Read all posts from July 2009

  • The White House photo office posted more than 100 new photos on the Official White House Photostream recently. Take a look at what's been happening this summer (starting with just one from July):

    (President Barack Obama meets with former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev in Gostinny Dvor, Russia, Tuesday, July 7, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    (President Barack Obama and celebrity chef Bobby Flay grill steak, corn and barbeque chicken at the Kick Off Young Men's Barbeque on the South Lawn of the White House, June 19, 2009. Official White House Photographer Samantha Appleton)

    (President Barack Obama watches as a child attempts to dunk Press Secretary Robert Gibbs during the Congressional Luau on the South Lawn of the White House, June 25, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    (Longtime LGBT activist Frank Kameny raises his hands as while being recognized by President Barack Obama during his remarks at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender reception in the East Room of the White House, June 29, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    (President Barack Obama with actress Reese Witherspoon in the Oval Office on June 25, 2009. The president was also joined by actors Paul Rudd and Jake Gyllenhaal; they are filming a movie in Washington, D.C. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    It is every parent’s nightmare – standing by helplessly at the bedside of a seriously ill child. While the American food safety system is the best in the world, serious outbreaks of disease from contaminated food have continued to afflict and threaten the health and safety of Americans. It is estimated that one in four Americans suffers from a foodborne illness each year. Children and older people are particularly at risk.

    Today, Vice President Biden, Chair of the Middle Class Task Force, along with Task Force Members Secretary Sebelius and Secretary Vilsack, announced the findings of the President’s Food Safety Working Group. President Obama established the group in March to coordinate Federal efforts and develop short- and long-term agendas to make food safer. 
    At today’s announcement, Vice President Biden announced key actions that the Obama Administration is taking to improve the safety of the US food supply:
    • Strengthening "traceback" so that contaminated food is quickly identified and removed from shelves and that people get quick information about problems;
    • Instituting a new salmonella rule to prevent contamination in the egg industry;
    • Issuing new FDA guidance to prevent e. coli O157:H7 contamination of leafy greens, melon, and tomatoes; and
    • Implementing more thorough inspections to prevent e. coli and other pathogens at facilities that handle beef.
    These are important steps in making our food supply safer, but we know they are just the first steps.  That’s why today the Vice President also called on Congress to empower the FDA with mandatory recall authority so it can stop contaminated food from spreading in our food supply. 
    Terrell McSweeny is Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President



  • Today at 1:30, watch live as the Vice President issues the key findings of the Food Safety Working Group. He will be joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who are the co-chairs of the Food Safety Working Group. As you may remember, the President announced the creation of the group in his March 14th Weekly Address. The aim of the group is to bring together members of the cabinet and senior officials in a coordinated effort to help examine and upgrade our food safety laws, and enforce laws that will keep the American people safe.
    Immediately following the announcement, discuss the findings with Secretary Sebelius and Secretary Vilsack at or on through our application on Facebook.  You can also let the Working Group know your thoughts on food safety policy via Twitter, using the hashtag #WHsafefood and following FSWGListens

    [UPDATE: This event has now concluded]

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    Yesterday the Presidents of two countries once consumed by the Cold War came together to begin putting what President Obama calls a "reset" of relations into concrete action. They hammered out agreements on a range of issues, perhaps most notably taking the first steps towards decreasing the threat of nuclear weapons to the human race. Today the President spoke at the graduation of the New Economic School and laid out his broad vision for a new relationship.
    He spoke of Russia’s history and heritage:
    I know that NES is a young school, but I speak to you today with deep respect for Russia's timeless heritage. Russian writers have helped us understand the complexity of the human experience, and recognize eternal truths. Russian painters, composers, and dancers have introduced us to new forms of beauty. Russian scientists have cured disease, sought new frontiers of progress, and helped us go to space.

