JAYCO ( 15V017000 )

Dated: JAN 16, 2015 Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain model year 2015 Eagle 30.5 BHLT fifth wheel trailers manufactured March 13, 2014, to August 1, 2014. The affected trailers have incorrect tire size informatio…

KIA ( 15V015000 )

Dated: JAN 15, 2015 Kia Motors America (Kia) is recalling certain model year 2014 Kia Forte vehicles manufactured December 5, 2012, to April 17, 2014. In the affected vehicles, the cooling fan resistor may overheat and …

IC3 Releases Alert for a Scam Targeting Businesses

Original release date: January 24, 2015

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has released an alert warning companies of a sophisticated wire payment scam dubbed the Business E-mail Compromise. Scammers use fraudulent information to trick companies into directing financial transactions into accounts they control.

Users are encouraged to review the IC3 Scam Alert for details and refer to the US-CERT Tip ST04-014 for information on social engineering and phishing attacks.


This product is provided subject to this Notification and this Privacy & Use policy.

FBI Releases "Ransomware on the Rise"

Original release date: January 23, 2015

The FBI has released an article addressing ransomware campaigns that use intimidating messages claiming to be from the FBI or other government agencies. Scam operators use ransomware – a type of malicious software – to infect a computer and restrict access to it until a ransom is paid to unlock it.

Users and administrators are encouraged to review the FBI article “Ransomware on the Rise” for details and refer to Alert TA-295A for information on Crypto Ransomware.


This product is provided subject to this Notification and this Privacy & Use policy.

Google Releases Security Updates for Chrome

Original release date: January 23, 2015

Google has released Chrome 40.0.2214.91 for Windows, Mac, and Linux to address multiple vulnerabilities. Exploitation of these vulnerabilities may allow a remote attacker to cause a denial of service condition or obtain personal information.

US-CERT encourages users and administrators to review the Google Chrome blog entry and apply the necessary updates.


This product is provided subject to this Notification and this Privacy & Use policy.

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – January 23, 2015

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 23, 2015

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TRANSCRIPT:


1:10 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Friday.

MS. PSAKI: Friday. New scarf. Okay. I have a couple of items at the top. As all of you have seen on the news, the Secretary is in Davos, Switzerland today to attend the World Economic Forum. He's meeting with the world leaders from government, business, and civil society. In addition to addressing the forum, which he already has done, he met with Cypriot President Anastasiadis; Dr. Klaus Schwab, who is the founder of the World Economic Forum; and he will be attending – he may already be attending a dinner hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on sustainable development.

We also put out – I believe it should have gone out – a note on additional travel to announce. The Secretary will travel to Lagos, Nigeria – he also mentioned it in his remarks this morning – on January 25th, which is Sunday, to emphasize the importance of ensuring the upcoming elections are peaceful, nonviolent, and credible. The Secretary will meet with the candidates President Goodluck Jonathan and Major Buhari, Retired Major General Buhari, while he is there.

And last item, we remain deeply concerned by the increasing violence and bloodshed in Eastern Ukraine which has resulted from a surge in Russia-backed separatist attacks against the ceasefire line in what appears to be a general offensive in complete violation of the Minsk agreements. Ukraine has implemented ceasefire after ceasefire, but the Russia-backed separatists have responded with violence, carrying out 1,000 attacks since early December resulting in the deaths of 262 people in the last nine days.

Russia is actively supporting the separatists by supplying them with heavy weaponry and vehicles, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy artillery pieces, as well as providing military personnel for exercising ongoing tactical support. Not only have we seen no commitment by the separatists or Russia to implement the January 22nd Berlin Statement on upholding the Minsk Agreement, separatist leaders have publicly stated their intention today to take more territory.

We again call on Russia to denounce its separatist patrons, withdraw all support to them, and stop the flow of heavy weapons, fighters, and advisors, and restore Ukraine’s control along its side of the international border and allowing OSCE monitoring all along both sides of the border. Russia holds the keys to peacefully resolving a conflict it started and bears responsibility to end the violence which has devastated the lives of so many innocents in Donetsk and Luhansk.

And I have a meeting I have to go to at 2:00, so let’s just get to as many as we can.

Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Great. Well I’m sure we’ll get back to Ukraine –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — a little bit later, but I want to start with what – the travel announcement.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Because I’m a little confused. Yesterday here you said in regards to Prime Minister Netanyahu that it’s a matter of longstanding practice that neither the President nor the Secretary of State meets with candidates in close proximity to their election so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country. Is there an exception for West African countries that begin with the letter N and end with the letter A, or what’s going on here?

MS. PSAKI: They’re entirely different scenarios in our view, Matt. I mentioned why the Secretary is traveling there, which certainly there are concerns about violence, about the implementation of the elections. Obviously, he’ll be talking about all of that, the importance of enforcing the electoral process, and he’ll underscore international concern about serious post-election violence or destabilizing – or a destabilizing, fractious outcome.

That’s something we’ve done other places as well, most recently in Afghanistan. It’s something past secretaries of state have done as well. Israel in the situation with the prime minister’s visit – which, again, we’ve said we welcomed – we’re just not meeting with him as a policy because it’s different. There’s a difference between hosting a meeting exclusively with one candidate in your own country and visiting a country and making clear to all candidates and all parties about the need to keep – reduce violence, about the need to see the electoral process through.

QUESTION: So is he going to meet with the 12 other candidates in the Nigerian election?

MS. PSAKI: He’s meeting with two candidates, as I mentioned. He’s only going to be there a short period of time. But it’s not a situation where we’re hosting one candidate or another in our country or he’s meeting to support one candidate or another.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, it’s not out of the Administration’s control to invite some other Israeli politicians to come at the same time as Prime Minister Netanyahu. And I believe, in fact, some will be here for the big conference.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we’ve made a decision which the White House announced yesterday and we echoed about our plans as it relates to this visit. We remain in close contact with Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as many other officials in Israel.

QUESTION: And the Afghanistan exception scenario that you mentioned, that was a case in which the Secretary was trying to broker a deal after the election; am I correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he was there before as well. I mean, obviously, the upcoming elections in advance of the elections were a key part of his message as well.

QUESTION: On Israel specifically, there were some quotes in a couple reports today from unnamed officials, U.S. officials, one of which says – this is attributed to a source close to the Secretary, “The bilateral relationship with Israel is unshakable, but playing politics with that relationship could blunt Secretary Kerry’s enthusiasm for being Israel’s primary defender.” And I believe that referred specifically to the – at the United Nations.

Is that accurate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speak – I’m sure that it won’t surprise you – to unnamed anonymous quotes from the podium.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, take it from me; I’m going to say it right now. Playing politics with the U.S.-Israel relationship could blunt Secretary Kerry’s enthusiasm for being Israel’s primary defender. Am I lying or am I correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as the Secretary said himself, certainly the way that Israel went about announcing this trip or confirming the trip was unusual. Clearly, we’re going to – the trip is going to happen. He has remained engaged with Prime Minister Netanyahu. There’s a great deal that he does behind the scenes to support Israel. I’m going to leave it at that.

QUESTION: But does that mean that the Secretary’s enthusiasm for defending Israel could somehow be blunted?

MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary spoke to this himself just a couple of days ago. I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: A couple of days ago?

MS. PSAKI: Yep, two days ago.

QUESTION: He spoke to the idea that his enthusiasm –

MS. PSAKI: He spoke to his views on the prime minister’s visit.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just looking – I’m just trying to find out if it is correct that the Secretary might be less enthusiastic in his defense of Israel at international fora now because of the “unusual” nature of the prime minister’s upcoming trip.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, the reason I pointed to what the Secretary said is that he spoke to the fact that he remains engaged with Prime Minister Netanyahu, that there’s a range of issues we work together on.

QUESTION: I understand that. But either the relationship is unshakable or it’s not unshakable. And if it is unshakable, then it would seem to me that a – that the annoyance or whatever, the surprise with which you view the prime minister’s upcoming visit would not potentially – does not have the potential to blunt the Secretary’s enthusiasm for being Israel’s –

MS. PSAKI: The relationship is unshakable. That hasn’t changed. I’m just not going to speak further to unnamed quotes.

QUESTION: Well, but – okay. Forget about the unnamed official saying it. I tried to put this in my mouth, so it’s me –

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well, we’ve already –

QUESTION: Me saying it. Am I right or am I wrong?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve already addressed this extensively, so I’d leave you – leave it – you with those comments.

QUESTION: Let me just take the flip side of that. Is there an absence of sort of an outrage from this Department, I mean, the Secretary of State being the top American diplomat and this is really a foreign policy issue. This is a foreign leader who is basically intervening in the American process. Shouldn’t have been there a sort of a stronger perhaps reaction to this thing by the Secretary of State?

MS. PSAKI: I understand your desire to weigh into this further, Said. I’m just not going to weight into it further.

QUESTION: No, because – and by the way, I think there was precedent, an Israeli precedent for meeting before elections with Peres back in ’96 – I mean, you can look it up – by President Clinton right before the election.

MS. PSAKI: And you should look up who criticized that at the time.

QUESTION: And I think it was – yeah, when Netanyahu criticized him tremendously at the time. But the point is, I mean, there is a lot of talk around this town that this was basically, I mean, a blatant and basically crude the way it was done. Don’t you think that should have sort of caused perhaps a stronger expression of annoyance –

MS. PSAKI: Said, we’ve spoken to this extensively. I’ll leave the analysis to the analysts, including yourself. Do we –

QUESTION: Can I ask about a factual bit?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Sure.

QUESTION: Is it correct that the Secretary met with Ambassador Dermer for two hours the other day, and this – the subject of the prime minister’s visit was not –

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s correct.

QUESTION: That is correct? And was the Secretary surprised after learning of the invitation and the prime minister’s acceptance that Ambassador Dermer did not mention this to him?

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s safe to say.

QUESTION: It is? Okay. So why is – if that’s safe to say, why is it not – why can’t you address the other part of it, or my initial question about potential blunting of his enthusiasm for defending Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, clearly not only the Secretary but others in the Administration, including myself, have spoken to this repeatedly. I just think there’s no benefit in speaking to it further from the podium.

QUESTION: Do you know if the Secretary has been in touch with the ambassador since, or is he now kind of persona non grata?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any calls – I mean, he’s been – obviously, he left on this trip, as you know.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe – I’m not sure if he’s spoken with him since then. I can certainly check on that.

QUESTION: And where was that meeting? Here?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In –

MS. PSAKI: In the State Department.

QUESTION: In the State Department.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Israel before we continue?

QUESTION: Yeah. (Inaudible) that the Administration essentially would be looking for some sort of payback against the Netanyahu government for this visit. Is that something that the Secretary would endorse – payback?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not even sure what that means, and I’m not, again, going to speak to an anonymous quote. The Secretary spoke to his views on this two days ago.

Do we have any more on Israel?

QUESTION: Just one last – yeah. Did the Secretary play any role in putting off the meeting from the 11th of February back to –

MS. PSAKI: No, we had no role in that whatsoever.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: The anti-ISIS coalition. The Kurdish President Masoud Barzani – I’m not sure if you’ve seen his remarks.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I did see this, I think, what you’re referring to.

