Read all posts from January 2010

  • Last week we rolled out the new White House iPhone app, which you can download for free from the iTunes App Store.  It includes everything from the latest blog posts, to outstanding photos from the photo office, to White House videos – like the one below, for example, in which Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gives a slightly sillier take on our app than the initial blog post may have:

    Download Video: mp4 (17MB)

    As Gibbs explains in the video, the pride and joy of the app may be the fact that now you can watch White House live-streaming video wherever you happen to be.   For example, just today you can watch the President and the Vice President at a Middle Class Task Force meeting at 11:00 EST, even if you're hunkered down hiding from the rain at a bus stop as a lot of people in DC are right now. At 1:00 you can watch the selfsame Robert Gibbs take on the White House press corps, even if you’re a White House reporter who decided to just stay in bed today. And at 2:20 you can watch the President welcome last season's NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers, even if you're at a hockey game because watching your team get beat by the Lakers over and over made you look for other sports to stir your passions.

  • On December 8, 2009, the Administration issued the Open Government Directive to hardwire the values of transparency, participation and collaboration into the DNA of the Federal government.  Around here, we call the general effort "Open Gov." You can learn more about it here: WhiteHouse.gov/open.

    As part of the Directive, federal agencies have answered the President’s call by democratizing hundreds of high-value datasets on every aspect of government operations.  While this is meaningful for the technology community and transparency advocates who have been working on this issue for years, the data released will have direct impact on the daily lives of the American people.  Here are three examples to consider:

    • Parents can make better decisions when buying a car seat for their newborn because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released data rating child safety seats for ease of use, simplicity of instructions and vehicle installation features
    • Consumers can make intelligent decisions when buying a car because the Department of Transportation released details behind automobile safety and crash ratings gathered during crash and rollover tests conducted at their research facilities
    • As Norm Eisen mentioned in his earlier post (which has a few other good examples), entrepreneurs, researchers and healthcare professionals can access Medicare Part B data to analyze the cost, volume and types of services delivered to meet the needs of Medicare beneficiaries because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has released data that used to cost $100 and was delivered on CD-ROM, for free via Data.gov

    The Obama Administration is committed to unlocking public data to drive innovation by tapping into the ingenuity of the American people; increase agency accountability; and change the default setting of Washington to be open, transparent and participatory.  For far too long, government data has been locked within the four walls of Washington and confined to a selected group of people. President Obama has said, “information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset.”  This is why, on his first full day in office, the President charged agencies to harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online.

    To institutionalize a culture of open government, on February 6 we will launch a public dashboard to provide an ongoing assessment of the Executive Branch’s progress against the Directive.  You'll be able to find that at WhiteHouse.gov/open.

    Vivek Kundra is the Federal Chief Information Officer

  • If you visit data.gov, you’ll find a wide array of new, high-value datasets that federal agencies have uploaded pursuant to the Open Government Directive.  This information serves two valuable functions.  First, it facilitates private innovation by allowing entrepreneurs, scientists, and others to utilize raw data to build new services and conduct insightful studies that serve Americans.  Second, citizens will also be able to use this data to hold government accountable—again, so it can better serve the people. 

    For example, the Department of Education posted two data sets that will enable parents to better understand education outcomes and financing.  The TIMSS 2007 Public-Use Datafile is a school- based assessment that provides descriptive data on the educational outcomes of U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders in mathematics and science.  And the CCD: School District Financial Survey collects data on revenues and expenditures for each public, elementary and secondary education school district in the United States.  Releasing data like this allows parents and teachers to ensure that their tax dollars are being well used and to track the progress of American STEM education.

    Another important example is the Medicare Part B Extract Summary System Data.  This dataset from the Department of Health and Human Services provides detailed breakdowns of volume of physician services delivered to Medicare beneficiaries and payments for those services by individual procedure code (e.g., by type of anesthesiology service, cardiology service, etc.).  This data can be used to look at patterns of Medicare spending and analyze the types of services delivered to address the health needs of the Medicare population.  Researchers and others used to have to pay to get this on a CD-ROM – now it can be downloaded for free at data.gov.

    Here’s one last example of how we are helping you hold government accountable.  The Social Security Administration posted two data sets – Hearing Office Average Processing Time Ranking Report and Hearing Office Dispositions Per ALJ Per Day Rate Ranking Report.  They give you information on how long it takes different parts of the country to process social security adjudications.  You’ll be able to tell how your area is doing, and give the Administration feedback and direction in that regard. And we hope you will.

    Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform

  • In this week’s address, President Barack Obama addresses the Supreme Court decision to further empower corporations to use their financial clout to directly influence elections and vows that "as long as I'm your President, I'll never stop fighting to make sure that the most powerful voice in Washington belongs to you." 

     

  • President Obama Signs Legislation Providing Immediate Tax Deductions for Haiti Charitable Contributions

    President Obama Signs Legislation Providing Immediate Tax Deductions for Haiti Charitable Contributions January 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    In the days since the earthquake in Haiti, Americans have shown their generosity with millions of dollars in donations.  Tonight, President Obama signed a bill into law that makes it easier to give.  This legislation will allow taxpayers to receive the tax benefit from donations made to the Haiti effort in this tax season, rather than having to wait until they file their 2010 tax returns next year.  Specifically, cash donations to charities for the Haitian relief effort given after January 11 and before March 1 of this year may be treated as if the contribution was made on December 31 of last year so that the contribution can be deducted from 2009 income. This measure applies to monetary donations, not goods or services.

    One way to contribute is the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.  To donate, visit ClintonBushHaitiFund.org or text “QUAKE” to 20222 to charge a $10 donation that will be added to your cell phone bill.  To learn more about the situation in Haiti and what you can do to help, visit WhiteHouse.gov/HaitiEarthquake.

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (916MB) | mp3 (67MB)

    President Obama made it clear to an enthusiastic crowd in Ohio today that he is not giving up the fight for health reform that protects consumers from insurance company abuses, lowers costs and help businesses and families around this country.

    I didn’t take up this issue to boost my poll numbers or score political points – believe me, if I were, I would have picked something a lot easier than this. No, I’m trying to solve the problems that folks here in Elyria and across this country face every day. And I am not going to walk away just because it’s hard. We’re going to keep on working to get this done with Democrats, Republicans – anyone who is willing to step up.  Because I am not going to watch more people get crushed by costs, or denied the care they need by insurance company bureaucrats, or partisan politics, or special interest power in Washington.

    The President told the crowd that he is working closely with Congress to complete work on reform that will bring security and stability to Americans who have insurance and provide affordable options to those who don’t.  After 70 years of effort, we are closer than we have ever been to achieving these goals.  We will not stop now. 

    Nancy-Ann DeParle is Director of the Office of Health Reform

     

  • Ever wonder how much effort goes into planning a President’s trip to, well, anywhere? So did we. Fortunately, the White House Presidential Advance team allowed us to invade their world for a couple weeks as they made arrangements for President Obama’s trip to Ohio later today.

     

    This will be the second stop on the President’s “White House to Main Street” tour where he spends the better part of an entire day in one community to hear and see what people are experiencing in these hard economic times. Our cameras followed the team that flies out early to make sure every site he visits, every walk he takes, and every town hall he conducts runs as smooth as possible. 

     

    Download Video: mp4 (135MB)

     

    Be sure to check out the President’s town hall from Lorain County, Ohio today at 2pm ET at WhiteHouse.gov/live.

  • Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus signed a  Memorandum of Understanding between their departments to encourage the development of advanced biofuels and other renewable energy systems.  This agreement will simultaneously strengthen the economic recovery in rural America, creating new jobs and new industries that cannot be exported;  enhance our national security by decreasing our dependence on foreign oil; and address the challenge of climate change. 

    USDA and DON

    (left to right) Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre, and Secretary of the Navy the Honorable Ray Mabus address the media following a memorandum of understanding signing ceremony at the Pentagon. January 21, 2010. (by by U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien)

    The Obama Administration has been engaged in these efforts since May 2009, when President Obama established the Biofuels Interagency Working Group, an effort to help coordinate efforts across the federal government to advance biofuels research and commercialization.  This agreement creates a strong partnership that promotes clean energy technologies and will help stimulate additional private investment and innovation to develop the next generation of biofuels.    In fiscal year 2008, the Navy alone consumed nearly 1.2 billion gallons of petroleum, predominantly in fuel for ships and aircraft.

    Read more about yesterday’s announcement.