    These are contributions that are not contained by Russia's borders, as vast as those borders are. Indeed, Russia's heritage has touched every corner of the world, and speaks to the humanity that we share. That includes my own country, which has been blessed with Russian immigrants for decades; we've been enriched by Russian culture, and enhanced by Russian cooperation. And as a resident of Washington, D.C., I continue to benefit from the contributions of Russians -- specifically, from Alexander Ovechkin. We're very pleased to have him in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

    He spoke of the obvious benefits of cooperation, and the obstacles that still manage to obstruct it:
    Yet unfortunately, there is sometimes a sense that old assumptions must prevail, old ways of thinking; a conception of power that is rooted in the past rather than in the future. There is the 20th century view that the United States and Russia are destined to be antagonists, and that a strong Russia or a strong America can only assert themselves in opposition to one another. And there is a 19th century view that we are destined to vie for spheres of influence, and that great powers must forge competing blocs to balance one another.

    These assumptions are wrong. In 2009, a great power does not show strength by dominating or demonizing other countries. The days when empires could treat sovereign states as pieces on a chess board are over. As I said in Cairo, given our independence, any world order that -- given our interdependence, any world order that tries to elevate one nation or one group of people over another will inevitably fail. The pursuit of power is no longer a zero-sum game -- progress must be shared.

    That's why I have called for a "reset" in relations between the United States and Russia. This must be more than a fresh start between the Kremlin and the White House -- though that is important and I've had excellent discussions with both your President and your Prime Minister. It must be a sustained effort among the American and Russian people to identify mutual interests, and expand dialogue and cooperation that can pave the way to progress.

    (President Barack Obama is seen at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, July 6, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    And he spoke on that central issue of his visit, nuclear non-proliferation:

    This is the core of the nuclear challenge in the 21st century. The notion that prestige comes from holding these weapons, or that we can protect ourselves by picking and choosing which nations can have these weapons, is an illusion. In the short period since the end of the Cold War, we've already seen India, Pakistan, and North Korea conduct nuclear tests. Without a fundamental change, do any of us truly believe that the next two decades will not bring about the further spread of these nuclear weapons?

    That's why America is committed to stopping nuclear proliferation, and ultimately seeking a world without nuclear weapons. That is consistent with our commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That is our responsibility as the world's two leading nuclear powers. And while I know this goal won't be met soon, pursuing it provides the legal and moral foundation to prevent the proliferation and eventual use of nuclear weapons.

    We're already taking important steps to build this foundation. Yesterday, President Medvedev and I made progress on negotiating a new treaty that will substantially reduce our warheads and delivery systems. We renewed our commitment to clean, safe and peaceful nuclear energy, which must be a right for all nations that live up to their responsibilities under the NPT. And we agreed to increase cooperation on nuclear security, which is essential to achieving the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material within four years.

    (President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana Medvedeva at their dacha outside Moscow,  July 6, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Head over to the OPE blog, where you can read about Valerie Jarrett's recent address to the Islamic Society of North America's 46th Annual Convention. She discussed the President's Cairo speech, as well as the important role Muslim Americans play in American society.

  • Dr. Jill Biden delivered the keynote address at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 2009 World Conference on Higher Education on Sunday. She traveled to Paris for the conference after spending the Fourth of July with troops in Germany.
    Her remarks highlighted the administration’s commitment to higher education, and especially focused on the critical role of community colleges in fulfilling the President’s goals for education. From her prepared remarks:
    President Obama sees higher education as critical to the administration’s plans to revitalize the American economy, and he has moved quickly to support students and their families. In just his first few months in office, the President has increased financial aid available to students and unemployed workers, increased tuition tax credits, and streamlined the financial aid process. 
    The President wants the United States to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020 -- a global competition that if we all enter, we will all win.
    And he wants every young adult to have at least one year of college or training after high school -- a goal that community colleges will play a vital role in reaching.
    I am grateful for the opportunity to spread the word about the valuable contribution community colleges make in the United States. But I am not a politician. I am not a researcher or an education policy expert.
    I am a teacher. My experience with community colleges is personal. People sometimes ask why I choose to teach at a community college. The answer is simple: It’s the students.
    Dr. Biden has extensive experience working with community colleges.  She is currently an adjunct professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College, and has been an educator for 28 years.  She explained that we all reap the benefits when our students are well educated, which is why it is important that we focus on education at all levels. However, community colleges are a particularly significant part of America’s university system because they are uniquely able to address the needs of their communities, she explained. Calling them one of America’s "best-kept secrets," Dr. Biden explained that community colleges serve many non-traditional or part-time students that may otherwise have a hard time receiving a higher education. They are flexible and affordable, which is especially important in these tough economic times. Community colleges also have open admissions policies, which allow everyone who wants to learn access to an education, and they often teach English to immigrants looking to join the workforce.
    Dr. Biden concluded her remarks by citing a quote by Horace Mann, that education is "the great equalizer of the conditions of men." 

