Dan PfeifferApril 23, 2010
11:45 AM EDT
Just yesterday, we read with great alarm a news report that WellPoint, one of the country’s largest health insurers, is routinely dropping coverage for women that are diagnosed with breast cancer.
These are the kinds of scenarios that motivated the President to work so long and so hard to pass health reform. And because of the health reform legislation passed last month, the worst excesses and abuses of the insurance industry – including what WellPoint is said to have done -- will soon be reined in by new tough consumer protections.
Yesterday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote a letter to WellPoint’s CEO urging her company to immediately end this harmful practice:
April 22, 2010
[To: Angela Braly, WellPoint]
Dear Ms. Braly:
I was surprised and disappointed to read media accounts indicating that WellPoint routinely rescinds health insurance coverage from women recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Today’s report from Reuters indicating that your company “has specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel their policies” is disturbing, and this practice is deplorable.
As you know, the practice described in this article will soon be illegal. The Affordable Care Act specifically prohibits insurance companies from rescinding policies, except in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of material fact.
WellPoint should not wait to end the unconscionable practice of deliberately working to deny health insurance coverage to women diagnosed with breast cancer. I urge you to immediately cease these practices and abandon your efforts to rescind health insurance coverage from patients who need it most.
Breast cancer is the second-leading type of cancer among women, has touched millions of families, and will affect one in eight American women during their lifetime. This year alone, an estimated 192,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
I hope you will consider these women and their families as you work to end this harmful practice.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Jesse LeeApril 23, 2010
10:15 AM EDT
This afternoon, Austan Goolsbee of the Council of Economic Advisors will take your questions following up on the President’s speech in New York on reforming Wall Street. The live video discussion will be held at 2:00PM EDT.
While you can learn plenty from the President's speech, you can also find more details from our Wall Street Reform page.
Arun ChaudharyApril 23, 2010
06:00 AM EDT
Thanks so much for checking out the West Wing Week, your guide to all things 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This installment takes you step-by-step with the President as he hosts the Great Outdoors Conference, holds a meeting of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, meets with his Special Envoy to the Sudan, discusses Supreme Court nominations with congressional leadership, travels to New York City to talk Wall Street Reform, and celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day in the White House Rose Garden.
We also pulled out a clip from a Martin Luther King Jr. Day discussion that President Obama held in the Roosevelt Room. One of those present was Dr. Dorothy Height who passed away last week at the age of 98, a hero of the civil rights movement and an inspiration to all Americans.
You can learn more about her life and works as well as see complete videos of all the topics addressed in your West Wing Week in the links below:
Friday, April 16th
- The President's remarks at the Great Outdoors Conference
- The President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board meets on exports and job creation
Monday, April 19th
Tuesday, April 20th
Wednesday, April 21st
- The President's meeting with Congressional Leadership on the Supreme Court
- The First Lady with Vancouver Olympians
Thursday, April 22nd
- The President speaks on Wall Street Reform in New York City
- The President and his Administration celebrate Earth Day
Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer
Jen PsakiApril 23, 2010
05:00 AM EDT
Unfortunately some opponents of reform appear to be up to their old tricks again. As Wall Street reform moves to the floor next week and on the heels of a speech this morning where the President made the case for what is at stake for the American people, opponents of reform have decided that a campaign of distraction is their only option to stop the growing momentum for bipartisan reform.
Let’s be crystal clear on the substance regarding the GSEs. We agree that Fannie and Freddie are long overdue for reform. That is why the Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development initiated a process a few weeks ago to look not just at reforming the GSEs, but our entire system of housing finance.
During the housing bubble and financial collapse a broad set of failures from Wall Street to Main Street to Washington affected the entire housing market. The Administration responded with a vigorous set of housing policies to restore stability in the housing market in which the GSEs played a crucial role. Today, the housing market is still in the process of stabilizing. Because private capital has not yet returned to the housing finance market, Americans today would still face great difficulty in getting a mortgage to buy a new home or refinancing their existing home if the GSEs were not playing the role they are playing.
We are committed to comprehensive reform of the housing finance system. There should be no confusion about the goal of these reforms: The GSEs will not exist as they did in the past. The Administration is committed to working closely with Congress and the American people to reform Fannie and Freddie and the broader system of housing finance in a way that keeps the housing market stable and helps responsible homeowners.
