United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon briefed reporters and answered their questions in his year-end news conference. He called the decision to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba “very positive.” Other topics included the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, his recent trip to Lima, Peru on climate change, and the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria.
Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein gave a keynote address by video conference about international efforts to curb the flow of foreign fighters into terrorist organizations such as ISIL* Then a panel of other international leaders talked about the problem of how the U.S. and its allies could combat extremist ideologies, which extend beyond the so-called Islamic State. Topics included the U.S. role in addressing these issues, including what counter-radicalization actions were being taken in American Muslim communities.
“The Battle of Ideas 2.0: Combating ISIS Ideology at Home and Abroad” was a program of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Jeffrey Zients spoke with Politico’s Ben White about the Obama administration’s economy policy and agenda. Other topics included the administration’s previous-day announcement that the U.S. would normalize relations with Cuba, upcoming trade agreements, and the Russian economy
President Obama held a year-end news conference for reporters ahead of his annual holiday vacation with family in Hawaii. Regarding the North Korean cyberattack on Sony Pictures, the president said Sony Pictures made a mistake in canceling the release of the film “The Interview,” and that a dictator should not impose censorship on the U.S. He also vowed that the U.S. would respond proportionally to North Korea. He also discussed policy changes regarding Cuba, and the Keystone XL pipeline.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz spoke about U.S. energy policy developments and objectives, stressing a commitment to a diverse approach to energy independence. Then International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven released the organization’s report on U.S. energy policy, the In-Depth Review of U.S. Energy Policy, 2013.
Panelists discussed plans under the U.S. Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative to transfer Apache attack helicopters from the National Guard to the active force to take over reconnaissance missions currently flown by the aging Kiowa Warrior helicopters. The initiative should save the army $12 billion of the amount lost to budget sequestration.
“An Update on the Army Aviation Restructure Initiative” was a program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Sequestration,” a legal procedure in which every federal agency has the same percentage of its budget taken back in order to cut deficit spending, was part of a debt ceiling and tax increase agreement for the Budget Control Act of 2011 and began March 1, 2013.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) criticized President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. would reopen relations with Cuba, He said the change was "profoundly disappointing" and would not help reduce human rights violations in the country.
From Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki briefed reporters and responded to their questions on a variety of international topics, including the release of U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor Alan Gross from Cuba and President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. would normalize relations with that country.
Representative Tom Price (R-GA), incoming chair of the Budget Committee, talked about the budget process, the government funding bill passed by Congress, and how budget negotiations could change once Republicans take control of both chambers.
Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA), who was retiring at the end of the 113th Congress, reflected on his 11 terms in the House of Representatives and his leadership of the House Armed Services Committee.
Members of the European Parliament debated the role European Union countries may have played in facilitating the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) use of interrogation techniques following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.