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  • We've koshered the kitchen and set up the menorah. And this afternoon, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed hundreds of guests here at the White House for the second night of Hanukkah.

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    Joined by the First Lady and Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, President Obama retold the story of Hanukkah, "a story that took place more than 2,000 years ago, when a small group of Maccabees rose up to defeat their far more powerful oppressors."

    In the face of overwhelming odds, they reclaimed their city and the right to worship as they chose. And in their victory, they found there wasn’t enough oil to keep the flame in their temple alive. But they lit the oil they had and, miraculously, the flame that was supposed to burn for just one night burned for eight. The Hanukkah story teaches us that our light can shine brighter than we could ever imagine with faith, and it’s up to us to provide that first spark.

    The President also took time to highlight a new Hanukkah story: The return of American aid worker Alan Gross from Cuba.

    "After our many months of discussion with the Cuban government, Alan was finally released this morning on humanitarian grounds," the President said:

    He’s going to be getting the medical attention that he needs. He’s back where he belongs -- in America, with his family, home for Hanukkah. And I can’t think of a better way to mark this holiday, with its message that freedom is possible, than with the historic changes that I announced today in our Cuba policy. These are changes that are rooted in America’s commitment to freedom and democracy for all the Cuban people, including its small but proud Jewish community.

    Rabbi Shavit Artson led the blessings and lit the menorah -- one of four brought from Israel to the White House this year. The menorah came from bilingual Jerusalem school Hand in Hand, and was built by both Jewish and Muslim students following a devastating arson attack. As the President put it, "Each of its branches are dedicated to one of the values their school is founded on -- values like community and dignity and equality and peace."
     


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  • Before the Senate adjourned last night, it confirmed 12 federal district court nominees, for a total of 307 lifetime-appointed federal judges confirmed during President Obama’s first six years. These confirmations include two Supreme Court Justices, 53 circuit court judges, 250 district court judges, and two Court of International Trade judges. Over the past two years, the Senate has confirmed 134 judges—44% of President Obama’s judicial confirmations, and the most in a two-year Congress since 1979-1980. We’re proud of all of our nominees and grateful to the Senate for its action.

    President Obama will continue to consult with Senators—Democrats and Republicans—to identify lawyers with the necessary intellect, integrity, temperament, and commitment to equal justice under law to serve as lifetime-appointed judges. He also will continue his unprecedented commitment to expanding the gender, racial, sexual orientation, and experiential diversity of the men and women who enforce our laws and deliver justice.

    President Obama’s judges have broken barriers across the nation, including four who were confirmed last night:

    • Loretta Biggs, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, is the first African American female judge to serve on her court.
    • Elizabeth Dillon, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, is the first female judge to serve on her court.
    • Amit Mehta, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is the first Asian American Pacific Islander judge to serve on his court.
    • Robert Pitman, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, is the first openly gay lifetime appointed federal judge in Texas.

  • Today, the President announced the most significant changes to our Cuban policy in more than 50 years -- ending an outdated approach that has failed to advance our interests for decades.

    People and organizations from around the world are weighing in. Take a look at what they're saying, and then add your voice to the conversation using hashtag #CubaPolicy.

    Read more here.

     

  • With the U.S. economy on the move -- and with worldwide demand for quality, innovative goods on the rise -- there have never been greater opportunities for American small businesses to prosper on the global stage and add good-paying jobs here at home.

    The Export-Import Bank of the United States, or "Ex-Im," is a small agency that exists to equip U.S. businesses with the financing tools they need to overcome obstacles and open new markets for their goods and services. We know that when entrepreneurs are empowered to win export sales against their foreign competitors, businesses grow, our economy becomes more durable, and layoffs are replaced with 'Now Hiring' signs in communities across our country.

    Our 2014 Annual Report, available here, details some of the work we did this year -- which happened to mark our 80th anniversary -- to support U.S. job growth and promote American economic leadership abroad.

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    "Change is hard -- in our own lives, and in the lives of nations. And change is even harder when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders. But today we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do. Today, American chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future -- for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world." 

    -- President Obama, December 17, 2014


  • "I was quoted $800 a month … and then was promptly denied, due to my pre-existing conditions. When I signed up this month through Covered California however, the process was virtually painless, and now I have insurance that I can afford."