    To demonstrate the potential of this partnership, the Marine Corps had on display a prototype Light Armored Vehicle or LAV.  The U.S. Army’s Tank and Automotive Command, has for the past 6 months conducted tests with biofuels in LAVs ranging in biofuel mixture level from 5%-30%.  The Department of the Navy is committed to testing biofuels for use in its aircraft, surface ships and tactical vehicles like LAVs.  The LAV-25A2 on display is mechanically the same as the LAV-25 operating in Afghanistan.

    Tony Russell is Communication Advisor for the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change.

     

  • Today President Obama is traveling to Lorain County, Ohio to talk to Americans about what the economy is like on the ground during these tough economic times. This is the second stop of the White House to Main Street Tour; last month the President spent some time with folks in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania.

    Get a first glimpse at the ticket line this week for Friday's Town Hall with President Obama.

    Download Video: mp4 (34MB)
     

    Missed the ticket giveaway? Watch the President’s town hall live from Lorain at WhiteHouse.gov/Live today at 2:00PM EST.

  • This morning Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a landmark speech on internet freedom around the world, making it clear exactly where the United States stands:

    On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. Now, this challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic.

    DipNote, the State Department's blog, has full coverage including the transcript and highlights, but it's well worth your time to watch it in full here.

  • On December 3rd the President hosted a jobs forum with leading economic experts of all stripes.  Since then, in addition to the community jobs forums held all over the country, the economic team has been digesting the information and feedback from the forum.  Over the past couple days, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett has been following up with participants -- the email she has sent out is below, which included the final report from the forum.

    Subject: Thank you, and follow-up from Jobs and Economic Growth Forum

    Dear Colleagues –

    I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and your new year is off to a good start. 

    I want to thank you for your participation in the White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth last month.  As the President said, it was a thought-provoking and idea-filled afternoon, and we are grateful for your time and energy. 

    This e-mail is intended to update you on some of our efforts since the Forum, and to let you know what we will be doing to keep you engaged in our ongoing work to help create jobs and economic growth.  In order to summarize the efforts and continue the conversation, I have included a report with the ideas compiled from each of the breakout groups during the Forum.

    On December 8th, during a speech at the Brookings Institution, the President outlined some of the job creation ideas he’d like to see implemented.  The President outlined three key areas:
    1. Helping Small Businesses Expand Investment, Hire Workers and Access Credit
    2. Investing in America’s Roads, Bridges and Infrastructure
    3. Creating Jobs Through Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Investments

    [The full text of his speech and additional background materials are included at the end of this email.] 

    As you can see, many of the ideas from the Forum informed his thinking, and some of them we have already put into action.  You may also have heard that we broadened the efforts you initiated through Community Jobs Forums across the country involving more than 50 mayors, dozens of state legislators, and thousands of citizens – we’ll be completing the report based on their feedback in the coming weeks.

    Moving forward, we are planning to continue the conversation through the President’s Cabinet, who remain heavily involved in this effort.  Over the coming weeks, Cabinet officials will be reaching out to participants to schedule follow-up calls or meetings on specific ideas.  As you have in the past, we hope that you will find time in your schedules to stay involved, and please keep us informed of your own job creation efforts and stories.

    I also have a short public service announcement.  Many people have been asking what they can do to help with the Haiti rescue and relief efforts.  Last Saturday, President Obama was joined by President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton where they announced the creation of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, a partnership by Presidents Bush and Clinton “to help the Haitian people reclaim their country and build back not only their infrastructure but also their unwavering spirit.” 

    Please visit www.clintonbushhaitifund.org , and share with your colleagues, friends, family, and employees.  Please also keep us informed of your Haiti support efforts, and thank you in advance for your help in this time of great human need.

    Thank you again for your involvement.  This is a vital issue and an important time, and our work together will help create stronger businesses and improve the lives of many Americans. 

    All the best.

    Valerie Jarrett
    Senior Advisor to the President

    Links and Follow-up Resources:
    White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth:

    President Obama's Speech at the Brookings Institution on Job Creation and Economic Growth:

     

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (166MB) | mp3 (8MB)

    This morning the President proposed what he called "the Volcker Rule," named after one of the fiercest advocates for financial reform over the past year, and who has been particularly focused on addressing the issue of banks being "too big to fail."  He also proposed addressing one of the clearest issues leading to the financial crisis of the past years, namely banks that stray wildly from their core mission: serving their customer.  Having met with Paul Volcker this morning, and having last week proposed new fees on Wall Street to ensure the taxpayers get their money back, the President came with a direct message for banks that might object to these changes:

    I welcome constructive input from folks in the financial sector.  But what we've seen so far, in recent weeks, is an army of industry lobbyists from Wall Street descending on Capitol Hill to try and block basic and common-sense rules of the road that would protect our economy and the American people.

