articles like “How to Cook without Really Cooking for Men.”  (Laughter.)  Gloria noticed things like that.  (Laughter.)  She’s been called a “champion noticer.”  She’s alert to all the ways, large and small, that women had been and, in some cases, continue to be treated unfairly just because they’re women.

As a writer, a speaker, an activist, she awakened a vast and often skeptical public to problems like domestic violence, the lack of affordable child care, unfair hiring practices.  And because of her work, across America and around the world, more women are afforded the respect and opportunities that they deserve.  But she also changed how women thought about themselves.  And Gloria continues to pour her heart into teaching and mentoring.  Her one piece of advice to young girls is -- I love this -- “Do not listen to my advice.  Listen to the voice inside you and follow that.”
When Patricia Wald’s law firm asked if she’d come back after having her first child, she said she’d like some time off to focus on her family -- devoted almost 10 years to raising five children.  But Patricia never lost the itch to practice law.  So while her husband watched the kids at home, she’d hit the library on weekends.  At the age 40, she went back to the courtroom to show the “young kids” a thing or two.  As the first female judge on the D.C. Circuit, Patricia was a top candidate for Attorney General.  After leaving the bench, her idea of retirement was to go to The Hague to preside over the trials of war criminals.  Patricia says she hopes enough women will become judges that “it’s not worth celebrating” anymore.  But today, we celebrate her.  And along with Gloria, she shows there are all kinds of paths listening to your own voice.

We salute communicators who shined a light on stories no one else was telling.  A veteran of World War II and more than a dozen Pacific battles, Ben Bradlee brought the same intensity and dedication to journalism.  Since joining The Washington Post 65 years ago, he transformed that newspaper into one of the finest in the world.  With Ben in charge, the Post published the Pentagon Papers, revealing the true history of America’s involvement in Vietnam; exposed Watergate; unleashed a new era of investigative journalism, holding America’s leaders accountable and reminding us that our freedom as a nation rests on our freedom of the press.  When Ben retired, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan put the admiration of many into a poem:  “O rare Ben Bradlee/His reign has ceased/But his nation stands/Its strength increased.”
And I also indicated to Ben he can pull off those shirts and I can't.  (Laughter.)  He always looks so cool in them.  (Laughter.)

Early in Oprah Winfrey’s career, her bosses told her she should change her name to Susie.  (Laughter.)  I have to pause here to say I got the same advice.  (Laughter and applause.)  They didn't say I should be named "Susie," but they suggested I should change my name.  (Laughter.)  People can relate to Susie, that's what they said.  It turned out, surprisingly, that people could relate to Oprah just fine.

In more than 4,500 episodes of her show, her message was always, "You can."  "You can do and you can be and you can grow and it can be better."  And she was living proof, rising from a childhood of poverty and abuse to the pinnacle of the entertainment universe.  But even with 40 Emmys, the distinction of being the first black female billionaire, Oprah’s greatest strength has always been her ability to help us discover the best in ourselves.  Michelle and I count ourselves among her many devoted fans and friends.  As one of those fans wrote, “I didn’t know I had a light in me until Oprah told me it was there.”  What a great gift.

And, finally, we salute public servants who’ve strengthened our nation.  Daniel Inouye was a humble man and didn’t wear his Medal of Honor very often.  Instead, he liked to wear a pin representing the Good Conduct Medal he earned as a teenage private.  “To behave yourself takes special effort,” he said,  “and I did not want to dishonor my family.”  Danny always honored his family and his country, even when his country didn’t always honor him.

After being classified as an “enemy alien,” Danny joined a Japanese American unit that became one of the most decorated in World War II.  And as the second-longest serving senator in American history, he showed a generation of young people -- including one kid with a funny name growing up in Hawaii who noticed that there was somebody during some of those hearings in Washington that didn't look like everybody else, which meant maybe I had a chance to do something important, too.  He taught all of us that no matter what you look like or where you come from, this country has a place for everybody who’s willing to serve and work hard.