QUESTION: Yeah. He slammed the West for not inviting the Kurds. He said it’s disheartening. What do you – what’s your response to his criticism?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say –

QUESTION: The London conference, I mean.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I know what you’re referring to. I’d say a couple things.

We have enormous respect for the courage the Kurds have shown and the tremendous fight they have taken to ISIL to recapture territory. We’ve seen consistent and continued gains by Iraqi Security Forces, including Kurdish forces in recent weeks in coordination with the Government of Iraq. The United States and the coalition have been very supportive of Iraqi Kurdish forces and will continue to do so.

London was an opportunity for a small group of coalition members to work directly with the Iraqi Government to identify areas where we can enhance our assistance and cooperation, including to the Kurds, even as we continue to apply pressure on ISIL to end its siege on the Iraqi people. As head of government, Prime Minister Abadi was the representative of the Iraqi Government at the conference.

QUESTION: So you believe because Prime Minister Abadi was there, there was no need for the Kurdish president to –

MS. PSAKI: He was – as the head of government, he was the representative. I would also remind you – as you probably know, because you cover this closely – General Allen and Ambassador McGurk have met directly with senior officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government on every trip they’ve taken to Iraq, and they will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Jen –

QUESTION: Was it the – sorry. Was it the United States’ decision to not invite the Kurds?

MS. PSAKI: I would not put it in those terms. I –

QUESTION: Because the United States is leading the coalition.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish, let me finish. As appropriate, the head of government attended to represent all of Iraq. The Kurds are part of Iraq, and so they represented their interest. As you know, they work together – as we work with all of them – to defeat ISIL.

QUESTION: I know, Jen, and you know very well Iraq is about basically two states – it’s Kurdistan and it’s Baghdad. And you have militarily and politically worked with both of them independently. So –

MS. PSAKI: Kurdistan is a part of Iraq, as you know.

QUESTION: Yeah, but you have – like, you have provided them arms –

MS. PSAKI: In coordination with the Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: With Iraq. So now they are really angry because they believe, as the most probably effecting fighting force on the ground, they haven’t been even – no representative of their – of the Kurds have been invited.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our actions –

QUESTION: So don’t you think their criticism is fair?

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. Our actions over the course of several months, including supporting them in a range of ways with material support –

QUESTION: But on this specific issue –

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish my answer – in cooperation with the Iraqi Government answers that question. We also have many meetings with them. But they are a part of the Iraqi Government. I understand the views of some and your personal views, but that remains the case. President Abadi remains the – Prime Minister, excuse me, Abadi remains the head of the Iraqi Government. We’re going to move on.

QUESTION: Just one more question. One more question.

MS. PSAKI: No, no. We’re done. We’re going to move on.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: There were reports that the two Japanese hostages have been killed by ISIS. Do you have anything on that?

MS. PSAKI: We have seen those reports. I believe you are referring to reports on Twitter. We don’t have any confirmation of those reports. I’d certainly refer you to the Government of Japan, but I don’t believe they’ve put anything out specifically. We certainly strongly condemn ISIL’s threat to murder Japanese citizens. We continue to call for the immediate release of these civilians and all other hostages, and we’re of course, fully supportive of Japan and continue to coordinate closely.

QUESTION: About 200 –

MS. PSAKI: On Japan?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: About $200 million demanded by the ISIL, so what do you think or what the United States think about the currency ISIL wanted?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke to this a little bit yesterday. Our position on ransoms is well known. We believe that granting such concessions puts all of our citizens overseas at greater risk for kidnapping. That’s something we’ve spoken about publicly frequently, and I don’t think there’s any secret about that.

Japan? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Have you analyzed the video at all and have any questions about its authenticity, whether it was made – actually made inside or outdoors, or those kind of questions?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Government of Japan. We’re obviously very supportive of their efforts and in close contact, but I don’t have any independent analysis from here.

QUESTION: Can I have one more?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you said that you’re prepared to provide any support you can. Does that include like military support or intelligence sharing?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into diplomatic exchanges that we have with Japan and the government.

QUESTION: You said the other day the U.S. support efforts of Japan in this matter, but what actions actually are U.S. taking (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I think that’s similar to your colleague’s question. I’m just not going to detail our private conversations. We remain in close contact with the government. They’re a close friend and a close partner. Obviously, this is a terrible situation but I’m not going to detail that more publicly.

Do we have any more on Japan before –

QUESTION: On Saudi?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: So I’ve seen the statements put out by the Secretary and obviously by the President as well following the death of King Abdullah. I don’t know if you’ve seen that there are already some heads of government, foreign ministers, who are going to go to Saudi Arabia tomorrow. Is there any change in the Secretary’s travel plans, given that he’s already on the road?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any travel plans to announce. You saw, and I’m sure you’ve all seen, the statement that we put out from the Secretary last night about the death of his friend King Abdullah. As you know, the Secretary – and I just announced – has a planned trip to Nigeria on Sunday, so nothing further to announce at this point in time.

QUESTION: And I wondered if you could speak to the announcement of the new king, King Salman. Do you think this is a – he will be somebody who will steer Saudi Arabia well? Do you foresee any kind of changes in the close ties, although sometimes complicated ties that you’ve had with Riyadh?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we look forward to continuing the close partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Salman. Obviously, they’re in a period of mourning right now, but there are a range of issues that we have worked together on, whether it’s the Arab Peace Initiative or it’s the campaign to degrade and defeat ISIL. We have a long history of cooperation. We don’t have any indication that that cooperation will change.

QUESTION: Do you –

QUESTION: Do you have any indication that the – or they say that the new king will – he objects less to some sort of a deal with Iran. Can you comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any analysis, Said. I think, obviously, the king passed away yesterday. They’ve been an important partner. I’m not going to analyze Saudi politics from here.

QUESTION: Also a very close ally – a very close ally within the Saudi system, Mohammed bin Nayef has been named as a deputy, I guess, deputy crown prince. Is that something that you look at with –

MS. PSAKI: Well, we will continue to work with a range of officials, senior officials, leadership in Saudi Arabia, in the weeks, months, years ahead. Obviously, we’re going to have the period of mourning at this point in time, but I think it’s safe to assume we’ll remain in very close contact on the ground and through the Secretary as well.

QUESTION: But what role –

QUESTION: How confident is the –

QUESTION: I’m sorry, Roz. What role do you see for the new Saudi king or the new Saudi Arabia under the new king in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: What will we see in Yemen?

QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, are you talking to the new – I assume that you are – the new king and the new administration (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I would remind you that he was named king yesterday.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: King Abdullah passed away yesterday.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: The funeral is today.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So obviously, we will be in close contact. But I’m not going to analyze what their role will or won’t be in different conflicts around the world. We expect our close cooperation to continue.

QUESTION: But the collapse in Yemen continues.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) given that he was crown prince for several years before his half-brother passed away, what is this building’s assessment of King Salman’s views on human rights, on freedom of expression, on the ability of women to participate fully in Saudi society?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to analyze his personal views from here. I would say, Roz, that as you know, we have a long history of cooperation on a range of issues. I mentioned a few of them – the effort to degrade and defeat ISIL, the Arab Peace Initiative, a range of conflicts around the world.

As you know, as is true with many of our important partners, there are still issues where we have disagreements on, and issues like human rights, freedom of speech, equal rights for women, are issues that certainly we’ve raised in the past with Saudi Arabia. It’s not that our concerns have changed, but we’re going to give them, certainly, a period of time before we engage in diplomatic discussions with them.

QUESTION: Have U.S. officials actually engaged with Salman while he was crown prince on these human rights issues?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know there are a range of officials who are in meetings when the king has meetings, so I would leave it at that.

QUESTION: But you would expect though that your – that there would not be any change in your raising these issues and concerns with –

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Exactly. That’s what I’m conveying. We expect we’ll continue to work on the same issues.

QUESTION: All right. Can we go next door to Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So last night it was revealed that the embassy staff had been reduced further, although it does not appear that there was any kind of an evacuation.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering what the status is there right now, and how – whether or not you believe that the upcoming, I guess, parliamentary – emergency parliamentary meeting on Sunday is actually – is a good thing, and where you see this transition going.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, on the security piece, the information we put out last night, just to reiterate for everyone here, in response to the changing situation – security situation in Yemen, the United States Embassy in Sana’a has further reduced its American personnel working in Yemen. Our Embassy in Sana’a has been on ordered departure since last September. The embassy remains open and is continuing to operate. We may continue to realign resources based on the situation on the ground. We’ll continue to operate as normal with reduced staff. And we’ll also continuously assess the situation on the ground for its impact on our staffing levels. There’s no new update beyond that since last night in terms of staffing or changes to a security posture.

On your second question, as you noted, we understand there’s a plan for a meeting – an emergency session on Sunday to decide whether to accept President Hadi’s resignation. When that meeting takes place, the constitution provides that the speaker of parliament will become acting president until an election can be – if they accept his resignation, I should say – that the speaker of the parliament would become acting president until an election can be scheduled in the next 60 days. If a majority vote fails to accept Hadi’s resignation, President Hadi will remain president for an additional 90 days. If President Hadi submits his resignation again in 90 days, parliament must accept it. That’s just some technical details of how their process works.

We’re in touch with a full spectrum of political leaders in Yemen, both to hear from how they believe the political transition can move forward as well as to make clear that we will oppose any continuation of the violence we have seen in recent days, and that we expect that the parties will observe the constitution, UN Security Council resolutions, and the provisions of the GCC initiative in determining their next steps. That’s the next step in the process. Clearly, the situation is very fluid on the ground, but we’ll be watching closely over the course of the next coming days.

QUESTION: Well, do you have any preference as to whether they accept or reject his resignation? And in the interim – so today and tomorrow up until the meeting – do you still regard him as the president?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. President Hadi remains the president. It’s up to the Yemeni people to determine what the future is.

QUESTION: So you don’t have any preference as to whether they accept or reject – I mean, you would think that you – that if you’re calling for a peaceful – if you’re calling for things to calm down, that a rejection of the – of his resignation would be what – a preferable – would be preferable than – would be more preferable than an acceptance of it, but I don't know. Is that not correct? You don’t care one way or another?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we’re in a position to assess what the impact would be, Matt. I understand why you’re going down that road. But our focus is on encouraging a reduction in violence and abiding by the constitution and the GCC initiative and the national – and the UN Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: All right. And then my last one, this has more to do with the security. Does the Administration believe that the Houthi rebels and their military pose a direct threat to U.S. interests?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they have made public statements that indicate otherwise. Obviously, we expect and call on them to abide by them. In the meantime, we take every precaution to keep our men and women safe and secure.

QUESTION: Right, but what I guess I’m – is it the judgment of the Administration that these guys are not a direct threat or do not – or don’t have the intention or desire to attack the embassy or U.S. personnel or other –

MS. PSAKI: Well, I understand what you’re saying, but they’ve said that they don’t. Now obviously, we watch the situation on the ground. There’s a great deal of violence. It’s very fluid. So we still watch that very closely.

QUESTION: But they do on occasion chant “Death to America” and that kind of thing. So it’s not as if they haven’t expressed anti-American sentiment in the past.

