Read all posts from July 2009

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    This morning the President laid out a framework of his vision for yet another critical aspect of American foreign policy – our relationship with China, which he called "as important as any bilateral relationship in the world." The President addressed the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, with Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner chairing the dialogue with the Chinese Vice Premier and State Counselor.
    The President opened his remarks, as he often does, putting the relationship in a historical context:
    One hundred years ago – in the early days of the 20th century – it was clear that there were momentous choices to be made – choices about the borders of nations and the rights of human beings. But in Woodrow Wilson's day, no one could have foreseen the arc of history that led to a wall coming down in Berlin, nor could they have imagined the conflict and upheaval that characterized the years in between.  For people everywhere – from Boston to Beijing – the 20th century was a time of great progress, but that progress also came with a great price.
    Today, we look out on the horizon of a new century. And as we launch this dialogue, it's important for us to reflect upon the questions that will shape the 21st century. Will growth be stalled by events like our current financial crisis, or will we cooperate to create balanced and sustainable growth, lifting more people out of poverty and creating a broader prosperity around the world? Will the need for energy breed competition and climate change, or will we build partnerships to produce clean power and to protect our planet? Will nuclear weapons spread unchecked, or will we forge a new consensus to use this power for only peaceful purposes? Will extremists be able to stir conflict and division, or will we unite on behalf of our shared security? Will nations and peoples define themselves solely by their differences, or can we find common ground necessary to meet our common challenges, and to respect the dignity of every human being?
    We can't predict with certainty what the future will bring, but we can be certain about the issues that will define our times. And we also know this: The relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world. That really must underpin our partnership. That is the responsibility that together we bear.
    Identifying President Nixon’s visit as a pivotal moment, he described how the Cold War era had limited the relationship between the two countries to a narrow set of issues, but that it was now time to seek cooperation on mutual interests on a much broader scale.
    President Barack Obama addresses the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue
    (President Barack Obama addresses the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2009. Listening at left are Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, center, and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, left. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
    Again, as he often does, the President proceeded to move into specific examples of issues where progress can be made in the future:
    Let me name some of those challenges. First, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in a lasting economic recovery. The current crisis has made it clear that the choices made within our borders reverberate across the global economy – and this is true not just in New York and Seattle, but in Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well. That is why we must remain committed to strong bilateral and multilateral coordination. And that is the example we have set by acting aggressively to restore growth, to prevent a deeper recession and to save jobs for our people.
    Going forward, we can deepen this cooperation. We can promote financial stability through greater transparency and regulatory reform. We can pursue trade that is free and fair, and seek to conclude an ambitious and balanced Doha Round agreement. We can update international institutions so that growing economies like China play a greater role that matches their greater responsibility. And as Americans save more and Chinese are able to spend more, we can put growth on a more sustainable foundation – because just as China has benefited from substantial investment and profitable exports, China can also be an enormous market for American goods.
    Second, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interest in a clean, secure, and prosperous energy future. The United States and China are the two largest consumers of energy in the world. We are also the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. Let's be frank: Neither of us profits from a growing dependence on foreign oil, nor can we spare our people from the ravages of climate change unless we cooperate. Common sense calls upon us to act in concert.
    Both of our countries are taking steps to transform our energy economies. Together we can chart a low carbon recovery; we can expand joint efforts at research and development to promote the clean and efficient use of energy; and we can work together to forge a global response at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and beyond. And the best way to foster the innovation that can increase our security and prosperity is to keep our markets open to new ideas, new exchanges, and new sources of energy.
    Third, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. Make no mistake: The more nations acquire these weapons, the more likely it is that they will be used. Neither America nor China has an interest in a terrorist acquiring a bomb, or a nuclear arms race breaking out in East Asia. That is why we must continue our collaboration to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and make it clear to North Korea that the path to security and respect can be traveled if they meet their obligations. And that is why we must also be united in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and urging the Islamic Republic to live up to its international obligations.
    This is not about singling out any one nation – it is about the responsibility of all nations. Together, we must cooperate to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world, which will be a focus of our Global Nuclear Summit next year. And together, we must strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by renewing its basic bargain: countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament; countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them; and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy. A balance of terror cannot hold. In the 21st century, a strong and global regime is the only basis for security from the world's deadliest weapons.
    And fourth, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in confronting transnational threats. The most pressing dangers we face no longer come from competition among great powers – they come from extremists who would murder innocents; from traffickers and pirates who pursue their own profits at the expense of others; from diseases that know no borders; and from suffering and civil wars that breed instability and terror. These are the threats of the 21st century. And that is why the pursuit of power among nations must no longer be seen as a zero-sum game. Progress – including security – must be shared.
    Chinese officials listen as President Barack Obama speaks at the opening session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue
    (Chinese officials listen as President Barack Obama speaks at the opening session of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington Monday, July 27, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
     

  • The Public Interest Declassification Board gives us the results of their weeks-long conversation with the public on declassification policy.
     

