Behind the Scenes: Secretary Kerry's Google+ Hangout

Posted by Victoria Esser
May 10, 2013
Secretary Kerry Prepares for His Google+ Hangout

"...There really is no longer anything foreign about foreign policy." -- Secretary of State John Kerry

That's why Secretary Kerry participated in a live conversation with American citizens from across the country in a Google+ "Hangout at State" titled "The U.S. in the World: What's in it for us?" The Hangout, moderated by NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, was the first for a Secretary of State, and was an opportunity for the Secretary to discuss the impact that our involvement abroad has here at home.  Those who participated in the Hangout included:

  • Lieutenant Colonel Adolfo Garcia, a decorated U.S. Marine with 20 years of service who has been deployed to Afghanistan twice;
  • Sarah Hill, a host and digital storyteller for the Veterans United Network, which is the broadcast channel for Veterans United;
  • Corrie Frasier, who leads Plus Social Good -- a new community inspired by the Social Goods Summit; 
  • Andrew White, the president of Comptus, Inc., a leading producer of atmospheric and weather instruments and controls in Thornton, New Hampshire; and
  • Emily McKhann, co-founder of the popular, award-winning web community, The Motherhood, and one of Parents Magazine's Most Powerful Moms on the Web.

What are the foreign policy issues you care about the most, and why? Tell us in the comments section below.  Perhaps one of your suggestions will be the topic of a future “Hangout at State,” because today’s event kicked off our new online series.   The “Hangout at State” series will bring together people – like you – across national borders to discuss with U.S. government leaders the day’s most important foreign policy issues.  So, share your thoughts here on DipNote, as well as Facebook and Google+, and stay tuned for our next Hangout!   You can watch today’s Hangout with Secretary Kerry in its entirety here.

About the Author: Victoria Esser serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

Comments

Comments

Marilyn C.
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United States
May 11, 2013
I am completely disappointed in the response by the USA regarding the unabated poaching of the elephant. It is apparant than 'memorandums of understanding' and talking about the problem is not enough. Either all governments are weak and the world truly is lawless, or the governments are complicit in allowing the ivory to reach its destined nations, China and the USA being the top two consumers of ivory, this is appalling. Animal advocates are declared too emotional, trophy hunters abound within the governments, and billions of dollars are passed around places we may be truly stunned to learn of, and the elephant falls by the hundreds every day. I'm told to spread 'awareness'. To who, pray tell, my neighbors? The Chinese, behind their walls, the USA, weakened by debt to China, and dining at the ivory table themselves? I expect the same here, no response, little response, words, and dead elephants. This is enough to make any sane person never listen to politicians. What have any done for this cause but talk. There are two bits of information to chew on I will pass along, and I am sure the Dept of State is aware of both. One, An investigation on behalf of Care for the Wild International (CWI) revealed that the U.S. is one of the world's leading ivory markets and fails to comply with both CITES regulations and its own domestic laws. There is more worked ivory for sale in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world, except for China. Large quantities of worked ivory from China are illegally imported to the U.S. by individuals and through the Internet. The U.S. also maintains a largely unregulated ivory crafting industry. A full report is available in PDF format, for the asking. The other point would be the recent slaughter of at least 26 elephants in CAR, Africa, while the world was aware the poacers were on route and intending to kill. Our ruling entities LET IT HAPPEN. Are you all worthless or weak or complicit? Why do I dare speak this way? Because this is just cause to be so fully disgusted and truly fed up with ruling parties in Africa, China, and my used to be great USA.
Eric J.
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United States
May 11, 2013

Well that was definately a first in public engagement. Made me realize how technologicly challenged I am ...no video camera, no skype, no way to participate, but watching this was really cool.

  Sometime back I suggested to the Dipnote staff that it would be a good thing to post the DoS daily briefing up on site so the public could follow-up and engage with both State and the press in a three-way interactive Q&A via written response on the old Dipnote format. Well this goodgle+ hangout pretty much puts that in real -time possibility.