    So if these folks want a fight, it's a fight I'm ready to have.  And my resolve is only strengthened when I see a return to old practices at some of the very firms fighting reform; and when I see soaring profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms claiming that they can't lend more to small business, they can't keep credit card rates low, they can't pay a fee to refund taxpayers for the bailout without passing on the cost to shareholders or customers -- that's the claims they're making.  It's exactly this kind of irresponsibility that makes clear reform is necessary.

    The President Meets with Paul Volcker Before Announcing "the Volcker Rule"

    President Barack Obama meets with Economic Recovery Advisory Board Chair Paul Volcker in the Oval Office January 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    The President went on to explain the reforms he was proposing in more detail:

    First, we should no longer allow banks to stray too far from their central mission of serving their customers.  In recent years, too many financial firms have put taxpayer money at risk by operating hedge funds and private equity funds and making riskier investments to reap a quick reward.  And these firms have taken these risks while benefiting from special financial privileges that are reserved only for banks.

    Our government provides deposit insurance and other safeguards and guarantees to firms that operate banks.  We do so because a stable and reliable banking system promotes sustained growth, and because we learned how dangerous the failure of that system can be during the Great Depression. 

    But these privileges were not created to bestow banks operating hedge funds or private equity funds with an unfair advantage.  When banks benefit from the safety net that taxpayers provide –- which includes lower-cost capital –- it is not appropriate for them to turn around and use that cheap money to trade for profit.  And that is especially true when this kind of trading often puts banks in direct conflict with their customers' interests.

    The fact is, these kinds of trading operations can create enormous and costly risks, endangering the entire bank if things go wrong.  We simply cannot accept a system in which hedge funds or private equity firms inside banks can place huge, risky bets that are subsidized by taxpayers and that could pose a conflict of interest.  And we cannot accept a system in which shareholders make money on these operations if the bank wins but taxpayers foot the bill if the bank loses.

    Get much more from the White House fact sheet.

  • Taking a page from our efforts here in the Obama Administration, the United Kingdom today launched data.gov.uk – a site to aggregate datasets from the UK government.  It is exciting to see the seeds of openness, accountability, and transparency taking root around the world. 

    When we launched Data.gov here at the White House website in May 2009, we had just 47 datasets online.  It was a modest start, but the growth we’ve seen has been phenomenal.  Today, there are more than 168,000 datasets online, and federal agencies are poised to publish new high-value information this week as the next step in Administration’s Open Government Initiative. 

    But the U.S. and UK governments aren’t alone in data sites.  There is a nationwide movement to unlock public data.  Governments of all sizes are unlocking the value of data for their constituents.  Washington, D.C., San Francisco, the City of New York, the State of California, the State of Utah, the State of Michigan, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have launched data.gov-type sites, as have cities in Canada and the UK.  All of these sites are dedicated to breaking down longstanding barriers between governments and the people they serve -- facilitating collaboration and transforming dry data into tools that can improve people’s lives.

    As we grow Data.gov across the Administration, we are focused on releasing high-value datasets to increase agency accountability and responsiveness; improve public knowledge of the agency and its operations; create economic opportunity; or respond to need and demand as identified through public consultation.

    For instance, when the Department of Agriculture makes nutrition information available, families can make smarter eating choices; when the Department of Education makes key information available about colleges and universities, students can make better-informed choices about the quality and cost of education; and when the Department of Labor makes safety information available, employers can better protect workers.

    The Federal Government does not have a monopoly on the best ideas.  We are all part of an increasingly complex network of communities, ideas, and information.  We applaud today’s launch of data.gov.uk  and look forward to working with the  international community to ensure that people across the world are actively engaged in helping find the most innovative paths to solve some of the toughest problems we face. Moreover, we are pleased to see that other governments share the Administration's philosophy that data availability will help change how government operates and empower citizens to participate in making government services more effective, accessible, and transparent.