  • The President went to Russia as the first stop in his trip this week, continuing to work towards a "reset" of relations towards a more constructive path. This morning he joined President Dmitry A. Medvedev for a joint press conference, and summed up the meeting they had just held:
    We've just concluded a very productive meeting. As President Medvedev just indicated, the President and I agreed that the relationship between Russia and the United States has suffered from a sense of drift. We resolved to reset U.S.-Russian relations, so that we can cooperate more effectively in areas of common interest. Today, after less than six months of collaboration, we've done exactly that by taking concrete steps forward on a range of issues, while paving the way for more progress in the future. And I think it's particularly notable that we've addressed the top priorities -- these are not second-tier issues, they are fundamental to the security and the prosperity of both countries.
    The President wasted no time, forging a strengthened consensus on Afghanistan, creating a new strategic framework for military-to-military engagement between the United States and the Russian Federation, a recommitment to cooperation on reducing nuclear proliferation and in particular on a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement on reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires on December 5, 2009. In addition the two Presidents agreed to create a Bilateral Presidential Commission, which they will chair and which will be coordinated by Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov, with working groups on issues ranging from agriculture to energy to space cooperation and cultural exchanges.
    President Obama and President Medvedev sign agreements
    (President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign documents on nuclear arms reduction before their news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow Monday, July 6, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
    In an interview with the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta before the meeting, the President was asked to flesh out what this reset would mean:
    Question: "Restarting" the relationship implies cooperating with Russia in those areas where it is possible. Does this mean weaker attention to Russia’s observation of civil rights and liberties, and to persecution against and murders of journalists? Specifically, to [the need to] apprehend and punish those who ordered and committed the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya?

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Of course not. I seek to reset relations with Russia because I believe that Americans and Russians have many common interests, interests that our governments recently have not pursued as actively as we could have. For instance, I believe that Americans and Russians both would benefit from fewer nuclear weapons in the world, greater control over nuclear materials around the world, a defeat of extremist elements in Afghanistan and Pakistan, an Iran that produces nuclear energy but not nuclear weapons, and a North Korea that refrains from launching missiles and exploding nuclear weapons and instead returns to the negotiating table. I also believe that Americans and Russians have a common interest in the development of rule of rule, the strengthening of democracy, and the protection of human rights. As I said in my inaugural address: "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." I then emphasized in my Cairo speech that "I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things:  the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose.  These are not just American ideas; they are human rights." These are ideas embraced by your president and your people. I agree with President Medvedev when he said that "Freedom is better than the absence of freedom." So, I see no reason why we cannot aspire together to strengthen democracy, human rights, and the rule of law as part of our "reset."

    A view of Red Square 
    (A view of Red Square from the Kempinski Hotel, July 5, 2009. President Barack Obama arrives in Moscow on July 6th, his first visit to Russia since taking office. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with their daughters Malia and Sasha, are greeted by President Medvedev and Mrs. Medvedev
    (President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with their daughters Malia and Sasha, are greeted by President Medvedev and Mrs. Medvedev at the Kremlin in Moscow Monday, July 6, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the Kremlin
    (President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the Kremlin in Moscow, Monday, July 6, 2009.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)

  • Via the Open Government blog, head over to the Office of Science & Technology blog where you can read and comment on some ideas for the possible creation of a National Declassification Center. These ideas were submitted by citizens through the Declassification Policy Forum, which allows the public to provide their input on recommendations for declassification and classification policy. They are now also looking for your input on revisions for classification policy.

