Tag Archives: strategy

Attorney General offers ‘national strategy’ to combat human trafficking

As part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the Justice Department’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking , as required by the 2015 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

In addition to this new national strategy, every year, the attorney general also submits the Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which details the programs and activities carried out by all federal agencies and sets forth recommended goals for the upcoming year.

The most recent report, for FY 2015, is available here.

The department also has launched www.justice.gov/humantrafficking as a central destination to learn more about the department’s efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is one of the most devastating crimes that we confront,” said Lynch.  “The National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking summarizes the work that our many components and our U.S. Attorney’s Offices are doing to better help survivors and target traffickers. These efforts encourage increased collaboration within the department as well as between the department and our partners in order to build on our successes as we prepare to take on the work that remains.”

The National Strategy sets forth plans to enhance coordination within the department and to develop specific strategies within each federal district to stop human trafficking.

The National Strategy includes the following:

  • An assessment of the threat presented by human trafficking based on FBI case information.
  • An account of the work of the department’s components that are most extensively involved in anti-trafficking efforts, including the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit; the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section; the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; the FBI; and various grant-making components within the Office of Justice Programs.
  • A description of the district-specific strategies developed by each U.S. Attorney’s Office.
  • A discussion of human trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts in Indian Country.
  • Information about annual spending dedicated to preventing and combating human trafficking.
  • A description of plans to encourage cooperation, coordination and mutual support between the private and non-profit sector and the department to combat human trafficking.

On the web

To learn more about the report and the department’s efforts to combat human trafficking visit www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.

Pomp but not much action expected at UN climate summit

More than 120 world leaders convene on Sept. 23 for a U.N. summit aimed at galvanizing political will for a new global climate treaty by the end of 2015.

Environmentalists took to the streets on Sept. 21 in what was billed as the largest march ever on global warming. Celebrities, CEOs and climatologists will appear at a string of events as part of New York’s annual climate week. “Titanic” star Leonardo DiCaprio will talk about what causes rising seas.

The hope is to recapture the momentum lost after the disappointing 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, when world leaders left without a binding treaty.

The one-day U.N. summit, while not part of the formal negotiation process, is the pinnacle of the 7-year-old tenure of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has made fighting climate change his rallying cry and traveled the globe to personally invite world leaders to the gathering. Saying he was “humbled by the overwhelming response,” Ban urged leaders to come with bold ideas.

Yet whatever happens at the U.N. summit is unlikely to bring the Earth closer to a goal set in Copenhagen: Preventing Earth’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) from where it is now.

“Our expectation is this is a political event,” said Zou Ji, deputy director of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy.

Rather than firm commitments from closed-door negotiations, the summit is expected to jumpstart a series of much publicized initiatives and partnerships. Six oil companies will join with governments and environmental advocacy groups to slash methane leaks from the production of natural gas. There will be a massive commitment to combat deforestation. There will be initiatives announced to clean up agriculture and make freight shipments greener.

“Ultimately, we are going to need much more ambitious, concerted government action and government policies,” said Nat Keohane, who worked as a special assistant to President Barack Obama on energy and climate issues before rejoining the Environmental Defense Fund in 2012. “This summit is not going to be one fell swoop where we are going to announce all those policies.”

The U.S. heads into the summit in the strongest position it has been in years. It has cut emissions by 10 percent from 2005 to 2012, more than any other country. Officials say about half of that reduction is due to the economic recession, but it puts the U.S. well on its way toward meeting its goal to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.

White House officials said Obama will not be announcing any new targets at the summit but will leverage the progress the U.S. has made to pressure other major polluters like India and China to take more aggressive action.

“We are taking this summit seriously, both to show the world that the United States is committed to leading the fight about climate change and to call on the other leaders to step up to the plate and to raise their level of ambition to take on climate change,” John Podesta, the White House’s climate adviser, said in a conference call with reporters.

In Copenhagen, developing countries including China and India were exempt from setting greenhouse gas reduction goals. That is expected to change at the next climate change summit in Paris in late 2015, when all countries will be required to submit reduction targets for beyond 2020. Ji said China is already working on its targets and expects to unveil them in early 2015.

Already, evidence suggests that the 2009 temperature limit is an ever-more distant goal. Many experts believe it is nearly out of reach.

“We’re nowhere close,” U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Robert Orr said in a call with reporters. “It’s really only the most aggressive of these scenarios that get us under 2 degrees.”

Limiting warming to that level would require deep reductions in carbon dioxide pollution in the near term, but there is fear that countries will not offer nearly enough reductions next year to prevent temperatures from reaching the point where the changes brought about by climate change would be catastrophic.

“We are behind schedule, but we still do have time – just,” former Vice President Al Gore said in an interview with The Associated Press.

