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Governor Abercrombie Goes To White House – Voices Hawaii’s Priorities on President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience

Ensuring the State of Hawaii has a strong voice in the national discussion on climate change, Gov. Neil Abercrombie today shared Hawaii’s unique perspective as an island state at the first meeting of President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The meeting was held at the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Governor Voices Hawaii’s Priorities on President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience

Governor Voices Hawaii’s Priorities on President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience

The President established the task force to advise his administration on how the federal government can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are currently dealing with or anticipate extreme weather, sea level rise, and other impacts of climate change. This first meeting focused on building climate resilience into efforts to better prepare for and recover from natural disasters. In addition, task force members had the opportunity to share their expertise and experience in implementing climate preparedness measures, and begin to consider recommendations for the President.

Named to the task force last month, Gov. Abercrombie attended along with Deputy Chief of Staff Blake Oshiro and Hawaii State Sustainability Coordinator Jacqueline Kozak Thiel. Gov. Abercrombie’s congressional experience (including serving on the Armed Forces Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces and as a senior member on the Natural Resources Committee) and ability to provide insight into the needs of the Asia-Pacific were cited as factors in his selection.

Obama administration officials participating in the meeting included: Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx (pictured), Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, and FEMA Associate Administrator David Miller.

 

President Obama Appoints Gov. Abercrombie to Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience

President Barack Obama has appointed Gov. Neil Abercrombie to serve on the President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, the White House announced today.

President Barack Obama has appointed Gov. Neil Abercrombie to serve on the President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, the White House announced today.   Co-chaired by Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director David Agnew and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, the task force consists of a select group of governors, mayors and other leaders who will develop recommendations on how the federal government can better support local preparedness and resilience-building efforts. “I am honored to have the opportunity to serve on this task force, which will allow the State of Hawaii to have a strong voice in the national discussion on addressing the impacts of climate change,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “As the only island state in nation, Hawaii is unquestionably vulnerable to changes in climate such as rising temperatures, droughts, flooding, sea level rise, coastal erosion and ocean acidification.” In conjunction with the announcement, Gov. Abercrombie introduced State Sustainability Coordinator Jacqueline Kozak Thiel, recently appointed by the Governor to the newly created position. Thiel is charged with coordinating across departments and with counties, federal agencies, and community partners to support progress on Hawaii’s sustainability goals.  “The task force established by President Obama gives Hawaii a direct line to provide recommendations on removing barriers to federal resources, identifying opportunities for collaboration, and developing tools to better support our unique needs and local efforts,” Thiel said. “Gov. Abercrombie’s congressional experience, particularly on the Armed Forces Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces, as well as a senior member on the Natural Resources Committee, was cited as a factor in his selection, along with his ability to provide insight into the needs of the Asia-Pacific.

President Barack Obama has appointed Gov. Neil Abercrombie to serve on the President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, the White House announced today.
Co-chaired by Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director David Agnew and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, the task force consists of a select group of governors, mayors and other leaders who will develop recommendations on how the federal government can better support local preparedness and resilience-building efforts.

Co-chaired by Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director David Agnew and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, the task force consists of a select group of governors, mayors and other leaders who will develop recommendations on how the federal government can better support local preparedness and resilience-building efforts.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve on this task force, which will allow the State of Hawaii to have a strong voice in the national discussion on addressing the impacts of climate change,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “As the only island state in nation, Hawaii is unquestionably vulnerable to changes in climate such as rising temperatures, droughts, flooding, sea level rise, coastal erosion and ocean acidification.”

In conjunction with the announcement, Gov. Abercrombie introduced State Sustainability Coordinator Jacqueline Kozak Thiel, recently appointed by the Governor to the newly created position. Thiel is charged with coordinating across departments and with counties, federal agencies, and community partners to support progress on Hawaii’s sustainability goals.

“The task force established by President Obama gives Hawaii a direct line to provide recommendations on removing barriers to federal resources, identifying opportunities for collaboration, and developing tools to better support our unique needs and local efforts,” Thiel said. “Gov. Abercrombie’s congressional experience, particularly on the Armed Forces Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces, as well as a senior member on the Natural Resources Committee, was cited as a factor in his selection, along with his ability to provide insight into the needs of the Asia-Pacific.

