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    Washington Ideas Forum, Senators Booker and Lee

    Senators Mike Lee and Cory Booker were interviewed at the seventh annual Washington Ideas Forum. They talked about their efforts to address criminal justice reform, in particular changing mandatory sentencing.

    The Washington Ideas Forum brings together political leaders, administration officials, business entrepreneurs, journalists, and science and technology experts.

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    U.S. Role and Strategy in the Middle East

    The presidents of non-governmental organizations involved in humanitarian aid assistance testified at a hearing on about Middle East policy and the Syrian refugee crisis. The witnesses discussed the impact of refugees on host countries, the potential for a no-fly zone in Syria, the impact of barrel-bombing on civilian populations, and Russia’s military presence in the region.

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    State Department Trafficking Director Confirmation Hearing

    Susan Coppedge testified at a confirmation on her nomination for director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. She was introduced by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA). Ms. Coppedge discussed her previous work as an attorney in Georgia and her committment to fighting human trafficking.

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    Confirmation Hearing for Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism

    Adam Szubin testified on his nomination to become under secretary of the treasury for Terrorism and Financial Crimes. Mr. Szubin in his comments discussed how to cut off funds to terrorist groups and the Iran nuclear agreement. He also said that if he is confirmed, one of his top priorities would be ensuring that Iran complies with the nuclear agreement negotiated with the P5+1* nations. 

    * The P5+1 comprises the U.S., the U.K., France, China, Russia, and Germany.

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    Radio: Senator Menendez on Iran Nuclear Agreement

    Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a foreign policy address on the Iran nuclear agreement at Seton Hall University. He announced that he would oppose the deal because Iran had violated various U.N. Security Council resolutions while advancing its nuclear program. He said that he was concerned that the agreement would nott require Iran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure.

    Following his address, Menendez met with School of Diplomacy and International Relations students for a question and answer session.

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    2015 Human Trafficking Report

    Undersecretary Sarah Sewall testified at a hearing on the 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. which evaluates the efforts of countries around the world to fight slavery. Senators Corker, Cardin, and Menendez pressed Ms. Sewall on their concerns about Malaysia’s upgrade on the report. A Reuters investigation alleged that the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was pressured to inflate assessments of 14 countries in the 2015 report, including Malaysia, Cuba, China, India, Uzbekistan, and Mexico. Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) also spoke about presidential reactions to their concerns about the Iran nuclear agreement.

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    Iran Nuclear Agreement Sanctions Relief

    State and Treasury Department officials and academics testified at a hearing on the foreign policy implications of lifting sanctions on Iran in accordance with the Iran nuclear agreement. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman in her testimony said that she understands congressional members' concerns over not seeing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agreement but stressed that she would brief them on its contents in a classified session.

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    Federal Prison System

    A panel of advocates and a panel of Justice Department officials testified on the effectiveness of the federal prison system. The first group of witnesses, which included Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, described their experiences both in and out of the system, and the work they were doing to assist those still incarcerated or in the re-entry process. Witnesses in the second panel talked about the challenges they were addressing in a system that, by their own accounts, continues to be stretched beyond its capacity. Topics of discussion included solitary confinement, women’s prison issues, treatment of violent v. non-violent offenders, treatment for addiction and mental illness, and the process of re-entry into the community.

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    Iran Sanctions and the Nuclear Agreement

    Juan Zarate and Richard Nephew testified on the structure and implications of sanctions relief to Iran through the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Mr. Zarate served in the George W. Bush administration, and Mr. Nephew in 2013 and 2014 was the lead sanctions adviser for the U.S. team negotiating with Iran. They discussed concerns of increased funding of terror groups by Iran, the snapback provisions that would re-impose economic sanctions if Iran violates the deal, and the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in monitoring Iranian compliance.