  • Earlier today, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell sent this message to the White House email list on President Obama's action to protect Bristol Bay. Didn't get it? Make sure you sign up for email updates here.


    Just now, the President took action to protect a place called Bristol Bay, Alaska. Here's why that matters:

    It places a national treasure -- and one of the nation's most productive fisheries -- off limits for oil and gas leasing. Alaskans have been fighting to preserve Bristol Bay for decades. Today, we got it done.

    Bristol Bay helps to produce 40 percent of America's wild-caught seafood each year. It supports $2 billion every year in commercial fishing, and supports good jobs in sport-fishing and tourism.

    These waters are beautiful and valuable, and today's action will ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy their bounty.

    It's a big deal. Watch the President's announcement, and take a look at these photos of the place this Administration just took definitive action to protect:

    This is Bristol Bay, Alaska, a national treasure that President Obama is protecting for all of us.

  • President Obama just took action to protect one of Alaska's most powerful economic engines and one of America’s greatest national treasures: Bristol Bay.

    Today, he signed a Presidential Memorandum that withdraws these beautiful and pristine waters from all future oil and gas drilling. "These waters are too special and too valuable to auction off to the highest bidder," the President said.

  • Photo of seafood vendor

    Seafood fraud can happen at any point in the supply chain, undermining law-abiding fishers and misleading consumers. (Photo credit: NOAA)

    America’s fisheries drive coastal economies and put food on the tables of families across the country. Unfortunately, the twin global issues of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud undermine the economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries and fish stocks.

    Global losses attributable to IUU fishing are estimated at $10 billion to $23 billion annually. Pirate fishing vessels take in fish without regard to the sustainability of ocean ecosystems. Not required to file trip plans or carry transponders, the ships roam the oceans in the shadows and become vectors for human, drug, and arms trafficking. Black-market fishing distorts legal markets and displaces law-abiding fishermen, ultimately serving as a drag on the global economy. These challenges can be compounded by seafood fraud — the mislabeling, misbranding, or falsification of product origins — which can occur at any point in the supply chain.

    Today, the federal task force on combatting IUU fishing and seafood fraud released its final recommendations to tackle these complex challenges. President Obama announced the creation of the task force at the State Department’s Our Ocean conference in June, and for the last six months, under the leadership of NOAA Administrator Kathy Sullivan and Under Secretary of State Cathy Novelli, representatives from 14 agencies have come together to answer the President’s call to action.


  • "When I opened the envelope containing my insurance card, I got a bit teary eyed. Thank you a million times."


    Lynette J. is a small business owner from Hyattsville, Maryland. Her business has been open for more than seven years, she's 34 years old, and at the time she wrote the President this past August, she was about to make her first doctor's appointment in more than five years. That's because she's now covered thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

  • The U.S. economic recovery took a major step forward in 2014, achieving a number of important milestones. American businesses set a new record for the most consecutive months of job growth: now 57 straight months and counting. By November, the economy had already added more jobs than in any full calendar year since the 1990s. And crucially, the pickup in job growth during 2014 occurred primarily in higher-paying industries, while nearly all of the employment gains have been in full-time positions. At the same time, the unemployment rate fell below 6 percent for the first time since 2008.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama reads '' 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2014

    First Lady Michelle Obama reads '' 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" during a Christmas holiday program at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2014. The First Lady is seated with Elves Aaron Irby (age 9), and Kyra DeStefano (age 10), right, and Obama family pets, Bo and Sunny. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    First Lady Michelle Obama visited the patients at the Children’s National Medical Center today in Washington, D.C., continuing a tradition dating back more than 60 years to First Lady Bess Truman. First Dogs Bo and Sunny joined Mrs. Obama to help spread holiday cheer to the kids and their families.

    After meeting with patients and doctors in the surgical care unit and with the infectious disease team, the First Lady sat down with Santa Claus to read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to a group of children gathered in the hospital's atrium.

    CHILD: I knew it was Santa!

    MRS. OBAMA: You knew it was Santa! It’s a Christmas story, who else would it be? 

  • The Surgeon General is America's doctor, responsible for providing Americans with the best scientific information on how to improve our collective well-being. Now, Dr. Vivek Murthy will be the next physician to don the lab coat of the Surgeon General after the Senate confirmed his nomination today. 