Make no mistake: Those who are attacking the current bill before the Senate on financial reform are playing a game of distraction from the real choice in this debate – standing with the American families on Main Street or the status quo on Wall Street. The bill before the Senate is a strong piece of legislation that will bring rules of the road for Wall Street to protect families and help prevent another crisis that cost more than 8 million American jobs from happening again.
Jen Psaki is Deputy Communications Director
Katelyn SabochikApril 22, 2010
07:15 PM EDT
It’s been a busy Earth Day here at the White House and around the Administration. Yesterday Vice President Biden kicked off the Administration’s Earth Day Celebration by announcing $452 million in Recovery Act funding to support a “Retrofit Ramp-Up.” This program will create thousands of jobs and allow these communities to retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses while testing out innovative strategies that can be adopted all over the country. President Obama also issued a Presidential Proclamation on Earth Day calling on Americans to join in the spirit of the first Earth Day forty years ago to take action in their communities to make our planet cleaner and healthier.
This afternoon, Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, hosted a live chat on WhiteHouse.gov to answer your questions about how the Administration is working to improve the environment and build a clean energy economy that supports the jobs of the future. This evening, the President hosted an Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden at the White House where he discussed some of the challenges that lie ahead in achieving a clean energy economy:
I think we all understand that the task ahead is daunting; that the work ahead will not be easy and it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take your leadership. It’s going to take all of your ideas. And it will take all of us coming together in the spirit of Earth Day -- not only on Earth Day but every day -- to make the dream of a clean energy economy and a clean world a reality.
Over on the Social Innovation and Civic Participation blog, guest blogger and former Peace Corps volunteer Kelly McCormack shares here story about a community solution to an environmental problem in Gautemala.
Finally, President Obama’s cabinet and other senior government officials fanned out across the country as part of the Administration’s 5-day celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. From live chats, to announcing major investments in renewable energy, to appearing on the David Letterman show - all-in-all a busy day!
April 22, 2010
04:13 PM EDT
As an Olympic athlete I had the opportunity to visit the White House yesterday and meet President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as Vice President Biden and his wife Jill Biden. I was impressed by the gratitude that they shared with us for representing our country in the Olympic Winter Games as well as the architecture and the history within the White House. What an amazing experience.
I chose to participate in the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative to combat childhood obesity from the moment that I heard about it. As an athlete, moving around and staying fit is critical to my performance. Just as importantly, as a mom, I move around and stay active not only for myself, but also to be an example to my daughter Lacee. It is so important for her to move around now, at 2 years of age, in order to form healthy, lifelong habits that will help to prevent childhood obesity in her life. Along with moving around, as an athlete, mom, and individual, it is very important to make healthy food choices. The choices that I make may impact Lacee's life for better or worse.
Everyday as an athlete I wake up and decide to either make good healthy decisions that will lead me toward my goals or I can choose to make poor decisions that will lead me away from my goals. Athletes are not the only ones faced with these health-wise decisions. Everyone of us has a choice to make everyday. We need to make good choices not only for ourselves, but to be examples of healthy living for kids as well so that they we can teach them the importance of moving around and eating healthy foods.Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
Noelle Pikus-Pace is a 2010 Winter Olympian, Skeleton
Kori SchulmanApril 22, 2010
03:38 PM EDT
Today the First Lady welcomed children of Executive Office employees to the White House for the annual “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” event. In a question and answer session in the East Room, the First Lady fielded the children’s questions with Bo at her side.
