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  • Welcome to a Special Edition of West Wing Week, featuring a Summer Social Media Mailbag q&a session with White House Staffers. But before we get to your questions, here are a couple scenes from the President's week.

  • The American auto industry remains a cornerstone of our economy -- a key source of our ability to export, innovate, and create jobs. During the economic turmoil of the Great Recession, the auto sector shed hundreds of thousands of jobs, and production dropped to the lowest level recorded in data going back to the 1960s. In 2009, President Obama took decisive action to rescue the industry from imminent collapse, saving more than 1 million jobs across the country.

    Now, our auto industry is once again a source of economic strength, with more and more of the world’s top-of-the-line, fuel-efficient vehicles being made by American workers in American factories. In fact, the number of cars coming off our assembly lines just reached its highest level in 12 years.

    Check out how fast the American auto industry has bounced back under President Obama -- then share this chart with everyone who needs to see this progress:

  • Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the 2014 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition Champions

    Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the 2014 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition Champions from the University of Central Florida, in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, in Washington, D.C., August 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Yesterday afternoon, Vice President Joe Biden welcomed the University of Central Florida’s cyber defense team to the White House to congratulate them on their victory in the 2014 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. Beating out more than 2,000 students from over 180 schools, the Central Florida team members demonstrated their ability to protect complex networks from skilled cyber criminals.

    Joined by the Director of the Secret Service, the President’s Cyber Coordinator, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Director for National Security and International Affairs, the Vice President underscored the vital national security and economic need to prepare Americans for jobs in cybersecurity.

  • Watch on YouTube

    This afternoon, the President made a statement on the killing of journalist James Foley by the terrorist group ISIL. He was 40 years old.

    "The entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley," President Obama said. "Jim was a journalist, a son, a brother, and a friend. He reported from difficult and dangerous places, bearing witness to the lives of people a world away."

    Foley was taken hostage in Syria almost two years ago while reporting on the conflict there. The President made clear in today's statement that Foley's life "stands in stark contrast to his killers":

  • U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is traveling to Ferguson, Missouri today to review the Department of Justice's ongoing independent investigation into the tragic death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

    In an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Attorney General Holder pledged to help find justice for a community that is rightfully hurting and looking for answers: 

    Today, I will be in Ferguson to be briefed on the federal civil rights investigation that I have closely monitored since I launched it more than one week ago. I will meet personally with community leaders, FBI investigators and federal prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to receive detailed briefings on the status of this case.

    The full resources of the Department of Justice have been committed to the investigation into Michael Brown’s death. This inquiry will take time to complete, but we have already taken significant steps. Approximately 40 FBI agents and some of the Civil Rights Division’s most experienced prosecutors have been deployed to lead this process, with the assistance of the United States Attorney in St. Louis. Hundreds of people have already been interviewed in connection with this matter. On Monday, at my direction, a team of federal medical examiners conducted an independent autopsy.

    We understand the need for an independent investigation, and we hope that the independence and thoroughness of our investigation will bring some measure of calm to the tensions in Ferguson. In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson. Although these acts have been committed by a very small minority -- and, in many cases, by individuals from outside Ferguson -- they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice. And they interrupt the deeper conversation that the legitimate demonstrators are trying to advance.

  • Ever wondered what a first day as a new employee at the White House looks like?

    What about a first day as the very first employee of a brand-new government service designed to remake the way people and businesses interact with their government online?

    From parking forms to press conferences, from orientation to setting a new BlackBerry password to meeting with senior advisors, follow along as Mikey Dickerson, Administrator of the newly created U.S. Digital Service, makes his way through Day One.

    Take a look, and then pass this one on.

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Labor's blog. See the original post here.

    Leading up to Labor Day 2014, Secretary Tom Perez is traveling across the country to talk with Americans about how we can help more people succeed in the workplace and at home. Follow him along the way with live updates at www.dol.gov/LaborDay.


    Meet Austraberta.