    "I applaud the Senate for confirming Vivek Murthy to be our country’s next Surgeon General," the President said following the confirmation. "As ‘America’s Doctor,’ Vivek will hit the ground running to make sure every American has the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe. He’ll bring his lifetime of experience promoting public health to bear on priorities ranging from stopping new diseases to helping our kids grow up healthy and strong."

    Here's a quick rundown of what you need to know about our next Surgeon General:

    What does the Surgeon General do? 

    The Surgeon General's chief responsibility is to protect, promote, and advance our nation's public health. He or she provides Americans with the best scientific information available on how to improve our health and reduce the risk of illness and injury.

    On top of overseeing 6,700 members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the Surgeon General is also the Chair of the National Prevention Council, a group of 20 federal departments and agencies that is committed to prevention and wellness for individuals, families, and communities. 

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    Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to Memphis and held a roundtable discussion on improving the relationship between the city's people of color and local law enforcement.

    In the wake of the recent police-involved deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and others, the President has called for an increased effort to help rebuild communities' trust in local law enforcement and the justice system. In that vein, the Attorney General will be holding similar discussions in a number of other cities across the country.

  • "The message I’m here to deliver on behalf of the American people is very simple: It’s just to say thank you."

    President Obama traveled to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey today to offer his thanks to the U.S. military members and families stationed there and across the world for their service to our country: 

  • Earlier today, The Tennessean published the following op-ed from President Obama. In it, he discusses his executive actions to help make America's immigration system smarter and fairer, and why we still need Congress to pass a common-sense law to fix the system.

    Learn more about the actions the President is taking on immigration.


    Many Americans think of Nashville as the home of country music, barbecue, and a hit TV show. What they may not realize is that, in recent years, Music City also has had one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the country.

    "New Nashvillians" are from Somalia and Nepal and Laos. They're from Mexico and Bangladesh. Nashville even boasts the largest Kurdish community in the United States. They work as teachers in our schools, doctors in our hospitals, and cops in our neighborhoods. They start small businesses and create jobs making this city a more prosperous, more innovative place. "They" are "us."

    When done right, immigration benefits everyone. But our immigration system has been broken for a long time. Families who try to come here the right way can get stuck in line for years. Business owners who treat their workers right see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants. None of us likes the idea that someone could reap the rewards of living in America without its responsibilities. And folks who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities have no way to come out of the shadows and get right with the law.


  • "…I was locked into my job because of health care. The Affordable Care Act enabled me to resign and devote my full efforts to what I believe is a much more important calling."


    Health reform has given many Americans the freedom to pursue their dreams -- and Keith C. is one of them.

  • President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Dec. 12, 2014

    President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Dec. 12, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    In this week's address, the President thanked the men and women in uniform who serve and sacrifice to protect the freedom, prosperity, and security that we all enjoy as Americans. On Monday the President will visit troops at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey and voice his appreciation in person for their incredible service.

    These troops, as well as the many who are still overseas, have met every mission they have been tasked with, from bringing a responsible end to our war in Afghanistan, to working to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, to saving lives by fighting to contain the spread of Ebola. During this holiday season, a time of blessings and gratitude, the President reminded everyone to find a way to thank and serve the members of the military who serve us every day.

    Transcript  | mp4 | mp3

  • For the past several years, Bo and Sunny, the First Family’s dogs, have been creatively included in the White House holiday décor. Last year’s decorations even included a 3D model of Bo with a wagging tail powered by a motor from a reindeer lawn decoration!

    This year the White House enlisted Stephanie Santoso, Mark DeLoura, and Laura Gerhardt from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and David Naffis and Bosco So from the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program to feature Bo and Sunny in the holiday decorations as life-size, animated “dog-bots."

    Sewing on Bo's fur

    A volunteer applies ribbon “fur” onto Bo’s wire mesh frame.

  • This week, the President nominated a Secretary of Defense, coded with a group of budding computer scientists, took over as host of The Colbert Report, pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, hosted a summit on high quality early education, and welcomed this year's Kennedy Center Honorees to the White House. That's December 5th to December 11th or, "Zeros & Ones."

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