Our Top Stories
Erin LindsayApril 23, 2012
03:57 PM EDT
Note: This live session of Office Hours has concluded. View the full question and answer session below or at Storify.com
Every year, thousands of people are impacted by severe weather threats such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Last year was the most active year in disasters in recent history, with more than 1,000 weather related fatalities, and more than 8,000 injuries.
Every state in the U.S. has experienced tornadoes and severe weather and although some more than others—everyone is at risk and should take steps to prepare for when severe weather strikes in your area. FEMA is partnering with NOAA to provide information to the public about severe weather hazards and steps people can take to ensure they’re prepared.
Tomorrow, April 24th at 11 a.m. EDT, Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator, and Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Deputy Administrator, will join us for a special session of office hours on Twitter to take your questions on the dangers of severe weather, the importance of getting prepared before severe weather strikes, what to do when you encounter certain types of severe weather, and answer any myth versus fact weather/preparedness questions you might have.
Here are the details:
- Join us for Office Hours on Twitter at 11:00 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, April 24th.
- Ask your question on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat
- Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator (@CraigatFEMA) and Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Deputy Administrator (@NOAALive) will respond to your questions in real-time via Twitter.
- Follow the Q&A through the @WHLive Twitter account
- If you miss the live event, the full session will be available on WhiteHouse.gov and Storify.com/WhiteHouse
Kasie CoccaroApril 23, 2012
03:30 PM EDT
Over the past two years, President Obama has awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal to over 20 Americans who have "performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens." The Medal is among the highest awards a civilian can receive.
Recipients come from different backgrounds but share a commitment to a greater cause. Watch some of their moving stories and nominate your everyday hero for the Presidential Citizens Medal.
If you know someone like the recipients above, please take a moment to nominate him or her by tomorrow, April 24, 2012.
Nominees must be citizens of the United States, as required by the 1969 Executive Order. If you want to nominate someone for the 2012 Citizens Medal, please review the full criteria for this year's Medal. The deadline to submit is Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. EDT
Secretary Ray LaHoodApril 23, 2012
02:48 PM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Department of Transportation's Fast Lane blog
One year ago, I gathered pipeline operators together and asked each of them to take a serious look at their infrastructure and to identify those sections that need to be repaired or replaced.
I pledged that if operators stepped up and created modernization plans, then DOT would do everything in our power to help cut bureaucratic red tape to put people to work and get shovels in the ground more quickly on these important projects to make America's communities safer.
NiSource, Inc., answered that call in Pittsburgh last Friday, and they are setting an example for the entire industry by investing more than $4 billion dollars in 1,000 miles of modern diameter pipeline. This massive modernization project will take place in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, and it will promote the safe and reliable delivery of energy resources across the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the U.S.
DOT will hold up our end of bargain as well. We all know how important it is to get these infrastructure projects moving so we can put Americans back on the jobsite and make our neighborhoods safer. That's why President Obama signed an executive order to fast-track crucial infrastructure through review and permitting, and that's exactly what we plan to do in these states.
April 23, 2012
01:32 PM EDT
Today the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and several partners including UNICEF launched “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday”. The premise of this awareness-raising campaign is simple: every child should have a chance to reach five. Over 7 million children—most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia—didn’t reach their 5th birthday last year. That number is equivalent to the entire population of New York City.
Ari Isaacman AstlesApril 23, 2012
12:15 PM EDT
Ed. Note: This live event has concluded. Watch the on-demand introduction video below and watch all of the panels on the White House's YouTube page.
This morning, President Obama spoke at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to commemorate the Holocaust, saying, "We must tell our children. But more than that, we must teach them. Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing. In this sense, "never again" is a challenge to us all -- to pause and to look within." Read the President's full remarks here.
This afternoon, the White House is hosting an event to honor the pledge of "never again" and we are inviting all of you to join in the interactive discussion. Beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET, you can watch the White House event with Administration officials, student leaders and organizations about how communities across America are mobilizing and playing a role in saving lives around the word.
