Secretary Antony J. Blinken to Embassy Copenhagen Staff

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Copenhagen, Denmark

Marriott Hotel

MR DWYER:  Mr. Secretary, on behalf of the U.S. Mission to Denmark, your U.S. Mission to Denmark, I want to say how thrilled we are to have you in Copenhagen today, celebrating the U.S.-Denmark partnership and all that we accomplish together and all that this team accomplishes together.  And we’re particularly pleased that we’re able to do this in person.  I know we haven’t been able to do that much over the that last months – over the last year, so it’s great that you’re able to spend a little bit of time with us.

To my mission colleagues and those who have been around U.S. foreign policy for the last two decades, I know that the Secretary needs no formal introduction, but I did quickly want to touch on just a couple of the highlights of his career.

First, I want to say how pleased I am that there’s still a few of us who started our careers in the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs at the State Department.  After that, the Secretary served on the National Security staff.  He was the senior director for European affairs, Democratic staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, national security advisor to then-Vice President Biden, principal deputy national security advisor and deputy secretary of state for President Obama.  In between all that, he’s been a reporter, practiced law, and worked in civil society.

But for all of that, for me, personally, where he’s cast the longest shadow is the Secretary’s prowess in French.  Early in my career as a young officer, I was sent out to Lyon to open up a small consulate there.  And our ambassador at the time, Felix Rohatyn, said, “(Inaudible) talk to the media, tell America’s story.”  All of which was great except there was a guy at the NSC who spoke absolutely flawless French that the French media loved to turn to on a regular basis.  So I would go out, talk to regional French TV, soldier my way through a conversation on whatever the issue of the day was, get back to the office and sometimes think, “Yeah, I think it went pretty well,” get ready for the next meeting making maybe a pat on the back.  That’s not how it went.  The next meeting it would be, “Yes, Stuart, I saw you on TV and that wasn’t bad, but I heard Tony Blinken yesterday and what you meant to say was” fill in the blank.  (Laughter.)

So, Mr. Secretary, you always set the bar high, and I appreciate you setting the bar high for the State Department today.  So thanks for being with us.  The floor is yours.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, Stuart.  Thank you so much.  Thank you for a wonderful and also unique introduction.  (Laughter.)  And indeed, we did both start in the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs.  I recall recently that the office that I had in the front office of EUR on the sixth floor at Main State prior to my occupying it as a special assistant, the occupant was a large safe, which gives you some idea of the size of the office.  There was just room for a small desk and myself.  And look, you know, there’s progress in life.  I moved one floor up and I got a window.  (Laughter.)  So I think that’s not bad.

But Stuart, thank you for – not just for today but for your leadership of this mission throughout.  I’m really delighted to be here in Copenhagen.  And it’s actually been a while.  I think the – I was here many years ago with President Clinton when he was here I think in 1998, gave a memorable speech, open-air speech with thousands of people.  It was a very powerful, powerful time.  But in between, lots of work with our colleagues here in one way or another.  And this is a particular treat because we’ve finally started traveling again.  That’s good.  Mostly until this week, it’s been mask to mask, so now we’re face to face and that’s a big improvement.

You all know.  You’ve heard from President Biden that he is determined that we lead with our diplomacy.  And to do that, to be the most effective Department we can be, we need other countries, other nations by our side.  We need to be working in partnership.  And there’s a pretty compelling but, I think, also obvious reason for that.  If you think about most of the things you’re working on every single day that are actually going to have an impact on the lives of our fellow citizens back home, whether it’s dealing with climate change, whether it’s dealing with COVID-19, the disruptive impact of new technologies – and I could go down the list – not a single one of those things can be addressed by any one country acting alone, even the United States.  And there is simply no wall high enough or wide enough to guard against some of the downsides that we face from these and other challenges.

So there’s more of a premium than ever before, I think, or at least in the time that I’ve been doing this, on cooperation, coordination, and collaboration, and that starts with our closest allies and partners, like Denmark.  So the work that you’re doing is especially vital, especially important right now.

We’ve made reinvigorating and reimagining those alliances and those partnerships a top priority for the administration.  And you’re seeing as well that we’re re-engaged very energetically in multilateral institutions as well.  And that’s what this trip is actually about: it’s both the reinvigoration of our partnership here with Denmark and also as we head on to the Arctic Council, working multilaterally through that institution to make sure that we do everything we can to have a safe and open Arctic going forward.