Here are a few of highlights, or read the full remarks here.Q Do you like living in the White House?MRS. OBAMA: The question is: Do I like living in the White House? And yes, it’s fun living in the White House.(Bo barks.) (Laughter.) Bo likes it, too. Bo likes living in the White House, too. Some of the most fun parts about living in the White House is getting to share the house with so many people. I mean, we have thousands of people who come here every month just to visit, and it’s really fun to meet a lot of people and to make sure that they feel like this house is special for them, and to share it with everybody else. So it’s been a lot of fun. There are a lot of good things about it.Q What inspired you to become so involved in child obesity?MRS. OBAMA: You know, it was just watching how children’s diets and habits change. Then I saw it in my household, just how easy it was with schedules being as busy as they are, and parents working a lot of hours. And we get into the habit of giving you guys what’s easy sometimes, Mac and Cheese every night, and driving through the drive-thru a little bit too much. And time is just short.And I noticed it in my own household. And I thought, well, if I’m having these kind of challenges, it must be hard for the average family who doesn’t have a lot of resources and things like that.Q How is the obesity cure going?MRS. OBAMA: How’s that going, that cure thing? (Laughter.) Yeah, yeah, well, we haven’t quite solved it yet -- (laughter) -- but we’re on our way.There are some people who think that -- some scientists who say that the link to obesity is genetic, like it’s something that you’re born with. But what we’re trying to figure out is how do we change behavior, particularly in kids, to just teach them different habits, right?So my theory is that kids can learn to love vegetables just as much as they can learn to love the taste of candy. I truly believe that. You may not agree, but I think that if you guys are eating healthy things on a regular basis, you start to like them, and you start making choices about a snack so that instead of a snack being a piece of candy, a good snack could be a nice bunch of grapes. Right? How many people like grapes?So that’s one of those learned things. So instead of saying, Mom, Mom, I’m hungry, can I have a bag of chips? You’ll say, Mom, Mom, I’m hungry, can I have a bunch of grapes? And if you say that I guarantee you she’ll say yes every single time, and they’ll be just as good.So if we start teaching different habits, if you guys ask for different things, then eventually that will help with your health. And if you’re moving and exercising, that will make you healthy and that will help cure the -- solve the problem of obesity. But we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’re going to need all of you to help us do it.Q What is your favorite part about being the First Lady and having the power to change like the world and stuff?MRS. OBAMA: Oh, did you hear that? I have the power to change things.
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, yeah. My favorite thing is, you know, the feeling that with even small gestures you can impact people’s lives in ways -- I mean, sometimes it’s not even doing anything, but the fact that I can go to a school just for a visit and bring attention to what they’re doing just by coming to visit. I can use this platform to highlight issues that are important and to point out people that are already doing really good things.
So it’s not always anything that I can do, but it’s helping other people get the attention around the good things that they’re already doing -- hard work and sacrifice, people who are doing things for their families. It’s an exciting opportunity to be able to shine the light.
Like, today we’re getting to see how smart you guys are, the whole country is getting to see just how bright and engaging you guys are and how eager you are to ask questions and to learn. And that’s important for us to remember every day, just how important our young people are and just how curious and ready to do anything you all are. So that’s fun.
Jesse LeeApril 22, 2010
01:23 PM EDT
At noon today the President spoke to an audience that included many from the financial sector at Cooper Union in New York City, a place where he spoke about reforming Wall Street and financial institutions two years ago:
As I said on this stage two years ago, I believe in the power of the free market. I believe in a strong financial sector that helps people to raise capital and get loans and invest their savings. That’s part of what has made America what it is. But a free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That’s what happened too often in the years leading up to this crisis. Some -- and let me be clear, not all -- but some on Wall Street forgot that behind every dollar traded or leveraged there’s family looking to buy a house, or pay for an education, open a business, save for retirement. What happens on Wall Street has real consequences across the country, across our economy.
The President applauded the House for having passed reforms, and the Senate for working through their own version, despite “the furious effort of industry lobbyists to shape this legislation to their special interests.” He then spoke directly to those in the audience and the area who might be paying those lobbyists:
And for those of you in the financial sector I'm sure that some of these lobbyists work for you and they’re doing what they are being paid to do. But I’m here today specifically -- when I speak to the titans of industry here -- because I want to urge you to join us, instead of fighting us in this effort. (Applause.) I’m here because I believe that these reforms are, in the end, not only in the best interest of our country, but in the best interest of the financial sector. And I’m here to explain what reform will look like, and why it matters.
The President focused on four key elements of his plan for reform:
Now, first, the bill being considered in the Senate would create what we did not have before, and that is a way to protect the financial system and the broader economy and American taxpayers in the event that a large financial firm begins to fail. If there’s a Lehmans or an AIG, how can we respond in a way that doesn’t force taxpayers to pick up the tab or, alternatively, could bring down the whole system.