A proud Hoosier, Dick Lugar has served America for more than half a century, from a young Navy lieutenant to a respected leader in the United States Senate.  I’ll always be thankful to Dick for taking me -- a new, junior senator -- under his wing, including travels together to review some of his visionary work, the destruction of Cold War arsenals in the former Soviet Union  -- something that doesn’t get a lot of public notice, but was absolutely critical to making us safer in the wake of the Cold War.
Now, I should say, traveling with Dick you get close to unexploded landmines, mortar shells, test tubes filled with anthrax and the plague.  (Laughter.)  His legacy, though, is the thousands of missiles and bombers and submarines and warheads that no longer threaten us because of his extraordinary work.  And our nation and our world are safer because of this statesman. And in a time of unrelenting partisanship, Dick Lugar’s decency, his commitment to bipartisan problem-solving, stand as a model of what public service ought to be.

Now, last, but never least, we honor a leader who we still remember with such extraordinary fondness.  He still remembers as a child waving goodbye to his mom -- tears in her eyes -- as she went off to nursing school so she could provide for her family.  And I think lifting up families like his own became the story of Bill Clinton’s life.  He remembered what his mom had to do on behalf of him and he wanted to make sure that he made life better and easier for so many people all across the country that were struggling in those same ways and had those same hopes and dreams.  So as a governor, he transformed education so more kids could pursue those dreams.  As President, he proved that, with the right choices, you could grow the economy, lift people out of poverty.  We could shrink our deficits and still invest in our families, our health, our schools, science, technology.  In other words, we can go farther when we look out for each other.

And as we’ve all seen, as President, he was just getting started.  He doesn’t stop.  He’s helped lead relief efforts after the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake.  His foundation and global initiative have helped to save or improve the lives of literally hundreds of millions of people.  And, of course, I am most grateful for his patience during the endless travels of my Secretary of State.  (Laughter.)

So I’m grateful, Bill, as well for the advice and counsel that you’ve offered me on and off the golf course.  (Laughter.)  And most importantly, for your lifesaving work around the world, which represents what’s the very best in America.  So thank you so much, President Clinton.  (Applause.)

So these are the recipients of the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom.  These are the men and women who in their extraordinary lives remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us.  I could not be more happy and more honored to participate in this ceremony here today.

With that, what I would like to do is invite our honorees to just sit there and let all of us stand and give you a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

I guess we should actually give them the medals, though.  (Laughter.)  Where are my -- here we go.  Lee, you want to hit it?

MILITARY AIDE:  Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.

Ernie Banks.  (Applause.)  With an unmatched enthusiasm for America’s pastime, Ernie Banks slugged, sprinted and smiled his way into the record books.  Known to fans as “Mr. Cub,” he played an extraordinary 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, during which he was named to 11 All-Star teams, hit over 500 home runs, and won back-to-back Most Valuable Player honors.  Ernie Banks was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, and he will forever be known as one of the finest power hitters and most dynamic players of all time.  (Applause.)

Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee.  (Applause.)  A titan of journalism, Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee is one of the most respected newsmen of his generation.  After serving our nation in World War II, Ben Bradlee went on to defend liberty here at home. Testing the limits of a free press during his tenure as executive editor of The Washington Post, he oversaw coverage of the Watergate scandal and successfully challenged the federal government over the right to publish the Pentagon Papers. His passion for accuracy and unyielding pursuit of truth continue to set the standard for journalism.  (Applause.)

The Honorable William J. Clinton.  (Applause.)  Among the finest public servants of our time, President William J. Clinton argued cases for the people of Arkansas, served his state in the Governor’s Mansion, and guided our nation into a new century.  As the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton oversaw an era of challenge and change, prosperity and progress.  His work after leaving public office continues to reflect his passionate, unending commitment to improving the lives and livelihoods of people around the world.  In responding to needs both at home and abroad, and as founder of the Clinton Foundation, he has shown that through creative cooperation among women and men of goodwill, we can solve even the most intractable problems.  (Applause.)

