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                                                              E-Newsletter: October 18, 2017
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JBANC on the Hill: Ukrainian Advocacy Day on Oct. 11, 2017 

Washington, DC (JBANC) - The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) participated in this year's third "Ukrainian Days" advocacy event on Capitol Hill on October 11, organized by the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS) and Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA). The day commenced with a morning briefing session at the Heritage Foundation on Ukrainian issues. The panel of speakers gave an overview of U.S.-Ukraine relations, as well as a synopsis of congressional actions.

The rest of the day was spent in Congress, where JBANC helped lead meetings with five congressional offices, including a meeting with Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and a brief greeting with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD). Other meetings were held with the offices of Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA).

Topics discussed included implementation of the Russia sanctions Act, funding for the National Defense Authorization bill and support for arms for Ukraine, raising awareness of Russian human rights violations in Crimea, and remembering the Ukrainian famine (Holodomor), which occurred 85 years ago.

The day concluded with a reception in the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office building, to help commemorate the 40th anniversary of UNIS. At the event, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas  Linkevičius was honored with a "Friend of UNIS" award in recognition of his, and Lithuania's, great support for Ukraine. Ambassador Rolandas Kriščiūnas accepted on behalf of the Minister. 

JBANC took active part in earlier Ukrainian Advocacy Day events this year in March and June and will continue to support our Ukrainian friends and colleagues in their fight to push back against the Putin regime's aggression. 

Photo: Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) meets with our group during Ukrainian advocacy day on October 11. Credit: Nadia Valueva. 

More photos from the event can be found here, plus a short overview video by JBANC can be seen here. Find an article on our webpage here
Coming Up: Victims of Communism Centennial Commemoration in Washington, DC 

On a cold night in Petrograd, one hundred years ago, a small group of Red Guards seized the Winter Palace and installed the world's first communist government. The Bolshevik Revolution marked the beginning of a century in which adherents to communist ideology committed some of the worst and most widespread atrocities known to history. On November 7-9, the Victims of Communism will gather to honor the memory of the more than 100 million victims of communism, to celebrate liberty where it has triumphed, and to further pursue a world free from communism. To register for the event, please click here


Baltic Unity Day in New Jersey
 

On October 14, at the Lakewood Estonian House in New Jersey, the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) joined in celebrating the annual Baltic Unity Day commemoration.

Close to one hundred attendees from the three Baltic communities were addressed by representatives from the Baltic diplomatic corps - Consul General of Lithuania Julius Pranevičius, Latvian Ambassador to the UN Jānis Mažeiks, and Andre Lipand from the Estonian UN Mission - along with leaders of the local Baltic communities in New Jersey. Among the speakers were Karl Altau and Anna Udre, representing JBANC, who highlighted efforts in advocating in Washington, DC. The JBANC representatives stressed the importance of building coalitions to strengthen our mission, and the importance of working with Congress and expanding the Baltic Caucus.

“We’re your voice in Washington, DC,” said Altau, and explained that our contacts with congressional offices have grown. To add, JBANC has been working on reaching a wider audience to raise awareness of issues relevant to the Baltic communities by upgrading its social media presence.

“We’re analyzing data to see when our posts are most effective on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube, and we’re trying to be creative with our content. Please follow our daily posts and spread the word about the work JBANC is doing on the Hill,” added Udre.

The Baltic Unity Day program also included folk-themed musical and dancing performances, including by children of the local Lithuanian and Estonian schools and Latvian performer Evija Sloka.

Please click here to see our Facebook photos from the event. Click here for a video from the event. 

 
JBANC supports Global Magnitsky Act

- Canada adopts law Oct. 18! -  


JBANC joined a coalition of 23 groups concerned with human rights in signing a September 12 open letter to Secretary of State Tillerson and Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin stressing the importance of implementation and enforcement of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.  Global Magnitsky was signed into law in December 2016.  It authorizes the President to imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on foreign citizens who engage in certain human rights violations and acts of corruption. The Departments of State and Treasury hold primary responsibility for enforcing the sanctions.  