He acknowledged that there might be legitimate debate about the best way to approach that issue, but made clear that he had no patience for those making the false claim that somehow reform would lead to more bailouts: “In other words, a vote for reform is a vote to put a stop to taxpayer-funded bailouts. That’s the truth. End of story. And nobody should be fooled in this debate.” He then moved on to the second component:
Number two, reform would bring new transparency to many financial markets. As you know, part of what led to this crisis was firms like AIG and others who were making huge and risky bets, using derivatives and other complicated financial instruments, in ways that defied accountability, or even common sense. In fact, many practices were so opaque, so confusing, so complex that the people inside the firms didn’t understand them, much less those who were charged with overseeing them. They weren’t fully aware of the massive bets that were being placed. That’s what led Warren Buffett to describe derivatives that were bought and sold with little oversight as “financial weapons of mass destruction.” That’s what he called them. And that’s why reform will rein in excess and help ensure that these kinds of transactions take place in the light of day.
The President applauded the Republican Senator who crossed the aisle to support Democratic efforts on reining in derivatives, and moved on to the third major priority in reform:
Third, this plan would enact the strongest consumer financial protections ever. (Applause.) And that's absolutely necessary because this financial crisis wasn’t just the result of decisions made in the executive suites on Wall Street; it was also the result of decisions made around kitchen tables across America, by folks who took on mortgages and credit cards and auto loans. And while it’s true that many Americans took on financial obligations that they knew or should have known they could not have afforded, millions of others were, frankly, duped. They were misled by deceptive terms and conditions, buried deep in the fine print.
Speaking on the fourth and final main component, the President addressed one of the biggest sources of anger across the country over the past years:
Number four, the last key component of reform. These Wall Street reforms will give shareholders new power in the financial system. They will get what we call a say on pay, a voice with respect to the salaries and bonuses awarded to top executives. And the SEC will have the authority to give shareholders more say in corporate elections, so that investors and pension holders have a stronger role in determining who manages the company in which they’ve placed their savings.
Now, Americans don’t begrudge anybody for success when that success is earned. But when we read in the past, and sometimes in the present, about enormous executive bonuses at firms -- even as they’re relying on assistance from taxpayers or they’re taking huge risks that threaten the system as a whole or their company is doing badly -- it offends our fundamental values.
Not only that, some of the salaries and bonuses that we’ve seen creates perverse incentives to take reckless risks that contributed to the crisis. It’s what helped lead to a relentless focus on a company’s next quarter, to the detriment of its next year or its next decade. And it led to a situation in which folks with the most to lose -- stock and pension holders -- had the least to say in the process. And that has to change. (Applause.)
The President urged the audience to recognize that there are legitimate issues at hand, even if all parties will not always agree on everything, and to join him in supporting commonsense reforms.
Learn more about the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Valerie JarrettApril 22, 2010
01:00 PM EDT
As Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, I was honored and excited to join world-class women athletes, the Vice President, and the Secretary of Education in a Title IX Announcement event Tuesday afternoon at George Washington University.
Title IX was enacted in 1972 and mandates that all educational institutions receiving federal funding create equal opportunities, for both boys and girls, in both academics and all other school activities. The announcement by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan enhances and strengthens the standards for Title IX compliance.
In the 38 years since enactment, we have seen how Title IX has helped women compete at all levels, producing real benefits for them later in life. For example, Title IX has been critical in improving the health of women and girls. New economic research has found that the increase in girls' athletic participation caused by Title IX was associated with a seven percent lower risk of obesity for those girls 20 to 25 years later. No other public health program can claim similar success. Title IX has also contributed to improving the economic well-being of women and girls. A recent study by the Wharton Business School shows that being a high school athlete is associated with 14 percent higher wages for women. Learn more about Title IX and the strengthened standards by reading Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali's blog post.
But there is perhaps no better evidence of the benefits of Title IX than seeing young girls interact with the WNBA players, the members of the Silver Medal-winning USA Women's Olympic Hockey Team, and the many skilled collegiate athletes who participated in Tuesday's event. These all-star women shot hoops and practiced their volleyball serves in clinics during the program, and in doing so, may have inspired the next great WNBA player or Olympian.
This event was not only a reminder as to why Title IX is important, but more broadly, it was a reminder as to why the Council's work through the agencies remains relevant and continues to make a difference in the lives of women and girls.
Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls
Nancy SutleyApril 22, 2010
10:52 AM EDT
Today, as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, I find myself thinking about some of my favorite childhood places, and how they continue to inspire me to work toward a healthier planet.
