Matt ComptonFebruary 10, 2012
06:46 PM EDT
Today, President Obama signed the last piece of legislation that Congresswoman Gabby Giffords authored before her retirement.
The new law is designed to clamp down on ultralight planes that are used to smuggle drugs into the United States.
In a statement, President Obama said, "I’m confident that while this legislation may have been her last act as a Congresswoman, it will not be her last act of public service."
This final bill from Rep. Giffords passed Congress unanimously.
February 10, 2012
03:38 PM EDT
A quick look at what happened this week on WhiteHouse.gov:
All-hands-on-deck for Science and Innovation: Monday marked the second annual White House Science Fair, featuring research and inventions from more than 100 students representing 30 student teams. With marshmallows catapulting through the State Dining Room and robots roaming around the Blue Room, this celebration of research highlighted the talent of America’s next generation and their ability to change the world through science and engineering. If you missed President Obama’s historic launch of 14-year-old Joey Hudy’s marshmallow cannon, you can check it out here.
Housing Agreement: On Thursday morning, President Obama spoke about what he called a “landmark settlement”– an agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage providers that will result in their issuing at least $25 billion to address mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses. This settlement, in which “America’s biggest banks – banks that were rescued by taxpayer dollars – will be required to right these wrongs,” will aid thousands of working families now, and establish new protections for homeowners henceforward.
Kids Can’t Wait: From the East Room of the White House, the President announced that 10 states have agreed to implement impactful education reforms and will receive waivers from the burdensome mandates of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind. These waivers will ensure that states have the flexibility necessary to raise student achievement standards, improve school accountability and increase teacher effectiveness.
Happy Second Birthday, Let’s Move!: There’s reason to celebrate – Thursday marked the Let’s Move! initiative’s second anniversary. Significant progress has been made to solve the problem of childhood obesity over the course of the past two years – President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law in December 2012; grocers including Walgreens, Supervalu and Walmart committed to build or expand 1,500 stores in food deserts; among many other accomplishments that are making a difference in the lives of our children.
February 10, 2012
03:00 PM EDT
On October 28, 2011, the White House Chief of Staff directed an independent review of the current state of the Department of Energy (DOE) loan portfolio, focusing on future loan monitoring and management. The review was conducted by Herb Allison, who has wide-ranging experience in the finance, business, and government sectors during a career in public and private service that spans four decades and both Republican and Democratic Administrations.
This independent report on the DOE Loan Guarantee programs confirms that the loan portfolio as a whole is expected to perform well and holds less than the amount of risk envisioned by Congress when it created and funded the program. The report also includes a number of recommendations on how to improve the management of the Department’s loan program and ongoing monitoring of the loan portfolio. The Department of Energy is reviewing the recommendations to determine the best way to use them to further strengthen the program.
DOE’s loan programs are generating $40 billion in private investment in America’s economy that is supporting 60,000 direct jobs and thousands more up and down the supply chain. With the help of this program, American workers will build wind, solar, geothermal and nuclear power plants across the country that will help power our economy for decades to come – as well as the next generation of automobiles that will reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil. And these numbers don’t include the investments made in the supply chain or from other investments made from projects that have been able to get financing because the loan program helped structure and establish a market for them.
Megan SlackFebruary 10, 2012
02:00 PM EDT
Today, President Obama announced a policy that will accommodate religious freedom while making sure that women have access to preventive health care, including contraception, at no additional cost, no matter where they work.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance companies will cover women’s preventive care — services like well-woman visits, mammograms, immunizations, as well as contraception — without charging a co-pay or deductible beginning in August 2012.
Churches had already been exempted from providing employees with health care that covered contraception. The new policy announced today ensures that if a woman works for other types of religious employers with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide, pay for or refer for contraception coverage.
Instead her insurance company will be required to directly offer her contraceptive care at no additional charge, as President Obama explained:
Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services — no matter where they work. So that core principle remains. But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company — not the hospital, not the charity — will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.
Matt ComptonFebruary 10, 2012
10:57 AM EDT
You've already met Joey Hudy. He's the 14 year old from Arizona with the “Extreme Marshmallow Cannon.”
Now take an opportunity to get to know some of the other remarkable young people who came to town on Monday for the White House Science Fair -- and see some of the future scientists, engineers, and innovators who will help to build the America of tomorrow.