    Vivek Kundra is U.S. Chief Information Officer

  • For over 40 years, the Presidential Citizens Medal has recognized Americans who have "performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens." This year, the President is inviting you, the American public, to nominate candidates for the second highest civilian honor in our nation. So, who has inspired you? Who's selfless dedication to service has touched your life or the lives of others? Now's your chance to nominate that everyday hero for this high honor.

    Past recipients of this award have included some of America’s most respected public figures – from Muhammad Ali to Colin Powell; Claiborne Pell to Bob Dole. But also everyday heroes known only to the people whose lives they changed – heroes like Oseola McCarty, a washerwoman who left an astounding $150,000 – her entire life savings – to the University of Southern Mississippi so they could establish a scholarship fund for students in need.

    Watch a video message from the President and tell us who you feel deserves this award.

    Download Video: mp4 (22MB)
     

    The 2010 Citizens Medal will recognize citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service outside of their regular jobs. If you want to nominate someone for the 2010 Citizens Medal, please review the full criteria for this year's Medal. Nominees must be citizens of the United States, as required by the 1969 Executive Order. Additional awardees may be selected outside of the public nomination process. The deadline to submit is Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

  • The below was released by the White House as part of our ongoing efforts to keep the public abreast of developments in Haiti.

    On January 12, a massive earthquake struck the nation of Haiti, causing catastrophic damage inside and around the capital city of Port-au-Prince.  President Obama has said, "at this moment, we are moving forward with one of the largest relief efforts in our history -- to save lives and to deliver relief that averts an even larger catastrophe.  In these difficult hours, America stands united.  We stand united with the people of Haiti, who have shown such incredible resilience, and we will help them to recover and to rebuild."

    The United States Government has mobilized resources and people to aid in the relief effort.  At the direction of President Obama, this is a whole-of-government effort, and USAID has the lead in this swift, aggressive and coordinated response.  Military personnel are playing an indispensable role in supporting this humanitarian effort, including making the logistics chain possible and distributing life-saving assistance.  Aid workers are working around the clock to deliver more aid more quickly and more effectively to more people in need.

    Below, please find some key facts and examples of government actions to date.  All numbers below are accurate as of 2 p.m., Wednesday, January 20.

    INTERNATIONAL COORDINATION

    At the request of the Haitian government, the U.S. continues to coordinate America’s relief efforts with the United Nations and the international community.  We are coordinating closely with more than 30 nations and hundreds of NGOs to deliver food and water quickly throughout the country.

    • Tuesday evening, the President’s National Security Advisor convened a Principals Committee meeting with the Vice President, Secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, our Ambassador to the UN, the Administrators of USAID and FEMA, and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to discuss ongoing efforts and coordination.
    • Afterwards, Dr. Shah said the meeting was an opportunity "to take stock of the performance and to make sure we were doing everything we possibly could to accelerate our efforts and do even better by reaching more people in Haiti with needed and critical supplies of food, water, shelter, and other critically needed items like medical kids and access to medical services."
    • Secretary Clinton spoke with Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) President Moreno on January 19 about ongoing relief efforts.

    HEALTH/MEDICAL

    • The USNS Comfort arrived in Haiti today.  The Comfort brings a hospital with a capacity for over 1,000 beds on board and has already started to receive patients by helicopter.
    • Department of Defense personnel have treated over 200 patients and supported the movement of more than 29,000 lbs of medical supplies to date.
    • As of January 20, more than 5,000 patients have been treated by Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) from the Department of Health and Human Services. .

    AIRPORTS & PORTS

    • The airfield is open for 24/7 operations – 153 flights were expected for today.  The U.S. was using 38 of those slots.
      • U.S. Transportation Command reports that since commencing air operations, a total of 136 missions have been flown that have carried more than 2,400 tons of equipment and more than 1,900 passengers into Haiti.
    • U.S. Army/Navy dive teams with underwater construction teams continued to assess port structural damage with the goal of reopening as quickly as possible.
    • As of today, there are 20 U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels and 51 helicopters deployed.
    • The San Isidro airfield in the Dominican Republic is now open for C-130 operations to assist in the Haiti relief effort.