  I don't know where State might be thinking of ultimately going with this format in the future, but I sure hope folks plan on doing this on a regular basis.

  If I'd been able to participate, I would have posed the following ...both as a question and an idea for consideration;

  "I'm wondering if it might be helpful and add relevant historical context to a future international conference on nuclear disarmament to hold the conference here in New Mexico, birthplace of the atomic bomb? That participants could visit the "Trinity' site at White Sands, tour the museum in Los Alamos, get a scientific perspective on the issues from folks at LANL and Sandia labs...and whether doing this would help facilitate greater understanding and political progress on this issue?"

EJ

Sharon H.
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United Kingdom
May 12, 2013
Dear Secretary, I am not a USA citizen but am a UK citizen and have concerns about the following issues:-1]The Coup in Central Republic of Africa, which has resulted in many deaths of citizens of that country, rape, child soldiers and it appears that it has descended into absolute chaos . This has been happening since March 2013. 2]The massacre of the elephants at Dzangha Bai a World Heritage site ostensibly by Sudanese poachers. This has occurred over the last few days. Both UNESCO, UNICEF, WWF and CITES have all expressed concern over these issues, but as yet no action. 3]I was horrified to discover that the USA was the 2nd largest importer of IVORY after China [Care for the Wild International Report]. In a world that is trying to protect wildlife I found this very difficult to accept .Please try to effect change. 4] China and other Far Eastern countries fuel the demand for ivory and horn which has contributed to the massive increase in poaching in Africa. I,Millions of like minded people throughout the world , you and your government do not want to lose the elephant,rhino etc on "our Watch". I am asking this of you as you are one of the most powerful countries in the world and will be able to effect change.
Elaine R.
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United Kingdom
May 22, 2013

Wildlife Trafficking and Conservation: A Call to Action?

On November 15th, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), co-chairs of the International Conservation Caucus, held a bipartisan, bicameral caucus hearing to address the global poaching crisis. Poaching is financing terrorist and violent organizations, and increasingly brutal poaching operations are creating war zones between poachers and park rangers. Deteriorating governance in these areas is undermining stability and economies in the region and threatening U.S. interests.

Evidence is mounting that Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the Lord's Resistance Army are using these illegal animal products to fund their brutal campaigns of violence throughout the region. The revelation of increasing involvement of militias and transnational crime networks in poaching activities elevates a conservation issue to a global security and foreign policy issue. Rep. Royce noted: "The U.S. has a lot of experience and some successes denting drug cartels, international arms traffickers, and terrorist networks – knowledge and lessons that could be brought to bear against these networks."

The hearing took place less than a week after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted an event titled “Wildlife Trafficking and Conservation: A Call to Action.” The event signaled the heightened emphasis the U.S. State Department is placing on the global poaching crisis within its foreign policy and security agenda. In her remarks, the Secretary identified a four-part strategy for addressing the global problem of wildlife trafficking, which included a plan to spearhead global coordination between heads of state to toughen anti-poaching laws and law enforcement efforts. She also announced that she has requested the intelligence community to produce an assessment of the impact of large-scale wildlife trafficking on American security interests.
Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats, who both appeared at Clinton's event and testified at the Caucus hearing, emphasized that the State and Defense Departments and other government agencies are gearing up to become very active in taking on crime networks involved in poaching. The only way to be effective is for governments to partner with conservation and resource management NGOs and leverage the expertise of programs already on the ground.

Under Secretary Hormats noted that China, where a large portion of the demand for elephant and rhino parts exists, has very strict laws to protect the wildlife of their own country, particularly for pandas, but does not exercise the same vigilance to assist in the protection of other countries' wildlife.

The Slaughter continues. The statistics say that if this continues at the same rate, Elephants will be EXTINCT by 2050. Between 700-800 Rhinos are slaughtered each year. The statistics say that when that reaches 1000 Rhinos in one year, their population CANNOT recover from that, the balance of the scales will be tipped and in TEN YEARS from that point, Rhinos will be EXTINCT.