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, Matt, as I mentioned, we continue to assess our security needs every day, regardless of what’s been said. But it is important to note that just this week, they stated that was not their intention.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Have U.S. officials spoken directly with President Hadi?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve been in touch with a range of political leaders. I’m not going to get into details of whom we’ve been in touch with.

QUESTION: Can you say whether the U.S. ambassador is still in Sana’a?

MS. PSAKI: He had prior planned leave and he will be returning, I think, in – later this week or early next.

QUESTION: And then are the employees who were moved from the Embassy, are they staying in the region for the time being? Are they coming back to the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on their status. Some may be relocated where they can better do their jobs. But I’m not going to give you an update on where personnel may be moving to.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: But you – but you’re clear that the Embassy is still open for business?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how the staff who were – were evacuated?

MS. PSAKI: They were not evacuated. They’ve been leaving – departing voluntarily. It’s a reduction in staff. I’m not going to get into details of how, for security purposes.

QUESTION: Just so I can understand clearly, when you talk about what you’d like to see – you don’t expect the situation to go back to the status quo and to, let’s say, before the resignations and before their takeover of Sanaa, do you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, what do you mean by that exactly?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) By that I mean there is a new order in Yemen. Obviously, there are new forces that you might have to work with. So it is something that you would consider.

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly – Said, clearly there have been a range of events that have happened over the course of the last weeks.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: We’re not naive about that.

QUESTION: Okay, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: But obviously, there are also, as I outlined, a number of steps that parliament will take, that will be taken through the constitutional process, that we’re going to see that process play through.

QUESTION: But seeing how they are – the Houthis are really fervent opponents of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, you would like to see some sort of coordination or cooperation with them continue or occur, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Houthis are a legitimate political constituency in Yemen and have a right to participate in affairs of the state. We urge them to be a part of a peaceful transition process. That said, we condemn their use of violence and are concerned by their noncompliance with agreements they have been signatories to. So we certainly have concerns, but I’m not going to get ahead of where we are in the process.

QUESTION: And finally, I have a very quick question. Now, it seems that the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh still plays a major role in this thing. I wonder if you have a comment on that, or if you have any contact with him and his forces?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve spoken to the former president, and as you know, I’d point to the fact that the U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on him just last November for engaging in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, and stability of Yemen. So I don’t have anything more specifically on his engagement.

QUESTION: Yeah. The reason I ask this is because Yemenis say this is basically Ali Abdullah Saleh going back to power in a different dress, in a Houthi dress. That’s their description, not mine. So a new reality.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think when we put sanctions in place because of our view that he was engaging in acts that threaten the peace, stability, and security of Yemen, I think that clearly illustrates what our concerns were at the time.

QUESTION: Can I ask: What’s the U.S. position currently on the territorial integrity of Yemen? It used to be two different countries; of course, they were united. There are some indications or perhaps observations that there could be a split again between south and north. So what is the U.S. position?

MS. PSAKI: We continue to support the unity of Yemen and Yemen’s legitimate institutions. That’s what we feel is in the interest of the Yemini people.

QUESTION: But if there was a move towards a split –

MS. PSAKI: Well, there –

QUESTION: — are there circumstances under which you would support that?

MS. PSAKI: There’s been a range of chatter out there. Our view continues to be that we support the unity of the country.

QUESTION: No, but you know in reality on this very point – I mean, four big governors in the south seceded, basically. They conduct their affairs autonomously and they control a very strategic area. I mean, now you have Iran’s influence in the Strait of Hormuz and in Bab al-Mandab as well.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve – I’ve spoken over the last couple of days about our concerns about Iran’s influence.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) tribal Anbar leaders are reportedly here. I’m not sure you if you have talked about them in the past –

MS. PSAKI: Tribal Anbar leaders –

QUESTION: They are in Washington.

MS. PSAKI: — are in Washington?

QUESTION: Yeah, they’ve been here for a few days.

MS. PSAKI: Let me see I have anything on it. If not, I’m happy to talk to our team and we can see if we have anything specific. And then let’s just finish Yemen before we move on to the next topic.

QUESTION: Given the events of the last 24 hours, how worried is the U.S. about its ongoing counterterrorism operations inside Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think that is one of our primary objectives, as you know, and our partnership and cooperation with the Yemini Government. It has been. We hope it will continue to be. It’s ongoing. So at this point, I don’t have any concerns to express, but obviously it remains a priority and remains one of the reasons we feel it’s important to have a strong presence there.

QUESTION: As you’re assessing the security situation (inaudible) though, are you also reassessing the counterterrorism strategy in the way it has played out in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity? What do you mean by that?

QUESTION: The U.S. counterterrorism strategy, the way it’s been in effect so far, are you also assessing how you can conduct that counterterrorism strategy right now?

MS. PSAKI: Do you mean with whom or with – in what way?

QUESTION: Given that there is no clear government right now.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned, we’re in touch with a range of officials. I’m not going to get into more details on that. Our cooperation on that front is ongoing. Obviously, it’s something that we feel is a priority and we hope it will continue.

QUESTION: Is the Yemeni national security apparatus intact?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s no question, Roz, that there’s tensions and a great deal of violence on the ground. It’s an incredibly fluid situation and we’re watching very closely, but I’m not here to proclaim what is or isn’t. Obviously, institutions have been at risk over the last couple of days. You saw the submission of – or the resignation of the prime minister. There’s no question this is a challenging situation.

QUESTION: Is it – who is running the country? Do you have any idea who is running – I mean –

MS. PSAKI: President Hadi remains the president of Yemen.

QUESTION: Well, I mean who is administering the country. I mean –

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, parliament called an emergency session on Sunday. Obviously, this is a fluid period of time. We remain in touch with a range of officials.

Any more on Yemen before we continue? Go ahead.

QUESTION: What can you say – yeah, what can you say about the relation between the U.S. and the Houthis? Are you cooperating with them? Is there any relation with them?

MS. PSAKI: There’s no meetings I have to read out for you or to confirm for you. There haven’t been.

QUESTION: Could the shared concern or distaste for AQAP possibly be the basis for a relationship between the U.S. and the Houthis, should they come to power?

MS. PSAKI: We do have that shared concern. There are countries we have shared concerns with that we don’t engage with as well. So as you – as I noted just a couple of minutes ago, or not even that long ago, we – the Houthis are a legitimate political constituency. We encourage them to be a part of a peaceful transition. We still have concerns about their – the involvement in violence, and certainly we continue to make that case.

QUESTION: Have you been able to ascertain the extent of their relationship with the government in Tehran?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any assessment of that. I’ve spoken about our concern about the history or recent history of their engagement. We didn’t have – I don’t have anything new in terms of their recent engagement or anything to confirm for you.

Let’s just finish Yemen. Yemen or a new topic?

QUESTION: Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Yemen, okay.

QUESTION: Yeah. Any backchannel talk with the Houthi?

MS. PSAKI: No, there’s no meetings to confirm or read out for you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: The newly appointed chief executive of the BBG said his agency faces a number of, quote-un-quote, challenges – Russia Today, the Islamic State, and Boko Haram – all in one sentence. Would you call those remarks appropriate or inappropriate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, let me note that the Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency supervising all U.S. Government-supported civilian international media. I’d certainly point you to them for specifics. I think the broad point is the U.S. Government – would the U.S. Government put those three in the same category? No, we wouldn’t. However, there are concerns, I think, that our – we agree with in terms of the fact that the – Russia’s own independent media space is shrinking and the Kremlin continues to apply pressure on the few remaining outlets. And while RT is available to many viewers in the United States – you’re here in the briefing room today – many Russian authorities have curtailed the ability of BBG broadcasters to broadcast there. So those are challenges and certainly concerns that I think the new head of BBG was expressing.

QUESTION: Do you have – just to clarify, do you have any problem with the way he put it?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’d point you to them, and I just stated that wouldn’t be the way that we would state it from here.

QUESTION: How would you state it?

MS. PSAKI: We wouldn’t state it in those terms.

QUESTION: Well, the Secretary of State is a member of the BBG.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I just stated the concerns we have, which we agree with.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I would state it in that way.

QUESTION: Okay. So you would not, then, put RT in the same category as Boko Haram and –

MS. PSAKI: That’s what I just said two minutes ago.

QUESTION: Yeah, but you would agree that it is a challenge and –

MS. PSAKI: Correct, I said both of those things.

QUESTION: Can we stay on – roughly on this subject, I’m just wondering if you have – on Ukraine, you had some pretty strong comments at the top. And I wanted to know if you had any further information about the bus incident.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any further information, no.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you know – and I suppose that this is probably better addressed to Secretary Kerry –

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I do have one thing. This may have been out there, Matt, but I didn’t talk about it yesterday. Yesterday’s report from the OSCE established the trolley bus was likely destroyed by a mortar or rocket coming from a northwestern direction. Based on this information alone, it isn’t possible to definitively conclude who was responsible. Obviously, we would condemn, of course, the attacks, the impact on the local population, and certainly we continue to call on all sides to take every precaution to prevent the loss of lives.

QUESTION: Do you know if Secretary Kerry has any Ukraine-related meetings?

MS. PSAKI: Bilateral meetings?

QUESTION: Phone calls?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if there are any calls –

QUESTION: Given – I mean, just – your comments at the top were very – were quite strong, and it evinced a more particular concern perhaps than you have had in the past for that situation, so –

MS. PSAKI: As you know, he met with EU High Representative Mogherini yesterday, and certainly they talked about –

QUESTION: Right, but I mean with Russian or Ukrainian officials.

MS. PSAKI: He doesn’t have any calls I have to read out. He’s also had a pretty back-to-back schedule over the course of the last two days.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Do you have any more on Ukraine before we continue? New topic? Happy Friday?

Go ahead. Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Sorry, very short.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Could you give us an idea of the status of the dialogue between the normalization of diplomatic relations between Bolivia and the United States, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure. I think you’re referring to – and tell me if I’m correct here – some comments that were made by Bolivian Government officials. We welcome the recent comments by the Bolivian Government concerning their interest in strengthening the bilateral relationship. There are a number of areas in which we find common ground with Bolivia, including the environment, commerce, rule of law, and education.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the impeachment of the former Thai prime minister and the ban on her participation in politics?

MS. PSAKI: I think I have a little bit of something. Let me see. We have previously expressed our concerns about the political situation in Thailand. In that context, the United States takes note of the appointed legislative body’s decision to impeach retroactively former Prime Minister Yingluck. We also have noted the separate criminal charges that have been filed against her this week. We believe that the impartial administration of justice and rule of law is essential for equitable governance and a just society. We believe it is a matter for the Thai people to determine the legitimacy of their political and judicial processes. Assistant Secretary Russel is visiting Bangkok next Monday where he will meet with political leaders on all sides, civil society leaders, and others and will also discuss our current – our concern for the situation in Thailand directly with the government.

QUESTION: I believe that his trip will be the most senior – he will be the most senior U.S. official to visit since the coup. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That may be right, Matt. I’m happy to double-check with our team if that’s correct.

QUESTION: Can you, and can you also – I’ve forgotten what the consequence was or whether there was any for U.S. assistance –

MS. PSAKI: Well, there were some impacts on assistance.