Many of my fondest memories took place outside. I recall playing in my small backyard in Queens, NY, and sledding with friends in our many neighborhood parks. I also remember my family’s annual vacations to the beach or the mountains, and how I marveled at their beauty. Our outdoor spaces provide a sense of peace and add immeasurably to our quality of life. They give us a chance to experience nature and to be around wildlife, and they fuel our imaginations and our spirits. These places and experiences embolden our sense of duty to protect the environment and our planet from the threat of pollution.
The Obama Administration has taken great strides to keep our air and water clean, and understands that a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand. We have made a historic investment through the Recovery Act in clean energy that will create the jobs of tomorrow and lay the foundation for long-term economic growth. In March 2009, the President signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, the most extensive expansion of land and water conservation in more than a generation. And just last Friday, the President signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to promote and support innovative community-level efforts that will help us build a community-centered 21st century conservation agenda that protects the many beautiful places and outdoor traditions of our great Nation from the ground up. We are developing recommendations for a national ocean policy to protect our oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes; we are working to protect and restore Louisiana and Mississippi coastal ecosystems; we have renewed our commitment to restore the California Bay Delta and to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.
And that’s just a snapshot of our efforts. But, while the Federal Government must and will play a role, we also need Americans to help lead. The story of the last four decades is about innovation. It’s about the American spirit of ingenuity that we called upon to answer the environmental and public health challenges of 40 years ago, and that will also meet the challenges of today.
This Earth Day, we can all learn about the environmental issues of today, and how to take action in our own homes or communities. www.whitehouse.gov/earthday is a valuable resource where you can begin. Happy Earth Day!
Nancy Sutley is the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusApril 22, 2010
10:27 AM EDT
For too many older Americans, early retirement has meant losing access to affordable care and the peace of mind that comes with quality, affordable health insurance. When retirees try to purchase coverage on their own, they are left with plans that are prohibitively expensive with astronomical out of pocket costs. Some go without insurance, leaving them at a higher risk of contracting a chronic disease that can be expensive to treat. Others delay retirement, just to keep their health insurance.
Businesses suffer too. Employers across the country want to provide their retirees with health benefits, but skyrocketing health care costs have forced many to curtail or eliminate benefits for their retirees altogether.
One of our major goals in enacting health reform was to help lower costs for families and businesses and ensure everyone -- including retirees -- has access to care. Now, thanks to the new Affordable Care Act, many older Americans who have stayed awake nights worrying about losing benefits and many employers who are trying to help provide security for their work forces can breathe a sigh of relief. Help is on the way.
The new law provides help for many older Americans over the age of fifty-five through an early retiree reinsurance program available to businesses starting this June and some critical resources for employer-based plans.
Here is how it works. The early retiree reinsurance program created in the new law provides $5 billion for temporary financial help for employer plans to continue to provide valuable coverage to certain retirees. For more details, including what types of employer-sponsored plans are eligible and how payments will be made, check out this fact sheet.
Reinsurance programs have a proven track record of helping lower health care costs for businesses. Reinsurance has been successfully used by a number of states to lower premiums for small businesses. It is an idea that has been advocated by large businesses, who wanted it to be part of the Affordable Care Act because they believe it will defray the high and often unpredictable cost of early retirees, helping them to maintain retiree benefits at affordable levels.
This program will provide many employers with the assistance they need and will help ensure they can continue to cover their retirees, and it's one of many benefits of the new law that I will discuss today at 1:00pm EDT during a special online web chat that you can watch live at www.hhs.gov/live. Health experts from HHS and AARP answer your questions about the benefits health reform brings for America’s seniors, so send your questions about the early retiree reinsurance program or any other questions you have to email@example.com and we’ll do our best to answer them during the chat.
Kathleen Sebelius is the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Secretary Steven ChuApril 22, 2010
09:40 AM EDT
Ed. Note: To keep up with Secretary Chu day to day, visit his Facebook page.
I recently traveled to the Middle East on behalf of the Department of Energy. During my time in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, I had the opportunity to engage with leaders of science and industry, visit universities, finalize agreements with other Energy ministers, and see several innovative energy projects firsthand. I was struck by the many opportunities for collaboration among our countries. There is a shared belief that we all must invest in cleaner, alternative sources of energy, while at the same time finding ways to use fossil fuels more efficiently and cleanly. The U.S. wants to be a partner in these efforts, so that, together, we can ensure our prosperity and protect the planet for future generations.