I’ve looked hard at what you’ve been doing these recent months in a very challenging time, and not surprisingly, you all have been punching above your weight.  You’ve taken what is already a close and vital partnership and, I think, found ways to make it stronger, and that is very, very significant.

The partnership agreement negotiated with the Faroese to expand our relationship, we had an opportunity to meet with them, and the reopening of the consulate in Nuuk last year after nearly seven decades of absence – two achievements that were reached through a lot of careful diplomatic engagement.  I have some idea of what actually goes into getting results.  They seem to magically appear, but we know a lot of hard work and careful diplomacy goes into them.  So that’s been very positive.

We had a good – I think a good session today, too, with our colleague from Greenland, and there, too, a lot of great work has been done, resolving what are thorny, complex issues, including the Thule Base maintenance contract.  That, too, took a lot of hard and good work.

To Steve Bitner, a special shout-out for leading this effort.  Where are you, Steve?  Thank you.  Again, I have some idea that this is a lot more complicated and challenging than it may seem.  So to you, to the folks who worked with you on that – I suspect there are a few within this room – thank you for bringing that across the line.

And of course, what’s interesting about something like that is it also requires a lot of coordination with other agencies, other colleagues in the government – Department of Defense as well as multiple other agencies – and that means that we’re ensuring not only the base stays operational, but that some of the tension over the contract has been resolved after years of previous negotiations did not get to where we wanted to get.  So congratulations on that.

And then I think what we’re seeing, too, is the work that you’ve done to strengthen the relationship on issues that actually reach far beyond our two countries.  The handover of the NATO training mission in Iraq to the Danish forces highlights a shared concern that we have for making sure that we are continuing to fight and push back against extremism, including Daesh, and that’s just one facet of the partnership we have.

The climate crisis, of course, is front and center.  It’s a central issue for the Arctic Summit, but it’s also a central issue, I think, in our relationship with Denmark.  It’s – I’ve got to tell you, it’s inspiring to see what our colleagues here are doing in their leadership on climate change.  Leadership that not only sets very ambitious targets, as we ourselves have done, but also is very focused on making sure that no one is left behind as some of these transitions that have to take place move forward.  And I think it’s a good example of places we can find, hopefully, lessons from some of what our closest partners are doing that may be applicable back home.

And then, of course, we had the prime minister take part in the climate summit just a few weeks ago, and maybe as important, we have incredibly rich relationships between our researchers, our experts, and our private sectors that are really the cutting edge of climate innovation.

All of this and more in the midst of a pandemic, and that, I know, has forced all of us – has forced you – to adopt and adapt a diplomatic toolkit that looks very different than what we were doing before.  And here, too, I’ve got to tell you, I’m especially grateful as I’ve seen this across the department and I see it in this mission here, people coming together as a team in the face of the pandemic and continuing to do their jobs and serve the interests of the American people.  A couple of highlights have been brought to my attention that I just want flag.  Members of the consular team who provided uninterrupted support to Americans in Denmark, facilitating essential travel between the U.S. and Denmark to protect jobs and other economic interests.  The IRM team built strong telecommuting platforms to allow, I think, the vast majority of the team here to work remotely while management made sure that people who did have to come into work could do so and remain healthy, safe, and secure.  And of course, the security teams that have done so much to keep you all safe in these unprecedented circumstances.

A couple of individuals I would like to say thank you to in particular.  A couple of our nurses: Lone Ledstrup, Bobbi Nitz, who are here, I hope, perhaps somewhere.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for your incredible dedication in keeping the mission healthy during the pandemic, including vaccinating the entire community within one week.  Really, there are not words to thank you enough for that work and for that dedication.

One of the things that I’m taking away from this is that we’re learning a lot – we’ve learned a lot in the course of this pandemic.  I’m a dad with two very small kids, and I think I have a new appreciation myself for how important it is to try to be there, if possible, for dinner or when your kids are up in the morning and having breakfast.  And one of the things I’m taking away from this is we may have, even after COVID, new ways of thinking about how we get the work-life balance right and how we can build in more flexibility to all of our jobs so that we can do that.  So we’re going to look closely at that as we go forward.