    SAFETY & SECURITY

    • The major focus of military efforts is establishing water distribution sites, and delivering fuel, food, and medicine.
    • As of January 20, approximately 11,500 military personnel (2,000 ashore and 9,500 afloat) are a part of the relief effort.
      • The BATAAN Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG)/22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit with 1,960 Marines and Sailors arrived and began moving forces ashore yesterday.  The Marines began relief operations in the vicinity of Leogane.
    • The Coast Guard has approximately 516 service members on site assisting with the Haiti recovery effort (24 ashore, 422 afloat, and 70 aircrew).  On January 19, Secretary Napolitano authorized the activation of up to 900 reserve U.S. Coast Guard service men and women in to (mission: replace those deployed on the Comfort? And to assist with port security?) .

    EVACUATION & RESCUES

    • Evacuations:  The U.S. is conducting evacuations 24 hours a day.  88 American evacuees departed Port-Au-Prince this morning (1/20).  On January 19, 1328 were evacuated.  To date, more than 6,174 Americans have been evacuated.
    • Search and Rescue:  On January 19, Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams from Virginia Beach and New York rescued two children.  And a USAR team from Fairfax worked with locals as well a French USAR team to rescue a female Haitian who had been trapped for seven days without food or water in a supermarket in the Bois Verna neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.
    • Currently, 43 international USAR teams, comprised of 1,739 rescue workers, with 161 dogs, are working in Haiti.  6 of those teams are from the United States – with 511 rescue workers from Fairfax County, Los Angeles County, Miami, Miami-Dade, Virginia Beach, and New York.
      • To date, U.S. USAR teams have rescued 43 people from collapsed buildings, while international and U.S. USAR teams together have rescued a total of 122 people.

    FOOD & WATER

    • U.S. military aircraft, helicopters, and vessels are giving the highest priority to the shipment of water.
      • 152,000 liters bulk water and more than 165,000 water bottles were delivered yesterday (1/19).
      • The USS Carl Vinson is producing 100,000 gallons of potable water daily – 2,000 gallons were distributed yesterday.
      • Water tanks are being installed in each zone of the city.  Potable water is now available at 45 distribution points.
    • There are currently four established food and water distribution hubs and 190 distribution sites active and serving 96,000 people.
    • The U.S. Coast Guard has distributed a total of 38.5 tons of water (62,880 bottles ) to date.
    • Over the past several days, JTF-Haiti has distributed more than 400,000 meals/humanitarian rations and more than 600,000 bottles of water.
    • C-17 air delivery of food and water will resume Thursday (1/21) -- approximately 15,000 water bottles and 14,500 MREs/Humanitarian Rations are slated for delivery.
      • The first C-17 air delivery was conducted Monday, consisting of 14,000 1-liter bottles and 14,000 packages of daily rations.
    • The vessel Americas departed Port Everglades today with 500,000 MREs, 290,000 liters of drinking water, 8,400 cots, 19,500 blankets, 41,800 tarps, 560 rolls of sheeting, and 70,000 comfort kits provided by FEMA, as well as medical supplies provided by USAID.
    • On January 19, two USAID/OFDA funded flights carrying emergency relief supplies arrived in Port-au-Prince.  Commodities included:
      • 40,200 water containers that provide water for 80,400 people,
      • 13,056 hygiene kits, which will serve 65,280 people,
      • 200 rolls of plastic sheeting that will provide shelter for 10,000 people,
      • 5 U.N. World Health Organization medical kits,
      • 8 water bladders,
      • 6 water purification units – each unit produces 100,000 liters of water per day and will provide water to a total of  60,000 people,
      • 3 industrial air-conditioning units, and
      • 1 generator.
    • As of January 19, total USAID/OFDA commodities delivered to Port-au-Prince included:
      • 9 water treatment units to provide 900,000 liters of safe drinking water for 90,000 individuals per day;
      • 71,000 ten-liter water containers to benefit 142,000 people;
      • nearly 24,500 hygiene kits to serve more than 121,000 beneficiaries;
      • 700 rolls of plastic sheeting to support the shelter needs of approximately 35,000 people;
      • 18 water bladders, each with a capacity of 10,000 liters, and
      • five U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) medical kits capable of supplying medical supplies for up to 10,000 individuals for a two-month period.