Colleen CurtisApril 23, 2012
11:11 AM EDT
In the summer of 2009, President Obama took his family to Yellowstone National Park. The President had first visited the park on a summer-long cross country trip he took as a young boy with his mother, grandmother and sister, who joined him this time as well. Take a look and see for yourself why he remembers his days in Yellowstone of the highlight of that vacation.
Check out the extended version of this video
April 23, 2012
10:00 AM EDT
"Always be humble and don’t let anybody say you don't work hard. Do your best” were the words of wisdom instilled in me by my Haitian-born parents. They’d experienced the dictatorship of Jean Claude Duvalier, yet remained total optimists.
I thought of them when I arrived at the White House earlier this month. I thought I was just going to attend the signing of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act but in fact, I did more than that. First, I was fortunate enough to attend a roundtable discussion to discuss how the new law will fuel innovation across the country and then we had the privilege of meeting President Obama and joined him on the podium in the Rose Garden to sign the bill into law.
As I stood up there, I felt honored to part of such a historic occasion. I was thinking of my own startup, my co-founders, our customers, our employees and our investors, and my journey to this moment.
I was born in Nassau, Bahamas, and then five years later, my family moved to New York. Like many immigrants from the Caribbean, we made Brooklyn, NY, our home.
In junior high school, I worked hard doing odd jobs to save money to buy my first computer. I started my first (little) company selling colorful computer disks and typing papers for my high school teachers, who were completing their Masters degrees. While my friends had paper routes, I was already going the techie route.
After completing undergraduate and graduate programs in computer science at Cornell, I worked at Intel, before helping launch The Theory Center, a leader in component software for enterprise applications. Our founding team was like the United Nations, with representatives from Argentina, China, Haiti, Mexico, and the U.S. We sold the company to BEA systems, for more than $150 million, a life-changing experience.
After three years spent investing in young companies, I joined with two of my original partners (Joseph Pilkerton and Julian Pelenur) to start FirstBest Systems. We wanted to renew our passion for building innovative companies and we chose insurance because the industry was underserved by technology in so many areas. We spent 18 months talking to real insurance people about their pains and asked them "If you could wave a magic wand and change your work world, what would it look like?" When everyone began saying the same thing, we knew we were on to something.
Secretary Arne DuncanApril 23, 2012
09:58 AM EDT
Today I had the honor to name 78 schools as the first-ever U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. When we set out a year ago to recognize comprehensive achievement in the areas of environmental impact, health and education, we didn’t know about the quality of the applications we would receive. But we discovered that these schools are engaging in some of the most innovative school reforms anywhere. These approaches are enabling the schools to reduce their environmental impact and costs; improve student health; and ensure that graduates are prepared to face the great challenges of the 21st century.
To save energy and decrease their environmental impact, the winning schools are using a range of methods. Many purchase renewable energy and generate it on school premises. One boasts the world’s largest closed loop geothermal heating and cooling system and another features the nation’s first off-grid solar and wind powered school. We’re honoring schools that use green roofs, pervious pavement, rain gardens, rain barrels, rain cisterns and low-flow water equipment of all types. At some of the winners, the buses run on ultra-low sulfur diesel, compressed natural gas or the discarded cooking oils of local restaurants. Their conservation efforts extend from the cafeteria to the classroom, as they devise reusable snack bags and water bottles; dine with reusable plates, napkins and utensils for meals; and save paper by converting to digital assignments and grading.
Megan SlackApril 22, 2012
03:00 PM EDT
Did you know?
To better protect the health of American families and the air they breathe, the Obama Administration has issued landmark clean air standards that will save lives by cleaning up air pollution in communities across the country.
The Administration has established first-ever national limits for mercury, arsenic, and other toxic air pollution from power plants; put in place a program that will slash smog and soot-forming pollution from power plants that cross state lines and create health problems in downwind areas; and taken common-sense steps to limit mercury and other pollutants for the largest sources of industrial air pollution, including cement plants, industrial boilers, and waste incinerators.
These clean air standards will provide enormous public health benefits: each year, they will avert tens of thousands of premature deaths, prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks and hospital visits, and alleviate hundreds of thousands of childhood asthma attacks.
The Administration has also proposed the first national standard for carbon pollution from new power plants under the Clean Air Act, which will ensure that the next generation of power plants employ widely available, American-made technologies to produce electricity more cleanly and efficiently.