  • OMB Director Orszag walks us through the latest budget scores out of the Congressional Budget Office on health insurance reform.
     

  • Earlier this month the President and First Lady traveled to Moscow, Italy and Ghana. We followed the trip closely on the blog and published behind-the-scenes videos of the President’s visit to Moscow and highlights from Ghana. Revisit their time abroad through the lens of the Official White House photo office.
     

  • The President discusses a key factor that has been considered in the development of the health insurance reform proposals that are being considered: the impact of reform on small business.
    The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a major report on the subject in conjunction with this address – read the report as a web page, in pdf form, or through Slideshare.
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    During the address, the President asks that small business owners and employees give us their comments and questions on the report. What are your experiences with health care as somebody involved in small business, and what are your thoughts and questions on the new CEA report in light of those experiences?
    Give us your response here through WhiteHouse.gov, or if you are a member of the social network LinkedIn, go take part in the discussion CEA Chair Christina Romer initiated there. Romer will be answering some of most penetrating responses in a live video discussion on Wednesday at 3:00 PM EDT.
    UPDATE: This event has now concluded.

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    The First Lady celebrated the 10th anniversary of the National Design Awards at the White House today. The awards are part of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and recognize design excellence, innovation and public impact. The awards were launched at the White House in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council. Earlier in the day, the Cooper-Hewitt celebrated the awards with free public programs exploring design. The programs were moderated by White House officials, and were held at museums around the Mall.
    Afterwards, the First Lady hosted a ceremony for the winners and finalists of the 2009 awards. In her remarks, the First Lady praised the recipients for their innovative ideas that will help shape the future. But she noted that education is essential so that our next generations will be able to solve the great challenges of the future:
    That's why the President has made such a strong commitment to ensuring access to high-quality education for all children, particularly in math and science.
    And today the President and Secretary Duncan are announcing the "Race to the Top," which is a competitive grant to spur education reform across the country and encourage educators and leaders to embrace innovative approaches to teaching and to learning.
    As part of the Recovery Act, Congress has allotted more than $4 billion for this competition – funding that'll be used for competitive grants to states, school districts, and non-profit partners that are most successful at raising standards, improving student learning, and turning around struggling schools. That is very exciting.
    But when it comes to innovation, you all know full well that an educational foundation is only part of the equation, right; that in order for creativity to flourish and imagination to take hold we also need to expose our children to the arts from a very young age.
    The First Lady thanked participants for serving as inspiration for the next generation, and going out into the community to let kids know that they too can be great designers:
    And as First Lady, I have spent a lot of time trying to break down barriers that too often exist between major cultural establishments and the people in their immediate communities.
    So we've been sending a lot of role models out there in the far reaches of this city and then inviting kids to come back here to the White House. That's been a big part of the messages of every single event that we've done here at the White House. These kids who are living just inches away from power and prestige and fortune and fame, we want those kids to know that they belong here, too. We want them to know that they belong here in the White House and in the museums, and in libraries, and laboratories all over this country.
    And I want to thank you all today for helping carry that mission out by going out today into the community and making sure that kids know that they belong on the cutting edge of design just the same; that they belong in the world of discovery and science, reminding them that they belong in the presence of great art and beauty; that it is theirs just as much as anyone's in this nation.
    And earlier today you shared your visions, your ideas, your experiences and expertise by leading workshops at Smithsonian locations across Washington D.C. And I am grateful to all of you for taking the time to make that happen. From type fonts to technology, from silks and satins to sustainability – you brought science to life at these seminars. And I've heard glowing reviews about them, and I hope you found them fun, as well.
     