That potential for collaboration is especially apparent in education, which is a key priority for all countries. For example, six American universities already have campuses in "Education City" in Qatar, focusing on a broad range of subjects, such as medicine and business, as well as science and engineering.
During my time in Education City, I had the chance to sit down with an exceptional student named Thouria Mahmoud, who is currently studying journalism at Northwestern University's campus. She represents a generation that is excited by the possibilities that scientific innovation holds for their future - and the role they can play in shaping that future.
That excitement was the catalyst for much of our conversation. As you can see in the clip below, I shared some experiences from my own academic journey and why I feel science is at the heart of a liberal arts education. I hope you take the chance to view this video and share some insights on your own academic journey and how education can continue to advance our common interests.Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
Steven Chu is the Secretary of Energy
Katelyn SabochikApril 22, 2010
09:12 AM EDT
[UPDATE: This event has now concluded.]
Ed. Note: Please note that the time for the Earth Day live chat with Carol Browner has changed from 12:00 PM EDT to 12:30 PM EDT.
As part of the Administration’s celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, will take your questions about how the Administration is working to improve the environment, transform American infrastructure for greater energy-efficiency, and build a clean energy economy that supports the jobs of the future. Join us at 12:30 PM EDT.
Howard A. SchmidtApril 21, 2010
07:48 PM EDT
This past weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to San Antonio, TX with Congressmen Gonzalez (D-TX), Reyes (D-TX), and Rodriguez (D-TX) to present the Alamo Cup to Northeastern University, the winners of the fifth annual National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC). The University of Louisville took second and third place honors went to Cal Poly Ponoma.
The NCCDC, hosted by the University of Texas at San Antonio and sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and various private sector organizations, brings winners of regional cyber defense competitions together for a three day competition each year.
The competition focuses on the operational aspect of managing and protecting network infrastructure. Teams are scored based on their ability to detect and respond to outside threats, maintain availability of existing services such as mail servers and web servers, respond to business requests such as the addition or removal of additional services, and balance security needs against business needs. In addition to the competition, the students get a chance to network with professionals from government and industry, who are always on the lookout for up and coming engineers.
The NCCDC aligns with the White House’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), which is an outgrowth of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative and the Cyberspace Policy Review (pdf). You can read more about NICE here (pdf). Congratulations to Northeastern University and all the participants in the NCCDC.
Howard A. Schmidt is Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator.
Katelyn SabochikApril 21, 2010
07:27 PM EDT
Vice President Biden kicked off Earth Day early this year with the announcement $452 million in Recovery Act funding to support a “Retrofit Ramp-Up” in a speech at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building earlier today. These funds will make energy efficiency affordable for hundreds of thousands of businesses and homeowners, and create tens of thousands of jobs in the process.
Investing in retrofits is a triple win. It’s a win for consumers who save money on their energy bill. It’s a win for the environment because we’re using less energy, which cuts down on harmful emissions from greenhouse gases. And, finally, it’s a win for the American economy, because it creates green jobs, jobs that can’t be outsourced.
These awards are part of the overall $80 billion Recovery Act investment in clean energy and energy efficiency and take a new approach toward retrofitting homes and businesses for greater energy efficiency and are part of an overall
These grants are focused on encouraging entire neighborhoods, entire neighborhoods to take advantage of the retrofits all at the same time. Right now, most retrofit work programs are on a house by house basis. The construction crew may come into a neighborhood, upgrade one home one week, and then they have to come back to work in a neighborhood home a few weeks later, maybe the same neighborhood. Well, the Retrofit* Ramp-up* award winners are taking a different approach. Now, that -- the same construction crew would upgrade all the homes on the same block at the same time. That saves contractors time and money. They can pass the savings on to their customers. And it’s just a much more efficient way to operate.
The Vice President also reflected the progress Americans have made in cleaning up our environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil since the first Earth Day forty years ago.
Since the beginning of the environmental movement, we’ve been trying to transform the way we use energy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels to tap into the vast, untapped, renewable energy sources and to use energy more efficiently. The fact is we’ve been trying for 40 years, and we’ve made some progress. But we’re now poised to make significantly greater strides, in our view, than ever because of the unprecedented investment in the Recovery Act and the leadership of the President and the Secretary of Energy.
In honor of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, the Obama Administration is kicking off five day’s worth of activities, starting with the Vice President’s announcement today.