Governor Abercrombie’s statement:

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve on this task force, which will allow the State of Hawaii to have a strong voice in the national discussion on addressing the impacts of climate change,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “As the only island state in nation, Hawaii is unquestionably vulnerable to changes in climate such as rising temperatures, droughts, flooding, sea level rise, coastal erosion and ocean acidification.”

In conjunction with the announcement, Gov. Abercrombie introduced State Sustainability Coordinator Jacqueline Kozak Thiel, recently appointed by the Governor to the newly created position. Thiel is charged with coordinating across departments and with counties, federal agencies, and community partners to support progress on Hawaii’s sustainability goals. She has been working to care for Hawaii’s environment and communities for over a decade, most recently with the interagency Hawaii Invasive Species Council. She earned her master’s in urban and regional planning as an East-West Center Fellow with a focus on implementing sustainability plans.

“The task force established by President Obama gives Hawaii a direct line to provide recommendations on removing barriers to federal resources, identifying opportunities for collaboration, and developing tools to better support our unique needs and local efforts,” Thiel said. “Gov. Abercrombie’s congressional experience, particularly on the Armed Forces Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces, as well as a senior member on the Natural Resources Committee, was cited as a factor in his selection, along with his ability to provide insight into the needs of the Asia-Pacific region.”

In September, Hawaii was the first sub-national government to sign onto the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, joining other islands and nations in making bold commitments to reduce carbon emissions and invest in adaptation.

William J. Aila Jr., chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources, said: “Hawaii is especially vulnerable but we have made significant commitments toward mitigation and investments in adaptation. We know that our weather will be drier, and managing and protecting our native forests and watersheds is the best investments in capturing and delivering greater water quantity and quality. The state’s Rain Follows the Forest Watershed Initiative protects this vital resource needed for our survival.”

State Office of Planning Director Jesse Souki added: “Hawaii is the only state to have adopted both a climate change mitigation and adaptation policy. In 2012, Gov. Abercrombie signed Act 286, codifying into law the state’s Climate Change Adaptation Priority Guidelines, which will help us to build resiliency in agriculture, conservation lands, coastal and marine areas, education, health, transportation, and the built environment.

“We also recently updated the Ocean Resources Management Plan, which includes two priority management measures that address climate change impacts to marine resources and coastal areas. The State of Hawaii has approximately 1,052 miles of coastline with a vast majority of its communities located on or near coastal areas that may be impacted by sea-level rise.”

President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience will convene for the first time as early as next month in Washington, D.C., with its recommendations to the President expected within one year.

In June 2013, as part of his Climate Action Plan, President Obama called for the establishment of a short-term task force of state, local, and tribal leaders to advise on key actions the federal government can take to better support local preparedness and resilience-building efforts.

Link to the White House’s news release here:

Hawaii Signs Onto Majuro Declaration as U.S. Climate Leader

The State of Hawaii is the first sub-national government to sign onto the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, presented Friday by the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum to the United Nations Secretary General. The Aloha State joins other leaders from around the world in making commitments to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Ronald Jean Jumeau became ambassador of the Seychelles to the United States on September 6, 2007. He also served as the Permanent Representative of the Seychelles to the United Nations.

Ronald Jean Jumeau became ambassador of the Seychelles to the United States on September 6, 2007. He also served as the Permanent Representative of the Seychelles to the United Nations.

“The State of Hawaii stands with other islands around the world in recognizing the urgent threat of climate change to our sustainability,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. “We have signed onto the Majuro Declaration to share our ambitious commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through innovative energy transformation. We also understand the need to prepare for climate change adaptation through an integrated approach to building a green, resilient economy.”

Hawaii Green Growth Poster

The United States committed to the declaration by submitting President Barack Obama’s new Climate Action Plan as a broad set of additional actions announced in June 2013 to enhance efforts in furtherance of its emissions reduction target. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: “The U.S. is deeply committed to leading on climate change. We will work with our partners around the world through ambitious actions to reduce emissions, transform our energy economy, and help the most vulnerable cope with the effects of climate change.”