  • Earlier today, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told you about the launch of "Race to the Top," a competition for states to invest in school reforms that really work. The President spoke at the Department of Education today about the initiative, and reiterated his commitment to improving our education system.
    In his remarks, the President explained that for too long we have simply talked about the problems of our education system, including overcrowded classrooms and crumbling schools. But now, the administration is ready to take action to reform our schools. The President recently announced the American Graduation Initiative to improve our community colleges, and now "Race to the Top" aims to improve the quality of education from kindergarten through senior year:
    Because improving education is central to rebuilding our economy, we set aside over $4 billion in the Recovery Act to promote improvements in schools. This is one of the largest investments in education reform in American history. And rather than divvying it up and handing it out, we are letting states and school districts compete for it. That's how we can incentivize excellence and spur reform and launch a race to the top in America's public schools.
    That race starts today. I'm issuing a challenge to our nation's governors, to school boards and principals and teachers, to businesses and non-for-profits, to parents and students: if you set and enforce rigorous and challenging standards and assessments; if you put outstanding teachers at the front of the classroom; if you turn around failing schools – your state can win a Race to the Top grant that will not only help students outcompete workers around the world, but let them fulfill their God-given potential.
    This competition will not be based on politics or ideology or the preferences of a particular interest group.  Instead, it will be based on a simple principle – whether a state is ready to do what works. We will use the best evidence available to determine whether a state can meet a few key benchmarks for reform – and states that outperform the rest will be rewarded with a grant. Not every state will win and not every school district will be happy with the results. But America's children, America's economy, and America itself will be better for it.
    (President Barack Obama delivers remarks on "Race To the Top" at the Department of Education with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, left, in Washington, D.C. Friday, July 24, 2009. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
    "Race to the Top" is a $4.35 billion fund that will reward eligible states for their accomplishments, and create incentives for future improvement in four areas: adopting rigorous standards and assessments, recruiting and retaining high quality teachers, turning around low-performing schools, and establishing data systems to track student achievement and teacher effectiveness. The President explained that fixing our schools can’t just be done by Washington, and called on everyone to do their part:
    Better standards. Better teaching. Better schools. Data-driven results. That's what we will reward with our Race to the Top Fund. But as I've said before, fixing the problem in our schools is not a task for Washington alone. It will take school administrators, board presidents, and local union leaders making collective bargaining a catalyst – and not an impediment – to reform. It will take business leaders asking what they can do to invest in education in their communities. It will take parents asking the right questions at their child's school, and making sure their children are doing their homework at night.
    And it will take students – I'm not worried about Matthew, but all the other ones – (laughter) – including my daughters – showing up for school on time and paying attention in class. Ultimately, their education is up to them. It's up to their parents. It's up to their teachers. It's up to all of us.
    I'll never forget a school I visited one day when I was a community organizer in Chicago. As I walked around the school with the principal, I remember saying to her how wonderful it was to see all these kids so full of energy and hope and the spark in their eye. And when he asked them what they were going to be when they grew up, they said, we're going to be doctors and lawyers and they all had these big dreams for the future. And I remember the principal saying that soon all that would change; that in a year or two, something would shut off inside as they began to realize their hopes wouldn't come to pass – not because they weren't smart enough, not because they weren't talented enough, but because they didn't see a pathway to success.
    And that's true of too many children in this country. Maybe they don't have a great teacher. Maybe they don't find their classes exciting. Maybe they aren't being challenged at school. Maybe their parents aren't pushing them the way they need to. Maybe nobody is setting high expectations for them. Maybe they can't afford a college education. Maybe they don't know anybody who's ever gone to college. And the reason you're here, the reason Arne is here, the reason I'm here, is to make sure that we are giving all of those children, all our children, the pathways they need to make the most of their abilities; to make the most of their opportunities; to make the most of their lives.
     

  • Tragically, Border Patrol agent Robert Rosas was fatally shot yesterday while working on the U.S.-Mexico border. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano offered her condolences:
    I am deeply saddened by the tragic death of one of our own. Agent Robert Rosas was gunned down while protecting our nation’s Southwest border. This act of violence will not stand—nor will any act of violence against the Border Patrol. I have directed that the full resources of the Department assist in the investigation to find and bring to justice those responsible for this inexcusable crime.
    My thoughts and condolences are with Agent Rosas’ family and his fellow agents at this difficult time. I want to commend those in the law enforcement and first responder community in Southern California for so quickly responding to the scene and attempting to save Agent Rosas’ life. His death is a vivid reminder that we are engaged in a serious effort to secure our border and that thousands of Border Patrol agents and other DHS employees risk their lives every single day to protect and defend our nation.
     

  • Nine years ago – a lifetime in Internet time – the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a policy commonly referred to as "the cookies policy. "This policy prohibited federal agencies from using certain web-tracking technologies, primarily persistent cookies, unless the agency head provided a waiver. This may sound like arcane, boring policy – but it is really important in the online world.
    As Executive Sponsor of the Federal Web Managers Council and Director of USA.gov, I know the importance of this policy issue in serving the public. The "cookie policy" has been the topic of frequent discussion among federal web managers over the years as we strive to provide the best customer service online while protecting individual privacy. We want to use cookies for good, not evil. As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to create a more open and innovative government, OMB wants public input to determine how to best update the cookie policy to meet these goals.
    Let your voices be heard.Get more background on cookies, the policy, and the new framework OMB is considering and visit the OSTP blog where you can comment. Help us help you.
    Bev Godwin is the Director of Online Resources & Interagency Development
     

  • Yesterday, the President took questions directly from the American people at a town hall focused on health care in Ohio. Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be hosting a live video chat at 1:45 to answer your questions from all over the country on health insurance reform. Watch it streamed live, and join the conversation on WhiteHouse.gov and Facebook.
    [NOTE: This event has now concluded]