  • On Saturday night President Obama and the First Family celebrated the 4th of July with military men, women, and their families at the White House. Following the President's remarks, people gathered at picnic tables and on blankets on the South Lawn for a special USO concert to honor our troops, featuring Jimmy Fallon, Michelle Branch and the Foo Fighters. The evening's festivities closed with fireworks over the National Mall.
    South Lawn on 4th
    (The view of the South Lawn of the White House as the Foo Fighters performed on July 4, 2009. Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
    President and First Lady watch fireworks
    (President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the White House on July 4, 2009. Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
    President and First Lady greet military families
    (President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet military families at the White House on July 4, 2009. Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

    (President Barack Obama kisses a baby while greeting military families at the White House on July 4, 2009. Official White House photo by Pete Souza) 

    (The South Lawn of the White House as military families enjoyed the holiday on July 4, 2009. Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

    In speaking to some of our troops and their families, the President recounted the generations of young men and women who have sacrificed to allow our country to become what it is, including those serving now, and closed with a solemn promise:

    But I want to say this to all of you:  You have done everything that has been asked of you.  The United States of America is proud of you.  I'm proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.  And that's why, this Fourth of July, I renew my pledge to each and every one of you -- that for as long as I have that immeasurable honor, you will always have the equipment and support you need to get the job done.  Your families will always be a priority of Michelle's and mine, and remain on our hearts and on our minds.  And when our service members do return home, it will be to an America that always welcomes them home with the care that they were promised.
    It is, after all, your service -- the service of generations of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen -- that makes our annual celebration of this day possible.  It's your service that proves that our founding ideals remain just as powerful and alive in our third century as a nation as they did on that first Fourth of July.  And it is your service that guarantees that the United States of America shall forever remain the last, best hope on Earth.

  • Vice President Biden spent his Fourth of July in Iraq presiding over a naturalization ceremony for U.S. service members in one of Saddam Hussein's old palaces.  It's fair to say he enjoyed the symbolism.
    Vice President Joe Biden meets enters a press conference with Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki
    (Vice President Joe Biden enters a press conference with Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, July 3, 2009.  Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
    Vice President Joe Biden greets embassy staff and does individual photos with them
    (Vice President Joe Biden greets embassy staff and takes individual photos with them at the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, July 3, 2009.  Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
    U.S. Soldiers take the citizenship oath inside Al Faw palace at Camp Victory outside Baghdad, Iraq
    (U.S. Troops take the citizenship oath inside Al Faw palace at Camp Victory outside Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 4, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
    Vice President Joe Biden addresses newly sworn in U.S. citizens who serve in all 5 branches of the U.S. military
    (Vice President Joe Biden addresses newly sworn in U.S. citizens who serve in all 5 branches of the U.S. military, inside Al Faw palace at Camp Victory, outside Baghdad, Iraq, on Saturday, July 4, 2009.  Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
    Vice President Biden in the dining hall
    (Vice President Joe Biden works his way through the dining hall greeting multinational troops during lunch at Camp Victory, outside Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 4, 2009.  Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • The President recounts America’s great history of overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges, and pledges to lead America in continuing that tradition. Focusing on creating a clean energy economy, comprehensive health reform, and revitalizing an education system in need of change, the President pledges not to leave these decades-old problems to yet another generation to solve.
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  • Jimmy Fallon will emcee a special concert featuring the Foo Fighters and Michelle Branch on Saturday, July 4th, 2009 from the South Lawn of the White House. We'll be providing the exclusive live video at beginning with President Obama's opening remarks at 7pm EDT.

    The concert, put on by the USO honoring the hundreds of service members and their families who will be in attendance, will begin at 8:10 pm ET, followed by fireworks over the National Mall at approximately 9:10pm.