Hawaii’s commitments to climate change mitigation are focused on actions related to the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, which is a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Energy and the State of Hawaii to achieve 70 percent clean energy (40 percent through renewables and 30 percent through efficiency) by 2030 – one of the most ambitious energy goals in the nation. Additionally, Hawaii has committed to reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions to levels at or below estimates for 1990. Hawaii is the only state in the nation to adopt both a climate change mitigation policy and climate change adaptation policy, which recognize the role of public-private partnerships in achieving goals.

Green Growth Welcome

On Sept. 5, the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum adopted the Majuro Declaration in response to scientific evidence that escalating emissions of greenhouse gases are causing global warming and Pacific Islands are on the front lines of the impacts. The declaration notes that on May 9, 2013, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide measured near the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawaii exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time since measurements began. The declaration states, “In crossing this historic threshold, the world entered a new danger zone.”

Since then, on Sept. 27, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, appointed by the United Nations, released a 2000-page report that stated, “it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause” of global warming since 1950. For the first time, the panel formally endorsed the limit of emissions.

Abercrombie Behind Doors

Earlier this month, Minister Tony de Brum of the Marshall Islands invited Gov. Abercrombie to join other Pacific islands in this effort at the Governor’s reception for Seychelles Ambassador Ronald Jumeau during the 2013 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit in Honolulu.

“We very much welcome the commitment of the State of Hawaii to be a Climate Leader by signing our Majuro Declaration,” Minister de Brum said. “Hawaii is the first sub-national government to come on board, and will help create the upward spiral of ambition the world so desperately needs. As an island state with ambitious green targets, Hawaii knows the threat posed by climate change. It is time now for all of us to turn our words into action, and to ensure others follow quickly in our footsteps.”

Flags to Fly at Half-Staff in Observance of Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance

In observance of the 12th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, Gov. Neil Abercrombie has ordered that the flags of the United States and State of Hawaii be displayed at half-staff at all state offices and agencies as well as the Hawaii National Guard from sunrise to sunset tomorrow, September 11, 2013.

We will never forget

We will never forget

President Barack Obama today proclaimed September 11 as Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance, calling for the U.S. flag to be flown at half-staff. The presidential proclamation states:

“… On September 11, 2001, amid shattered glass, twisted steel, and clouds of dust, the spirit of America shone through. We remember the sacrifice of strangers and first responders who rushed into darkness to carry others from danger. We remember the unbreakable bonds of unity we felt in the long days that followed – how we held each other, how we came to our neighbors’ aid, how we prayed for one another. We recall how Americans of every station joined together to support the survivors in their hour of need and to heal our Nation in the years that followed.

“Today, we can honor those we lost by building a Nation worthy of their memories. Let us also live up to the selfless example of the heroes who gave of themselves in the face of such great evil. As we mark the anniversary of September 11, I invite all Americans to observe a National Day of Service and Remembrance by uniting in the same extraordinary way we came together after the attacks. Like the Americans who chose compassion when confronted with cruelty, we can show our love for one another by devoting our time and talents to those in need …”

View the President’s proclamation here.

(Gov. Abercrombie will be offering remarks at the annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony at 12:15 p.m. tomorrow in Tamarind Park, Bishop Square, in Downtown Honolulu.)

 

Governor’s Statement Regarding President Obama’s Remarks on Early Education and the High-Tech Economy

In a speech today at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., President Barack Obama stated that an education preparing the nation’s children and workers for global competition is a cornerstone of a strong middle class. The President also reaffirmed his commitment to make high-quality preschool available to every four-year-old in America and to spur innovation in schools so they teach the skills required for a high-tech economy.

abercrombieheaderIn response, Gov. Abercrombie stated:

“Education is top priority for my administration.  Hawaii’s plans for early education aligns with President Obama’s vision to make preschool accessible for all four year olds in America.

“A key component of my legislative package, SB 1093 (Act 169) was signed into law this past session, establishing a School Readiness Program that will initially help pay for about 1,000 children to attend preschool in 2014.  This is the first time that the state is codifying into law its commitment to preparing young children for success in school.