QUESTION: Could you just –

MS. PSAKI: We can certainly recirculate that to all of you if you’d like.

QUESTION: All right. And then I just have one more, and apologies if you have addressed this previously.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: But do you have – does the Administration have any thoughts on this case of this Argentine prosecutor who was –

MS. PSAKI: I actually have not addressed this. I would keep your expectations low.

QUESTION: Never.

MS. PSAKI: We are aware of the allegations against President Kirchner, but as this is an ongoing investigation, we have no comment on the specifics and refer inquiries to the Argentine Government. The United States and the international community continue to work with the Argentine Government as well as victims of the AMIA bombing and their families to seek justice.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I’m less interested in what you had to – what you think about what the prosecutor was saying than about his sudden and untimely death apparently at the hands of someone other than himself.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s an ongoing investigation that remains applicable as well, Matt. I would say, just since you’ve given me the opportunity, we express our deepest sorrow for the tragic death of Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman and extend our most sincerest condolences to his family. He courageously devoted much of his professional life to pursuing the perpetrators of the 1994 terrorist attacks on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 and injured hundreds. Judicial authorities are investigating his death, and we call for a complete and impartial investigation. For over 20 years, the United States, we have continued to work closely with the international community and the Argentine Government seeking justice.

QUESTION: As you know, there’s widespread suspicion that Iran had played a role in this attack. Does the United States share that?

MS. PSAKI: There’s an investigation by Argentine authorities. We’re just not going to weigh in or speculate.

QUESTION: And does that include any potential Iranian hand in his death?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not going to speculate in any aspect of his death.

QUESTION: Any quick update on the Cuba talks?

MS. PSAKI: On the Cuba talks?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. PSAKI: Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson gave a press conference today. She gave one yesterday. So I would certainly point you to both of those for more specific details.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: One on Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Forgive me if you already addressed this, but this barrel bomb today in – just outside of Damascus in (inaudible), have you issued any statement or any condemnation?

MS. PSAKI: We haven’t, but it’s a good question. Let me talk to our team so we can get you all some comments on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Okay? Great. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 p.m.)

 
 


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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – January 22, 2015

Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 22, 2015

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TRANSCRIPT:


1:12 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Said is back. Uh-oh. (Laughter.)

Okay. I have two items for all of you at the top before we get started. As all of you have seen, the Secretary is on travel today in London to consult with the United Kingdom and other counter-ISIL coalition partners on our shared efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. His schedule today included meetings with UK Foreign Secretary Hammond, French Foreign Minister Fabius, with EU Special Advisor Cathy Ashton, Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi, and with the counter-ISIL coalition’s small group steering committee, as well as a meeting on Libya. He also had a press availability a couple of hours ago with Foreign Secretary Hammond and with Prime Minister Abadi.

You may have also seen this yesterday, but I just wanted to bring to your attention the statement that was put out by Alex Lee, our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Yesterday, January 21st, U.S. and Cuban officials met in Havana to discuss technical issues related to the Migration Accords of 1994 and 1995 between the United States and Cuba. The Cuban delegation was chaired by Foreign Ministry’s Director General for U.S. Affairs Josefina Vidal Ferreiro. Alex Lee led the delegation for the United States. The United States hosted the last round of these semi-annual talks in July 2014 in Washington.

During these meetings, the United States and Cuba restated their commitment under the Migration Accords to ensure that migration between the two countries remains safe, legal, and orderly. They also agreed to regularly review the implementation of these accords. Continuing to ensure safe and legal migration between Cuba and the United States is consistent with our interest in promoting greater freedoms and increased respect for human rights in Cuba. The productive and collaborative nature of yesterday’s discussions proves that, despite the clear differences that remain between our countries, the United States and Cuba can find opportunities to advance our mutual shared interests, as well as engage in a respectful and thoughtful dialogue.

In addition to discussing the bilateral implementation of the Migration Accords, our teams also exchanged ideas on other aspects of safe migration, such as the return of Cuban excludable aliens, the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program, and the monitoring of repatriated Cuban nationals.

As you’ve also seen, Assistant Secretary Jacobson arrived in Havana yesterday. Yesterday, she met with the Jewish community as part of her engagement with civil society groups in Cuba. There was a working delegation with – working dinner with delegations at the chief of mission residence yesterday evening. This morning, she has been meeting with the Cuban delegation to discuss the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. She’ll also be having a press availability on the ground to discuss that as well.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I want to start somewhere further afield than Cuba, and that would be Yemen, where the government has evaporated, essentially. There’s no president, there’s no vice president, there’s no prime minister, there is no cabinet. What’s your take on the situation, realizing that this is just happening now?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. It just happened. We’ve, obviously, seen the reports. Our team is seeking confirmation of all of the reports. We continue to support a peaceful transition. We’ve urged all parties and continue to urge all parties to abide by the PNPA – the Peace and National Partnership Agreement – the GCC initiative and its implementation mechanism.

As I think you also saw, there was a reported agreement last night between the Yemeni Government and the Houthis. This is a potentially positive step to de-escalate violence in Sana’a and return to established processes of dialogue. There’s no question that implementation of that by the Houthis and taking specific steps, including the immediate release of the presidential chief of staff, pulling back of armed Houthi forces, and steps to get Yemen’s political process back on track are key to determining the success of that.

QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but that’s kind of OBE, as we would say – overtaken by events. There is no government now.

MS. PSAKI: I don't think we look at it in that way, Matt. We’re still seeking confirmation, but we’re also assessing what that would mean.

QUESTION: Right. But you’re referring to an agreement that came out yesterday between a government that no longer exists and a rebel force that appears to have control of – not just appears, does have control of the capital. So I’m wondering how it is that you can continue to support a peaceful transition. I mean, a transition to what?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, again, we don’t have confirmation of it. But we haven’t yet assessed – we’re not going to jump to conclusions about what it means until we have a confirmation and we have time to assess, working with the Yemenis, discussing internally what it means.

QUESTION: In terms of – well, okay. But – I understand that you need the time to assess what it means, but I don’t understand the lack of confirmation, because it’s pretty clear that it’s chaos, that there is no government right now. So I’m not sure that – when you say you continue to support a peaceful transition, are you saying that you continue to support an agreement that was reached yesterday between a government that no longer exists and the Houthis?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, broadly speaking, of course we continue to support a peaceful transition. There have been dialogue, there has – dialogue that we expect and hope will continue. And that’s the only way, in our view, to de-escalate the situation on the ground.

QUESTION: All right. And in terms of the embassy –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — what’s the status of that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted yesterday, but it’s worth repeating, of course the safety and security of our personnel are of paramount importance. We are prepared to adjust our presence if necessary, but there has been no change in our security posture.

QUESTION: So there hasn’t been any change? So basically, anarchy is not enough to get you to adjust your presence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, with all due respect to your assessment as an AP reporter –

QUESTION: Well –

MS. PSAKI: — we have the United States Government and our team on the ground –

QUESTION: Okay. That’s fine.

MS. PSAKI: — assessing what is needed.

QUESTION: I’m not –

MS. PSAKI: And we take it very seriously, and we’ll make changes if we need to.

QUESTION: Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that you should or that I think you should. I’m just wondering what it – what would it take, because it seems pretty bad right now.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve all seen the images on television, and certainly we’ve seen violence escalate over the last several days. There was a lull in that a bit yesterday. But we want to assess what’s needed, and we’re certainly prepared to take steps if we need to.

QUESTION: All right. Last one: Do you know when the last contact was between a U.S. official or State Department official and the now ex-president?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that for you. I can see if there’s more we can offer.

QUESTION: So you don’t agree with the assessment that there’s anarchy in Yemen, then?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’d put it in those terms, so I’ll leave it in my own terms.

QUESTION: What would you describe the situation as, then?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think – I’ll leave it as I just described it, Jo. We’re obviously – there’s news that’s been breaking. We’re assessing what that means. We’re looking for confirmation of that. We’re continuing to encourage and support a peaceful transition. And obviously, we’re not in a position – and I don’t think any of you are, either – to assess what it means at this point in time.

QUESTION: But I just wondered if you had any further updates on the investigation you said was going to take place into the attack or the shooting of your diplomatic vehicle at a checkpoint yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on that at this point in time.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Could I just follow up –

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Can – is it on Yemen, or – just so we –

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, on Yemen. Yes, absolutely.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: First of all, you are not opposed to the principle that the Houthis can actually be part of the government, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a discussion – this has been a discussion happening between parties on the ground. We support that effort, but we’re not making a decision or assessment of that.

QUESTION: Because, although there are different factions and different political agendas, there are mainly two groups, basically. And ultimately, they would have to somehow – to coalesce to form a government. You would support that kind of effort, right?

MS. PSAKI: I think we have to see how this all goes. Obviously, it’s in our interests to have a return to – or a peaceful transition, and we certainly support that, as I’ve stated, Said. But I’m not going to get ahead of where we are. There’s no question it’s a very fluid situation on the ground. Violence has been increasing. It’s something that, certainly, there have been ongoing discussions about internally within the Administration.

QUESTION: The United States and Yemen had very close relationship in fighting terrorism –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — especially al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and that presumably will continue to be the case.

MS. PSAKI: You’re right.

QUESTION: Who are you talking to? I’m sure there are – I mean, you said that there were no contacts or – in response to Matt’s question – at the level –

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say there were no contacts. I said I didn’t have an update. We have remained in touch, certainly, on the ground. I’m not going to outline for you the specific contacts. I will say that our top priority in Yemen remains the counterterrorism effort, where we’ve been targeting al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula for a number of years. That’s ongoing. We targeted – we’ve been targeting AQAP for some time now.

QUESTION: Okay. And my last question is: Are you in contact with the Houthis in any way or at any level on security matters?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more. I will say for you – say to you, Said, and you know this already – that the Houthis don’t want to see the rise or success of al-Qaida in Yemen either.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So certainly, counterterrorism is an effort that is ongoing, but I don’t have any assessment of that at this point.

QUESTION: So that can be construed as common grounds between the United States and this group, right?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to assess it further.

QUESTION: They may not have an interest in seeing AQAP gain ground, but they do have an interest in a – basically creating an Iranian ally. Is that not of concern?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I spoke to this a little bit yesterday.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I think we remain troubled by the long –

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: – the history of work between the Houthis and the Iranians. Now, we don’t assess that there is – or don’t have information on sort of new cooperation on that front.

QUESTION: All right. And I don’t expect you to be able to answer this because literally these reports are just coming in.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: But apparently, the Yemen parliament has rejected President Hadi’s resignation. Realizing that you’re not aware of this – or probably not aware of it since it literally just happened – is that the kind of thing that you would like – it called for an emergency session tomorrow. Is this the kind of – would this be the kind of thing that you would encourage?

MS. PSAKI: I think, Matt, we – I just have to talk to our team. I mean, they’re assessing this as we speak, so I just don’t have any analysis at this point in time.

Any more on Yemen before we continue?