  • Continuing to show his reverence to the math and sciences, the President recently met with the astronauts from Apollo 11, as well as the 2009 Raytheon MathCounts National Champions to honor their accomplishments. MathCounts is a nationwide math competition for middle school students. The kids not only got to meet the President, but they also got to meet the heroic Apollo 11 astronauts. Head over to the OPE blog, and read more about their exciting meeting.
    (Left to Right: Pamela Wickham, Victor Wang, Paul Turney, Steven Chen, Lou DiGioia, Max Schindler, Bobby Shen, President Barack Obama, Yury Aglyamov, Lilly Shen, Jeff Boyd, Stella Schindler, Runpeng Liu, Kimberly Gavaletz. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
     

  • Today the Obama Administration is beginning the "Race to the Top" to reform our schools.
    Thanks to the work of the president and Congress, we have $4.35 billion of from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the "Race to the Top" fund to invest in school reforms that work. Today, we’re telling states what they have to do to win the competition for that money.
    But the president and I want to send a message to everyone governors and mayors, school board members and teachers, parents and students; businesses and non-profits. We all need to work together to win this race so that our students can outcompete any worker in the world.
    To win the race, states have to have standards and tests that prepare students to succeed in college and careers. They’ll need to recruit and reward excellent teachers and principals. They must have data systems to track students’ progress and to identify effective teachers. They must identify their lowest-performing schools and take dramatic action to turn them around.
    In addition to the "Race to the Top" competition, the administration has another $5 billion available for targeted efforts to reform schools.
    We have the resources at the federal level to drive reform. Now all of us need to take this challenge on and work together to reform our schools.
    Arne Duncan is Secretary of Education.
     

     

  • As noted in a recent TechPresident article, you can now see interesting statistics on where videos are most popular from various YouTube accounts, including the official White House channel on YouTube. For example, President Obama's video message to the Iranian people on the Nowruz holiday was our third most viewed video overall and our most viewed in Iran.
    Iran Video
    The President's speech to the Muslim World in Cairo was also widely viewed and was especially popular in the US, Egypt, Nigeria, and Tanzania (in addition to being our most-viewed live-stream broadcast, despite beginning around 6:00 AM EDT):
    Muslim Video
    And not surprisingly, the President's speech in Ghana was most popular in Ghana, although you can see the pick-up in various countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa as well:
    Ghana Video
    Lastly, when the President welcomed 2009 Major League Soccer Champions, the Columbus Crew, to the White House the majority of the video traffic came from ... Argentina!
    Argentina Video
    To see these kinds of insights and trends, go to the official White House channel on YouTube, click on the video you are interested in, click "View comments, related videos, and more" and then click the "Statistics & Data" link."
     

  • The President traveled to Ohio today, where he held a town hall focused on health insurance reform:
    Whenever I hear people say that it's happening too soon, I think that's a little odd. We've been talking about health care reform since the days of Harry Truman. (Laughter.) How could it be too soon? I don't think it's too soon for the families who've seen their premiums rise faster than wages year after year. It's not too soon for the businesses forced to drop coverage or shed workers because of mounting health care expenses. It's not too soon for taxpayers asked to close widening deficits that stem from rising health care costs – costs that threaten to leave our children with a mountain of debt.
    Reform may be coming too soon for some in Washington, but it's not soon enough for the American people. (Applause.) We can get this done. We don't shirk from a challenge. (Applause.)
    Before the town hall, the President visited the renowned Cleveland Clinic with Governor Ted Strickland to talk to doctors and nurses about their thoughts on reform. He then toured the operating room in the clinic’s Heart and Vascular Institute, which is ranked #1 in the nation. The President has said that it is essential we identify the best practices in health care, so that we can replicate them across the country to get better quality at lower costs.
    The President then arrived at Shaker Heights High School, where he began his remarks at the town hall by addressing the economy. He reiterated that we must build a new stable foundation for the 21st century. Health insurance reform is an essential pillar in this new foundation because our current system is unsustainable. There are approximately 46 million Americans without insurance, but the President explained that his plan for reform will benefit all Americans, including those with insurance:
    If you have health insurance, the reform we're proposing will give you more security. You just heard Rick's story. Reform will keep the government out of your health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your coverage if you're happy with it. So don't let folks say that somehow we're going to be forcing government-run health care. It's just not true. And it will keep the insurance companies out of your health care decisions, too – (applause) – by stopping insurers from cherry-picking who they cover, and holding insurers to a higher standard for what they cover. (Applause.)
    You won't have to worry about receiving a surprise bill in the mail, because we'll limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay out of your own pocket. (Applause.)
    You won't have to worry about preexisting conditions, because – (applause) – never again will anyone in America be denied coverage because of a previous illness or injury. (Applause.)
    You won't have to worry about losing coverage if you lose or leave your job, because every American who needs insurance will have access to affordable plans through a health insurance exchange – a marketplace where insurance companies will compete to cover you, not to deny you coverage.(Applause.)
    And if you run a small business and you're looking to provide insurance for your employees, you'll be able to choose a plan through this exchange, as well. I've heard from small business owners across America trying to do the right thing, but year after year premiums rise higher and choices grow more limited. And that's certainly true right here in Ohio.
    (President Barack Obama tries his hand operating a state-of-the-art robotic surgical system while touring the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Thursday, July 23, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    The President is dedicated to restoring a sense of fiscal responsibility in Washington, which is why his plan will be deficit-neutral. He explained that by simply cutting wasteful spending, we can pay for 2/3 of health reform right there. But it is equally important that we slow the growth of health care costs. The President noted the Cleveland Clinic as an example of a medical center with some of the lowest costs and highest quality care, and explained why it is so imperative to lower costs:
    So the fact is, lowering costs is essential for families and businesses here in Ohio and all across the country. Let's take the Ohio example – over the past few years premiums have risen nearly nine times faster than wages. That's something that Rick and his wife understand very well. As we meet today, we're seeing double-digit rate increases on insurance premiums all over America. There are reports of insurers raising rates by 28 percent in California; seeking a 23 percent increase in Connecticut; proposing as much as a 56 percent increase in Michigan. If we don't act, these premium hikes will just be a preview of coming attractions. And that's a future you can't afford. That is a future that America can't afford.
    We spend one of every six of our dollars on health care in America, and that's on track to double in the next three decades. The biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid. Small businesses struggle to cover workers while competing with large businesses. Large businesses struggle to cover workers while competing in the global economy. And we'll never know the full cost of the dreams put on hold, the entrepreneurial ideas that are allowed to languish, the small businesses never founded – because of the fear of being without insurance, or having to pay for a policy on your own.
    So, Ohio, that's why we seek reform. And in pursuit of this reform we've forged a consensus that has never before been reached in the history of this country. Senators and representatives in five committees are working on legislation; three have already produced a bill. Health care providers have agreed to do their part to reduce the rate of growth in health care spending. Hospitals have agreed to bring down costs. The drug companies have agreed to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. The American Nurses Association, the American Medical Association, representing millions of nurses and doctors who know our health care system best, they've announced their support for reform. (Applause.)
     