“In addition, the Hawaii State Department of Education has selected eight schools for its Common Core Digital Curriculum Pilot Project in the upcoming 2013-2014 school year. The initiative will support the schools’ implementation of new digital curricula, incorporating a tablet or laptop for every student and teacher.

“Furthermore, Act 264 will propel the Hawaii Broadband Initiative forward by mandating a clear and decisive timeline for state and county agencies in advancing ultra high-speed Internet access for all the people of Hawaii by 2018.

“Working together with President Obama, our goals are within reach if we make the investment in our children now.”

 

Senator Mazie Hirono Details How Climate Change is Already Having a Significant Impact on Hawaii

Senator Mazie K. Hirono warned that climate change is already having a significant impact on Hawaii and without coordinated government action will greatly harm the state’s well-being in the future during a hearing held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Hirono Climate Change

At the hearing, titled “Climate Change: It’s Happening Now,” climate scientists and other experts testified on how climate change is already having an effect on U.S. weather patterns which in turn is leading to more frequent extreme weather and is negatively impacting communities and industries. This was Hirono’s first hearing as a member of the committee since being tapped temporarily to fill the vacancy left after New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg’s death.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/cpo5WSR1XRA]

“Climate change is the great challenge of our time. In Hawaii, we are already seeing the impact of climate change—both on land and in the ocean that surrounds us,” Hirono testified. “Rising ocean temperatures, sea level rise, and ocean acidification pose serious risks to our economy and communities. For example, the sea level has risen in Hawaii at rate of 0.6 inches per decade over the past century. Research indicates that sea level may increase by 3 feet by the end of the century. This means that areas like Waikiki—a critical driver of Hawaii’s tourism economy—are likely to face serious flooding if sea level rise intensifies.”

Hirono noted that while Hawaii has seen a decrease in overall rainfall that it depends on for fresh water over the past twenty years, the state has seen a large increase in very heavy downpours that have caused major flooding. She detailed how the State of Hawaii is already taking action to respond to climate change but that national and global efforts are needed to truly address the problem.

“Hawaii has taken an aggressive approach toward addressing climate change. We have passed state laws limiting greenhouse gas emissions, promoting clean energy and energy efficiency, and a law to address climate change adaptation. These efforts are forward-looking, but support on the federal level is needed,” Hirono said.

Mazie Hirono speaks with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Mazie Hirono speaks with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

During the hearing, Hirono also questioned Reinsurance Association of America President Frank Nutter about how insurance companies are dealing with the increased threat of major weather events that climate change is causing. Nutter testified that the increasing severity of storms is causing rates to go up, especially in communities prone to flooding. Hirono cited the cautionary example of Hurricane Iniki, which caused such severe damage that the Hawaii government was forced to create the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund when insurance companies stopped writing and renewing hurricane insurance policies in Hawaii.

Hirono also voted today to confirm Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I am glad that my colleagues finally voted to confirm Gina McCarthy as EPA Administrator. McCarthy has a long record of fighting for cleaner air and energy efficiency, and she will serve as an important leader in our nation’s fight against climate change,” Hirono said after the vote.

Hawaii Flags to Fly at Half-Staff in Honor of Boston Tragedy Victims

As a mark of respect for the victims of the tragedy in Boston, Mass., Gov. Neil Abercrombie has ordered that all State of Hawaii flags at all state offices and agencies as well as the Hawaii National Guard are to be flown at half-staff alongside U.S. flags now through sunset April 20.

“Our thoughts are with the victims, families and many others impacted by the terrifying events that unfolded yesterday at the Boston Marathon,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “We offer our support and our aloha to the people of Massachusetts during this difficult time.”

President Barack Obama today ordered that flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset April 20, 2013. The President also directed that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

Boston Proclamation

 

“Obama: A Beautiful American Day” – Produced by Damon Williams of the Big Island

Damon Williams was born with the love of music is in his heart and soul. His career has been an impressive balance of performing and producing.