    ADOPTIONS

    • As Secretary Clinton said today at the State Department, “We are coordinating closely with the Haitian government, the United Nations, our other international partners, and NGOs on the ground to ensure that aid reaches Haiti’s orphanages and that newly orphaned children are accounted for and cared for…We will also do everything we can to reunite the many children and families who have become separated in the aftermath of the earthquake.  And this is a crucial point: we have to be very careful not to exacerbate this difficult situation by removing children from Haiti who might have surviving family members.  We will not let red tape stand in the way of helping those in need, but we will ensure that international adoption procedures to protect children and families are followed.”
    • The State Department is heading up a joint task force with the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to streamline this process and ensure that these families are united as quickly as possible while still ensuring that proper safeguards are in place to protect children in our care.
    • An interagency working group has been established to focus on the humanitarian needs of highly vulnerable children. And the Administration is also working closely with the many Members of Congress who are understandably very concerned about this process.

    ASSISTANCE

    • As of today, in FY 2010, the U.S. Government has provided nearly $171 million in humanitarian assistance for the Haiti earthquake:
      • Secretary of Defense Gates signed the Haiti Disaster Relief Execution Order authorizing up to $20 million in humanitarian, disaster and civic aids funds,
      • USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) contribution of nearly $82 million,
      • USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) assistance valued at $68 million, and
      • USAID Dominican Republic (USAID/DR) health assistance valued at $1 million.

    HOW TO SUPPORT RELIEF EFFORTS
    We are all deeply affected by the devastation in Haiti. Our common humanity demands that we act, as does America’s leadership and deep ties with Haiti.  At the request of President Obama, former Presidents Bush and Clinton are coordinating private assistance and urging Americans to help at www.clintonbushhaitifund.org

    • Funding raised through Text Message Program (keyword "Haiti", and short code number "90999"): $25 million from over 2.5 million people.     
    • You can also contribute online through ClintonBushHaitiFund.org.
      • Text “QUAKE” to 20222 to charge a $10 donation to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (the donation will be added to your cell phone bill).
    • Find more ways to help through the Center for International Disaster Information (www.cidi.org).

    Get Information about Friends or Family

    • The State Department has set up a web page that will serve as a clearinghouse for information on Haiti: state.gov/haitiquake, including a new tool, the “Person Finder,” to allow people to find and share information on missing loved ones in Haiti.
    • The State Department Operations Center has set up the following phone number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747 (due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording).  You can also send an email to the State Department.  Please be aware that communications within Haiti are very difficult at this time.
    • The State Department has also partnered with the tech community to launch a free SMS relief information service to help people in Haiti.  The text message program allows people with service from Digetel and Voila to text their location and needs to a free short code: "4636."  Since the initiative was launched on January 18, NGO partners have received over 2,000 messages, including on food distribution, missing persons, water.
    • Whitehouse.gov — The White House website continues to serve as a focal point for information for about the relief effort, including accounting for family and friends in Haiti and contributing to the relief effort.

  • Right now there are a lot of discussions going on about the best path forward. But let's be clear that the President's preference is to pass a bill that meets the principles he laid out months ago: more stability and security for those who have insurance, affordable coverage options for those who don’t, and lower costs for families, businesses, and governments.

    Update: For more specific context, some stories floating around have claimed that the President has decided to pursue a slimmed-down health reform bill.

    Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

  • Chief Master Sergeant Tyler Foster is the Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs deployed chief of operations at the Troussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince, Haiti.  He and his team are supporting U.S. Southern Command relief efforts in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the nation.

    There is no "easing" into the day here at the military encampment at the Port au Prince airport.  Navy and Marine helos hit the deck here at 0630 sharp.  There’s no snooze button on that alarm.  You roll out of your cot, put the same uniform on that you’ve worn for the last 3 or 4 days.  Does it stink?  Who knows, everyone is in the same boat.  This ain’t no formal dinner.  These are bare base operations.  Our focus is mission.  Our mission is saving lives.

    Bleary-eyed Airmen migrate toward the port-o-lets then off to their work space: a table, a steel chair, the flightline, the rubble of a building.  There’s no complaining.  You grab a cup of joe if it’s ready.  Otherwise, it’s water.  Water all day every day to keep hydrated.

    You learn to tune out the incessant and essential cacophony the ever-busy flightline offers.  The word "noisy" doesn’t do this environment justice.  At times it is deafening.  The hum of the flightline means life saving supplies, equipment and personnel are on their way to the Haitian citizens who need them.  One life at a time.  That’s all we can do.  Save one life at a time.

