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Tanya SomanaderSeptember 18, 2014
07:24 PM EDT
In a bipartisan vote, the House and Senate passed a Continuing Resolution that supports the U.S. military effort to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces so they can take the fight to the terrorist force ISIL.
At the White House tonight, President Obama delivered a statement to clearly outline these efforts and to thank Congress for standing united in our efforts to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.
I believe that we’re strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. And I want to thank leaders in Congress for the speed and seriousness with which they approached this urgent issue -- in keeping with the bipartisanship that is the hallmark of American foreign policy at its best.
The new effort that Congress voted to support tonight is not a combat mission, it’s a strategy that centers on training and supporting opposition forces that will fight ISIL inside of Syria:
These Syrian opposition forces are fighting both the brutality of ISIL terrorists and the tyranny of the Assad regime. We had already ramped up our assistance -- including military assistance -- to the Syrian opposition. With this new effort, we’ll provide training and equipment to help them grow stronger and take on ISIL terrorists inside Syria. This program will be hosted outside of Syria, in partnership with Arab countries. And it will be matched by our increasing support for Iraqi government and Kurdish forces in Iraq.
This is in keeping with a key principle of our strategy -- the American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission; their mission is to advise and assist our partners on the ground. As I told our troops yesterday, we can join with allies and partners to destroy ISIL without American troops fighting another ground war in the Middle East.
"The strong bipartisan support in Congress for this new training effort shows the world that Americans are united in confronting the threat from ISIL," the President said. Those who slaughter innocent civilians and attempt to intimidate America are "learning the same hard lesson of petty tyrants and terrorists who have gone before":
As Americans, we do not give in to fear. And when you harm our citizens, when you threaten the United States, when you threaten our allies -- it doesn’t divide us, it unites us. We pull together. We stand together. To defend this country that we love and to make sure justice is done. And to join with those who seek a better future of dignity and opportunity for all people.
Read the President's full statement here.
Dan UtechSeptember 18, 2014
04:52 PM EDT
Solar energy is shattering records in the United States. Since President Obama took office, installed solar power has increased 13-fold, topping nearly 16 gigawatts today – enough to power the equivalent of 3.2 million average American homes. As solar energy continues to grow, it is becoming a major source of high-paying American jobs – employing nearly 143,000 full-time professionals last year.
During the next decade, the solar industry is slated to grow even more. The next generation of skilled professionals will be key to the industry’s effort to meet the demand for this clean, renewable energy. That’s why the Energy Department is launching a pilot solar installation training program to provide military veterans who are transitioning out of active duty with the skills needed to become the leaders of the nation’s clean energy economy.
The solar industry has long taken a leading role in hiring veterans, employing more service members than any other sector in the U.S. Building on this tradition, the SunShot Initiative’s Solar Instructor Training Network – which aims to train 50,000 new solar installers in total by 2020, some of who will be veterans – is partnering with up to three military bases to create a veterans solar job training pilot project this fall.
Cameron BrenchleySeptember 18, 2014
03:20 PM EDT
Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama joined the site Upworthy as a guest curator to share content to inspire young people to reach higher and take charge of their future. Her first post highlighted inspiring stories from first-generation students at Kansas State University who have overcome challenges, and in her latest post she shares a powerful video of a College Signing Day assembly in San Antonio.
College Signing Day is special event to honor students who have committed to continue their education beyond high school. In May, the First Lady joined more than 2,000 San Antonio high school seniors for the community-wide event:
The fact is, a generation ago our country had the highest percentage of college graduates in the world. But today, we have dropped all the way to 12th. And that’s unacceptable. That’s not who we are. And all of you have a role to play to help get us get back on top, because the education you get today won’t just help you compete; it’s going to help our entire country compete in a global economy.
September 18, 2014
02:33 PM EDT
Today, the Obama administration is announcing a comprehensive set of new federal actions to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and protect public health. Additionally, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) is releasing a related report on Combating Antibiotic Resistance.
The discovery of antibiotics in the early 20th century fundamentally transformed medicine; antibiotics now save millions of lives each year in the United States and around the world. Yet bacteria repeatedly exposed to the same antibiotics can become resistant to even the most potent drugs. These so-called antibiotic-resistant bacteria can present a serious threat to public health, national security, and the economy.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant infections are associated with an additional 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the United States each year. The estimated annual impact of antibiotic-resistant infections on the national economy is $20 billion in excess direct health care costs, and as much as $35 billion in lost productivity from hospitalizations and sick days. Antibiotics are also critical to many modern medical interventions, including chemotherapy, surgery, dialysis, and organ transplantation.