    (Photo credit Steve Garfield)

  • Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will officially reopen the crown of the Statue of Liberty to the public on July 4, 2009.  About 20 lucky visitors will be among the first to climb the 354 steps to the crown on Saturday morning, but thanks to the power of technology, everyone can join in the celebration.  The public can view photos of the day’s events on Flickr and follow Lady Liberty on Twitter.  
    July 4th marks the first time visitors can tour the crown since it was closed following the 9/11 attacks.  About 240 visitors per day will be able to tour the crown, but you can visit the Statue of Liberty anytime from home by taking the new Statue of Liberty National Monument virtual tour

    Katelyn Sabochik is the Director of New Media for the U.S. Department of the Interior

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    The President met with a group of innovative energy leaders today to discuss job creation and long-term plans for strengthening the industry which will play a key role in America’s economic future. CEOs from both small and large energy companies shared their own ideas about how to increase productivity through innovation and technology. Finding new ways of producing, saving, and distributing energy is not only good for our energy independence, but also presents opportunities to create millions of jobs for Americans.
    In his remarks, the President explained that energy is one of the main pillars in our new economic foundation, which is why the administration has put it at the forefront of the recovery effort:
    I'm pleased to say that we've achieved more in the past few months to create a new clean energy economy than we had achieved in many decades before.  The recovery plan will double our country's supply of renewable energy, and is already creating new clean energy jobs.  Thanks to a remarkable partnership between automakers, autoworkers, environmental advocates, and states, we also set in motion a new national policy to increase gas mileage and decrease carbon pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in this country, which is going to save us 1.8 billion barrels of oil.
    And last Friday, the House of Representatives passed an extraordinary piece of legislation that would make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America.  It will reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  It will prevent the worst consequences of climate change.  And above all, it holds the promise of millions of new jobs -- jobs, by the way, that can't be outsourced.  
    The CEOs standing behind me know a lot about these kinds of companies.  These are folks whose companies are helping to lead the transformation towards a clean energy future.  Even as we face tough economic times, even as we continue to lose jobs, the CEOs here told me that they're looking to hire new people, in some cases to double or even triple in size over the next few years.  They are making money and they are helping their customers save money on the energy front. 
    So these companies are vivid examples of the kind of future we can create, but it's now up to the Senate to continue the work that was begun in the House to forge this more prosperous future. We're going to need to set aside the posturing and the politics  -- and when we put aside the old ideological debates, then our choice is clear.  It's a choice between slow decline and renewed prosperity.  It's a choice between the past and the future. 
    The American people I believe want us to make the right choice, and I'm confident that the Senate will.  For at every juncture in our history, we've chosen to seize big opportunities -- rather than fear big challenges.  We've chosen to take responsibility.  We've chosen to honor the sacrifices of those who came before us -- and fulfill our obligations to generations to come.  That's what we're going to do this time, as well.
    The President went on to praise the innovation that is now taking place, from LED lighting to waterproof, long-lasting concrete. He added that although the economy continues to struggle, these are advances that will help us succeed both now and well into the future. "We always meet the challenges by moving forward," he said.
    The President shakes hands with Secretary Chu
    (President Barack Obama shakes hands with Energy Secretary Steven Chu following remarks about innovation in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 2, 2009, following his meeting with business leaders. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is second from left.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Vice President Biden landed at Camp Victory, Iraq today to visit U.S. troops and to meet with Iraqi leaders. This is Vice President Biden’s second trip to Iraq this year and his first as Vice President.
    (Vice President Joe Biden arrives at Camp Victory, Iraq, on an unannounced visit to the country, Thursday, July 2, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
    (Vice President Joe Biden greets Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari at Camp Victory, Iraq, on an unannounced visit to the country, Thursday, July 2, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
    (Vice President Joe Biden greets U.S. General Ray Odierno, at Camp Victory, Iraq, on an unannounced visit to the country, Thursday, July 2, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • Head over to the OPE blog, where where Michael Blake discusses Valerie Jarrett's speech at the Operation HOPE's Global Financial Literacy Summit.  She discussed the important role financial literacy and education can play in our nation's economic recovery.