Our world is on the brink of a mass extinction. In 100 years, if nothing is done NOW, there will be thousands of extinct species, as a result of our inaction. Every one of us will be dead and gone by then, however our legacy will live on. Is this the legacy we want to leave. Is this how we want to be remembered?

Please do not be complicit in this inaction. Please ACT NOW.

Stephanie B.
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South Africa
May 14, 2013
In South Africa our Rhino, Lion and shortly Elephant will be poached to extinction. This is a tragedy for the entire world. As you well know, illegal armies are being funded by this terrible trade. Guns are being bought and people are dying. Illegal governments are coming into being. The US is known to be a great ivory consumer - what do you intend to do to put a stop to these heinous crimes? China, Vietnam and Africa are all complicit in the annihilation of our wildlife. Does the USA have the will and means to put a stop to this?
Critha F.
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United States
May 13, 2013
I am an American citizen and have been following the horrible crisis of poaching elephants for their ivory that is enfolding in Africa and Thailand . This slaughter is happening to feed the obsessive need of the Chinese and apparently even people here in the United States for ivory to satisfy their greed and need for status. Is a loss of a whole species to extinction worthy of people feeling superior to others just to own something that is not legal? Firstly, I was hugely disappointed that nothing seemed to be accomplished to help the slaughter of elephants at the CITES meeting in March. The whole world expected CITES to help stop the trade of ivory but apparently this group which is paid by our taxes let us down and they are not held accountable in any way, this disturbs me greatly. Secondly, we as humans on this planet watch in horror as every day Elephants are slaughtered by poachers who are becoming more heavily armed and more brutal and no one can stop them. When is the United States going to step in and provide assistance to the African Nation? This is becoming a terrorist led, murderous onslaught and even the locals who live there and we as tourists are in danger of being shot at. The elephants are being brutally killed in greater numbers each day and I , for one, cannot imagine that this government would want to be one that stands by and allows a species that is highly intelligent and social and a heritage for our children's children to be gone forever! I also read that the US is a big consumer of Ivory on the internet and in cities like San Francisco and New York! Isnt the selling of ivory illegal? Why is this still allowed to go on!?!? I am ashamed to be an American citizen if this continues with no punishment of these criminals or shutting down of their shops!!! In conclusion, I am asking, pleading that the United States step up and help protect the Elephant, an animal that has lived on this planet and is critical for the survival of many other species and plant life and an important link in the chain of life. We cannot afford to stand by and do nothing!
Trevor B.
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South Africa
May 14, 2013
African needs a champion like the US to stand up and be counted, it's not going to come too soon from the far east.
Caroline M.
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United Kingdom
May 14, 2013
Please put wildlife crime at the top of your agenda. Elephants are being killed in their 1,000's - 25,000 in 2011 alone. The ivory trade is funding many armed militia, which in turn are de-stabilising whole countries across Africa. This is everyone's problem, it is not just an African one. Rhino are being poached in their 100's every year in South Africa - to feed an illegal trade in a substance of no medicinal value, but one that is worth millions of dollars. Those countries involved in that illegal trade - mostly in South East Asia - seem to think they can just place an order - the killing of an animal in another country and then reap the rewards. What would the US say if those countries were doing the same to America's animals? The illegal trade in both ivory and rhino horn is not only ruining Africa's economy in the form of lost tourism income, it is driving the two largest land mammals to extinction - on our watch. The tipping point for the rhino may already have been reached. The tipping point for elephant will follow soon after. US foreign policy has the power to stop these criminals, not just the poachers on the ground, but the real criminals sitting in their 'ivory' towers in Asia. What will we tell our children, who may only see pictures of these two iconic animals in books and films, that we let this happen? This is a global problem, not just an African one. Please take action.
Caroline M.
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United Kingdom
May 22, 2013