    Austraberta

    71-year-old Austraberta Rodriguez has been a janitor for more than 30 years. For most of those years, she could only dream about vacation days and paid time off. She was making $5.15 per hour and she had small children and grandchildren. All of her money was going to the bare essentials. Looking back, she doesn’t know how she survived. In 2006, all of that changed.

  • Watch on YouTube

    This afternoon at the White House, President Obama delivered a statement on the latest developments in Iraq and in Ferguson, Missouri — two issues he has been following closely each day.

    First, the President relayed to the nation that the American operation in Iraq has effectively protected our personnel by stopping the terrorist group ISIL from advancing on the city of Erbil, and by helping Iraqi forces to recapture the largest dam in Iraq:

    The Mosul Dam fell under terrorist control earlier this month and is directly tied to our objective of protecting Americans in Iraq. If that dam was breached, it could have proven catastrophic, with floods that would have threatened the lives of thousands of civilians and endangered our embassy compound in Baghdad. Iraqi and Kurdish forces took the lead on the ground and performed with courage and determination. So this operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together in taking the fight to ISIL. If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America.

  • Vice President Joe Biden ceremonially swears in Julian Castro as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

    Vice President Joe Biden ceremonially swears in Julian Castro as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House, August 18, 2014. Also pictured are Secretary Castro's wife Erica, and daughter Carina. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Earlier this afternoon, Vice President Biden ceremonially swore in former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro as the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

    Secretary Castro -- who was confirmed by the Senate last month in a 71-26 vote -- made significant progress in San Antonio and implemented a number of housing and economic development programs to help the city's residents. In a statement last month, President Obama called Secretary Castro "a proven leader -- a champion for safe, affordable housing and strong, sustainable neighborhoods."

    The President also voiced his confidence that Secretary Castro will work in his new role to "build on the progress we've made battling back from the Great Recession" -- rebuilding America's housing market, reducing veteran homelessness, and connecting neighborhoods with good schools and jobs that help Americans succeed.

    • President Franklin D. Roosevelt celebrates his 61st birthday on the Dixie Clipper

      President Franklin D. Roosevelt celebrates his 61st birthday on the Dixie Clipper while flying from Trinidad to Miami. 1/30/1943

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    • President Harry S. Truman’s Presidential Airplane, the Independence

      President Harry S. Truman’s Presidential airplane, the Independence, in flight over an unknown location. 1950

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    • The Columbine II Sits on the Tarmac in Washington, D.C.

      The Columbine II sits on the tarmac in D.C. awaiting the arrival of President Eisenhower. 2/23/1953. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

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    • President John F. Kennedy Arrives in Alameda, California

      President John F. Kennedy arrives in Alameda, California. 3/23/1962

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    • President Lyndon B. Johnson Holds Grandson Patrick Lyndon Nugent

      President Lyndon B. Johnson holds his grandson Patrick, who plays with the telephone as First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and Luci Johnson look on. 3/2/68

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    • Arrival of Air Force One in Peking, China

      Arrival of Air Force One in Peking, China. 2/21/1972

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    • First Lady Betty Ford and President Gerald Ford Inside Air Force One

      First Lady Betty Ford and President Gerald Ford inside Air Force One after Sara Jane Moore’s assassination attempt. 9/22/1975

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    • President Jimmy Carter with White House Staff Aboard Air Force One

      President Jimmy Carter with White House staff aboard Air Force One. 7/20/1977

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    • President Ronald Reagan Sitting with the Crew in the Cockpit of Air Force One

      President Ronald Reagan sitting with the crew in the cockpit of Air Force One. 3/16/1982

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    • President George Bush is Welcomed by Military Personnel

      President George Bush is welcomed by Military Personnel to Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10/28/1990

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    • President William J. Clinton on Air Force One

      President William J. Clinton speaking on the telephone to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin from his office on Air Force One. 9/9/1993

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    • Air Force One Landing At Buyant-Ukhaa Airport

      Air Force One landing At Buyant-Ukhaa Airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. 11/21/2005

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    • President Barack Obama Plays With Bo

      President Barack Obama plays with Bo aboard Air Force One during a flight to Hawaii. 12/23/2011 (Official WH Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Barack Obama Looks Out the Windows of Air Force One