Over the next few days, officials from across our administration will participate in more than a dozen events to celebrate Earth Day. We’re getting everyone in the administration involved. And today, the day before Earth Day, we kick off a week for an administration that for -- literally for every day it’s Earth Day for us. Because this implicates every aspect of our country’s self-interest, from foreign policy to economic policy to environmental policy to health care policy. This impacts on every aspect -- every aspect of what kind of country we’re going to leave our kids.
Nikki SuttonApril 21, 2010
05:53 PM EDT
A key principle of the President's health reform legislation is to help ensure that American seniors have the dignified care they deserve. That's why some of the immediate benefits of health reform include free preventive care for Medicare and a temporary re-insurance program to offset the costs of expensive premiums for early retirees, age 55-64.
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, explained these benefits and more to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) community in a blog post today, where she also lays out the details of her next online chat at 1:00 tomorrow:
One of our most important missions at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when it comes to implementing the Affordable Care Act is to be a resource for you. That’s why we’re doing weekly live web chats on our website and posting answers to our most frequently asked questions every day.
I encourage you to join our online Q&A on Thursday, April 22, when health experts from HHS will join AARP President Jennie Chin Hansen to answer your questions about what reform means for you and your family.
You can send us your questions to Healthreform@hhs.gov, and tune in Thursday at 1 p.m. ET at www.hhs.gov/live to watch it live. You can also send us your questions live during the chat via Twitter to @HHSGov.
We’re glad Jennie could join us because some of the biggest benefits from this new law will be for older Americans. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking a lot about the immediate benefits that will kick in this year for seniors, including a new Early Retiree Reinsurance program (pdf) starting in June that will help many older Americans keep their health insurance when they retire.
Another important benefit that kicks in this year provides relief for seniors who have fallen into the Medicare Part D prescription drug “doughnut hole.”
Starting June 15, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will begin mailing out checks to those who fall into the coverage gap.
The new law also protects and strengthens Medicare by helping to eliminate waste and fraud and ending overpayments to private insurance companies.
April 21, 2010
04:26 PM EDT
As part of our ongoing effort to develop an open platform for WhiteHouse.gov, we're releasing some of the custom code we've developed. This code is available for anyone to review, use, or modify. We're excited to see how developers across the world put our work to good use in their own applications.
By releasing some of our code, we get the benefit of more people reviewing and improving it. In fact, the majority of the code for WhiteHouse.gov is already open source as part of the Drupal project. The code we're releasing today adds to Drupal's functionality in three key ways:
1. Scalability: We're releasing a module called "Context HTTP Headers," which allows site builders to add new metadata to the content they serve. We use this to tell our servers how to handle specific pages, such as cache this type of page for 15 minutes or that type for 30. A second module that addresses scalability is called "Akamai" and it allows our website to integrate with our Content Delivery Network, Akamai.
2. Communication: Many government agencies have active email programs that they use to communicate with the public about the services they provide. We have a mailing list for the White House, where you can get updates about new content and initiatives. To enable more dynamic emails tailored to users' preferences, we've integrated one of the popular services for government email programs with our CMS in the new module, "GovDelivery".
3. Accessibility: We take very seriously our obligation to make sure WhiteHouse.gov is as accessible as possible and are committed to meeting the government accessibility standard, Section 508. As part of that compliance, we want to make sure all images on our site have the appropriate metadata to make them readable on by screen reading software. To help us meet this, while making it easier to manage the rich photos and video content you see on our site, we've developed "Node Embed."
Melody BarnesApril 21, 2010
03:00 PM EDT
Today is a very exciting day for President Obama’s service and social innovation agendas. It marks the one year anniversary of the President’s signing of the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, and today we are launching the new website for the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation (SICP), a first-of-its-kind office within the Domestic Policy Council.
The Serve America Act marked the boldest expansion of national and community service opportunities in a generation. It tripled the size of AmeriCorps, targeted that service toward solutions, and created the Social Innovation Fund as an example of how government can more effectively drive resources toward both innovation and results.
Today, I will be speaking at an event to commemorate the signing and to remember and honor the Serve America Act’s namesake, Senator Kennedy, for whom service was a life calling. And we felt it fitting to launch our SICP website on this special day.
When this office was created by the President, he charged it with engaging individuals, nonprofits, the private sector, and government to work together to make lasting progress on our Nation’s most pressing challenges. The Office’s principles and mission reflect the President’s call.