  • At the end of his four-day trip to Ukraine and Georgia, the Vice President addressed the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi. The Vice President came with a simple message: the United States supports Georgia as it moves towards becoming a secure, free, democratic, and united country.
    The Vice President traveled to Georgia last year as a Senator in the midst of the conflict with Russia. Today, he traveled there under very different circumstances, but again pledged his support for Georgia. He made clear that while the United States works to reset relations with Russia, it will not come at the expense of Georgia:
    As I said in Munich in the first days after our administration was sworn in, and as President Obama, I might add, reasserted two weeks ago in Moscow, we stand by the principle that sovereign democracies have the right to make their own decisions, and choose their own partnerships and their own alliances. We stand against the 19th century notion of spheres of influence. It has no place in the 21st century. (Applause.)
    We will not – we will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. (Applause.) And we urge – we urge the world not to recognize them as independent states. And we call upon Russia to honor its international commitments…
    The U.S. has committed $1 billion in aid to Georgia, and since the conflict last August, the U.S. has provided supplies and shelter to those who were displaced, reconstruction aid, and additional funds to strengthen Georgia’s civil society. The Vice President stated that the U.S. fully supports Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO, and will work with Georgia to meet the standards needed for NATO membership. The Vice President explained the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Georgia:
    Let me be clear about what our strategic partnership with Georgia is, and what it is not. The United States has no desire to create our own sphere of influence in this region or anywhere else in the world. Our goal is to help build a multi-partner world in which nations make common cause of common concerns.
    These partnerships are not being built against anyone. They are being built to the benefit of everyone who seeks a more democratic, prosperous and secure world. (Applause.)
    With Georgia, our partnership involves meeting security challenges – we are grateful, truly grateful that Georgian soldiers will stand next to our brave Marines in Afghanistan. It includes a commitment to energy security, and we welcome Georgia’s role as a bridge for natural resources flowing from east to west, as it did a thousand years ago. (Applause.)
    It carries with it – this cooperation agreement – a determination to build stronger bonds not only between our governments, but among our people through cultural exchanges, entrepreneurial collaboration, and civil society cooperation.
    Our partnership rests on a foundation of shared democratic ideals. That's what you are about. And we will continue to support your work to fulfill the democratic promise of six years ago.
    The Vice President concluded his remarks by encouraging Georgia to continue along the path towards democracy:
    Success requires the involvement of everyone in this room, of those who were elected outside this room. It requires every Georgian citizen, regardless of their political affiliation or their ethnicity, to take part in their government.
    And I especially today call upon the young people of Georgia, the next generation of Georgian leaders, to continue to contribute their ideas, their voices, and their energy to help create a peaceful, stable, democratic and economically prosperous Georgia. Only then – only then will we see a Georgia that is the home to all its rightful citizens.
     