QUESTION: Very quickly.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: What kind of international law could there be for Yemen, I mean, for the next sort of – next phase now, I mean, as things happen now? Or what your ally would say, like Saudi Arabia, and people who brokered the deal to begin with for Yemen – the GCC. What are they doing in terms of –

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted, I think there are proposals and initiatives – the GCC put forward one – that have been out there, and certainly we would support the implementation of. I think there are many countries that you mentioned, and certainly the United States, who have a stake in seeing a peaceful transition. So I’m sure this is a topic that the Secretary and others will continue to discuss with his partner – with his counterparts.

QUESTION: Do you know if it will be raised at all since some of the Gulf countries were at the meeting in London? Was – do you know if it was – any – was there any part of the Secretary’s discussions there –

MS. PSAKI: Let me talk to the traveling team. I hadn’t asked them that specific question, but I can see if it was raised and – on the margins. I wouldn’t be surprised, but I’ll check.

QUESTION: See if Yemen was raised?

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: Yemen, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I have a couple of questions on Syria, but before that, is there any way who can give us a perspective about Secretary Kerry’s visit to Britain with regards to anti-ISIL coalition you just talk about? What is the current – what is the aim of the visit? Is there any way you can –

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would just point you – the Secretary gave extensive remarks and also did a press availability, so I would really point you to that. He outlined the purpose why he was there, what they accomplished, and spoke about it pretty extensively.

QUESTION: You were not asked about this, I believe, yesterday, that the President’s Union of – State of Union speech and his reference to Syria, many people take it as – let me ask this way: Does the U.S. Government still ask Assad to step down at this moment?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure why anyone would have a different assessment from the President’s State of the Union speech. We maintain our belief that Assad has lost all legitimacy and must go. There can never be a stable, inclusive Syria under his leadership. We’ve said that since August of 2011.

QUESTION: Just today, Fred Hof, a former State official, wrote a piece and he was arguing that the current Assad regime terrorizing attacks on civilians still continue after three years that you have been calling. And Mr. Hof’s argument is that U.S. does not give strong message to Iran and Russia to make sure that they put pressure on Assad regime to stop at least attacking civilians with barrel bombs – just happened today in Hasakah, I believe, killing 65 people.

What would you say to that? Are you putting enough pressure to Russia and Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, our discussions with the Iranians are focused on the nuclear negotiations, and that’s our primary focus there. As it relates to Russia, the Secretary, as you know, speaks with Foreign Minister Lavrov on a regular basis. Often Syria is a topic of discussion. We certainly understand that their relationship with the regime is different from our relationship with the regime. We’ve spoken publicly, privately countless times about our concerns about the Assad regime’s attacks and deplorable actions against civilians. There are – the Secretary also had recent meetings on his last trip with de Mistura about his efforts and his initiatives. So we’re really discussing and supporting any option that could reduce the suffering in Syria.

QUESTION: It’s more than a difference. You don’t have a relationship with the Assad regime.

MS. PSAKI: Fair enough. That’s a more clear way of stating it.

QUESTION: And are you saying, based on your answer to the first – the State of the Union question, are you saying – and then your response about Assad having lost legitimacy, are you suggesting that certain people may have over-interpreted what Secretary Kerry may or may not have said in Geneva with Envoy de Mistura?

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s an accurate assessment, yes. And I know Marie spoke about this quite a bit –

QUESTION: She did.

MS. PSAKI: — last week.

QUESTION: But can I just ask –

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — on that point, there – the Russians are putting together talks early next week in Moscow with the Syrians, and some of the Syrian opposition have said they won’t go, some have said they will go.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What is your feeling about these talks? And what is your advice at the moment to the opposition, with whom you’re in touch?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you noted, this is a Russian-led initiative with Syrians. At this time, the United States has not been invited to participate, nor have we been involved in the planning. I think that’s – we’ve spoken about that many times in the past. We welcome any effort to make progress toward addressing Syrians’ core grievances, and anything that would produce a sustainable solution to the conflict. Time will tell whether this meeting is a forum that will make any progress on that front.

On this topic of the opposition, we have been in touch with the opposition. We certainly conveyed we’d support them attending the meetings, but it’s their decision to make.

QUESTION: And you say that the United States hasn’t been invited. Would you like to be invited? Do you think there’s a role for the United States at such talks?

MS. PSAKI: I think there are a range of options, a range of talks under discussion. I don’t think it’s something that we are angling for an invite to.

QUESTION: You’re not sitting by the phone waiting for the call? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Or you could say it that way.

QUESTION: And you don’t think it – but I mean, considering that the United States has had such an investment in – certainly in the Syrian opposition, would it not be helpful at least to have some kind of observer status at these talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain in close touch with the opposition. They know they can call us. We call them. We’re in close touch with them. We’ll see what comes out of these talks and discussions and what the next step is.

We have been in touch with Russia over the course of the last two years about what role we can all play in a political transition. We’ll see if there’s anything that comes out of this meeting.

QUESTION: And the Assad regime – government has seemed to make it clear that what they want to talk about is an end to terrorism and not really about an end to – or not really about a political transition away from the Assad government.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So given that, do you really believe or do you think that this could actually address what you call the Syrians’ core – the Syrian opposition’s core demands?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not just the Syrian opposition’s call. If you dial back to a year ago and the meeting of, I think, more than 60 countries and entities in Geneva, it was the call of the international community to have a political transition consistent with the principles of the Geneva communique, which are, by mutual consent, a transition of the government in Syria.

Of course, terrorism remains a concern. Obviously, ISIL is a concern that many countries, including the United States has. But that needs to be the objective of these discussions and negotiations and that remains our view.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, reconcile for us, if you can, all these statements that you make. On the one hand you say that he lost all legitimacy, knowing that Assad represents a large minority in the country, there is a huge number of people that actually look to Assad as their representative. And on the other hand, you’re saying you want a political solution. How could you reconcile these divergent positions, in essence?

MS. PSAKI: I frankly don’t see – think they contradict, Said. It’s long been our position that when you have a dictator who has –

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: — killed tens of thousands of his people or tens of thousands of people have died on his watch, he no longer is the legitimate leader. But we believe that transitioning through a political process is the right way to move forward.

QUESTION: I understand, but, I mean, he’s not going anywhere. He’s been around for a long time. This killing will continue to go on, and obviously the best solution would be to bring all these groups together. So wouldn’t it be wise and prudent for you to encourage the opposition to go to these meetings in Moscow and elsewhere and perhaps restart some sort of talks, maybe Geneva 3, like you said.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said –

QUESTION: Sixty countries participate and so on.

MS. PSAKI: — I know you often like to bring up Geneva 3, and you’re a fan of that. But –

QUESTION: I’m not a fan of that. I’m a fan of any country that would –

MS. PSAKI: — I would say, Said, that again, we support – there are a range of discussions and mechanisms by which talks can happen. It’s up to the opposition. We conveyed to them we would support them attending. They’ll make those decisions.

Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: Were you able to get a U.S. reaction to the Israeli killing of the Iranian general on the Golan Heights?

MS. PSAKI: There’s just nothing I’m going to add to what I said yesterday on that.

QUESTION: Could we stay –

QUESTION: But you condemn – you condemn –

QUESTION: — on that same topic?

MS. PSAKI: Hmm?

QUESTION: I want to stay on Israel for a second.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday, in his press conference, the Secretary quoted an unnamed Israeli – senior Israeli intelligence official as telling a congressional delegation that new sanctions on Iran, quote – imposing new sanctions on Iran now would be like, quote, “throwing a hand grenade into the process.” It – the way that he presented it – the Secretary – it sounded as though whoever this senior intelligence official was was opposed to sanctions. It now emerges that this official may have, in fact, been either supporting the sanctions because they want the talks collapse and then resume with more pressure on the Iranians. So I’m wondering, does the Secretary believe that whoever told him about what this intelligence official said was misleading him?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speak – I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you – to – further to private discussions that happen with Israeli intelligence officials about intel assessments other –

QUESTION: Well, he brought it up, not me.

MS. PSAKI: Well, other than to convey it was a discussion of assessments, not policy recommendations. Intelligence agencies do assessments; they don’t make policy recommendations.

QUESTION: But the way the – the context in which the Secretary said this was that even the Israelis think that it’s a bad idea for – or even an Israeli intelligence official thinks that it’s a bad idea to impose sanctions. And that does not seem to be the case.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me unpack that a little bit further. We are quite familiar with the views of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the policy advisors within the Israeli Government about sanctions and what they view as – whether they should take place and when they should be put in place. We agree that sanctions have helped get us to the point we’re at. We have a disagreement about the way to achieve our shared goal, which is preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. I’m not going to confirm or speak further to conversations members of Congress may have had with intelligence officials other than to convey they were about intelligence assessments; they’re not about what their view is on policy. We know what the Israeli Government’s view is on sanctions.

QUESTION: Well, the official in question – or at least who has released a statement about what he told the Congressional delegation – says that what he meant to say or what his hand grenade reference to was the fact – was that his assessment was that if new sanctions were introduced, the Iranians might walk away, but then it would be temporary and that they would eventually come back to the table and that you – meaning the P5+1 negotiators and in particular the U.S. – would be in a better position to negotiate with Iran than you are right now. It seems from the context that the Secretary used this quote yesterday is that the Administration is trying to suggest that there is daylight or a rift or some kind of a gap between what Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks and what the Mossad – what the Israeli intelligence – at least this one official – thinks. That does not appear to be the case. So I’m wondering if you can say whether the Secretary was misled into thinking that that was actually the situation.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have an assessment for you on what was or wasn’t discussed during the meeting with Congressional officials. What I can convey is that there are many around the world who have assessed – whether you want to call it a political assessment or what you want to call it – including a range of European leaders who put out an op-ed today in the Washington Post – that if we move forward with sanctions, that could blow up the negotiations and could even destroy the international sanctions regime as it exists. So whether or not that specific assessment was made during a private meeting, I don’t have any confirmation of that.

QUESTION: Right. But the problem with that is that the Secretary himself raised it. He is the one who said it. He did it unprompted and the context in which he presented it was to suggest that there is some – there is disagreement that Israel – the Israeli Government and its – elements of the Israeli Government are not united about this, and in fact think that new sanctions – some of them think that new sanctions are wrong. So that’s why the question arises to you, and I realize we probably should be asking him. But the second thing is is that you say – you point out this op-ed that the Europeans wrote, but yesterday in the press conference with the external affairs – or whatever her title is now –

MS. PSAKI: EU high representative.

QUESTION: Right. When – after the Secretary said that his opinion was that new sanctions would hurt rather than hinder – would hurt rather than help the process and blow it up, she pointedly said – and I recognize that she’s not in these negotiations, but she said she couldn’t offer any prediction about what sanctions would do. So there seems to be a disagreement in –

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can assure you those who are on her staff who are in the negotiations feel that it would have a detrimental impact, and that’s what they’re conveying.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Staying on this –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Suppose there is that rogue element; suppose that the Mossad has gone on its own in opposition to Netanyahu. Is that a good thing? Would that be, like – would that augment the call for no more sanctions, do you think?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand your desire to go down this road, but I’m not going to journey down it with you.

QUESTION: Okay. And let me ask you another question on the same topic.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the Israeli prime minister is completely focused on his re-election and come what may? I mean, they go, they strike in Syria, they do all kinds of things basically to sabotage whatever chances for a deal. Are you – is that the feeling in this building?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have an assessment of the prime minister of Israel’s views on his election.