In the weeks leading up to the summit, the World Meteorological Organization said that concentrations of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, increased more in 2012 and 2013 than in any year since 1984. The months of May, June and August were the warmest of any on record in the United States. A study issued earlier this year said the West Antarctic ice sheet was starting to collapse and it was unstoppable.

“We’re in a car heading toward a cliff, and while we’re talking about how important it is that we put on the brakes, the car is meanwhile accelerating,” said University of California Irvine scientist Steve Davis.

Connie Hedegaard, the top climate official for the European Union, told the AP that the best thing that could come out of New York is that governments at the highest levels will be forced to consider ambitious commitments well before a new deal must be reached at the end of 2015.

House passes bill to block Obama’s climate plan

Aiming at the heart of President Barack Obama’s strategy for fighting climate change, the Republican-controlled House voted on March 6  to block the administration’s plan to limit carbon pollution from new power plants.

The bill targets Obama’s proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency to set the first national limits on heat-trapping carbon pollution from future power plants. It’s part of the GOP’s election-year strategy to fight back against what Republicans call a “war on coal” by the Obama administration.

The bill passed by a 229-183 vote. Ten Democrats, mostly from coal-producing states or the South, joined Republicans in support of it.

A similar measure is pending in the Senate but faces a more difficult path.

“The Obama administration clearly wants to use its regulatory agenda to end coal-fired power generation in this country, but that is a pipe dream,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, noting that coal provides nearly 40 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., called the EPA proposal “one of the most extreme regulations of the Obama administration. He said the proposed limits on carbon emissions would “make it impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant in America.”

As a practical matter, no new coal plants are currently being considered because of competition from cheap natural gas. But Whitfield and other Republicans argue that could change if natural gas prices keep rising. In that case, utility companies should be able to “go out and build a coal-powered plant with reasonable regulations,” said Whitfield, who chairs the House subcommittee on energy and power.

The Whitfield-sponsored House bill requires EPA to set carbon emissions standards based on technology that has been in use for at least a year. Republicans and some coal-state Democrats say the EPA rule is based on carbon-capturing technology that doesn’t currently exist.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., denounced the legislation as “a science-denial bill” that would strip the EPA of its ability to block carbon pollution. He and other Democrats called the bill a blatant attempt to thwart the EPA and vilify the Obama administration in an election year.

The White House has threatened to veto, saying the bill would “undermine public health protections of the Clean Air Act and stop U.S. progress in cutting dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.” Power plants account for about one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other officials have said the proposed rule – the first of two major regulations aimed at limiting carbon pollution from power plants – is based on carbon reduction methods that are “technically feasible” and under development in at least four sites. The rule affecting future plants is a prelude to a more ambitious plan, expected later this year, to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants.

“We looked at the data available. We looked at the technologies,” McCarthy told the Senate Environment Committee in January. “We made a determination that (carbon capture and storage technology) was the best system for emission reductions for coal facilities moving forward, because it was technically feasible and it would lead to significant emission reductions.”

Whitfield and other critics dispute that, saying carbon capture technology is years away from being commercially viable.

A Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would require the EPA to set standards on based on commercially available technology.

Manchin’s approach has drawn support from other Democrats who represent energy-producing states, including Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Landrieu faces a tough re-election fight in a state where both Obama and the EPA are unpopular.

A spokesman for Manchin said Thursday that the senator plans to meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats to discuss a path forward, but did not offer a timetable.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed doubts that Manchin’s bill will get a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“If the president doesn’t want (the bill), Harry Reid is going to block it, even if it is good for jobs and even it’s good for Kentucky,” said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart.

Republicans have accused the EPA of dragging its feet on the power plant rule so it won’t become final until after the 2014 midterm elections.

EPA Administrator McCarthy announced the proposal in September, but the measure was not printed in the Federal Register until January. The delay means the rule is unlikely to be completed until next year. A public comment period on the rule was supposed to expire next week, but has been extended until May 9.

With surge in early voting, media changes exit-polling strategy

A growth in early voting and tough economy for the media are forcing changes to the exit poll system that television networks and The Associated Press depend upon to deliver the story on Election Night, all with the pressure-filled backdrop of a tight presidential race.

The consortium formed by ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel, NBC and the AP is cutting back this year on in-person exit polls while upping the amount of telephone polling. This is to take into account more people voting before Nov. 6 and households that have abandoned land lines in favor of cell phones.

“It makes it trickier,” said Joe Lenski, executive vice president of Edison Research, the company that oversees the election operation for the news organizations. “It means there are a lot of different pieces to keep track of.”

On a perfect election night, Americans who are tracking results won’t notice all the work being done behind the scenes. The Associated Press reports actual vote counts nationwide and news organizations use those numbers, plus the exit polls, to do their own race calls. But things haven’t always gone perfectly. The news organizations completely rebuilt their exit poll system after the 2000 embarrassment, when TV networks mistakenly called the race for George W. Bush when it wasn’t decided until a month later (the AP mistakenly called Florida for Bush, retracted it but, unlike the networks, never called the overall race for Bush). In 2004, early exit poll results overestimated the strength of Democrat John Kerry.