Damon Williams

Damon Williams

In 2008 Damon produced Hi Town, who received 2 Na Hoku nominations and 2 Hawaiian Music Awards.  And this Big Island musician has just completed a song entitled “Obama: A Beautiful American Day” which is a tribute to president Obama and to the people of Hawaii as well. No matter your politics, the song is worth listening to and owning.

You can check out the song here:  http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/damonwilliams2

The image that goes with the song was done by artist David Macaluso and was made using used motor oil.

The image that goes with the song was done by artist David Macaluso and was made using used motor oil.

Damon Williams web site http://damonwilliamsmusic.yolasite.com/music.php

 

Obama Nominates Hawaiian to Serve as Federal Judge for U.S. District Court for District of Hawaii

President Barack Obama nominated Derrick Kahala Watson to serve as a federal judge with the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.

Upon Senate confirmation, Watson will fill a vacancy left by U.S. District Judge David Ezra who took senior status on June 27, 2012.

The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus says Watson will be the only person of Native Hawaiian descent serving as an Article III judge, and only the fourth to serve in U.S. history.

Watson went to Harvard University after graduating in 1984 from the Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu, a private school system primarily attended by native Hawaiians.  He earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1988 and earned his law degree there three years later.

Watson joined the San Francisco firm of Landels, Ripley & Diamond as an associate in 1991. He then worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of California from 1995 to 2000, serving as deputy chief of the Civil Division.  Returning to the private sector, Watson next joined Farella Braun & Martel in San Francisco and became a partner there in 2003.  Watson next started as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii in 2007, becoming chief of the office’s Civil Division in 2009.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii had 1,697 new case filings in 2011 and currently has one vacancy.

Watson will earn a salary of $174,000 per year.

President Obama Nominates Admiral Locklear III as Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced Dec. 28 that President Barack Obama has nominated Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III for reappointment to the rank of admiral and for assignment as commander, U.S. Pacific Command, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III

Locklear is currently serving as commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe; commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa; and commander, Allied Joint Forces Command, Naples, Italy.

Pacific Command is likely to assume increasing importance in the coming years, as senior government officials including Obama, Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have all spoken in recent months about the Asia-Pacific region’s increasing strategic importance.

During a visit to the region in November, Obama said as the United States plans for the future, “we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region. We will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace.”

The nation’s enduring interest in the Pacific region requires its enduring presence, the president said. “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” he added.

Locklear this year commanded Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. part of the coalition effort aimed at protecting the people of Libya from forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and establishing a no-fly zone over the nation. The overall name of the NATO-led operation was Operation Unified Protector.

Locklear graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1977. His career as a surface warfare officer culminated in command of the USS Leftwich. Subsequent fleet command assignments include commander, Destroyer Squadron Two; commander, Nimitz Strike Group; and commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet.

Locklear has served ashore as executive assistant to the vice chief of naval operations; the 78th commandant of midshipmen, U.S. Naval Academy; director, assessment division; and director, programming division. Before his current assignment, he served as director of the Navy Staff from July 2, 2009, to Sept. 10, 2010.

Locklear is a 1992 graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University.

If confirmed as Pacom commander, Locklear will replace Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard, who has served in that position since Oct. 19, 2009.

Video of President Obama’s Press Conference at the APEC Summit

President Obama makes remarks and takes questions about progress made at the 19th annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leader’s summit. November 13, 2011.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/LBGRiB4PEjk]

Remarks by President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia After Bilateral Meeting

A member of the Russia Delegation meets a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I want to welcome my friend, Dmitry Medvedev, to my birthplace, Honolulu, Hawaii.  My understanding is that he’s been spotted in a Hawaiian shirt walking and enjoying the good weather.  And so I don’t know if anybody got pictures of this, but I’m glad that he’s enjoying himself so far.

President Medvedev and I have I think successfully established the reset of U.S.-Russia relationships — the U.S.-Russian relationship over the last several years.  And it has borne concrete fruit in the form of the New START Treaty, the 123 Agreement, the work that we did together imposing sanctions on Iran, and most recently, the efforts that we’ve made on Russia’s WTO accession.

Today, we had a wide-ranging discussion.  It focused on a number of security issues where the U.S. and Russia have a significant interest.  We discussed Afghanistan and our plan to transition, and the importance all the regional parties assisting the Afghan government in stabilizing the country for the benefit of the Afghan people.