For more on the White House Science Fair, see:
- President Obama Hosts the White House Science Fair
- Read about the President’s new initiatives to educate more students in science, math and engineering fields
- Bill Nye, the Science Guy, on the importance of scientists, engineers, and inventors
February 10, 2012
09:02 AM EDT
Hayley Hoverter is an award-winning technology innovator, an entrepreneur, a CEO – and she’s also a 16-year-old high school student. This week she met President Obama at the White House Science Fair, where she presented her product, “Sweet (dis)SOLVE.” As the President explained:
“What impresses me so much is not just how smart you are, but it’s the fact that you recognize you’ve got a responsibility to use your talents in service of something bigger than yourselves. Some of you, that means developing new products that will change the way we live. Hayley Hoverter invented a new type of sugar packet that dissolves in hot water. It’s flavorless, it’s colorless, and potentially could save up to 2 million pounds of trash each year -- and that’s just at Starbucks.”
February 10, 2012
07:00 AM EDT
Last week, President Obama signed a proclamation, declaring February National African American History Month. This year's theme, "Black Women in American Culture and History," specifically recognizes the numerous, unique contributions that African-American women have made to the advancement of the Nation.
Today, the White House released a video message from the First Lady in honor of African-American History Month. In the video, the First Lady said, “You don’t have to be in a history book to make a contribution to our country.”
Mrs. Obama urges others to not only celebrate African-American heroes such as Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, whose contributions to the improvement of the country are depicted in many history books; but to also honor the women of today, “our aunts … our best friends … all those women who live each day with a spirit that is uniquely their own, and who continue to write our country’s story every single day.”
The First Lady’s message includes a challenge, for others to, “reinvest in those around us…and pledge to continue their story by contributing our own gifts for the good of our families, our communities, and our country.” Together, we can be the difference we search for while recognizing there are those around us who have continued to positively contribute to our community.
Matt ComptonFebruary 10, 2012
12:00 AM EDT
This week, the President happily kicked off the Second Annual Science Fair at the White House and continued to call for an all-hands-on-deck approach to educating our kids in the fields of math, science, technology and engineering. He also spoke about putting our veterans back to work at Fire Station #5 in Arlington, announced a $25 billion agreement to help homeowners and hold big banks accountable, and unveiled yet another We Can't Wait initiative to encourage states to raise standards and reform schools.
Colleen CurtisFebruary 09, 2012
11:33 PM EDT
Ed note: this has been cross-posted from Let's Move!
To celebrate the second anniversary of Let's Move!, First Lady Michelle Obama is on a three day, four state tour, visiting people across the country whose lives have been impacted by her signature initiative.
First stop was Des Moines, Iowa where more than 14,000 students gathered to join Governor Terry Branstad as he declared February 9, 2012 Let's Move! Day in Iowa. The energy in the Wells Fargo Arena was electric, as Olympians Michelle Kwan and Shawn Johnson talked to the crowd of students waving "Let's Get Moving" signs about how eating healthy had helped them achieve their dreams.
We could have had this party anywhere in the country, right? We could have gone anywhere, but there is a reason why we wanted to come here to Iowa to be with all of you. And that’s because I am so proud of what you all are doing to make Iowa the healthiest state in this country by 2016.
I am proud that you guys are starting community gardens, that you’re eating your fruits and vegetables. I’m proud that you guys are walking to school instead of taking the bus. I’m proud that you’re working hard to get that 60 minutes of activity a day, every day. I’m also proud of your government, and businesses like Hy-Vee, and community leaders across the state who are all coming together to help you guys get healthy, to keep moving.
This is exactly what "Let’s Move" is all about. We want every single state in this country to do exactly what Iowa is doing.
Megan SlackFebruary 09, 2012
06:21 PM EDT
Explaining that our kids can’t wait any long for Congress to act, President Barack Obama announced today that ten states that have agreed to implement bold education reforms will receive waivers from the burdensome mandates of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind. These waivers will give states the flexibility needed to raise student achievement standards, improve school accountability, and increase teacher effectiveness. The ten states approved for flexibility are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. (UPDATE: An eleventh state, New Mexico, was also approved for a waiver shortly after the initial announcement).
So what does all this mean for our schools? What’s the problem with No Child Left Behind? What’s a waiver anyway, and why do states need flexibility? To answer these questions, we’ve put together a quick primer to help you understand the details behind today’s announcement.
What’s the deal with No Child Left Behind?
No Child Left Behind, the most current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was signed into law in 2001—and is five years overdue to be re-written by Congress. The law’s objective was admirable. It shined light on achievement gaps and increased accountability at the school level for high-need students. And there’s no question that setting goals and holding schools accountable for meeting them is central to an education system that prepares students to compete in a global, 21st century economy.