To save money this year, the consortium is doing bare bones exit polling in 19 states. Enough voters will be questioned in those states to help predict the outcome of races, but not enough to draw narrative conclusions about the vote – what issues mattered most to women voting for Mitt Romney, for instance, or how many Catholics voted for Barack Obama.

The affected states are: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming, along with the District of Columbia.

Each is considered a non-battleground state with polls showing a strong advantage for one of the presidential candidates. Some non-battleground states will get the full exit poll for other reasons, like Massachusetts and its hotly contested U.S. Senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren.

“What we are doing is taking our resources and using them where the stories are,” said Sheldon Gawiser, NBC’s elections director and head of the steering committee for the AP-network consortium.

Spending figures were not made available. News organizations have had a tough few years financially, but the consortium noted that it is interviewing a total of 25,000 voters this year, up from 18,000 in 2008.

Because of early voting, there are no traditional exit polls in Oregon, Washington and Colorado. A phone poll is done prior to Election Day in those states, taking in a mixture of people who have and haven’t voted. Others states have a mixture of telephone polling and exit interviews. California, North Carolina and Arizona are among the states where the percentage of telephone polls has grown because of more people voting early.

More people are interviewed on cell phones because it is the primary way to contact them. The consortium said cell phone interviews are twice as expensive as those on land lines because of manpower costs, in large part because it is harder to reach people and federal law requires the phone numbers to be manually dialed instead of done by computers.

In addition to the exit poll changes, the news organizations are taking steps to improve their ability to include actual vote counts in their decisions on when to call particular states as a winner for either candidate. This usually involves collecting sample precincts that reflect a state’s demographics.

Even this is complicated by local customs. Some states report precinct results more quickly than others. New Mexico, for example, sets up polling places where anybody from a particular county can cast a ballot; while this makes voting easier, it makes projections based on precinct samples more difficult.

Television viewers may notice that networks are being slower than in the past to project winners in certain states, but the consortium believes people won’t see a difference.

If the actual election is as close as the pre-election polls are suggesting, it will be a long night, anyway.

With all the factors increasing the difficulties and costs associated with exit polling, it’s worth wondering whether a time will come that the news organizations abandon them in favor of the pre-election polling. The experts say that time is nowhere near.

“One of the great advantage of exit polls is you don’t have to worry about who voted. You don’t have all of these ‘likely voter’ issues that you have now,” said Lee Miringoff, a pollster at Marist College.

Gawiser noted how the minds of voters can change, even up until the last possible minute.

“It’s a story we want to be able to tell on election night and we want to be able to tell it accurately and rapidly,” he said. “I really don’t think it’s much different than any other story we tell.”

Clinton to address International AIDS conference

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will address the opening plenary session of the 19th International AIDS Conference on July 23.

Clinton will make her remarks at AIDS 2012 at 10 a.m. on July 23 at the Washington Convention Center.

The president is not scheduled to attend the conference, which takes place July 22-27 in Washington, but will send a video message to attendees. The White House also will host a reception on July 26 to honor those fighting HIV/AIDS and send senior administration staff to the conference. In addition to Clinton, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will attend, as well as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby, White House Office of National AIDS Policy director Grant Colfax and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci.

The biennial conference brings together scientists, policymakers, implementers and people living with HIV and AIDS to explore progress in fighting the disease and chart new goals and strategies.

The conference is returning to the United States after a 22-year absence following the administration’s repeal of HIV-related entry restrictions.

Clinton’s remarks will be streamed live at www.kff.org/aids2012. 

Other State Department officials scheduled to participate in the conference include Thomas Nides, deputy secretary of state; Ambassador Melanne Verveer of the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues; and Lois Quam, executive director of the Secretary’s Global Health Initiative.

On the Web: AIDS.gov and AIDS2012.org.

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HIV/AIDS experts assess ‘AIDS in America’

The National Press Club on July 10 will host leading HIV/AIDS policy experts offering a look at AIDS in America in advance of the XIX International AIDS Conference.

The policy briefing is set to take place at 10 a.m. EST at the press club, 529 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C.

The AIDS conference is set for July 22-27 in Washington, D.C. The conference, expected to draw some 2,000 journalists and more than 25,000 delegates, has not been held in the United States in 22 years.

The NPC’s briefing on July 10 will focus on the domestic campaign to end AIDS in the United States.

Speakers will include Carl Schmid of The AIDS Institute, A. Cornelius Baker of the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition, Julie Scofield of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors and Ronald Johnson of AIDS United.

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