  • In a primetime press conference focused on health insurance reform, the President explained what's in it for you and your family - watch the full video:
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    [UPDATE: Director DeParle is working hard to build consensus for reform and has been forced to postpone the chat once again due to intense and productive meetings on the Hill. We will be sure to schedule more opportunities to hear and address your questions and concerns soon.] Have health care questions of your own? The White House will be giving you opportunities to ask them and give your feedback over the coming days, starting today at 3:00pm ET with White House Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle. She will be taking your questions from WhiteHouse.gov/live and Facebook on how reform will affect insurance in America, including how we can cut costs and assure that every American has access to affordable, quality care regardless of pre-existing conditions.
    This is an issue that impacts us all – so help keep your friends and family up to date:
     

  • We're hearing a lot of back and forth about health insurance reform. And it's hard to decipher myth from fact – especially as Washington heats up with its usual political games and 'who's up', 'who's down' rhetoric. So, tonight, President Obama is holding a primetime press conference to address the nation about health insurance reform. He will lay out where we are, where we're going, and why health insurance reform matters.
    Check back later for advance excerpts of tonight's address. And at 8pm ET, tune in to watch the press conference live at Whitehouse.gov/Live and participate in the live chat on Facebook.
    As the President has said, we are closer than ever before to accomplishing comprehensive health insurance reform. And now is not the time to slow down or lose sight of the finish line. Spread the word:
    UPDATE: As indicated by the excerpts of the President's opening remarks, during tonight's news conference the President will stress the need for health care reform:
    This is not just about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance. Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It’s about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive. And it’s about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.
    The President will also emphasize that health care reform is an important issue across the country, not just the political issue of the moment in Washington
    I understand how easy it is for this town to become consumed in the game of politics – to turn every issue into running tally of who’s up and who’s down. I’ve heard that one Republican strategist told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it’s better politics to "go for the kill." Another Republican Senator said that defeating health reform is about "breaking" me.
    So let me be clear: This isn’t about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every Member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings…This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait for reform any longer. They are counting on us to get this done. They are looking to us for leadership. And we must not let them down. We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice, and provides coverage that every American can count on. And we will do it this year.
     

  • Yesterday, we let you know about CEQ's new website, and told you about Energy Secretary Chu’s new Facebook page. Check it out to learn more about how the Administration is working towards a clean energy economy, and to see Secetary Chu's appearance on last night's Daily Show! But those aren’t the only interesting tidbits from around the agencies – check out some other recent stories:
    • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been abroad this past week, traveling to India and Thailand. You can read more about her trip, including transcripts from her speeches, here.
    • Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called for a two-year hold on mining near the Grand Canyon. He decided to segregate 1 million acres of federal lands in Arizona while the Department evaluates whether new mining claims should be allowed on these lands.
    • As part of the Rural Tour, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, hosted a rural health community forum in Louisiana.
    • Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is holding a $220 million competition to fund programs to prepare workers for careers in the health care industry. Grants awarded through the competition will be funded through the Recovery Act. here
    • Just a reminder that Health and Human Services is holding its own competition -- you can enter your flu prevention PSA for a chance to win $2,500 here. The video should inform and motivate people to take steps to prevent the flu.
    • Education Secretary Arne Duncan and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius highlighted the administration’s commitment to early childhood education, and announced their support of an unprecedented investment in early childhood education.
    • The Coast Guard announced that the National Security Cutter, named Stratton, would be sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama.
    • DHS has a sparkling new website redesign and YouTube channel.
     