Please put wildlife crime at the top of your agenda. Elephants are being killed in their 1,000's - 25,000 in 2011 alone. The ivory trade is funding many armed militia, which in turn are de-stabilising whole countries across Africa. This is everyone's problem; it is not just an African one. Rhino are being poached in their 100's every year in South Africa - to feed an illegal trade in a substance of no medicinal value, but one that is worth millions of dollars. Those countries involved in that illegal trade - mostly in South East Asia - seem to think they can just place an order - the killing of an animal in another country and then reap the rewards. What would the US say if those countries were doing the same to America's animals? The illegal trade in both ivory and rhino horn is not only ruining Africa's economy in the form of lost tourism income, it is driving the two largest land mammals to extinction - on our watch. The tipping point for the rhino may already have been reached. The tipping point for elephant will follow soon after. US foreign policy has the power to stop these criminals, not just the poachers on the ground, but the real criminals sitting in their 'ivory' towers in Asia. What will we tell our children, who may only see pictures of these two iconic animals in books and films, that we let this happen? This is a global problem, not just an African one. Please take action.

Sue R.
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United Kingdom
May 22, 2013

Below is a copy of my recent email to my MP and former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. The concerns expressed therein apply equally to the USA. I thank my US friend, Marilyn C, for allowing me to use some of her content. And I wholeheartedly endorse the comments of other posters here.

Dear Mr Brown

You have been kind enough to respond to several pieces of correspondence from me over the last few months. I have further concerns in the same vein that I would like to bring to your attention and, hopefully, gain your support in taking action. I have always been passionate about animal welfare but my interest became a campaign after I went to Kenya two years ago to celebrate my 60th birthday. It was wonderful to see so many wild animals in their natural habitat. The downside was the visit to Daphne Sheldrick’s elephant orphanage. I knew ivory poaching was a problem but didn’t realise just how big until then. I started doing my research when I came home and was appalled to discover the level of cruelty and violence to animals worldwide, but particularly in China and the Far East.

I do believe that there is a correlation between animal cruelty and child abuse. Indeed any abuse of those I call the ‘voiceless’, human or animal. It is well-documented that many offenders began their ‘training’ and ‘practice’ on animals. I practice what I preach and donate from my salary to organisations supporting all these causes. But it isn’t enough. The governments of the world’s influential nations need to take action.

I have been completely disappointed in the global response to the unabated poaching of the elephant. It is apparent that talking about the problem is not enough. Either all governments are weak and the world truly is lawless, or governments are complicit in allowing the ivory to reach its destined nations. China and the USA have been declared as being the top two consumers of ivory. Heathrow Airport has been called ‘the hub’ for ivory trafficking. This is appalling and unacceptable.

Animal advocates are declared too emotional, trophy hunters abound within governments, and the elephant falls by the hundreds every week. I'm told to help spread 'awareness'. To whom? The Chinese? All my research indicates complete lack of compassion for animal life. The USA? Weakened by debt to China and dining at the ivory table themselves? The UK? Our main airport has been designated a ‘hub’.

An investigation on behalf of Care for the Wild International (CWI) revealed that the US is one of the world's leading ivory markets and fails to comply with both CITES regulations and its own domestic laws. There is more worked ivory for sale in the US than anywhere else in the world, except for China. Large quantities of worked ivory from China are illegally imported to the US by individuals and through the Internet. The US also maintains a largely unregulated ivory crafting industry. A full report is available in PDF format, for the asking.

It is also well-documented that the proceeds from ivory poaching fund the illegal arms and drugs trades.

The catastrophe that has triggered this letter is the recent slaughter of at least 26 elephants in CAR, Africa, while the world was aware the poachers were on route and intending to kill. Our ruling entities let it happen. Are they all weak or complicit?

We are supposed to have a ‘special’ relationship with the US. But how can we hope to influence them if our own airports are being used to supply the ivory so many ignorant materialists seek? Why has the NWCU only been awarded funding for another year when this is a problem on such a scale that it is only going to get worse, not better, if no-one dares challenge China? CITES reps had the chance in Thailand in March and did nothing. This latest slaughter is the result. And it will go on. Unless the rest of the world steps in to stop it, before this majestic animal becomes extinct. Can the action start with us, please?

.

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