  • As Disney's Hall of Presidents prepares for its grand reopening, President Obama tapes the audio for the debut of his life-size animatronic figure.  Watch the behind-the-scenes video:

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  • This week, the Vice President announced a $4.7 billion program to develop and improve high-speed Internet access to rural areas. This is just one of many exciting projects funded by the Recovery Act that are helping to rebuild our communities and lead us into a more prosperous future. Read about some of the Recovery projects across the country being talked about this week: 

    National, Associated Press, 7/1/09:
    "Vice President Joe Biden outlined a $4.7 billion loan and grant program Wednesday to develop the infrastructure needed to deliver broadband, or high-speed, Internet access to areas that are underserved or without access. America lags behind more than a dozen other countries in terms of Internet access and that has to change, Biden told about 200 people at Seneca High School, about 12 miles east of Erie. ‘The bottom line is, you can't function — a nation can't compete in the 21st century — without an immediate, high-quality access for everything from streaming video to information overline,’ Biden said. While Seneca has broadband Internet access, Biden said many students do not have access at home. Providing the means for access would improve educational opportunities, he said. He also spoke of the power of the Internet to create jobs in rural America. ‘We believe we are in the process of transforming rural America ... so it's integrated with the country, without losing its character,’ he said. The program also covers inner-city areas without broadband access. ‘Getting broadband to every American is a priority for this administration,’ Biden said. The $4.7 billion is part of $7.2 billion included in the federal stimulus package to improve rural Internet access."
    "When built, HECA will bring clean power to over 150,000 homes in the local community, create new jobs and avoid the emissions of more than two million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year. ‘California is a leader when it comes to innovation and clean technology, so it makes perfect sense that a hydrogen energy project be built here. This project is a fantastic use of Recovery Act dollars because it will not only create green collar construction jobs, but it will avoid greenhouse gas emissions and further propel us toward a clean energy future. The Schwarzenegger Administration has been working to get California’s fair share of federal stimulus funding and getting it out the door and into California’s economy as quickly and effectively as possible, and this project is a prime example of federal Recovery Act action in California.’ The HECA project is an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plant that will take petroleum coke, biomas, coal or blends of each, combined with non-potable water to convert them into hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2). The hydrogen gas will be used to fuel a net 250-megawatt power station that will provide new, clean electric power to 150,000 homes in the local community. The CO2 will be transported by pipeline to nearby oil reservoirs and injected for permanent storage which will enhance U.S. energy security and enable additional production from existing California oilfields. HECA will also boost the local economy. Hydrogen Energy International estimates that the project will create up to 1,500 construction jobs and up to 100 permanent green collar jobs." 
    "Central Florida community health centers received almost $6 million in federal grants this week to repair facilities, buy new equipment and implement electronic medical record-keeping. The grants come at an especially pressing time for these community centers, which have experienced increased use by area residents but decreased funding. At the Health Care Center for the Homeless — one of six Central Florida grant recipients — fundraising was down 40 percent from last year, while demand for services had increased by 28 percent. ‘Prior to receiving this, we were planning on reducing work staff,’ said Bakari Burns, executive officer. ‘The grant is almost like a godsend.’ On Monday, first lady Michelle Obama announced the disbursement of $851 million of the $2 billion promised to community health centers across the country as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."
    "YouthBuild Louisville will receive $699,000 in federal economic-stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help provide vocational instruction to unemployed and undereducated Louisville youth, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3rd District, has announced. ‘The funds will go a long way toward providing a valuable education and training to Louisville youths who may not have otherwise had opportunities in this economy,’ Yarmuth said. YouthBuild works with numerous other agencies on job training for those aged 16 to 24, including Jefferson Community and Technical College, Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville Metro Government, the Metro Housing Authority, KentuckianaWorks and the Home Builders Association of Louisville. In the YouthBuild program participants learn the craft of constructing and rehabilitating affordable housing for low-income families in their own neighborhoods."
    "Local schools will benefit from zero- or low-interest bonds for construction, established as part of the federal stimulus package.  Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools and Edgecombe County Public Schools both have been allotted funds from the 2009 Qualified School Construction Bonds program. The program offers funds for the specific use of new construction, school rehabilitation or repair and land acquisition in conjunction with those projects. The state was issued $275,772,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to disperse to schools.  Edgecombe Count schools were allocated $1,576,307.06. Nash-Rocky Mount schools were allocated $2,391,375.55.  In Nash-Rocky Mount schools, the money potentially could be used for two upcoming construction projects, Special Assistant for Auxiliary Services Mark Strickland said. He said that the people selling bonds will receive a tax credit in lieu of the interest money they’d typically receive. A zero-interest bond would be a ‘win-win’ for the district, Strickland said.  ‘It would just mean that we wouldn’t have to pay any interest, we’d just have to pay back the principal,’ Strickland said. ‘In the end, there could be significant cost savings.’"
    "Governor Phil Bredesen is extending unemployment benefits with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Tennessee Extended Benefits Program adds a maximum of 20 weeks of benefits for claimants who exhausted their emergency unemployment compensation benefits on or after February 28, 2009. Unemployed Tennesseans who believe they may be eligible for state extended benefits can file online by accessing the department's Web site. The extended benefit application will be available online beginning July 15, 2009.  The extended benefit program ends on December 26, 2009."