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    The President met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today to discuss a broad range of issues, including the future role of the United States in Iraq. The President gave remarks in the Rose Garden alongside Prime Minister Maliki following their meeting.
    The President noted that substantial progress has been made since Prime Minister Maliki’s first visit to Washington in 2006. This meeting comes three weeks after all U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi cities, and transferred power to Iraq’s security forces. The President said we are in the midst of a full transition to Iraqi responsibility:
    Recently, we took an important step forward by transferring control of all Iraqi cities and towns to Iraq’s security forces. This transition was part of our security agreement, and should send an unmistakable signal that we will keep our commitments with the sovereign Iraqi government. As I said before, we seek no bases in Iraq, nor do we make any claim on Iraq’s territory or resources.
    Going forward, we will continue to provide training and support for Iraqi security forces that are capable and nonsectarian. We'll move forward with our strategy to responsibly remove all American combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next August, and to fulfill our commitment to remove all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
    As we move forward, Prime Minister Maliki and I have no doubt that there will be some tough days ahead. There will be attacks on Iraqi security forces and the American troops supporting them. There are still those in Iraq who would murder innocent men, women and children. There are still those who want to foment sectarian conflict. But make no mistake: Those efforts will fail.
    The Iraqi people have already rejected these forces of division and destruction. And American troops have the capability, the support and flexibility they need to stand with our Iraqi partners on behalf of a sovereign, secure, and self-reliant Iraq. Because we believe that the future does not belong to those who would destroy -- it belongs to those who would build.
    To that end, America strongly supports efforts by the Iraqi government to promote national unity, which will help ensure that people in all parts of Iraq can live in peace and prosperity.
    President Barack Obama meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, left,  in the Oval Office
    (President Barack Obama meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, left,  in the Oval Office, Wednesday, July 22, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    The President stated that the two leaders are forging a comprehensive partnership between the United States and Iraq based on mutual interests and respect:
    Prime Minister Maliki and I also agreed to build a broader basis for cooperation between our nations. The United States and Iraq have known difficult times together. Now both of us agree that the bonds forged between Americans and Iraqis in war can pave the way for progress that can be forged in peace.
    The Strategic Framework Agreement agreed to last year helps lay the groundwork for this progress. America stands ready to help the Iraqi government build their capacity to provide basic services and to promote the rule of law. And together, Americans and Iraqis can expand economic cooperation and trade that opens new doors of opportunity. Together, we can broaden our educational, our cultural, and scientific engagement to make a positive difference in the lives of our people. And together, we can take steps to advance security and prosperity throughout the region, and around the globe. And Prime Minister Maliki and I are both deeply humbled by the sacrifices that have been made by Iraqis and Americans to create this opportunity.
    The President also praised the sacrifices of both Iraqis and Americans on behalf of a better future, and thanked the troops for doing an outstanding job. The President reaffirmed that he is working to end the war, and will have all American troops out of Iraq by 2011:
    But what we've seen is, is that the violence levels have remained low, the cooperation between U.S. forces and Iraqi forces has remained high, and we have every confidence that we will continue to work together cooperatively and make adjustments where necessary to assure that, as we move into the national elections, that Iraq continues on the progress of stability and that Iraqi security forces are continually ramping up their capabilities so that ultimately we are going to be able to fulfill our commitment to pull out our troops entirely and interact with Iraq as a full, sovereign country that it is.
    President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki walk from the Oval Office for a joint press availability in the Rose Garden
    (President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki walk from the Oval Office for a joint press availability in the Rose Garden at the White House, Wednesday, July 22, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
     