The letter was drafted and coordinated by Human Rights First (HRF), a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization. In conjunction with the letter, they also vetted and submitted 15 case files for review under the act.  Read the letter here. JBANC advocated for Global Magnitsky and fully supports its provisions and enforcement. --- Text credit: Karin Shuey. Photo credit: RFE/RL

In a related development, the Canadian Senate passed its version of the Magnitsky Act on October 17 following House passage earlier in the month. Royal Assent was confirmed in the House and Senate on October 18, meaning that the legislation has now become law.  

Estonian-American rear admiral Edward Masso named the next U.S. ambassador to Tallinn
 

"Estonian World" recently reported that U.S. president Donald Trump announced his intent to name retired rear admiral, Estonian-American Edward “Sonny” Masso as the next ambassador to Estonia.

A nomination hearing for  Masso in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected soon. The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) is closely monitoring to see when the hearing will take place. 

According to the White House, Masso is a decorated naval officer and the founder of Flagship Connection, a consulting company on business development, strategic planning, and operations analysis in the areas of missile defense, cybersecurity and data analytics.

“During his distinguished 32-year career in the U.S. Navy, he held nine command assignments, including Commander, Navy Personnel Command/Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel,” the White House said in a statement.

Read more about the next ambassador to Estonia on the "Estonian World" webpage.

Photo credit: "Estonian World."
JBANC on the Hill Supporting CIEE on Saving J-1 Visa

The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) was advocating for J-1 visas in Washington, D.C. on October 4-6, 2017 during its annual Employer Forum. This year the forum came together for the special purpose of protecting J-1 visa programs across the country. The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) took part in various CIEE-organized events on the Hill with a broad coalition to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining J-1 visa programs, which are being threatened with severe restrictions and even elimination. These include the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation (BAFF) Professional Internship Program and other programs that benefit the economic, cultural and diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Baltic countries, such as Summer Work Travel programs, which benefit summer camps in the United States.  


Photo: Anna Udre, Phil Simon (Vice President, Work Exchange Program, CIEE), Karl Altau

During various CIEE events on the Hill JBANC had a chance to engage in a conversation with Senator Angus King of Maine to stress the importance of the ties between the U.S. and the Baltics. Senator King supports the programs and understands the value of these initiatives, which can also be viewed through a national security prism.


Photo: Senator Angus King of Maine in conversation with Karl Altau in the U.S. Senate, Oct. 5 

In a September 27 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, BAFF board chairman Kim Davis and Ambassador Michael Polt highlighted the importance of protecting the J-1 visa program, and that having J-1 visa travelers here is "an investment in advancing America's interests abroad." 


The BAFF Professional Internship Program, which JBANC has participated in since 2013, has "provided nearly 300 young professionals [from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania] with J-1 internships in the U.S. at private businesses, nonprofits and think tanks. Alumni report an increased understanding of the U.S. economy and political system. Many maintain personal and professional relationships with Americans." Read the full story from the Wall Street Journal here

ALA Calls for Support for the J-1 Visa Program

In its most recent "InfoGram," the American Latvian Association, one of JBANC's three parent organizations, announced that it is seeking support from its members and the Latvian-American community on the issue:  

"The ALA board expresses concern with the U.S. government’s plans to review and possibly discontinue the J-1 work visa program and directs the ALA Public Affairs Office to send letters of protest to the appropriate U.S. government agencies. ALA encourages its members to contact their representatives in Congress to express support for the J-1 visa program, which has allowed people from abroad, including Latvia, to work in summer camps such as Garezers, Kursa and the Catskills, thus providing American Latvian children a unique opportunity to learn about their heritage and Latvian identity." 

To lend your support for the J-1 visa program, please fill out a sample form by the Alliance for International Exchange here.  You can also support the effort by using the hashtag #SaveJ1 on social media. Thank you!
For the past 56 years, JBANC has served as the primary advocacy organization representing Baltic-Americans in Washington, DC. As the Baltic countries near their centenary, we are reaching out to you to ask for help in assuring that the Baltic voice stays active and strong on Capitol Hill and with the Administration. Please consider donating to ensure that we can continue our work in the most effective manner. 
 
 
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