Colleen CurtisApril 22, 2012
01:00 PM EDT
Did you know....
that recycling is a proud American tradition? During the First and Second World Wars, families participated in scrap drives, gathering cloth, paper, and metals for reuse in manufacturing that helped fuel our military and our economic growth. Today, the Obama Administration is committed to bolstering recycling programs through individual action, community engagement, and national initiatives, and we have broadened our efforts to include a vast array of pioneering industrial processes that will drive our clean economy and create green jobs. These advances cut waste, preserve our natural bounty, and spur the robust and sustainable economic growth that will carry us through this century and into the next.
To meet the economic and environmental challenges that confront our country today, we must devise new strategies to accommodate emerging technologies. Our nation generates over two million tons of used electronics annually, and without following proper recycling and management practices, the disposal of our old computers, monitors, and cell phones can release toxic materials into our environment, endanger human health, and prevent the recovery and reuse of valuable resources. For the well-being of our people and our planet, we must consider the full lifecycle impacts of our products and strive to manage our resources in a sustainable way.
To ensure America remains a global leader in developing new, sustainable electronics technologies, President Obama launched the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship in 2011. The strategy establishes a framework for responsible electronics design, purchasing, management, and recycling that will accelerate our burgeoning electronics recycling market and create jobs for the future here at home. To lead by example, the Obama Administration is committed to efficient use, reuse, and proper disposal of electronics within the Federal Government, and we are collaborating with certified recycling centers to handle and dispose of used electronics safely and effectively. We are also forging new partnerships with the private sector that will advance electronics recycling across our country. Through collaboration and shared responsibility, we are protecting public health, preserving environmental quality, and laying the foundation for a 21st century economy.
Colleen CurtisApril 22, 2012
11:00 AM EDT
Did you know...
that the United States is comprehensively cataloging greenhouse gas emissions from the largest sources – an important initial step toward measurable and transparent reductions in carbon emissions, which will reduce air pollution and protect the health and welfare of the American people. In January 2012, the Administration launched an online tool that makes comprehensive greenhouse gas emission data publicly available for 29 different industrial categories and other large sources of greenhouse gas pollution.
President Obama has also directed the Federal Government – the largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy – to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from direct sources such as building energy use and fuel consumption by 28 percent by 2020. He also directed Federal agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from indirect sources, such as those from employee commuting, by 13 percent by 2020. By meeting these goals, Federal agencies can save up to $11 billion dollars in energy costs and eliminate the equivalent of cumulative 235 million barrels of oil over the next decade. In 2011, the Administration released the first-ever comprehensive Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory for the U.S. Government, allowing agencies to leverage data to gauge the effectiveness of their renewable energy investments and their energy and fuel efficiency efforts.
April 22, 2012
09:00 AM EDT
IT’S NATIONAL PARK WEEK!
Did you know that there are nearly 400 national parks across our country? That’s right! And this week we celebrate all of them. From the Grand Canyon to Gettysburg, the Virgin Islands to Hawaii Volcanoes – each of our parks is a place to explore, learn and be active. And this week, they are all free!
Now before you head out the door, you may ask, what can I do to make this trip special? Let me give you an idea --- bring a young person with you. Introduce them to a world that will fascinate them for a lifetime. Invite them to explore, get outdoors and get active in the most awe-inspiring places this nation has to offer.
You see, our national parks belong to every one of us. As Americans we own 84 million acres of breathtaking landscapes, historical sites and cultural treasures – and all that is asked in return is that we support and enjoy these places, passing them on unimpaired, so the next generation may enjoy them too.
It is this guiding principle that drives us at the National Park Foundation to provide our young people, from all races, ethnicities and backgrounds, the opportunity to experience America’s treasured places.
That is why we are bringing more than 30,000 students to national parks just this year alone through our “Ticket to Ride” program. It is why we are working with teachers in all 50 states to embrace national parks as classrooms and centers for active learning. It is why we have provided more than 3.5 million dollars to national parks through educational grants and programs in the last three years.