QUESTION: Do you feel that the prime minister of Israel is basically doing all he can to obfuscate any effort in terms of reaching a deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, we have – we agree on the objective, which is to prevent Iran –

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: — from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We disagree on the way to get there. There are many who agree with where we are, which is that putting new sanctions in place would be incredibly detrimental to the process and could even destroy the international sanctions regime.

QUESTION: So –

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure when the prime minister comes here and visits the United States he’ll talk about this, and we’ll continue to have a discussion and debate.

QUESTION: Okay. By the way, when he comes here to the United States on February 11 –

QUESTION: No, no.

QUESTION: No?

QUESTION: It’s March.

QUESTION: March. Okay, all right. March 11th.

QUESTION: It’s March 3rd.

QUESTION: March 3rd. Okay, that’s AIPAC. Yeah, right. Anyway, let me go back –

MS. PSAKI: We should just get a calendar out here on upcoming events. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: The White House has said that the President – that President Obama will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he comes. Will Secretary Kerry see him? Is there some prohibition against that kind of thing, given the election?

MS. PSAKI: He will not, and just for the benefit of everybody, let me just repeat the reasons why. I know some of you have seen the White House statement. But as a long – as a matter of longstanding practice and principle, we typically – the President obviously does not see heads of state or candidates, and neither will the Secretary of State, in close proximity to their elections so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country. So the White House announced the President will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and neither will Secretary Kerry when he’s here.

QUESTION: This expression, this entire expression –

QUESTION: Does that apply to lower-level officials?

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s – I think the –

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I’m just curious. I mean, he is a – he’s not a head of state, actually. He’s a head of government. But –

MS. PSAKI: Okay, sorry.

QUESTION: But when –

MS. PSAKI: We were saying a general –

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. PSAKI: — a general – if it were others as well, Matt.

QUESTION: I understand. But when a head of state does come here, there is some coordination usually –

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — just security-wise or whatever.

QUESTION: You’re right. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I mean, are you saying that there will be no contact at all between Administration officials –

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of plans for other meetings, Matt, but I can certainly check. I don’t think there will be.

QUESTION: And this – you make this an emphatic expression of basically distrust in the American position by the Israeli prime minister saying and despite repeated announcement by the President and by the government that we have Israel’s back, we will continue, we will not throw it under the bus, to use the term that they use and so on. But they are relentless. He is relentless in saying no, no, no, no, and so on, that in spite of saying –

MS. PSAKI: Do you have a question in there?

QUESTION: My question is –

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — do you think that he’s basically driving his own political agenda on this issue and not really the nature of the talks?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to do political analysis on the Israeli election from here.

QUESTION: Can I ask –

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: — specifically on Keystone. Sorry to –

MS. PSAKI: Can you – we finish Israel? Is that okay?

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: And then we’ll go back to Keystone. Any more on Israel before we –

QUESTION: Yeah, regarding the Palestinians. I mean, Israel and the Palestinians.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, let’s do one more and then we’ll go to Keystone. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Yeah, because I have some questions on the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Today, the Israelis authorized the building of 62 – 66 housing in an illegal settlement basically on – that is in the courts. Do you have any position on this or do you know anything about it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our settlements on – our position on settlements are well-known. I had not seen that report. I’m happy to follow up with our team on our specific view on that if there’s anything additional to add.

QUESTION: Okay. Now on the issue of aid to the Palestinians, we know that in the bill that was passed, I think in December and so on, calls for cutoff of aid for the Palestinians. And we know that the budget, the 2015 budget does not include a waiver clause in it for the President to basically do aid. So if the – if Congress decides to cut off the aid, what is the next step for you, knowing that the Palestinian situation is very precarious and very critical?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s exactly right, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. But like –

MS. PSAKI: But why don’t we get you some more specifics on where things stand.

Keystone?

QUESTION: Okay, and my last question –

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. My last question is between now and let’s say the election, do you have any plans to meet with any Palestinian officials?

MS. PSAKI: We remain in touch, as you know, on the ground and over the phone with Palestinian officials, absolutely. I don’t have any meetings to read out for you, but –

QUESTION: So at least for the time being, you are reconciled to the fact that they did file with the ICC, they may try again at the –

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say reconciled. Our view is well-known. We’ve stated it many times on this position. But it doesn’t mean we don’t maintain contact. We do.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I ask – today up on the Hill, the Canadian ambassador, Gary Doer, was up there supporting in a press conference the bill to authorize Keystone XL. He said a couple of things which were perhaps a little bit undiplomatic – I’m not sure – of saying that he had heard the President’s speech at the State of the Union in which he talked about science. He says the science in the State Department report backs up the – giving approval to Keystone and says it’s our job to correct the facts and correct the myths that have been established around Keystone, basically making a plea for the Keystone.

Do you have a reaction to that? Does the science in the State Department report back up having a – giving approval to the pipeline?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re all familiar with the view of the Canadian Government on this issue, and they have spoken about it quite frequently. And we have an ongoing dialogue with them about a range of issues. The fact is, and what we certainly convey to any official in Canada, is that there is an ongoing process. As you know, last week – but we were on the trip, so just to update those of you who didn’t see it – the Department of State – we notified the eight agencies identified in the executive order that they have until February 2nd to provide their views on the national interest with regard to the Keystone pipeline permit application. Obviously, what will be taken into account is all of the information and the studies that have been under – that the agency and others have undergone over the past several months, and certainly responses by the eight federal agencies listed in the executive order are part of our internal process.

So there’s an internal process. There’s lots of information that comes in and will continue to come in, and we’ll look at all of that as we make an assessment.

QUESTION: And have you given yourself a deadline beyond the February 2nd to determine, to come up with the State Department’s determination on this?

MS. PSAKI: No, there’s not another deadline. That needs to be looked at an assessed. That’s the next step in the process.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead. Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yes. Do the actions of the Ukrainian Government comply with the Minsk agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to something specifically or –

QUESTION: Yes, using heavy artillery, shelling residential areas.

MS. PSAKI: And where are you referring to that happening?

QUESTION: In areas near Donetsk. Is it – is it not happening? Are you suggesting that it is not happening?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m just asking because, obviously, there was a terrible attack, as – and I’m not sure you’re referencing this – at a bus stop in Donetsk –

QUESTION: There have been a few days of shellings. No, that – including –

MS. PSAKI: — this morning. Okay.

QUESTION: Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: And there’s an investigation on that particular incident that is ongoing by the OSCE. And certainly, we call on all sides to assist with the process. We understand that they have visited the scene and will produce a report once it’s concluded its fact-finding. And this incident certainly goes the heart of why we must see immediate implementation of the agreement made at yesterday’s Normandy format meeting in Berlin, which included Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany.

I would say that we’ve seen a preponderance of violations by the Russians and the Russian-backed separatists, whether that’s the movement of artillery or military equipment, or – and I’d also remind everyone that the country is Ukraine, so Ukraine is defending their own territory. There are a larger number of political prisoners.

QUESTION: I didn’t mean –

MS. PSAKI: So there are a number of steps that Russia and the Russian-backed separatists need to take, but we certainly expect both sides to abide by it.

QUESTION: I didn’t mean just this incident. There have been a few days –

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — of shellings. Do these actions comply with the Minsk agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, without speaking generally, because I always think there’s a danger in that if you’re not talking about specific incidents – in general, Russia has illegally – and Russian-backed separatists – have illegally come into Ukraine, including Donetsk. Ukraine has a responsibility and absolutely the right to defend themselves. Now, we certainly expect both sides to abide by the Minsk agreements. We have not seen that happen. We’ve seen a lot of talk, not a lot of backup, from the Russian side. If there are specific incidents, I’m more than happy to talk about them.

QUESTION: I’m specifically asking about the actions of the Ukrainian Government. Can you give a more definitive answer whether or not they comply with the Minsk agreement?

MS. PSAKI: You’re not talking about a specific incident. I think I’ll leave it at what I said.

QUESTION: Well, wait. Go ahead.

QUESTION: With the Minsk agreement, do they comply? You pass a judgment that Russia is not complying with the agreement. Can you assess whether Ukraine is complying?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I listed a range of specific ways that Russia is not complying, and those are all public information. So if there’s a specific incident where Ukraine is not, let’s talk about it.

QUESTION: Yes, there is. Well, under the agreement –

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — sides must avoid deploying and using heavy artillery. Isn’t it what the Ukrainian Government is doing right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first of all, let’s start again with the fact that Russia is – has illegally intervened in Ukraine and come into a country that was a sovereign country.

QUESTION: I’m asking specifically about the actions of the Ukrainian Government –

MS. PSAKI: So I’m not sure if you’re proposing that a sovereign country doesn’t have the right to defend themselves.

QUESTION: — veering off and toward Russia.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re going to leave it at that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you just specifically about the incident this morning with the bus.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: What was your – you said it’s under investigation?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: But can you not at least condemn whoever it was that did it?

MS. PSAKI: Of course, of course. We condemn the further violence in eastern Ukraine at a bus stop in Donetsk this morning, which claimed at least a dozen innocent lives. Absolutely.

QUESTION: And that means that you would condemn if it was the government that did it, right? The Kyiv government.

MS. PSAKI: Of course. The loss of lives –

QUESTION: And you would condemn it if it was the separatists who did it?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you say – but at the same time, you’re saying that the Government of Ukraine has the – I think you said the right and – the responsibility and the right to defend itself. Do you see actions like that, like the shelling – or this shelling of the bus as being within the – being within that purview?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speculate on that, Matt. We don’t have information on the specifics here. Obviously, when it’s the death of innocent civilians, that’s something we would condemn in Ukraine or anywhere around the world. The point I was making was a larger point about whether or not Ukraine should be able to use military equipment in their own country.

QUESTION: Well, okay, understandable. That – I understand that. But the problem is that you seem to be – you’re condemning the separatists for doing things that presumably you also don’t have full investigation into.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of incidents we certainly have seen –

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: — exactly what’s happened. So broadly speaking –

QUESTION: But when –

MS. PSAKI: — the preponderance of violations are on the Russian –

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: — and Russian-backed separatist side.

QUESTION: And – which may be the case, but I don’t – I can’t say that. I don’t know that. But this – it just seems to be that when the Government of Ukraine is accused of shelling, of bombarding civilian targets when they are – that accusation is made, you refrain from – you don’t take – you say let’s have an investigation into it. And when there are incidents that you ascribe to the separatists, there’s an immediate condemnation. So I think that’s where these questions are coming –

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that’s exactly what’s happened. There are times where it’s clear who is responsible. This is a case where there’s going to be an investigation.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: There are also violations like the failure to release certain prisoners –

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: — the fact that they are moving military equipment across the border, things that are violations that don’t involve attacks.

QUESTION: But this bus incident happened in a place that’s controlled by the separatists, and it’s probably unlikely that the separatists would bomb themselves. Is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll let the investigation see itself through, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I understand that. But it would seem, just if you were, like, looking at it from the outside, that this was not a self-inflicted wound; that it was done in the course of what you say is the right and responsibility of the Government of Ukraine to defend itself. Is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I understand why you’re putting together different details to come to that point, but we’re going to see the investigation through.