  • Starting now: Health Care Stakeholder Discussion on Primary Care. Watch it live and join the discussion on Facebook or
    [UPDATE: This event has now concluded.]

  • After days of taking video questions online, and with massive online discussions unfolding during the event, the President took questions on health reform directly from the public in an online town hall. 

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    For a taste, here's the transcript of the first question:

    MS. JARRETT:  I'm going to be in charge.  Thank you very much, Mr. President.
    So in my opening remarks, Mr. President, I mentioned that when you released your YouTube video over the weekend, we received literally hundreds of video questions from all across the country.  Your staff looked through all those questions and have selected a cross-section that represents a broad cross-section of the kinds of questions that came up.
    I want to emphasize that the President has not seen the questions ahead of time.  (Laughter.)  Absolutely not. 
    And so we're going to begin with a video question, Mr. President, if you look at the screen.
    THE PRESIDENT:  All right.
    VIDEO Q   Hi, my name is Steve White.  I'm in Spring Valley, New York.  And my question for the President is:  Why are we considering a health care plan which maintains the private insurance companies with their high overhead costs, instead of a single-payer plan, which would eliminate the high overhead costs, saving the American taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars, while covering everyone in our country?  Thank you.
    THE PRESIDENT:  Sure.  Well, it's a terrific question.  I'm not sure if everybody could hear it, but the gist of the question is, why have we not been looking at a single-payer plan as the way to go?
    As many of you know, in many countries, most industrialized advanced countries, they have some version of what's called a single-payer plan.  And what that means is essentially that the government is the insurer.  The government may not necessarily hire the doctors or the hospitals -- a lot of those may still be privately operated -- but the government is the insurer for everybody.  And Medicare is actually a single-payer plan that we have in place, but we only have it in place for our older Americans.
    Now, in a lot of those countries, a single-payer plan works pretty well and you eliminate, as Scott, I think it was, said, you eliminate private insurers, you don't have the administrative costs and the bureaucracy and so forth. 
    Here's the problem, is that the way our health care system evolved in the United States, it evolved based on employers providing health insurance to their employees through private insurers.  And so that's still the way that the vast majority of you get your insurance.  And for us to transition completely from an employer-based system of private insurance to a single-payer system could be hugely disruptive.  And my attitude has been that we should be able to find a way to create a uniquely American solution to this problem that controls costs but preserves the innovation that is introduced in part with a free market system.
    I think that we can regulate the insurance companies effectively; make sure that they're not playing games with people because of preexisting conditions; that they're not charging wildly different rates to people based on where they live or what their age is; that they're not dropping people for coverage unnecessarily; that we have a public option that's available to provide competition and choice to the American people, and to keep the insurers honest; and that we can provide a system in which we are, over the long term, driving down administrative costs, and making sure that people are getting the best possible care at a lower price.
    But I recognize that there are lot of people who are passionate -- they look at France or some of these other systems and they say, well, why can't we just do that?  Well, the answer is, is that this is one-sixth of our economy, and we're not suddenly just going to completely upend the system.  We want to build on what works about the system and fix what's broken about the system.  And that's what I think Congress is committed to doing, and I'm committed to working with them to make it happen. Okay?