  • Recovery Act funds continued to roll out this week, financing the re-training of displaced automotive workers and creating jobs across the country. In Missouri, the Executive Director of the White House Council on Auto Communities and Workers announced the availability of $25 million to re-train former automotive workers:
    "America’s auto workers have sacrificed so much during this economic downturn, and it’s our responsibility to stand with them during these difficult times. These grants help those workers who have been displaced learn new skills in these high growth and emerging industries and get support in finding where these new jobs are."
    This week has also seen the beginning of dozens of projects funded by the Recovery Act that not only create jobs, but help make us a stronger country in the long haul. As detailed in the following press clips, Americans young and old are finding employment thanks to the Recovery Act doing work ranging from helping the elderly to contributing to the creation of a new clean energy economy:
    Students employed by Helping Hands "A nonprofit organization that has had to cut back in these economic times received help improving client services, thanks to the federal stimulus. Greater Foothills Helping Hands, which provides volunteers to perform domestic chores for the elderly and disabled, received a hand up this summer when Arizona Western College in conjunction with Yuma Private Industry Council provided employment for 80 Yuma high school students, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Judy Arnold, Helping Hands executive director, said the students did a phenomenal job with yard work and it was a total blessing to have them. ‘A lot of our care receivers can't afford this,’ Arnold said. ‘The work wouldn't have gotten done if it wasn't for the students.’ For the previous two weeks, two teams of 40 students each split up into crews of 10 and were dispatched to Foothills residents too frail to accomplish yard work on their own. Some of the tasks must be done to comply with city ordinances and students save residents not only work but possible fines, Rudy Rodriguez, AWC's ARRA coordinator, said. . . . Evarist Santiago, 17, a Vista High School senior, said he enjoys arranging help for the elderly to move furniture, schedule rides for doctor appointments or grocery shopping but also doing data entry of care receivers' birthdays so Helping Hands can remember them on that special day.   ‘I'd recommend ARRA to other students because I learned a lot here. I haven't got a job for the fall but an office job would be a good one to have.’ Arnold noted students were considerate and willing to help. ‘I think the program was such a positive plus for everyone involved. We're certainly thankful we're able to have them participate.’"
    Youth workforce program: Teens work at Norfolk School during summer "When students return to Norfork School in August, they'll find it extra shiny and clean thanks to seven of their schoolmates. As part of the Arkansas Summer Youth Workforce program, Ethan Barnes, Megan Cain, Dalton Davis and Anthony King, all 17, Wade Staton and Chase Loosey, 16, and Lindsay Teegarden, 15, are each putting in 200 hours this summer helping to move library books, furniture and school supplies, and helping custodians clean every surface. Barnes has painted miles of baseboards and door trim. ‘He's an excellent painter,’ said Norfork High School Principal Bobby Hulse. ‘You won't find a smudge anywhere.’ The program, previously part of the Jobs Training Partnership Act and the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, received a boost in funding this year from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to Tina Hopkins, employment and training adviser at the Arkansas Workforce Center in Mountain Home. ‘In previous years, we've had 30 to 40 participants in Baxter and Marion counties,’ Hopkins said. ‘This year, because of stimulus dollars, we increased the eligibility age to 24, and we have 80 participants.’ Hopkins, 29, asks each applicant what job they would like if they could have any job at all. Two girls expressed interest in hair. Hopkins found one of the girls a job at a beauty school. The other is working in a salon."
    Colorado gets $19.6 million stimulus "With the approval of Colorado's plan for renewable-energy and efficiency projects, the state is receiving $19.6 million in federal economic-stimulus money.  The funding, announced Monday by the U.S. Department of Energy, is part of a total of $49 million for energy projects Colorado is eligible for under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  ‘What we are trying to do is not just one-time projects,’ said Todd Hartman, spokesman for the Governor's Energy Office. ‘We want to use the funds to build up infrastructure for energy efficiency and renewables.’  The programs include financial incentives to builders to promote energy efficiency in new-home construction and to homeowners for energy efficiency in existing homes.  Another program would provide increased rebates for installing solar and wind systems.  There is also a revolving loan program and a financing program to help with business and residential energy investment.  ‘It's a very innovative plan,’ said Howard Geller, executive director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, a nonprofit energy-advocacy group based in Boulder."
    State has $15 million in federal funds to help small manufacturers diversify"The state has $15 million in federal stimulus funds to help small Michigan manufacturing companies diversify into renewable energy technologies.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, announced Monday by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, targets investments in advanced manufacturing of renewable energy systems and wind turbine systems, solar technologies, bio-energy equipment and geothermal heating and cooling systems.  The goal of the funding is to create new markets for Michigan manufacturers, provide support to renewable energy original equipment manufacturers and tier-one suppliers, and create anchor companies that attract other businesses to Michigan.  The state plans to award grants, loans, or a combination of the two, according to a request for proposals issued by the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth's Bureau of Energy Systems.  For-profit manufacturing businesses located in Michigan with 500 or fewer full-time or equivalent employees are eligible. A business that relocates to Michigan by the time of an award also will be considered eligible.  The RFP says preference will be given to companies that demonstrate a 50 percent cost share of the total allowable project costs, although cost sharing is not applicable to companies that are approved to receive a revolving loan."
    Stimulus funding helps teenagers land jobs "The heat was a bit of a surprise Monday afternoon. The sun isn’t blaring, but the humidity was enough to make anyone working outside wince. Cody Shoe maneuvered a riding lawnmower in the muggy air. He was grooming the campus of Stanly Community College. Shoe’s been on the job for about four weeks. ‘It seems like an easy job until you really get in there and do it and then you realize how difficult these people have it,’ Shoe said. Shoe is one of 40 Stanly County teenagers working this summer because of funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus package. More than $1 billion was set aside from the package to be invested in youth employment. North Carolina is getting about $25 million of the money and Stanly County received $40,000. Those funds will pay for 40 teenagers to work 20 hours a week for six weeks at $7.25 an hour. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics released in June, the country is experiencing the lowest rate of young men ages 16 to 19 working since 1948. That worries community leaders like David Dutton, who knows hands-on work experience is what helps young people land jobs. ‘When you talk to these young people you will discover, they're not working to buy toys, they're not working to buy things of that nature. Almost every youth that I've talked to is working to help their family,’ said Dutton who runs the Resource Development Center. His organization is handling the Stanly County youth employment stimulus funds. Dutton matched the teens with companies and jobs. Shoe will be a senior this fall. He’s attending Stanly Early College, which will help him get his associate’s degree by the end of next year for free. The teenager juggles school, work and caring for siblings to help out his parents."
    Stimulus money goes to workforce development "The Southern Alleghenies Workforce Investment Board has received more than $3.7 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to enhance and expand its existing support of workforce development services throughout Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset counties. The money is being directed toward paid summer work for youth ages 14 to 24, financial support in the form of tuition assistance and supportive services for eligible adults and displaced workers. Investment board Director Susan Whisler said the board's goal is to direct the funds to help those most in need of workforce-related assistance. ‘Our goal is to offer an outstanding paid work experience program to over 400 young people this summer; quadruple the number we normally serve each year,’ Whisler said in a prepared statement. ‘We can provide up to $10,000 to help offset the cost of training for eligible individuals, and we can also provide assistance with childcare and transportation for those in training.’"
     

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