QUESTION: All right. It’s pretty obvious, though, isn’t it, no?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll let the investigation –

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: — see itself through. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Pakistan –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — there are reports about two organizations, Jamaat ud-Daawa and Haqqani Network, being banned by Pakistan. Have they informed you or have they really been banned?

MS. PSAKI: Can you say this one more time?

QUESTION: Jamaat ud-Daawa and Haqqani Network, the two terrorist organizations, have they been banned by Pakistan? Have they informed you about it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen the reports, and there have been a range of reports.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: The Pakistani Government has made clear in both private conversations and public statements that it’s in Pakistan’s own interest to take steps against all militant groups in Pakistan, and explicitly to not differentiate between such group. We support this commitment and believe that it’s fundamental to addressing terrorism and ensuring attacks such as the horrific one that happened just weeks ago at the – that impacted the Peshawar schoolchildren never occur again. We recognize that Pakistan is working through the process of implementing measures to thwart violent extremism, including the national action plan. We don’t have any confirmation of specific steps.

QUESTION: But at the same time, they are having a huge march later this week. How do you see that? On the one hand, they have banned organizations; the other hand, the leaders are roaming around in public.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have – do you have more details on the march and the purpose of it? I don’t have details on that.

QUESTION: I can send you the details.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Okay, great. More on Pakistan or India?

QUESTION: One more on Ukraine. I’m sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure that it’s clear.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: The Ukrainian Government is using heavy artillery in residential areas, is it not? Isn’t it a violation of the Minsk agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, as I’m sure you’re aware, there was an agreement for Russia to pull back their heavy artillery yesterday as part of the agreement made in Berlin. I would go back to the same point I made. Without getting into speaking to generalizations, Ukraine is a sovereign country.

QUESTION: It’s a specific question. It’s not a generalization.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish – let me finish my answer, please. Thank you. There – they have the right to defend themselves. If you’re talking about specific incidents, then I’m happy to speak to them, but I’m not going to answer your questions on broad generalizations.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I got two more on Syria. One is that these two Japanese hostage, as far as I know, deadline is tomorrow. Do you have any update? Do you talk to Turkish Government on this specific issue?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have updates on conversations with the Turkish Government. Obviously, as you know, we have a range of conversations with the Turkish Government about Syria and other issues. I talked a little bit a few days ago about the Secretary’s conversations with Foreign Minister Kishida and others about how horrific this is, the video, the threats. I unfortunately don’t have any updates on the status.

QUESTION: On this. Okay. The second one is about the train and equip program. Last time, I believe we were told that this program should kick off in March. We are almost end of January. Do you still think this timetable is going to work?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to my colleague, Admiral Kirby, over at the Pentagon who spoke to this extensively last week –

QUESTION: Okay. I will see –

MS. PSAKI: — in terms of the timing and the specifics.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: And I think that might help you in terms of where things stand.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on Japan?

MS. PSAKI: On Japan? Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. Did you have any advice for them about regarding the ransom that they were (inaudible) to pay?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re all familiar with what the view of the United States is on ransom payments – that it puts citizens at risk, and it certainly is not a policy that we here in the United States implement or we support. So that certainly is something I think Japan knows our longstanding position on that issue.

QUESTION: Follow-up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How confident are you that Japan will abide by U.S. position on ransoms? And if it doesn’t, how will this affect U.S.-Japan relations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, I’m not going to get ahead of the process here. Obviously, our view is known. The reasons for our view is known. I don’t have any assessment of Japan’s plans.

QUESTION: Do you know, though, if you’ve had contact with the Japanese to tell them of your position or to suggest to them that it might not be a wise idea to pay a ransom?

MS. PSAKI: We have conveyed privately our position and they’re familiar, certainly publicly, of course, with our position as well.

QUESTION: And your position is that in this specific case that if Japan paid a ransom it would put other Japanese citizens at risk?

MS. PSAKI: Well, and all citizens. Yes.

QUESTION: And – right. But you’re –

MS. PSAKI: For kidnapping, and only sustains the terrorist organizations.

QUESTION: Follow-up on Japan?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So if there’s any – is there any specific coordination or supports that the U.S. has provided to Japan or is willing to provide?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into specific details about our private diplomatic conversations. As you know, the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Kishida just two days ago, I believe, and certainly we’re prepared to provide any support we can.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Change of topic. Qatar?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And admitted al-Qaida operative in the United States, Ali al-Marri, was released last week from federal prison and then transferred to Qatar. What was the State Department’s involvement in his transfer?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any details or specifics I can confirm on that. I think it’s more of a question for DOJ and others, but I can certainly follow up and see if there’s more we can offer.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, that is called the million march. It’s to be held in Karachi on Sunday, and it’s a call being given by Hafiz Sayeed of Jamaat-ud-Dawa. This is a protest against the publication of cartoons in the latest issue by Charlie Hebdo issue.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to talk to our team about it. Did you have a specific question about it? What our view is or –

QUESTION: No. If there is a ban on the organization, how come they are having the public rally of millions march?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not – I don’t know enough about the march to know if there’s a specific connection there.

QUESTION: And coming to India about – after Secretary’s trip where he met the prime minister, and now President is traveling, did Secretary get a chance to brief the President on his India trip?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has certainly been over at the White House for a range of meetings over the last couple of days. I know, obviously, they plan to discuss his meetings while he was in India, and the Secretary’s had lunch with – I believe just a few days ago with National Security Advisor Susan Rice. So he’s certainly seen the President quite a bit about a range of topics, but he certainly has passed on his meetings and his assessment of what happened there.

Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: I just – I wanted to bring it back to Yemen for one second.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: There are some reports of secession, the possibility of secession in southern Yemen. Is – would the U.S. support that as part of its support for a political – peaceful political transition, or would you have specific comments on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know there were a range of proposals – I think this is what you’re referring to – that were kind of being worked through in the political agreement between the Houthis and the Hadi government. I don’t have any particular assessment of particular components we support or don’t support. In general, we support de-escalation, we support a peaceful transition. I can see if there’s anything we have particular concern with.

QUESTION: Well, actually I think it’s the security directorate in the Aden – the port has – is expected to make an important announcement later.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well –

QUESTION: And we’re not sure this is part of the deal between –

MS. PSAKI: Okay, separate issue then. Okay.

QUESTION: If she’s referring to the same thing.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Is that what you’re referring to? Okay, we’ll look into that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a clarification on Iran deadlines?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In his testimony at the Committee on Foreign Relations, Deputy Secretary Blinken mentioned that for a political agreement, we’re looking for a conclusion by the end of March.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But Senator Menendez was talking about March 24th for some reason. Is March 24th a specific deadline as well, or is it March 31st?

MS. PSAKI: March 31st. It’s approximately four months past the timing of the last meeting. So we know there has been confusion, and we wanted to be a little bit more clear about how we’re looking at the timelines.

QUESTION: So March 24th was just Menendez’s personal question?

MS. PSAKI: I think it was just adding four months, but March 31st is the timeline.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a question on Cuba.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You began by talking about Cuba. Today, apparently, the talks began on the issue of diplomatic exchange and so on.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So if this happens, what is, like, the timeline? I mean, when is it likely that a Cuban embassy would be opened in Washington and vice versa, and people begin to travel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have an exact timeline for you. It’s something that we’ll continue working on over the coming weeks. And the Secretary spoke a little bit yesterday to some of the specifics that would need to be worked through, including lifting travel restrictions on diplomats, lifting caps on the number of diplomatic personnel, unimpeded shipments for our mission, free access to our mission by Cubans. Those are all issues that are being discussed on the ground, and Assistant Secretary Jacobson is doing a press avail as we speak, perhaps, to talk about these issues.

Now, we didn’t expect that this would all be worked through or determined. It’s just a beginning of the discussion. And clearly, we hope that the speed at which these issues are resolved will escalate now that we’re engaging in dialogue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just back to Qatar, are you saying the State Department had no involvement in this transfer?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more –

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: — to offer for you.

Okay. Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: I have just one more which is –

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: — completely different from everything else.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Which is, I believe the Turkish Government has invited leaders to the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli remembrance ceremony. Does Secretary Kerry plan to attend? If not, is the U.S. sending anybody else?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I believe that is in April, if I’m correct about the timing of it –

QUESTION: April 24th, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: — which, believe it or not, is about a century away in travel. So I don’t have anything to announce. Approximately. It’s a figure of speech, Matt. Matt is rolling his eyes at me up here. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You mean it’ll be in 2115?

MS. PSAKI: You’re so exact. It’s quite some time away in how we do travel plans, so I have no travel plans to announce for the Secretary or any other official here.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: An eon, perhaps, not a century.

MS. PSAKI: An eon? I think that’s longer than a century, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Whatever. I got two really brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: First is on Bahrain.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: I don’t know if Marie last week spoke to this at all or if you have been asked this before, but I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts on the conviction of Nabeel Rajab – the sentence that he was given and the travel ban that was imposed upon him.

MS. PSAKI: I believe we have – well, maybe not. Let me repeat –

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: — some points here, and I apologize if this is repetitive. We’re disappointed by the sentence. It is our understanding that Mr. Rajab may appeal the case. As we have consistently say around the world – as we consistently say around the world, the United States does not agree with the prosecution of individuals for crimes of peaceful political expression. As we said last October, we urge the Government of Bahrain to drop the charges against him.

QUESTION: Okay. And release him, presumably?

MS. PSAKI: Presumably, yes.

QUESTION: All right. And then the second one is on Egypt. First is a logistical one.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And I don’t even know if this is possible, because I don’t know if President al-Sisi is going to be in Davos when the President – when the Secretary gets there or not. Do you know –

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure they’re overlapping, but –

QUESTION: Well, okay. Do you know if there are any plans for him on his current trip to see any Egyptian officials, whether it’s the president or not?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check. Not that I’d seen on the last schedule, but I’m happy to check –

QUESTION: All right. The –

MS. PSAKI: — where the bilats sits right now.

QUESTION: Yesterday – this is a little convoluted.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yesterday, in his meeting with the Australian foreign minister, do you know if the Secretary raised the case of the Al Jazeera journalist – the Australian Al Jazeera journalist who’s being held in Egypt? Did that come up at all, do you know?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that was a part of the discussion they had at – they had a few minutes one-on-one, but not in the meeting that I was in. Obviously, I would just reiterate it was not a very long meeting, because it was between the meeting with EU High Representative Mogherini and he had to get to a meeting at the White House, so it was a bit condensed.

QUESTION: Right, okay. But it is safe to assume, though, that your position on the jailing and the prosecution of these journalists in Egypt is something that –

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. And it’s something –

QUESTION: — you’re opposed to?

MS. PSAKI: — we’ve talked about in the past and we certainly talk about at a range of levels.

QUESTION: That you’re opposed to it? That you think that they should be released?

MS. PSAKI: The Al Jazeera journalists?

QUESTION: Right, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: I have a very quick question –

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — Iran-related. Yesterday, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sent a letter or addressed a letter to Western news, telling them not to prejudge Islam. Is that – is he within his right to do so? And did he breach any protocol by doing that? Or what is your reaction? Have you read it?