April 21, 2012
04:01 PM EDT
Ed. Note: This was originally published on Healthcare.gov
Robyn Martin is a remarkable woman from Maryland who shared her story of how the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law, is affecting her family’s life. In a discussion with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other women in Maryland, Robyn spoke of her son Jax, who has serious genetic disorders, including a heart defect. After he was born, he immediately was placed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NCIU), where he spent three weeks. Jax has undergone surgery since then. The Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on lifetime dollar limits for coverage is so important to Robyn’s family.
“I don’t know how much all of his health care has cost to this point, but in five months, I know it’s got to be a lot. The first day in the NICU was $150,000,” Robyn says. “If he in five months used up the lifetime limit for him, my family would be in really dire straits.”
Colleen CurtisApril 21, 2012
05:45 AM EDT
President Obama believes that we should be doing everything we can to put higher education within reach for every American – because at a time when the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average, it’s never been more important. He is calling on Congress to act before student loan interest rates double for more than 7.4 million students, adding an average of $1,000 to their debt. Congress has a chance to take action on what should be an area of bipartisan agreement to prevent this unnecessary and damaging increase in interest rates and give our young people a chance to succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Grant T. HarrisApril 21, 2012
02:22 AM EDT
In these videotaped remarks, President Obama sends an important and very clear message to the people of Sudan and South Sudan: conflict is not inevitable. The people of Sudan and South Sudan still have a choice, a chance to avoid being dragged back into war. Sudan needs to halt all military actions, including aerial bombardments; give aid workers unfettered access to people in need; and end support for armed groups. Similarly, South Sudan must end its support for armed groups inside Sudan and cease its military actions across the border. All parties fighting – including in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States – must recognize that the only way to achieve real and lasting security is to resolve their differences through negotiation.
President Obama is gravely concerned by the situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, especially as the violent clashes continue along the shared border with South Sudan. He continues to urge all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to emphasize the importance of finding peaceful solutions for Sudan and South Sudan. The President is deeply committed to seeing Sudan and South Sudan become two economically prosperous states living side-by-side in peace.
The people of Sudan and South Sudan have endured extraordinary hardship over years of war. But in recent years, against great odds, they have made tremendous progress toward a future of peace. The future of Sudan and South Sudan belongs to them and, as President Obama makes clear in his remarks, those who have the courage to walk the path of peace will have a strong and steady partner in the United States of America.
Colleen CurtisApril 20, 2012
07:47 PM EDT
President Obama today led cheers for 22 injured servicemembers as they took a spin around the South Lawn as part of the annual Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride. The participants in the four-day event include representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, including two brothers, Erik and Deven Schei, riding a specially-made tandem bike.
In his remarks, the President praised the riders for their strength and their dedication:
And I know you’re all doing this ride for different reasons. Some of you may be athletes looking to get the competitive juices flowing again. Maybe some of you are trying to see how far you can push yourselves. Some of you are doing it for the camaraderie and the bond that comes when you work hard alongside people who know what you’re going through. Maybe you’re doing it to honor a loved one or a buddy. But all of you are here because you believe in living your lives to the fullest. You know that each of us has a responsibility to seize the opportunities we’ve been blessed with. You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can’t. That’s what this is all about.
April 20, 2012
07:00 PM EDT
In his gloomy Washington Post commentary today on yesterday’s ceremony transferring ownership of the Space Shuttle Discovery from NASA to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Charles Krauthammer urged readers to think of that transfer as the funeral for U.S. leadership in space. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States remains far and away the world leader in space technology and exploration. As long as appropriate support continues to be forthcoming from Congress, this will remain the case indefinitely.
Krauthammer suggests that if China succeeds in putting astronauts on the Moon by 2025, as that country plans, they will have “overtaken” the United States. How absurd! Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon in 1969. How does China managing this feat fifty-six years later, if this happens, amount to “overtaking” us? Obviously, the United States could repeat its lunar feats of the 1960s and 1970s if that were the next most important thing to do in space exploration for the money. But it isn’t! We may well return to the lunar surface again as one of many destinations in the future, but for now, our immediate, more scientifically rewarding goals include sending astronauts to an asteroid in the 2020s, and Mars in the mid-2030s. They bring scientific and technological challenges worthy of a great nation and a true world leader.