We discussed Iran, and reaffirmed our intention to work to shape a common response so that we can move Iran to follow its international obligations when it comes to its nuclear program.

We discussed a number of world trouble spots, including Syria.  And we discussed the importance of APEC and our common interest in assuring global growth and increased opportunity, business investment, commercial ties, and most importantly, job creation in both our countries.

Although it’s not official yet, the invitation has been extended to Russia to join the WTO, as a testament to the hard work of President Medvedev and his team.  We believe this is going to be good for the United States, for the world, as well as for Russia, because it will provide increased opportunities for markets in which we can sell goods and products and services, as well as purchase good, products and services without some of the traditional barriers.

And so we very much appreciate the cooperation and partnership that we forged around this issue.  We think it’s an example of the importance that both countries place on economic reform and economic growth.

And on my part, on my administration’s part, this is going to be a good time for us to consult closely with Congress about ending the application of Jackson-Vanik to Russia, so that the U.S. businesses can take advantage of Russia’s membership in the WTO, and we can expand commerce and create jobs here in the United States.  So those consultations will be taking place in the weeks and months to come.

So, President Medvedev, thank you again for a constructive conversation.  But more importantly, thank you for several years of constructive engagement with the United States.

PRESIDENT MEDVEDEV:  Aloha.  (As interpreted.)  Well, I would like to start by thanking Barack for this brilliant idea of hosting the APEC Summit here in his birthplace, in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Not only is it a beautiful location but it also is a great opportunity to discuss all sorts of issues like we did today.

But today, my friend, Barack, and I discussed not only weather but also issues he outlined just recently.  But I would like to start by thanking President Obama and his team for his active support and engagement in our accession process to the WTO.  Moreover, we have never received similar support from any previous administration, and this is probably the explanation of why we’ve been acceding to the Organization since 1993.  As has been recognized just now, Russia’s accession is good not only for Russia itself or for the U.S. or other countries, but for the entire system of trade relations in the world.

Our global economy, global finance is surviving not the best of times.  So the more coordinated actions we take, the less there are trade barriers.  The clearer instructions we give to our trading ministries, the sooner we will be able to overcome recession, which, unfortunately, still continues globally.  And the easier it will be to solve our unemployment, which remains our major problem.

This is why the summit of Asia Pacific region countries is of great importance, so that we can coordinate and integrate our ideas.  And I am sure that it will be very successful at the highest possible level.

Today, apart from Russian accession to the WTO and the need to review Jackson-Vanik, we discussed with President Obama a number of international issues.  I’m referring to the discussions we had about the Middle East, Afghanistan, Syria.  We also spoke about Iran nuclear program, and discussed a number of other issues, including European missile defense.  We agreed to continue a search for possible solutions, though we understand that our positions remain far apart.  But over the recent years, we achieved progress on matters where there was no progress.  Barack has just recalled the START treaty.  If we manage to emphasize similar efforts on European missile defense, just like other issues, I’m sure we’ll succeed.

I would like to express a full satisfaction with the past and present relations with the U.S. President.  Our relations, and that’s most important, have always been characterized by trust, and it is only when trust is present that we can resolve difficult tasks — and we did resolve some, although, much remains to be done.

And I thank President Obama again for the invitation.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, everybody.

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Noda of Japan Before Bilateral Meeting

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I just want to welcome Prime Minister Noda to Hawaii, to the United States, for this APEC meeting.  I had the opportunity to have my first extensive discussions with the Prime Minister recently, and I have been extremely impressed already with the boldness of his vision.  And we confirmed, once again, the importance for both of our countries — the alliance between the United States and Japan is the cornerstone of our relationship but also for security in the Asia-Pacific region for a very long time.  And I’m confident that working together we can continue to build on that relationship in the areas of commerce, the areas of security, in not only the Asia-Pacific region but around the world.