MS. PSAKI: I –

QUESTION: And then maybe you can comment on Deflate-gate. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We’ve certainly seen that letter. I don’t have a comment on it, including any breaches of protocol or otherwise.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:03 p.m.)


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Twenty First Century Water Asset Accounting: Case Studies Report

America’s decaying water infrastructure presents significant financial and logistical
challenges for water utilities. Green infrastructure has been gaining traction as a viable alternative and complement to traditional “grey” infrastructure for water management. Current accounting frameworks, however, may not adequately account for the value of these assets, and the absence of appropriate accounting and valuation tools may limit the ability of utilities to maintain or expand green approaches. This project developed two potential accounting frameworks to help water utilities assess and account for the ecosystem services provided by green infrastructure. The frameworks were pilot tested at three participating public water utilities over a period of five months to assess the benefits and feasibility of implementing national-scale accounting methods for green infrastructure. Several themes on green infrastructure accounting emerged from the pilot tests: the effects of regulatory vs. non-regulatory drivers, the importance of information flow both to the utilities from outside experts and within municipal government, and the need for standardized methods for assessing and accounting for the services provided by green infrastructure. Pilot test participants indicated that with further refinement of the
accounting frameworks and the development of standardized guidance for valuing green
infrastructure by the GASB (Government Accounting Standards Board), national-scale
implementation of these accounting frameworks could be possible.

Dual Water Systems: Characterization and Performance for Distribution of Reclaimed Water

The research tasks included: an inventory of cases where dual systems have been implemented; formulation of a protocol to identify claimed benefits, costs, and risks; collection of data (quantitative and anecdotal) to assess performance; display of data in the form of performance results; and explanation of the results. Approximately 335 U.S. systems were identified. Thirty-seven case studies are included. Practically all U.S. dual water systems are being implemented to extend use of scarce supplies and/or offer new options for wastewater management. Improvement of water safety and lowering of water infrastructure costs were not found to be significant drivers for the use of dual systems. The case studies showed that the main uses of water reuse systems are for non-potable applications such as landscape and agricultural irrigation, toilet flushing, industrial process water, power plant cooling, wetland nourishment, and groundwater recharge. While fire-fighting uses seem appropriate, acceptance by fire departments is limited due to health and reliability concerns. Some cross-connections have occurred, but major health problems were not identified. Cost accounting and rate-setting systems for dual water systems need further development.

Human Dimensions of our Estuaries and Coasts

The connection between humans and the sea via the coastal margin is well understood. Many of our major cities are built in the coastal zone, and 44 % of the world’s population lives within 150 km of the coast (United Nations 2014a). This tight connection is driven by the benefits of commerce and the natural environment in the form of ecosystem goods and services. Our relationship with our coastal areas, however, is a delicate one. We receive numerous benefits but also have significant impacts on the systems providing these benefits. Quite simply, we often dominate our coasts, thus making the issue of governance even more relevant (Weinstein et al.
2007). Anthropogenic impacts, thus, eventually feedback and impact our well-being (MEA 2005; Cardinale, et al. 2012). Like many complex biogeochemical reactions, multiple ecosystem, economic, and social–cultural reagents combine in multiple ways to influence the end result. We propose here that the reagents of human well-being can be broken down to their elemental form. In autumn of 2011, the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation held its 21st biennial meeting. The theme of that
conference was Societies, Estuaries, and Coasts: Adapting to Change. A unique aspect of this particular convening was the emphasis placed upon the interaction of humans with coastal environments, both as beneficiaries and sources of problems. The substantial number of presentations focusing on human dimensions demonstrated an expertise not traditionally a part of biophysical scientist gatherings. The success of that assemblage spurred the idea for a special theme section of the Federation’s journal, Estuaries and Coasts. This paper introduces that special section.

Associations of Mortality with Long-Term Exposures to Fine and Ultrafine Particles, Species and Sources: Results from the California Teachers Study Cohort

Author Affiliations close

1Air Pollution Epidemiology Section, California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Oakland, California, USA; 2Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis, California, USA; 3Cancer Prevention Institute of California, Berkeley, California, USA; 4City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, California, USA

About This Article open

This EHP Advance Publication article has been peer-reviewed, revised, and accepted for publication. EHP Advance Publication articles are completely citable using the DOI number assigned to the article. This document will be replaced with the copyedited and formatted version as soon as it is available. Through the DOI number used in the citation, you will be able to access this document at each stage of the publication process.

Citation: Ostro B, Hu J, Goldberg D, Reynolds P, Hertz A, Bernstein L, Kleeman MJ. Associations of Mortality with Long-Term Exposures to Fine and Ultrafine Particles, Species and Sources: Results from the California Teachers Study Cohort. Environ Health Perspect; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1408565.

Received: 15 April 2014
Accepted: 22 January 2015
Advance Publication: 23 January 2015

Accessible PDF icon PDF Version (3 MB) | Accessible PDF icon Supplemental Material (491 KB)

Abstract

Background: While several cohort studies report associations between chronic exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) and mortality, few have studied the effects of chronic exposure to ultrafine (UF) particles. In addition, few studies have estimated the effects of the constituents of either PM2.5 or UF particles.

Methods: We used a statewide cohort of over 100,000 women from the California Teachers Study who were followed from 2001 through 2007. Exposure data at the residential level were provided by a chemical transport model that computed pollutant concentrations from over 900 sources in California. Besides particle mass, monthly concentrations of 11 species and 8 sources or primary particles were generated at 4 km grids. We used a Cox proportional hazards model to estimate the association between the pollutants and all-cause, cardiovascular, ischemic heart disease (IHD) and respiratory mortality.

Results: We observed statistically significant (p < 0.05) associations of IHD with PM2.5 mass, nitrate elemental carbon (EC), copper (Cu), and secondary organics and the sources gas- and diesel-fueled vehicles, meat cooking, and high sulfur fuel combustion. The hazard ratio estimate of 1.19 (95% CI: 1.08, 1.31) for IHD in association with a 10-µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 is consistent with findings from the American Cancer Society cohort. We also observed significant positive associations between IHD and several UF components including EC, Cu, metals, and mobile sources.

Conclusions: Using an emissions-based model with a 4 km spatial scale, we observed significant positive associations between IHD mortality and both fine and ultrafine particle species and sources. Our results suggest that the exposure model effectively measured local exposures and facilitated the examination of the relative toxicity of particle species.

Title: Associations of Mortality with Long-Term Exposures to Fine and Ultrafine Particles, Species and Sources: Results from the California Teachers Study Cohort

Author Affiliations close

1Air Pollution Epidemiology Section, California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Oakland, California, USA; 2Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis, California, USA; 3Cancer Prevention Institute of California, Berkeley, California, USA; 4City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, California, USA

About This Article open

This EHP Advance Publication article has been peer-reviewed, revised, and accepted for publication. EHP Advance Publication articles are completely citable using the DOI number assigned to the article. This document will be replaced with the copyedited and formatted version as soon as it is available. Through the DOI number used in the citation, you will be able to access this document at each stage of the publication process.

Citation: Ostro B, Hu J, Goldberg D, Reynolds P, Hertz A, Bernstein L, Kleeman MJ. Associations of Mortality with Long-Term Exposures to Fine and Ultrafine Particles, Species and Sources: Results from the California Teachers Study Cohort. Environ Health Perspect; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1408565.

Received: 15 April 2014
Accepted: 22 January 2015
Advance Publication: 23 January 2015

Accessible PDF icon PDF Version (3 MB) | Accessible PDF icon Supplemental Material (491 KB)

Abstract

Background: While several cohort studies report associations between chronic exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) and mortality, few have studied the effects of chronic exposure to ultrafine (UF) particles. In addition, few studies have estimated the effects of the constituents of either PM2.5 or UF particles.

Methods: We used a statewide cohort of over 100,000 women from the California Teachers Study who were followed from 2001 through 2007. Exposure data at the residential level were provided by a chemical transport model that computed pollutant concentrations from over 900 sources in California. Besides particle mass, monthly concentrations of 11 species and 8 sources or primary particles were generated at 4 km grids. We used a Cox proportional hazards model to estimate the association between the pollutants and all-cause, cardiovascular, ischemic heart disease (IHD) and respiratory mortality.

Results: We observed statistically significant (p < 0.05) associations of IHD with PM2.5 mass, nitrate elemental carbon (EC), copper (Cu), and secondary organics and the sources gas- and diesel-fueled vehicles, meat cooking, and high sulfur fuel combustion. The hazard ratio estimate of 1.19 (95% CI: 1.08, 1.31) for IHD in association with a 10-µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 is consistent with findings from the American Cancer Society cohort. We also observed significant positive associations between IHD and several UF components including EC, Cu, metals, and mobile sources.

Conclusions: Using an emissions-based model with a 4 km spatial scale, we observed significant positive associations between IHD mortality and both fine and ultrafine particle species and sources. Our results suggest that the exposure model effectively measured local exposures and facilitated the examination of the relative toxicity of particle species.

Lead Exposure and Tremor among Older Men: The VA Normative Aging Study

Author Affiliations close

1Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; 2Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; 3VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; 4Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; 5Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 6Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, USA

About This Article open

This EHP Advance Publication article has been peer-reviewed, revised, and accepted for publication. EHP Advance Publication articles are completely citable using the DOI number assigned to the article. This document will be replaced with the copyedited and formatted version as soon as it is available. Through the DOI number used in the citation, you will be able to access this document at each stage of the publication process.

Citation: Ji JS, Power MC, Sparrow D, Spiro A III, Hu H, Louis ED, Weisskopf MG. Lead Exposure and Tremor among Older Men: The VA Normative Aging Study. Environ Health Perspect; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1408535.

Received: 8 April 2014
Accepted: 22 January 2015
Advance Publication: 23 January 2015

Accessible PDF icon PDF Version (544 KB)

Abstract

Background: Tremor is one of the most common neurological signs, yet its etiology is poorly understood. Case-control studies suggest an association between blood lead and essential tremor, and that this association is modified by polymorphisms in the δ-amino-levulinic acid dehydrogenase (ALAD) gene.

Objective: To examine the relationship between lead and tremor, including modification by ALAD, in a prospective cohort study, using both blood lead and bone lead—a biomarker of cumulative lead exposure.

Methods: We measured tibia (n=670) and patella (n=672) bone lead and blood lead (n=807) among older men (age range: 50-98 years) in the VA Normative Aging Study cohort. A tremor score was created based on an approach using hand-drawing samples. ALAD genotype was dichotomized as ALAD-2 carriers or not. We used linear regression adjusted for age, education, smoking, and alcohol intake to estimate the associations between lead biomarkers and tremor score.

Results: In unadjusted analyses, there was a marginal association between quintiles of all lead biomarkers and tremor scores (p values <0.13), that did not persist in adjusted models. Age was the strongest predictor of tremor. Among those younger than the median age (68.9), tremor increased significantly with blood lead (p=0.03), but this pattern was not apparent for bone lead. We did not see modification by ALAD or an association between bone lead and change in tremor score over time.

Conclusion: Our results do not strongly support an association between lead exposure and tremor, and suggest no association with cumulative lead biomarkers, although there is some suggestion that blood lead may be associated with tremor among the younger men in our cohort.