      President Obama looks out of Air Force One with Nicky and Zachary DeParle. 12/23/2011 (Official WH Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Barack Obama and White House Staffers Aboard Air Force One to Paris

      President Obama and White House staffers aboard Air Force One look at Reggie Love's photos of Egypt on June 5, 2009. (Official WH Photo by Pete Souza)

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    The President of the United States must be ready to travel anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice. Fortunately, modern Presidents have access to a variety of transportation options, including flying aboard Air Force One. Strictly speaking, the term “Air Force One” is used to describe any Air Force aircraft when the President is on board, but since the middle of the 20th century, it has been standard practice to use the title to refer to specific planes that are equipped to transport the Commander-in-Chief.

  • President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the State Dining Room of the White House, Aug. 8, 2014.

    President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the State Dining Room of the White House, Aug. 8, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    In this week’s address, with schools getting ready to open their doors again over the next few weeks, the President talked directly to students and parents about the importance of preparing for an education beyond high school.

    In today’s economy, some higher education continues to be the surest ticket to the middle class, but for too many families across the country, paying for higher education is a constant struggle. The President and First Lady know this first hand -- they only finished paying off their student loans 10 years ago -- and that’s why they have made it a priority to help make college more affordable for families. They have taken action to reform student loans, expand grants and college tax credits, help make loan payments more manageable, and have proposed plans to make sure colleges also do their part to bring down costs. And just this week, as part of the President’s Year of Action, the administration announced a new series of commitments to support students who need a little extra academic help getting through college.

    Transcript | mp4 | mp3

  • This week, President Obama gave updates on the continuing humanitarian crisis in Iraq and the situation in Ferguson, Missouri; the White House announced progress on raising the minimum wage; and the Administration launched the U.S. Digital Service to help modernize our government.

    Check out what else you may have missed this week in our weekly wrap up.


    A Statement on Iraq and Ferguson

    Yesterday, President Obama delivered a statement about what's happening in Iraq. He said that although conditions are still dire for Iraqis who are "subjected to ISIL's terror throughout the country," the situation for civilians stranded on Mount Sinjar has "greatly improved and Americans should be very proud of our efforts."

    Watch on YouTube

    The President also spoke about the events in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. He called on the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney on the scene to work with local officials in making sure the investigation is open and transparent. "Now is the time for healing," he added.

    I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred. There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That’s part of our democracy. But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law; a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest; a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us; and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.

  • Seventy-nine years ago, on August 14, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt said, "We can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-stricken old age."

    With that, he signed the Social Security Act into law, ushering in an era of economic prosperity for middle-class families. The first American to get Social Security received 17 cents in benefits. Today, 79 years later, Social Security stands as a major source of income for 54 million Americans who have paid into the system for their entire working lives.

    President Obama understands that many seniors rely on Social Security, and believes that every one of them should be able to retire with dignity, which is why he’s acted to strengthen the Social Security system and ensure it remains solvent for years to come.

  • Welcome to a special Summer Edition of the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, the President focused on the developing situations both in Iraq and in our nation's heartland, in Ferguson, Missouri. Also, West Wing Week tagged along for the first few hours and days of one of the newest employees here at the White House, and for the launch of the newly created U.S. Digital Service. That's August 8-15 or, "Mikey Goes to Washington."

    Watch on YouTube

  • Each day, American businesses are firing on all cylinders to create jobs and drive America's economic growth. Just last month, our private sector added jobs for the 53rd straight month, the longest streak on record. In total, American businesses have added 9.9 million jobs since early 2010. This week, we saw another sign of progress, as the number of available jobs rose to the highest level in more than 13 years.

    American business owners advertised 4.67 million jobs in June, the highest number of openings since February 2001 — a clear signal that the economy is strengthening. Take a look at how we went from record lows during the Great Recession to hitting a new high this summer — then share the good news:

  • On Friday, August 1, President Obama signed a bill into law that again made it legal for consumers to unlock their cell phones in order to take them to a carrier that best suits their needs. It marked the very first time a We the People petition led to a legislative fix.