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA  AND PRIME MINISTER NODA OF JAPAN  BEFORE BILATERAL MEETING

And Prime Minister Noda, welcome to Honolulu, where I’m sure that we’ll have another round of productive discussions.  And I want to thank you and the people of Japan for your friendship.  We continue also, by the way, to be concerned about the rebuilding process in the wake of the terrible earthquake and tsunami.  And I want to assure you that the American people continue to stand beside you and ready to help in any way they can.

PRIME MINISTER NODA:  (As translated.)  Well, this is my first visit to Honolulu after 34 years, and this very morning I went to the Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and laid a wreath there, and I got to see the panoramic view of Honolulu, and I renewed my recognition of how beautiful and great this city is.  And I would like to express my deep appreciation for hosting us in — here in Honolulu as the chair of APEC.

I’m very much encouraged by the fact that America is increasing its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and I do believe that Japan and the United States must work closely together to establish economic goals and also establish security order in this region.  And I hope that in this meeting today I can discuss with you these issues.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, everybody.

Senator Akaka on the Debt Limit

Media Release:
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) delivered a statement on the debt limit today on the Senate floor.  The following are Senator Akaka’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wqY2FBEBUo]

Mr. President, I rise to speak about the budget and the debt ceiling, following the Senate’s failure to invoke cloture on a measure expressing that shared sacrifices from all Americans, including the wealthiest, are necessary to reduce the budget deficit.

As the Senate Budget Committee Chair has proposed, we must reach an agreement that strikes a balance between raising revenues and cutting spending, in which all Americans contribute to the solution.

Congress faces an important task.  Americans are following this debate because they have a stake in its outcome.  If we do not raise the debt ceiling, it will force the government to choose which of its many obligations it will meet.

As President Obama pointed out last week, we cannot guarantee that veterans and Social Security recipients will receive the checks we owe them on August 3 if we fail to reach a compromise.  If we fail, we will damage our credit rating and worldwide confidence in our financial system.

To avoid such a situation, I call on all of my colleagues to negotiate in good faith so that the creditworthiness of the United States is not compromised.  I hope we can reach an agreement that will bring down the debt without placing most of the burden on the vulnerable among us: the sick, the poor, the long-term unemployed, and the elderly.

Mr. President, while we must reduce spending, we cannot forget to continue investing in our nation’s future.  I came of age during the Great Depression and served in World War II, along with my colleagues Senator Inouye and Senator Lautenberg.

We were the beneficiaries of one of the federal government’s greatest investments: the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights.  This visionary federal legislation enabled returning World War II veterans, many who, like myself, came from families of modest means and may never have otherwise attended college.

The GI Bill not only changed the lives of its beneficiaries, it changed the United States by laying the groundwork for the emergence of our middle class, which remains the backbone of our country.  Many other valuable investments made in the years that followed, such as the Interstate Highway System and federal funding for research programs at the nation’s leading universities, propelled America into one of history’s greatest periods of economic expansion, social advancement, and technological innovation.

None of these investments simply happened.  They were made by past Congresses and Presidents from both parties.  These legacies have proven repeatedly that dedicated social and economic investments are effective drivers of recovery, growth, and future success.  As we move forward and make difficult but necessary choices to cut spending, we must strengthen those programs that are restoring our economic health.

Reaching an agreement on the debt ceiling and deficit reduction will undoubtedly require all of us to make difficult compromises on spending and revenues.  As debate on these issues continues, I urge each of my colleagues to remember the obligation that we have to preserve the nation’s creditworthiness and to defend our veterans and those depending on Social Security and other safety net programs from harm as we continue to make needed investments for recovery.

Thank you, Mr. President.  I yield the floor.

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa on President Obama’s Press Conference

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa released this statement following President Obama’s press conference Wednesday morning:

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa

“I support President Obama’s call today for Congressional Republicans to step up, do their jobs, and show real leadership in addressing our nation’s economic concerns. Hawaii’s families continue to feel the sting of our nation’s economic downturn and Congress needs to take action to ease the burden on our working families, from job creation and the payroll tax reduction to addressing our debt ceiling and preserving America’s credit worthiness in the global economy. It is long past time for Republican leaders to end their single minded protection of tax breaks for the super-wealthy and oil companies, and acknowledge that America is a place that values decisive, effective action over political posturing.”