In that spirit, the Office has been working with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) – the federal agency home of service – to meet the vision championed by Senators Kennedy and Hatch, who worked together to introduce the Act, and the strong bipartisan coalition of Senate and House leaders who came together to support it.
In addition to its work with CNCS, the Office is working with federal agencies across the government and with partners outside of government to do business differently by promoting service as a solution and a way to develop community leadership; increasing investment in innovative community solutions that demonstrate results; and developing new models of partnership.
Today marks an important anniversary for the expansion of service and social innovation. There is much more work to be done, and we hope you will continue to stay engaged as we work together to address some of our country’s toughest challenges.
Melody Barnes is Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy
Vivek KundraApril 21, 2010
01:47 PM EDT
With headlines like these, just in the past couple of days, it is little wonder why the Obama Administration is taking the threat of cyber attack so seriously. Without question, the threat is real, and our response must match it in intensity, security, and creativity.
Last May, the President set the tone for our actions when he said the “cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation” and that “America's economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity.”
In the days since then, federal CIOs have worked closely with the President's Cybersecurity Coordinator, Howard Schmidt, and other technology officials in the government to create a stronger, more flexible, more reliable system of protections. We have made significant strides, but there is still much work ahead.
Today, we are taking the next step with the release of new FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) guidance. We are shifting the focus from old-styled, paper-based reports to real-time electronic data that feed directly and immediately into security monitoring and alert systems. This change means that agencies will be able to identify vulnerabilities faster and actively protect against attacks.
The new approach is the result of many months of work by an interagency task force that reached out not only to agency officials but also to the private sector. The group identified best practices and innovative approaches that will make our cybersecurity efforts more effective and efficient.
In the past, federal agencies spent enormous time and money creating the old paper-based reports. The State Department alone, in the past six years, spent $133 million amassing 95,000 pages of security documentation for about 150 major IT systems. This works out to roughly $1,400 per page in reports that were often outdated days within being published.
As we move away from the old-style reports and into a more real-time system of security data feeds, we are implementing solutions that actually help to protect the country rather than simply generate paperwork.
In order for the government to focus on the necessary automation and continuous monitoring of the security status of all systems, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will provide operational support to all federal agencies. DHS will monitor and report agency progress to ensure the effective implementation of this guidance.
A secure, trusted computing environment in the federal government is the responsibility of everyone involved. It requires employees, contractors, and the American people working together to create a culture of vigilance and security so we can efficiently leverage the power of technology while respecting the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. This won’t be easy, nor will it take place overnight. But the actions we are implementing today will move us to a stronger federal cyber defense and a more secure country overall.
Vivek Kunda is U.S. Chief Information Officer
Jesse LeeApril 21, 2010
01:17 PM EDT
This morning the President met with bipartisan leaders of the Senate and the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Oval Office to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Stevens. Before beginning the meeting, he spoke to the press, commending Justice Stevens as "one of the finest Supreme Court Justices that we’ve seen," as well as the Senators in attendance for "smooth, civil, thoughtful" process by which Justice Sotomayor was confirmed:
My hope is, is that we can do the exact same thing this time. Last time the nomination went up at the end of May. We are certainly going to meet that deadline and we hope maybe we can accelerate it a little bit so that we have some additional time. But my hope is that we’re going to be able to get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed in time for the next session.
As Justice Stevens said, I think it’s very important, particularly given the important cases that may be coming before the Supreme Court, that we get this process wrapped up so that a new justice can be seated and staffed and can work effectively with his or her colleagues in time for the fall session.
So I just want to again thank all of these gentlemen for their input. They are here to consult with me. One of the things that we did last time was to listen to the thoughts and views of our colleagues before I nominated a candidate. I take this process very seriously. And so I’m going to be interested in hearing their thoughts and concerns before any final decisions are made.
He then took one question on substance before entering the meeting:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Would you be willing to nominate someone who did not support a woman’s right to choose?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I am somebody who believes that women should have the ability to make often very difficult decisions about their own bodies and issues of reproduction. Obviously this has been a hugely contentious issue in our country for a very long time. I will say the same thing that every President has said since this issue came up, which is I don’t have litmus tests around any of these issues.
But I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women’s rights. And that’s going to be something that’s very important to me, because I think part of what our core Constitution -- constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals are protected in their privacy and their bodily integrity, and women are not exempt from that.
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