Yohannes AbrahamSeptember 18, 2014
09:45 AM EDT
On Monday, President Obama welcomed 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee co-champions Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe to the Oval Office.
Sriram Hathwar, an eighth grader from Painted Post, New York, and Ansun Sujoe, a seventh grader from Fort Worth, Texas, were named co-champions of the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 29. The co-champions went through a series of regional competitions and preliminary rounds before making it to the nationally televised championship, becoming the first co-champions of the “Bee” in over 50 years.
Tanya SomanaderSeptember 17, 2014
02:58 PM EDT
President Obama travelled to Tampa, Florida to speak to service men and women at MacDill Air Force Base about the U.S. strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, a terrorist organization that is killing innocent, unarmed civilians in both Iraq and Syria. ISIL, also known as ISIS or the Islamic State, is also responsible for the brutal murders of American journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.
"In a world where technology provides a small group of killers with the ability to do terrible harm, it is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists,” he told servicemembers. To effectively do so, the U.S. will execute a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy that will empower the international community and local leaders to decimate these terrorists.
"If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."
Lindsay HolstSeptember 17, 2014
01:46 PM EDT
On September 17, 1787, the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed and adopted the Constitution at Philadelphia's Independence Hall. What exactly does that mean?
We've got the facts for you, courtesy of the Constitution page at WhiteHouse.gov.
What did the Constitution aim to do?
As drafted, the Constitution's purpose was to create a government that had enough power to act on a national level, but without so much power that individuals' fundamental rights would be at risk.
The Constitution accomplished this, in part, by separating the government's power into three branches, and then including checks and balances on each of those separate powers to make sure no single branch would gain supremacy. Each branch's powers are spelled out in the Constitution, and the powers not assigned to them are reserved for the states.
This was all no coincidence -- it was based largely on the experience that the Constitutional delegates had previously had with the King of England and his powerful Parliament.
David HudsonSeptember 16, 2014
07:10 PM EDT
This afternoon, during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, President Obama spoke on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and announced a major increase in our efforts to help the international community fight the outbreak.
While starting off by reiterating that the chances of an Ebola outbreak happening in the U.S. are extremely low, he made clear that West Africa faces "a very different situation," especially in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea -- the countries that have been hardest hit by the current outbreak:
[CDC Director Tom Frieden] and others recently returned from the region, and the scenes that they describe are just horrific. More than 2,400 men, women and children are known to have died -- and we strongly suspect that the actual death toll is higher than that. Hospitals, clinics and the few treatment centers that do exist have been completely overwhelmed. An already very weak public health system is near collapse in these countries. Patients are being turned away, and people are literally dying in the streets.
John PodestaSeptember 16, 2014
02:18 PM EDT
Today, fulfilling a commitment under the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Obama Administration is announcing new private sector commitments and executive actions to reduce emissions of hydroflourocarbons (HFCs), powerful greenhouse gases that exacerbate climate change. Taken together, these commitments will reduce cumulative global consumption of HFCs by the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2025. That’s an amount equal to 1.5% of the world’s 2010 greenhouse gas emissions—or, in other words, it’s like taking nearly 15 million cars off the road for 10 years.
HFCs, used primarily in air conditioning and refrigeration, are greenhouse gases with up to 10,000 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Unless we act, U.S. emissions of these potent greenhouse gases would nearly double by 2020 and triple by 2030.
Announced today, U.S. industries are leading the way in helping fulfill the President’s pledge by investing billions of dollars to develop and deploy the next generation of safe, cost-effective alternatives to HFCs, and by incorporating these climate-friendly technologies into the cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, foams and other products they manufacture and use.
September 16, 2014
01:53 PM EDT
All across the United States, there is living evidence that scientists and engineers are not the nerdy, all-male, lab-coat-wearing, wallflowers pictured in the history books but include the full diversity of the nation. Bringing these images out of the shadows will inspire further diversity in STEM fields, as young people see inspiration in their teachers, communities, and mentors.
Some of the talented young women who competed for this year’s Miss America title have dreams not only of a crown but of solving the toughest health, technology, and environmental challenges facing the world. Competing for a coveted few STEM scholarships from the Miss America organization, the finalists have stories like many young women around this country inspired to pursue STEM. Sporting some serious STEM credentials, we will have a conversation about inspiration, goals, and overcoming challenges with these young women who are on career pathways to be scientists, engineers, doctors, and entrepreneurs.