    It's a win for consumers, and an important milestone for We the People -- which has generated more than 15 million users and 22 million signatures on over 350,000 petitions since it started in 2011.

    President Barack Obama signs S. 517, Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act

    President Barack Obama signs S. 517, Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, in the Oval Office, Aug. 1, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Here's how it happened:

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Tradeology, the official blog of the International Trade Administration. You can see the original post here.

    Whatever your fancy -- toes in sand, skis in fresh powder, or your golf ball in the middle of the fairway (we hope) -- your travel plans support millions of jobs throughout the United States.

    We have the data to prove it: New data from the Department of Commerce show the travel and tourism industry supported 7.6 million jobs in 2013, up 146,000 jobs from 2012.

  • Yesterday, the Department of Education unveiled a new grant opportunity to partner with states and local communities to expand the reach of high-quality preschool. The $250 million grant competition will provide thousands of additional 4-year-old children across the country with a high-quality preschool education. The Obama administration’s Preschool Development Grants program is a critical piece of the President’s plan to boost access to high-quality preschool and support early learning for every child in America, beginning at birth and continuing through school entry.

    The return on our dollar is highest when we invest in our youngest children, and we have recent research showing that sufficiently scaled Pre-K programs in cities like Boston and Tulsa are having a significant, positive impact on children’s literacy, language development, and math skills. Still, only approximately 28% of America’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in state preschool programs in the 2012-2013 school year. The high cost of private preschool programs and insufficient funding for public preschool in many communities narrows options for families, especially those in low-income communities.

    In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool education to every child in America. Last January, he challenged more Americans to join this effort — and governors, mayors, school superintendents, corporate and community leaders, foundations, and policymakers have responded.

  • This week, we welcomed outstanding students and teachers from across the country to the White House for the Presidential Environmental Education Awards National Recognition Ceremony. We were wowed by their smarts, their ingenuity, and their commitment to environmental issues. 

    Climate change and environmental problems are some of the greatest challenges of our time. Climate impacts threaten lives and livelihoods — from more frequent and intense drought, storms, fires, and floods to higher insurance premiums, property taxes, and food prices. Current and future generations of public servants, scientists, educators, and entrepreneurs will have to work together to solve these problems.

    Fortunately for all of us, these impressive students and teachers are doing great work, and the President’s Environmental Education Awards honor that spirit. Since 1971, the President has joined with EPA to recognize the importance of environmental education in protecting our nation’s air, water, land, and ecology. One outstanding student project and up to two outstanding teachers can be selected from each EPA region for national recognition. 

    When Deepika Kurup of New Hampshire came face-to-face with a lack of access to clean drinking water in India, she took action, building water purifiers that use a chemical reaction catalyzed by sunlight to kill common bacteria. Meanwhile, students in California created “Donate, Don’t Dump,” a campaign to get surplus and short-dated food from grocers, growers, and food companies to the hungry rather than sent to landfills. The campaign has grown into a teen-run nonprofit with 20 chapters in 4 states and 4,000 members.  

  • President Barack Obama makes a statement on the situations in Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri, from Edgartown, Massachusetts

    President Barack Obama makes a statement on the situations in Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri, from Edgartown, Massachusetts, August 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    This afternoon, President Obama updated the nation on two issues that he's been monitoring closely over the past several days -- America's military operations in Iraq, and the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.

    Speaking first on Iraq, the President noted the progress the U.S. has made in carrying out "targeted military operations" in the country:

    Last week, I authorized two limited missions:  protecting our people and facilities inside of Iraq, and a humanitarian operation to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians stranded on a mountain.

    A week ago, we assessed that many thousands of Yezidi men, women and children had abandoned their possessions to take refuge on Mount Sinjar in a desperate attempt to avoid slaughter.  We also knew that ISIL terrorists were killing and enslaving Yezidi civilians in their custody, and laying siege to the mountain. Without food or water, they faced a terrible choice -- starve on the mountain, or be slaughtered on the ground.  That’s when America came to help.

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