As written, however, No Child Left Behind has serious flaws. In fact, some of the law’s requirements are actually stifling the kind of reforms we need to really improve student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and school accountability. For example, it determines whether schools are falling behind based on test scores. It imposes punitive labels and prescribes one-size-fits-all federal mandates for fixing failing schools. It’s led states to narrow curriculum to focus more on teaching to the test and less on teaching everything else student need to know, and to lower standards to make them easier to meet
The Obama administration has worked extensively with Congress to re-write the law, and even submitted its own blueprint for education reform in March 2010, but legislators have not moved forward.
What are waivers and what do they have to do with No Child Left Behind?
Waivers provide an opportunity to fix what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind without waiting any longer for Congress to Act. States receiving waivers are given flexibility that exempts them from meeting the law’s most troublesome and restrictive requirements in exchange for setting their own higher, more honest standards for student success.
Megan SlackFebruary 09, 2012
04:15 PM EDT
In early February of 2010, back to back blizzards hit the Northeast, and dropped record amounts of snow on cities up and down the coast, including Washington, D.C. Our photographers braved the elements to capture some amazing images of the White House grounds blanketed in snow, including a few of the most famous Obama family member who didn't seem bothered by the white stuff in the least.
Megan SlackFebruary 09, 2012
04:00 PM EDT
The Federal Government and 49 state attorneys general reached a landmark settlement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers that will provide $20 billion to help struggling homeowners.
The full $25 billion settlement, the largest ever of its kind, is the result of a joint effort between federal law enforcement and the states to investigate the abusive and irresponsible mortgage industry practices that led to the collapse of the housing market and cost more than 4 million American families their homes due to foreclosure.
These millions of families millions of Americans did the right thing and the responsible thing -- shopped for a house, secured a mortgage that they could afford, made their payments on time – lost their homes and their nest eggs due to the irresponsible actions of others: by lenders who sold loans to people who couldn’t afford them; by speculators who were looking to make a quick buck; by banks that took risky mortgages, packaged them up, and traded them off for large profits; by companies that used fake signatures and shortcuts to process foreclosures more quickly, sometimes on houses that hadn’t been verified as legitimate foreclosure cases to begin with.
These practices were plainly irresponsible, and President Obama refused to let them go unanswered. Under the terms of this settlement, America’s biggest banks -- banks that were rescued by taxpayer dollars -- will be required to right these wrongs. That means more than just paying a fee.
Matt ComptonFebruary 09, 2012
03:49 PM EDT
This morning, the federal government and the attorneys general of 49 states announced an agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage providers -- Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan, and Wells Fargo.
Because of that agreement, the financial institutions will provide at least $25 billion to address mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses. It will not only help thousands of working families now, it will establish new protections for homeowners going forward. Read more about the National Mortgage Settlement here.
Earlier, President Obama spoke about what he called a "landmark settlement." He discussed the irresponsible practices from lenders that created the housing crisis and said:
Under the terms of this settlement, America’s biggest banks -- banks that were rescued by taxpayer dollars -- will be required to right these wrongs. That means more than just paying a fee. These banks will put billions of dollars towards relief for families across the nation. They’ll provide refinancing for borrowers that are stuck in high interest rate mortgages. They’ll reduce loans for families who owe more on their homes than they’re worth. And they will deliver some measure of justice for families that have already been victims of abusive practices.
All told, this isn’t just good for those families -- it’s good for their neighborhoods, it's good for their communities, and it's good for our economy.
Erin LindsayFebruary 09, 2012
02:43 PM EDT
Yesterday, the White House hosted a live video chat with Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director of the National Security Council and Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy & Senior Advisor for Science, Technology, and Innovation, National Economic Council. They answered questions from Whitehouse.gov, Twitter and Facebook on the role of science, technology and innovation in global development. The conversation covered the importance of innovation in foreign aid in the current budget environment, the role of partnerships with universities both domestic and abroad, and how innovation can aid our food security programs all around the world.
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusFebruary 09, 2012
11:38 AM EDT
Alzheimer’s disease, which today afflicts as many as 5.1 million people in the United States, devastates the lives of individuals suffering from the disease and places tremendous physical, emotional, and financial strain on their families and loved ones. We can’t wait to act. As the population of the United States ages, the time for bold action on the growing public health challenge posed by Alzheimer’s is now.
This week, we proposed a historic $156 million investment to tackle Alzheimer’s disease. This investment will:
Brian LevineFebruary 08, 2012
05:56 PM EDT
The Vice President visited Florida State University on Monday to talk with students about our comprehensive plan to address rising college costs. The Vice President began by calling on Congress to permanently extend the $2,500 per year American Opportunity Tax Credit for tuition and other expenses, double the number of work-study jobs over the next five years, and help 7.4 million borrowers by stopping the interest rates on federal student loans from doubling later this year.