September 16, 2014
11:19 AM EDT
New data out this morning from the National Center for Health Statistics show that health insurance coverage increased sharply in the first quarter of 2014, reflecting the significant progress made in expanding access to affordable insurance coverage during the first part of the Affordable Care Act’s inaugural open enrollment period.
These first official data on insurance coverage in 2014 do not capture the full scope of the gains in insurance coverage that have occurred so far in 2014 because most of the underlying interviews occurred well before the “March surge” in plan selections on the Health Insurance Marketplace. But when taken together with private survey data showing that coverage continued to expand in the second quarter of 2014, other recent data showing continued slow growth in health care costs, and ongoing improvements in health care quality, the overall picture is clear: the Affordable Care Act is working and well on its way to ensuring that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health care.
Today’s results from NCHS show large coverage gains, with larger gains ahead.
In detail, today’s results from the NCHS’ National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) show that the share of Americans without health insurance averaged 13.1 percent over the first quarter of 2014, down from an average of 14.4 percent during 2013, a reduction corresponding to approximately 4 million people. The 13.1 percent uninsurance rate recorded for the first quarter of 2014 is lower than any annual uninsurance rate recorded by the NHIS since it began using its current design in 1997.
As striking as this reduction is, it dramatically understates the actual gains in insurance coverage so far in 2014. The interviews reflected in today’s results were spread evenly over January, February, and March 2014. As a result, the vast majority of the survey interviews occurred before the surge in Marketplace plan selections that occurred in March; 3.8 million people selected a Marketplace plan after March 1,with many in the last week before the end of open enrollment on March 31. Similarly, these results only partially capture the steady increase in Medicaid enrollment during the first quarter.
September 16, 2014
11:03 AM EDT
Today’s report from the Census Bureau shows that key indicators of poverty and family income improved in 2013. Moreover, there is reason to believe that this progress has continued into 2014, as the labor market has strengthened and millions have gained health insurance coverage. At the same time, the data also offer a clear illustration of the large amount of work that remains to strengthen the middle class in the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression. To address this challenge, the President will continue to do everything in his power to ensure that hard work pays off with decent wages and financial security. And he will also continue to push Congress to take constructive steps that invest in job creation, boost wages, and ensure equal pay for equal work.
FIVE KEY POINTS IN TODAY’S REPORT FROM THE CENSUS BUREAU
1. The overall poverty rate declined to 14.5 percent in 2013 due to the largest one-year drop in child poverty since 1966. The poverty rate for people under age 18 fell by 1.9 percentage point from 2012 to 2013, equivalent to 1.4 million young people lifted out of poverty. Poverty rates for other age groups (18-64 and 65+) were little changed. The official poverty rate for 2013 remains above its pre-recession rate. This official poverty rate does not reflect the full effect of anti-poverty policies because it excludes the direct effect of key measures like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Notably, the EITC was expanded in 2009, and those expansions were subsequently extended. Accounting for such policies would reduce the number of people counted as being in poverty by millions.
Tanya SomanaderSeptember 15, 2014
06:24 PM EDT
September 15, 2008 -- a day that rocked the American economy to its core after Lehman Brothers, then one of the nation’s largest investment banks, filed for bankruptcy. The largest filing in history, Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy sent shockwaves through the global markets and left families and businesses reeling.
In the months before the President took office, Americans watched as the private-sector cut 800,000 jobs a month, the housing market cratered, and the American auto industry threatened to collapse. That economic turmoil -- the severity of the challenges we faced in 2008 -- stand in stark contrast to where we are now, six years after the Great Recession. Now, thanks to American workers and businessmen and women, our economy has added 10 million jobs and is growing stronger by almost every economic measure.
While there is more work to do to keep our economy moving forward, take a look back with White House Administration officials who shared the critical moment and key decisions the President made in three different areas of the economy to get us to where we are today. Then slide across the charts to see how far we’ve come in the last six years.
"The Epicenter of That Crisis": The Housing Market
The collapse of the housing market sparked the Great Recession, driving down home prices, halting construction on new homes, and forcing millions of families into foreclosure.
Listen as Shaun Donovan, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, describe how they created “most comprehensive, aggressive housing strategy that the country has ever seen” within the first few weeks of the Obama administration. There’s much more work to do but now, home prices are rising at a fast pace and homebuilders are breaking ground on 50,000 more homes each month than they were in 2009.
Ashleigh AxiosSeptember 15, 2014
05:20 PM EDT
The White House is known as “The People’s House” — and since 2009, the Obama administration has made that nickname truer than ever before for millions of guests by opening the White House to as many Americans as possible.
With the new White House Visitor Center opening up, we want to remind you of the ways you can visit "The People's House" from Washington, D.C. or from the comfort of your home.