Krauthammer doesn’t even mention the International Space Station. The United States led the planning, design, and construction of this $53 billion marvel – an orbiting science and technology-development laboratory that has been continuously manned since 2000. Under the previous administration’s plan, it was underfunded after 2016, implying intent to abandon it long before its scientific and engineering potential had been realized. Under the new bipartisan space-exploration plans worked out between the Obama Administration and the Congress, we will continue to operate the Space Station until at least 2020 and perhaps beyond.
In robotic space exploration, too, nobody else comes close. At this very moment, a stream of data is flowing to us from missions orbiting the Sun, Mercury, the Moon, the asteroid Vesta, Mars, and Saturn. We now have missions on the way to Jupiter, Pluto and Mars. The Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, and Fermi space telescopes continue to make groundbreaking discoveries on an almost daily basis. We’re on track in the construction of the James Webb Space Telescope, the most sophisticated science telescope ever constructed to help us reveal the mysteries of the cosmos in ways never before possible. Last year, the MESSENGER spacecraft became the first-ever to enter orbit around Mercury. And shortly thereafter, the Ebb and Flow satellites began orbiting and mapping the gravity field of the Moon.
April 20, 2012
06:23 PM EDT
A quick look at everything that happened this week on WhiteHouse.gov:
Summit of the Americas: Over the weekend, the President was in Cartagena, Colombia for the sixth annual Summit of the Americas – a gathering of more than 30 leaders from North, South, and Central America. While there, he participated in a panel discussion with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos and announced that the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will enter into force on May 15, 2012. “[This] agreement is a win for both our countries,” the President said while speaking to Colombian President Santos.
Increasing Oversight to Eliminate Manipulation: Speaking from the Rose Garden on Tuesday, President Obama announced a new series of steps to strengthen oversight of the energy markets while asking lawmakers to pass legislation aimed at curbing illegal behavior and holding the people who manipulate markets accountable.
Visit from NASCAR Champ: President Obama congratulated Tony Stewart on winning his third Sprint Cup Championship as he welcomed the NASCAR champ and his fellow drivers to the White House at an event on the South Lawn. He recognized NASCAR’s dedication to supporting our troops through their partnership with Joining Forces.
Megan SlackApril 20, 2012
05:32 PM EDT
Today President Obama signed a proclamation establishing Fort Ord, a former U.S. Army Post located in the heart of California's Central Coast, as a National Monument. It is one of the largest open spaces in the highly developed Monterey Bay area.
The area was once traversed by Spanish settlers traveling from Mexico to San Francisco, and later became a U.S. Army facility. The rugged terrain was perfect for training exercises, and nearly 1.5 million American soldiers who served between World War I and the early 1990s were introduced to the rigors of military service there.
Today, 10,000 visitors each year explore the area's canyons and grasslands by bike, horse and foot, while scientists flock to the area because of its diverse group of rare and endemic species of plants and animals. In fact, Fort Ord is one of the few remaining places in the world where coastal scrub, live oak woodland and savanna habitats, and vernal pools--shallow, temporary pools of water that teem with insect life--exist in a contiguous, interconnected landscape.
The protection of the Fort Ord area will maintain its historical and cultural significance, attract tourists from near and far, and enhance its unique natural resources, for the enjoyment of all Americans.
Megan SlackApril 20, 2012
04:29 PM EDT
Note: Planning to watch live and engage in the discussion? RSVP on facebook and pose questions for the panel now.
On Monday, April 23, President Obama will speak at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to commemorate the Holocaust and discuss how the United States is honoring the pledge of “never again” by developing a comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to mass atrocities.
Later in the afternoon, the White House is hosting an event that will offer a more in-depth look at the strategy President Obama and his Administration are working to put in place so that the United States is able to engage early, proactively and decisively in the face of mass atrocities.
Here's how you can get involved:
- 9:45 a.m. ET: Watch President Obama's live on WhiteHouse.gov/live or on Facebook. Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel will introduce the President.
- 1:00 p.m. ET: Watch the White House event with Administration officials, student leaders and organizations about how communities across America are mobilizing and playing a role in saving lives around the word.