But let me close where I began, with a very, very strong thank you to every single one of you at this mission for what you’re doing to build this relationship, this partnership with Denmark, and – because this is what it’s all about – to actually deliver for our fellow citizens back home.  That’s the guiding principle.  That’s the North Star.  In thinking about everything we’re doing, is it making life just a little bit better, a little bit healthier, a little bit more secure for our fellow Americans as well as our friends here in Denmark?  I know you’re doing that every single day and I’m grateful for it.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

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    A doctor, formerly of Great Falls, Virginia, pleaded guilty today to willful failure to pay employment taxes, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh for the Eastern District of Virginia.
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  • Statement from Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband Commemorating the Twentieth Anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act
    In Crime News
    Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband issued the following statement today commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act:
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Former Owners of Telemarketing Company Agree to Pay At Least $4 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations
    In Crime News
    Two Florida men have agreed collectively to pay at least $4 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by engaging in schemes to generate prescriptions for compounded drugs and refer those prescriptions to pharmacies in exchange for illegal kickbacks. Many of those prescriptions were billed to TRICARE, the federal health care program providing insurance for active duty military personnel, military retirees, and military dependents.
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  • Two Texas Men Plead Guilty in Odometer Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    Two Texas men pleaded guilty today to for their roles in an odometer tampering scheme.
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  • Ready-Mix Concrete Company Admits to Fixing Prices and Rigging Bids in Violation of Antitrust Laws
    In Crime News
    Argos USA LLC, a producer and seller of ready-mix concrete headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, was charged with participating in a conspiracy to fix prices, rig bids, and allocate markets for sales of ready-mix concrete in the Southern District of Georgia and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.  
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  • Attorney General William P. Barr and DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea Announce Results of Operation Crystal Shield
    In Crime News
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  • Colorado Springs Agrees to Improve Stormwater Management in Settlement with the United States
    In Crime News
    The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado, to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act with respect to the City’s storm sewer system.
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  • NASA’s Perseverance Rover Goes Through Trials by Fire, Ice, Light and Sound
    In Space
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  • Briefing With Acting Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Ian Brownlee And CDC Director for Global Migration and Quarantine Marty Cetron On New COVID Testing Requirements for International Travelers
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  • Citizen Scientists Discover Dozens of New Cosmic Neighbors in NASA Data
    In Space
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  • Department Press Briefing – February 10, 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Serbian Founder of Digital-Asset Companies Indicted in International Cryptocurrency Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Serbian man was charged in an indictment today for his alleged participation in a coordinated cryptocurrency scheme in which he solicited U.S. investors using two fraudulent online investment platforms.
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  • Science & Tech Spotlight: Consumer Electronics Recycling
    In U.S GAO News
    Why This Matters Consumer electronics contain critical materials whose supplies are limited, including gold, platinum, and rare earth metals. Domestic recycling of consumer electronics could extend the supply and reduce the current U.S. reliance on imports. New technologies are becoming available, but electronics recycling is complex and faces challenges, such as narrow profit margins. The Technology What is it? Recycling of consumer electronics—including smartphones, televisions, and computers—generally involves separating high-value metals from plastics and other low-value materials. Precious metals and rare earth metals are the economic driving force for consumer electronic recycling technology. These metals have high market values and limited supplies, and they can be reused across many industries, including the defense and energy sectors. Consumer electronic devices can also contain personally identifiable information (PII), including medical and financial data, which could be improperly disclosed if they are not destroyed prior to recycling. According to a study of selected consumer electronics, about 2.8 million tons were disposed of in the U.S. in 2017, of which about 36 percent was recycled. Figure 1. Selected valuable, hazardous, and digital materials contained within consumer electronics that can be recovered, disposed, or destroyed There is no federal standard requiring consumer electronics recycling. Some states have enacted electronics recycling laws requiring electronics producers to pay fees or contract with businesses to ensure electronic waste is collected for recycling. The U.S. recycles electronics domestically and also exports electronics for recycling abroad. How does it work? The high concentration of valuable material in certain consumer electronics is key to the economic viability of recycling these products. Cell phones, as one example, have more precious metal by weight than raw ore does. According to the EPA, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, and 