September 15, 2014
04:51 PM EDT
Our border has been and remains more secure than it has been in decades. Earlier this year, we saw an influx of Central American migrants including unaccompanied children and adults with children in one isolated area of our border, the Rio Grande Valley in Texas but the Administration took decisive action and the situation is improving.
The President and his Administration responded with an aggressive, coordinated Federal response focused on stepped up deterrence, enhanced enforcement, stronger foreign cooperation, and greater capacity for affected Federal agencies to ensure that our border remained secure. As a result, and as Secretary Jeh Johnson reported last week, the number of Central American migrants trying to illegally cross the Southwest border continues to decline including unaccompanied children and families.
This is good news. We are not declaring victory, and we aren’t going to take our foot off the gas; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) remains prepared. We will remain vigilant and continue to aggressively work to deter future increases and address the influx on both sides of the border with our Central American partners.
September 15, 2014
02:39 PM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. General Services Administration's blog. See the original post here.
We recently welcomed the newest group of Presidential Innovation Fellows into the federal government. This diverse group represents some of the nation’s most talented and creative civic-minded innovators.
More than 1,000 candidates applied to serve the country in this unique capacity. From this pool of amazing and incredibly motivated applicants, we selected almost 30 designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and executives to bring their unique skills into government.
David HudsonSeptember 15, 2014
12:54 PM EDT
This afternoon at the White House, President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat for their actions in Vietnam.
Most Americans know that the Medal of Honor is the highest military award that a member of the U.S. armed forces can receive -- but what goes into the actual award ceremony at the White House?
In June, we went behind the scenes as the President presented the Medal of Honor to Cpl. William "Kyle" Carpenter, a retired United States Marine, for his actions during combat operations in Afghanistan.
Jeffrey ZientsSeptember 15, 2014
06:00 AM EDT
Six years ago today, Wall Street was rocked by a financial crisis that culminated in the bankruptcy filing of Lehman Brothers, the largest in U.S. history. The financial crisis resulted in the longest and deepest recession the American economy had experienced in 60 years. While more work remains to continue digging out of the deep hole that was left by the crisis, this week offers a chance to reflect on the significant progress that has been made since then in strengthening the economy and reforming the financial sector.
To understand how far we have come, it is important to remember the dark days that marked the beginning of the financial crisis. In the span of a few weeks in 2008, many of our nation's largest financial institutions failed or were acquired to avoid insolvency. Capital markets froze, and the availability of credit for mortgages, student, auto, and small business loans was drastically reduced. The recession ultimately eliminated nearly 9 million jobs, threatened the American auto industry, and shrank the economy by hundreds of billions of dollars. The crisis was the result of many factors, including an overvalued housing market, predatory lending practices, thinly capitalized financial institutions that took big risks, and a regulatory system that was outdated and unequipped to meet modern challenges.
Sheila NixSeptember 14, 2014
10:38 PM EDT
Leading a Presidential Delegation, Dr. Jill Biden traveled to London this weekend to join athletes representing the United States at the Invictus Games -- an international sporting event for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. "These games really show the spirit of the military and how they persevere and their resilience," Dr. Biden said.
This trip is part of Dr. Biden’s ongoing efforts through the Joining Forces initiative to raise awareness and show appreciation for veterans, service members, and their families.
Lindsay HolstSeptember 13, 2014
06:57 PM EDT
Today, the following message was sent from Vice President Biden on the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to those signed up to receive updates from the White House.
Didn't get the email? Make sure you're signed up to receive updates from the White House and senior Administration officials.
Twenty years ago today, the Violence Against Women Act was signed into law. It remains my proudest legislative achievement -- but it didn't happen because of me.
It happened because, at a time when kicking a woman in the stomach or pushing her down the stairs was not taken seriously as a crime -- and at a time when domestic violence against women was considered a "family affair" -- something remarkable happened.
Incredibly brave and courageous women began speaking up.
Women like Marla, a model whose face was slashed by two men because she'd refused her landlord's entrees, and who was questioned for 20 minutes during the trial about why she was wearing a miniskirt. As if she had asked for or welcomed this repugnant act of violence. Marla spoke out.
Women like Christine, who was raped in a dorm room by a friend's boyfriend. Christine said she hadn't even known she'd been raped, because she'd known the man. But Christine added her voice.
There were so many more. Women who had their arms broken with hammers and heads beaten with pipes, who were among the 21,000 women who were assaulted, raped, and murdered in a single week in America at the time.
All of these women are victims. But they're also survivors.