These proposals are important, but increasing federal aid is only part of the solution. States and universities also share some responsibility for reining in costs. The Vice President detailed our plan to steer federal campus-based aid to schools that keep tuition affordable – and away from schools that don’t. While we plan to significantly increase the availability of campus-based aid by offering more Perkins loans to needy students and creating more work-study slots, the additional dollars will only flow to colleges that are providing good value to their students.
We are also proposing to create a new “Race to the Top” for college affordability and completion. This competitive grant program will encourage states to reform their higher education systems in ways that lower costs and increase completion rates. And because state funding cuts are one of the primary drivers of tuition increases at public universities, any state that wants a grant will have to promise not to slash funding for higher education.
You can learn more about our plan here.
Colleen CurtisFebruary 08, 2012
12:45 PM EDT
Let’s Move! was launched on February 9, 2010, and in the past two years, significant progress has been made to solve the problem of childhood obesity. Parents, businesses, educators, elected officials, members of the military, chefs, physicians, athletes, childcare providers, community and faith leaders and kids themselves have made substantial commitments to improve the health of our nation’s children. Through working together with Let’s Move!, these groups have provided children with healthier food and greater opportunities for physical activity in schools and communities, helped get families the information they need to make healthier decisions, supported a healthy start in early childhood, and have worked to ensure more people have access to healthy, affordable food.
Tomorrow, First Lady Michelle Obama is starting a tour to celebrate the second anniversary of the initiative. On her trip she will meet with some of the many teachers, elected officials, faith and community leaders, parents and children who have embraced the principles of Let's Move! and are making a difference in the lives of our children.
February 08, 2012
10:32 AM EDT
Driving around Texas, where I moved to study chemistry in graduate school, there was a bumper sticker I’d often see slapped onto the trucks of transplants like myself: “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.” I was reminded of this aspirational slogan Tuesday at the White House Science Fair, where student teams from two towns in Texas were invited for the hard work and creativity they’ve applied to scientific and engineering problems—talents that will help them speed to whatever life and career they dream for themselves as fast as they can.
February 08, 2012
10:29 AM EDT
Ed. note: Tune in at 11:00 a.m. EST to WhiteHouse.gov/live for an Open for Questions event. Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director of the National Security Council and Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy & Senior Advisor for Science, Technology, and Innovation, National Economic Council will take your questions on the role of science, technology and innovation in global development.
Today at the White House, senior Administration officials announced a series of new initiatives to promote game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges. Answering President Obama’s call to harness science technology, and innovation to spark global development, the Administration announced initiatives from across the government to generate new development solutions. Announcements include new partnerships with universities; greater use of scientific breakthroughs through expedited technology transfer of federally-funded inventions; a program to reward inventors who use their patented technologies to address humanitarian needs; and initiatives to leverage advances in Internet and communications technologies to provide new development tools.
In an increasingly globalized world, the Obama Administration recognizes that global development is vital to national security and is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative. One of the cornerstones of our global development policy is a commitment to investments in game-changing innovations with the potential to solve long-standing development challenges in health, food security, environmental sustainability, and broad-based economic growth. Innovation can play a key role in building a stable, inclusive global economy with new sources of prosperity, advancing democracy and human rights, and helping us to increase the ranks of prosperous, capable, and democratic states that can be our partners in the decades to come.
Administrator Raj Shah announced that USAID is launching a new partnership with universities and research institutes to define and solve large development challenges. USAID also announced new commitments to increased utilization of electronic and mobile payments to save on costs and increase financial access; a new effort to make assistance to other governments in telecommunications development more efficient; a new “app store” for development to spur humanitarian apps and software; and new commitments to mobile education technology as part of USAID’s All Children Reading grand challenge for development.
February 07, 2012
06:57 PM EDT
Ed note: This was originally posted on the USDA blog.
While fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a relatively limited problem, any amount of waste or abuse is too much. As I wrote back in December, we are taking more aggressive steps to root out fraud and abuse as part of this administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste and to continue improving our stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
This week we were pleased to announce that fiscal year 2012 first quarter results for USDA’s efforts to identify and eliminate fraudulent retailers from SNAP are available. From October 1 through December 31, 2011, USDA took final actions to sanction through fines or temporary disqualifications—more than 225 stores found violating program rules. We also permanently disqualified over 350 stores for trafficking (exchanging benefits for cash) SNAP benefits.
Again, cases of abuse in SNAP are pretty rare and the vast majority of SNAP participants and authorized retailers play by the rules using the program as intended. However, it’s important that we stay vigilant and raise awareness of these issues so people know how and where to report any incidences of abuse.
A unique view of 2012