Irene Hirano Inouye, accepting on behalf of her husband, the Honorable Daniel K. Inouye.  (Applause.)  A true patriot and dedicated public servant, Daniel K. Inouye understood the power of leaders when united in common purpose to protect and promote the tenets we cherish as Americans.  As a member of the revered 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Daniel Inouye helped free Europe from the grasp of tyranny during World War II, for which he received the Medal of Honor.  Representing the people of Hawaii from the moment the islands joined the Union, he never lost sight of the ideals that bind us across the 50 states.  Senator Inouye’s reason and resolve helped make our country what it is today, and for that, we honor him.  (Applause.)
Dr. Daniel Kahneman.  (Applause.)  Daniel Kahneman’s groundbreaking work earned him a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his research developing prospect theory.  After escaping from Nazi-occupied France as a young boy and later joining the Israel Defense Forces, Dr. Kahneman grew interested in understanding the origins of people’s beliefs.  Combining psychology and economic analysis, and working alongside Dr. Amos Tversky, Dr. Kahneman used simple experiments to demonstrate how people make decisions under uncertain circumstances, and he forever changed the way we view human judgment.  (Applause.)

The Honorable Richard G. Lugar.  (Applause.)  Representing the State of Indiana for over three decades in the United States Senate, Richard G. Lugar put country above party and self to forge bipartisan consensus.  Throughout his time in the Senate, he offered effective solutions to our national and international problems, advocating for the control of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction.  Working with Senator Sam Nunn, Richard Lugar established the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, one of our country’s most successful national security initiatives, helping to sustain American leadership and engage nations in collaboration after decades of confrontation.  He remains a strong voice on foreign policy issues, and his informed perspective will have broad influence for years to come. (Applause.)
Loretta Lynn.  (Applause.)  Born a coal miner’s daughter, Loretta Lynn has followed a bold path to become a legend in country music.  A singer, songwriter, and author, she has written dozens of chart-topping songs, released scores of albums, and won numerous accolades.  Breaking barriers in country music and entertainment, she opened doors for women not only by winning tremendous achievements, but also by raising issues few dared to discuss.  Fearlessly telling her own stories with candor and humor, Loretta Lynn has brought a strong female voice to mainstream music, captured the emotions of women and men alike, and revealed the common truths about life as it is lived.  (Applause.)

Dr. Mario Molina.  (Applause.)  The curiosity and creativity that inspired Mario Molina to convert his family’s bathroom into a laboratory as a child have driven him through decades of scientific research.  Born in Mexico, Dr. Molina’s passion for chemistry brought him to the United States, where his investigations of chlorofluorocarbons led to breakthroughs in our understanding of how they deplete the ozone layer.  The impact of his discoveries extends far beyond his field, affecting environmental policy and fostering international awareness, as well as earning him the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  Today, Dr. Molina remains a global leader, continuing to study air quality, climate change, and the environment that connects us all.  (Applause.)

Tam O’Shaughnessy accepting on behalf of her life partner, Dr. Sally K. Ride.  (Applause.)  Thirty years ago, Dr. Sally K. Ride soared into space as the youngest American and first woman to wear the Stars and Stripes above Earth’s atmosphere.  As an astronaut, she sought to keep America at the forefront of space exploration.  As a role model, she fought tirelessly to inspire young people -- especially girls -- to become scientifically literate and to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.  At the end of her life, she became an inspiration for those battling pancreatic cancer, and for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.  The tale of a quiet hero, Sally Ride’s story demonstrates that the sky is no limit for those who dream of reaching for the stars.  (Applause.)

Walter Naegle accepting on behalf of his partner, Bayard Rustin.  (Applause.)  Bayard Rustin was a giant in the American Civil Rights Movement.  Openly gay at a time when many had to hide who they loved, his unwavering belief that we are all equal members of a “single human family” took him from his first Freedom Ride to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights movement.  Thanks to his unparalleled skills as an organizer, progress that once seemed impossible appears, in retrospect, to have been inevitable.  Fifty years after the March on Washington he organized, America honors Bayard Rustin as one of its greatest architects for social change and a fearless advocate for its most vulnerable citizens.  (Applause.)