    Air Force Medics in Haiti

    U.S. Air Force Medics, Master Sgt. Douglas Brook and Tech. Sgt Nicholas Wentworth, Air Force Special Operations Command, perform urgent medical care to a Haitian man at the Troussaint Louverture International Airport, Haiti. January 18, 2010. (by U.S. Air Force Photo by Master Sgt. Russell E. Cooley IV)

  • January is National Mentoring Month and this afternoon President Obama and the First Lady will welcome mentors and young Americans from around the country.   As we gather in the East Room, organizations and community groups dedicated to supporting our nation's young people will come together to reaffirm the importance of mentorship.  The President will also announce the White House Mentorship Program for 20 young men from local high schools.  Each student was nominated by his school and will be paired with an Administration staffer for one year.  This program will allow the participants to serve our local community and students will be encouraged to pursue excellence in school as well as expand their horizons as they are introduced to numerous opportunities for personal development, including career skills.  Mentorship has long been a priority for both the President and Mrs. Obama, as a part of their commitment to their community and personal responsibility.  The First Lady launched her initiative for young women this past November and they’re already off to a great start.  Check out a video of the First Lady and senior Administration women on a mentoring trip to Denver to see this initiative in action. 

    Download Video: mp4 (134MB) | mp3 (4MB)

    All of us are excited to begin this important work and we’re proud that this is the first time the White House has offered such a program.  Last June, the President launched a National Conversation on Fatherhood and Personal Responsibility.  This is an important corollary to that effort.  We know that a responsible, caring adult taking the time to mentor a young person often makes an incredibly positive difference in the lives of both. 

    Michael Strautmanis is Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Engagement

  • One year ago, after President Obama was inaugurated, he and the First Lady decided to surprise visitors who were on White House tours to reinforce the message of the White House being the People’s House. Mrs. Obama is marking the first year by continuing this tradition today – taking some time to do greet visitors of the People’s House.

    [UPDATE: This event has now concluded. A video of the event is below.]

    Download Video: mp4 (585MB) | mp3 (43MB)

  • This morning the President announced a Presidential Memorandum putting a common sense restriction in place to put government on the side of the taxpayer: blocking contractors who are delinquent on their taxes from receiving new government contracts.  He also called on Congress to go further and give the government the tools necessary to ensure that the public’s tax dollars are not used to boost the profits of companies who refuse to pay their taxes.  Read the White House fact sheet and memorandum itself for all the details.

    The stories of these companies are in stark contrast to the stories of working people playing by the rules even in tough times, as the President explained in his remarks:

    Studies by the Government Accountability Office have identified tens of thousands of such dead-beat companies that are being awarded government contracts.  One company owner who owed over $1 million in taxes was paid over $1 million as a defense contractor -- and instead of using that money to pay his back taxes, he chose to buy a boat, some cars, and a home abroad with his earnings.  The total amount owed in unpaid taxes by companies like that is estimated at more than $5 billion.

    Now, in Washington, $5 billion might not seem like a lot of money.  But if we were to invest that money in education, it would be enough to cover the cost of annual college tuition for more than half a million students.  If we were to invest in health care, it would be enough to cover 2.5 million children.  If we were to invest it in energy, it would be enough to weatherize more than half a million homes.

    In a time of great need, when our families and our nation are finding it necessary to tighten our belts and be more responsible with how we spend our money, we can't afford to waste taxpayer dollars.  And we especially can't afford to let companies game the system.  We need to make sure every tax dollar we spend is going to address our nation's urgent needs and to make a difference in the lives of our people.

    The status quo, then, is inefficient and it's wasteful.  But the larger and more fundamental point is that it's wrong.  It is simply wrong for companies to take taxpayer dollars and not be taxpayers themselves.  So we need to insist on the same sense of responsibility in Washington that so many of you strive to uphold in your own lives, in your own families, and in your own businesses.

    That's exactly what the memorandum I'm issuing today is meant to do.  I'm directing my budget office, together with the Treasury Department and other federal agencies, to take steps to block contractors who are seriously delinquent in their taxes from receiving new government contracts.  I'm also directing the IRS to conduct a review of the overall accuracy of companies' claims about tax delinquencies.  We need to be sure that when a company says it's paying taxes, that company is, in fact, paying taxes.

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