75 pounds of gold can be recovered from a million recycled cell phones. Based on commodity market prices on August 12, 2020, these weights of metals are worth approximately $100,000, $290,000, and $2.1 million for copper, silver, and gold, respectively. In contrast, cathode ray tube (CRT) displays in older televisions and computer monitors have little recycling value, but they contain leaded glass and may be considered hazardous waste. In addition, recovery of certain valuable materials from consumer electronics is limited due to the high costs of technology and processing. Electronics recycling companies disassemble devices by shredding, which also destroys PII, or by hand. These companies then separate valuable materials for reuse (including gold, silver, platinum, and rare earth metals) from toxic materials for disposal (including brominated materials and lead). Traditional methods include burning to remove non-metal parts and separation using strong acids. New separation technologies are being used or piloted to recover precious and rare earth metals. For example, robotic disassembly uses machine learning and computer vision to more rapidly pick and sort items. Another new technology uses ultrasound to speed up the chemical removal of gold from cell phone SIM cards. Figure 2. Emerging separation technologies for recycled electronics Other technologies are emerging, like biometallurgy, which uses microorganisms to separate high-value metals from other materials, such as plastics, glass, and glue. For example, naturally occurring bacteria can oxidize gold in acidic solutions, making it soluble and thus easier to separate from other materials. Other advanced techniques, such as magnetic or electrochemical separation, are showing promise in the laboratory with existing technology. For example, in one study, researchers used ultrasound to dissolve nickel and gold within a SIM card. They then used a magnetic field to separate the dissolved nickel, which is magnetic, from the gold, which is not. Similarly, other techniques use electric fields to separate dissolved metals based on their weight and electric charge. How mature is it? Recycling technology is well established for some traditional single-stream processes, such as aluminum recycling. However, electronic devices are more complex and require disassembly and separation. At least one consumer electronics manufacturer is piloting robotic disassembly for its products. Emerging separation technologies such as ultrasound have come to market in the past decade and are being used. Manual disassembly and shredding are decades old. Biometallurgy is being tested in pilot plants, and new microorganisms are being developed in laboratories to treat electronic waste. Opportunities Increase supply and reduce imports. Recycling could increase the domestic supply of precious and rare earth metals and reduce the current U.S. reliance on overseas sources. Grow the green economy. Developing advanced recycling technologies could promote domestic business and employment. Reduce hazardous practices. A significant amount of recycling currently occurs in the developing world, where methods include open-pit burning. New technology could reduce the use of such methods, which are hazardous to the environment and human health. Lessen environmental impacts. Developing advanced recycling technologies could reduce the environmental impacts of raw ore mining and landfill disposal of hazardous materials such as lead and brominated materials. Challenges Market challenges. Markets for recovered materials may be limited, and the value of recovered materials may not be enough to cover the costs of equipment for collection, sorting, disassembly, and separation. Secure destruction of personal information. Many electronic devices contain PII. Shredding them may effectively destroy PII but may also make high-value material harder to recover. Counterfeit electronic parts. Exported used electronics may serve as a source of counterfeit electronic parts, which, as GAO previously reported, could disrupt parts of the Department of Defense supply chain and threaten the reliability of weapons systems. (See GAO-16-236, linked below.) Rapid technological development. As consumer electronics made with new materials get smaller, new technologies for separation may be needed to recycle valuable materials. Policy Context and Questions With the volume of electronic waste expected to grow, questions include: How can programs to support technological innovation, economic development, and advanced manufacturing be leveraged to promote a more robust domestic electronics recycling industry? What efforts can the federal government, states, and others make to incentivize recycling rather than disposal? What are the potential benefits and challenges of such policies? What strategies can the public and private sectors implement to address the risk that exports of used electronics will contribute to unsafe recycling practices, disclosure of PII, and counterfeit electronics? How can reductions in exports bolster job growth? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • How Engineers at NASA JPL Persevered to Develop a Ventilator
    In Space
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  • Former Investment Manager Charged in Scheme to Defraud Life Insurance Company
    In Crime News
    A former investment manager was charged in an indictment unsealed today for his alleged participation in a scheme to defraud a North Carolina-based life insurance company out of over $34 million.
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  • Texas Entrepreneur Charged with Spending COVID Relief Funds on Improper Expenses Including Lamborghini and Strip Club
    In Crime News
    A Houston, Texas man has been taken into custody on allegations he fraudulently obtained more than $1.6 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas.
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  • Norwegian National Day
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  • District Court Orders Illinois Sprouts And Soybean Products Company To Comply With Food Safety Rules
    In Crime News
    A federal court permanently enjoined a Chicago firm from preparing and distributing adulterated sprouts and soybean products in violation of federal law, the Department of Justice announced today.
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