Arturo Sandoval.  (Applause.)  Arturo Sandoval is one of the world’s finest jazz musicians.  Born into poverty in Cuba and held back by his government, he risked everything to share his gifts with the world -- eventually defecting with help from Dizzy Gillespie, his mentor and friend.  In the decades since, this astonishing trumpeter, pianist, and composer has inspired audiences in every corner of the world and awakened a new generation of great performers.  He remains one of the best ever to play.  (Applause.)

Linnea Smith, accepting on behalf of her husband, Dean E. Smith.  (Applause.)  Dean E. Smith spent 36 seasons taking college basketball to new heights.  As head coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he led his team to 11 Final Fours, two national titles, and 879 victories, retiring as the winningest men’s college basketball coach in history.  Dean Smith brought the same commitment to supporting his players off the court.  He helped more than 96 percent of his lettermen graduate.  And in an era of deep division, he taught players to overcome bigotry with courage and compassion.  He will forever stand as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history.  (Applause.)

Gloria Steiner.  (Applause.)  A trailblazing writer and feminist organizer, Gloria Steinem has been at the forefront of the fight for equality and social justice for more than four decades.  Instrumental to a broad range of initiatives and issues, from establishing Ms. Magazine and Take Our Daughters to Work Day, to pushing for women’s self-empowerment and an end to sex trafficking.  She has promoted lasting political and social change in America and abroad.  Through her reporting and speaking, she has shaped debates on the intersection of sex and race, brought critical problems to national attention, and forged new opportunities for women in media.  Gloria Steinem continues to move us all to take up the cause of reaching for a more just tomorrow.  (Applause.)

Reverend C.T. Vivian.  (Applause.)  Equipped only with courage and an overwhelming commitment to social justice, the Reverend C.T. Vivian was a stalwart activist on the march toward racial equality.  Whether at a lunch counter, on a Freedom Ride, or behind the bars of a prison cell, he was unafraid to take bold action in the face of fierce resistance.  By pushing change through nonviolent demonstration and advocacy, C.T. Vivian established and led numerous organizations to support underserved individuals and communities.  His legacy of combating injustice will shine as an example for generations to come.  (Applause.)

Patricia McGowan Wald.  (Applause.)  Patricia McGowan Wald made history as the first woman appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Rising to Chief Judge of the Court, she always strove to better understand the law and fairly apply it.  After leaving federal service, Judge Wald helped institute standards for justice and the rule of law at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.  Hailed as a model judge, she laid a foundation for countless women within the legal profession and helped unveil the humanity within the law.  (Applause.)

Oprah G. Winfrey.  (Applause.)  Oprah G. Winfrey is a global media icon.  When she launched The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986, there were few women -- and even fewer women of color -- with a national platform to discuss the issues and events shaping our times.  But over the 25 years that followed, Oprah Winfrey’s innate gift for tapping into our most fervent hopes and deepest fears drew millions of viewers across every background, making her show the highest-rated talk show in television history.  Off screen, Oprah Winfrey has used her influence to support underserved communities and to lift up the lives of young people -- especially young women -- around the world.  In her story, we are reminded that no dream can be deferred when we refuse to let life’s obstacles keep us down.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  The Medal of Freedom honorees -- please.  (Applause.)
Well, that concludes the formal part of today’s ceremony.  I want to thank all of you for being here.  Obviously, we are deeply indebted to those who we honor here today.  And we’re going to have an opportunity to take some pictures with the honorees and their family members.

The rest of you, I understand the food here is pretty good. (Laughter.)  So I hope you enjoy the reception, and I hope we carry away from this a reminder of what JFK understood to be the essence of the American spirit -- that it’s represented here.  And some of us may be less talented, but we all have the opportunity to serve and to open people’s hearts and minds in our smaller orbits.  So I hope everybody has been as inspired, as I have been, participating and being with these people here today.
Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)