Read all posts from November 2013

  • Ed. note: This event has concluded. Watch the full hangout below.


    Have you ever considered what you might create with a state-of-the-art digital design studio? Have you ever thought about planning and printing a new pair of sneakers, instead of just buying some? Have you ever dreamt about what you would make if you had all the tools of industrial design at your fingertips?

    Well, those dreams may be closer than you think.

    A new generation of American pioneers is democratizing the tools of the industrial revolution and spreading them to students around the country. But these tools aren’t the rusty machines you might imagine – they’re 3-D printers, laser cutters, and water jets, and they give you the ability to make almost anything. Not only that, they may be coming soon to a school near you.

    Announcing the first ever White House Science Fair, the President called for an all hands on deck approach to grow a generation of Americans who are, “the makers of things, and not just the consumers of things.” And at the 2012 White House Science Fair, the President met student Joey Hudy and launched his marshmallow cannon, noting that Joey’s motto was, “Don’t be bored, make something.” Responding to that call, citizens, communities, and organizations are coming together to give students the tools to design with their minds and make with their hands.

    Join us and leading tinkerers, educators, and innovators on Friday, November 15that 1:00 pm ET for a “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout, called “Don’t Be Bored, Make Something”.

  • Dr. Jill Biden gives remarks at a breast cancer awareness month reception

    Dr. Jill Biden gives remarks at a breast cancer awareness month reception with Vice President Joe Biden, in the living room at the Naval Observatory Residence in Washington, D.C., Nov. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Earlier this week, Joe and I hosted our 2nd Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Reception. We were joined by survivors, caregivers, families, doctors, researchers, and advocates who have all been touched by breast cancer.

    Each year, this reception is one of the most inspiring events that we hold at our home, and this year was no different. As I embraced both old and new friends, I was reminded of the bravery of the survivors and their loved ones. I saw the hope in their eyes, their unwavering spirit, and their determination to continue pushing forward.

    This year, we asked all of the survivors to invite someone who was important to them during their course of treatment. Joe and I know that the fight against breast cancer is not only limited to what the patient endures, but also extends to the family members, the caregivers, the doctors, and researchers who work day in and day out to save lives and support those that they love.

  • Today, as part of the President and Vice President’s continuing efforts to increase access to mental health services, the Administration issued the final rule implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

    Today’s action means that for group and individual market health plans, insurance companies must cover mental health and addiction benefits at parity with medical and surgical benefits. In January, the Department of Health and Human Services also released a letter to State health officials clarifying that Medicaid plans must also comply with parity requirements.

    Parity is not just a buzzword. It has a real impact for the millions of people who are experiencing or will experience mental illness or addiction. In fact, parity works to break down two key barriers that too often prevent these individuals – our friends, our family, our neighbors – from seeking help. First, it breaks down the financial barrier by generally prohibiting health plans from placing more restrictive monetary requirements (for example, co-pays) or treatment limitations (for example, covered visits)  on mental health and substance abuse benefits than on comparable medical and surgical benefits.  Second, parity reduces the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction by reaffirming that illnesses of the brain should not be treated differently than illnesses of the body.

  • The upward revisions to job growth in August and September, combined with solid third quarter GDP growth reported yesterday, suggest that the economy was gaining traction in the months leading up to the government shutdown. There should be no debate that the shutdown and debt limit brinksmanship inflicted unnecessary damage on the economy in October. The employment report shows differing accounts, with the more reliable payroll survey recording strong job growth and the much noisier household survey showing an increase in the unemployment rate and a large drop in employment. But the mission for Congress remains clear: to take steps that increase certainty, speed growth, and boost job creation.

    FIVE KEY POINTS IN TODAY’S REPORT FROM THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

    1. America’s resilient businesses have added jobs for 44 consecutive months, with private sector employment increasing by a total of 7.8 million over that period. Today we learned that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 204,000 in October, due entirely to a 212,000 increase in private employment. Private sector job growth was revised up for August (to 207,000) and September (to 150,000) so that for the third quarter, private sector employment rose by an average of 152,000 per month (compared to the 129,000 per month average pace estimated in last month’s jobs report).

  • This week, the President worked to help consumers learn about and enroll in quality, affordable health insurance plans through the Marketplaces, welcomed Iraq's Prime Minister, hosted the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, and kicked off the newly re-instated White House Tours with a surprise drop-by.
     

  • For decades Americans have been trying to reduce their consumption of artificial trans fats. Parents check the food labels when grocery shopping for their families and consumers are making better choices when eating out. Companies like McDonalds and Subway stepped up and made it easier by removing all artificial trans fats from their products. And Wal-Mart has pledged to no longer have artificial trans fat on their store shelves by 2015.

    But there is still more to be done by government, industry and consumers to make sure that we have the tools we need to keep unsafe foods off our tables.

    As a mom who cares deeply about nutrition, I too can get confused by what are good fats and bad fats. But independent scientists agree, there is no safe level of artificial trans fat.

    Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHO), are an artificial substance that is formed by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil during processing to make it more solid. PHOs are the leading source of artificial trans fat; they cause plaque buildup in the arteries, are a contributing factor to heart attacks, and for too many, an early death. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that a further reduction of artificial trans fat in the food supply can prevent up to 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and as many as 20,000 heart attacks each year.

  • Last week, I had the opportunity to travel back to my home state of Michigan, to Southwest Detroit, where I visited a local Community Health Center and participated in an Affordable Care Act enrollment event put on by State Representative Rashida Tlaib.

    The event provided an opportunity for Detroiters to ask question about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and for those without insurance, how to get covered.

    It was a well-attended event that included Detroiters from all walks of life, many of whom use Community Health Centers as their primary course of care.  State Representative Tlaib even shared with me that growing up in Detroit, she came to that very health center for care.

    These truly critical hubs provide vital health services to their communities.

    That’s why I’m so excited that today we are announcing new grants provided to communities under the Affordable Care Act. These grants will continue to make a big difference in helping community health centers provide access to primary care services for nearly 1.25 million new patients.

    These awards will focus on underserved areas and health centers that can provide culturally competent care and primary care. 

  • On Wednesday, the President traveled to Dallas, Texas, where he joined canvassers and navigators who are part of the community's most active group of volunteers working to enroll their neighbors in quality, affordable coverage through the Marketplace.

  • During the third quarter, the economy grew at its fastest pace in a year, an indication that the recovery was continuing to gain traction in the months before the government shutdown. GDP growth was boosted by a positive contribution from consumer durables purchases, the continued recovery in the housing sector, and net exports. We now have an opportunity to build on this progress by increasing certainty for businesses and investing in jobs and growth, while avoiding the types of self-inflicted wounds that restrained the economy in the early part of the fourth quarter.

    FIVE KEY POINTS IN TODAY’S REPORT FROM THE BUREAU OF ECONOMIC ANALYSIS

    1. Real gross domestic product rose at a solid 2.8 percent annual pace in the third quarter, the fastest quarterly pace in the last year, and the 10th consecutive quarter of growth. The rate of growth picked up slightly from the also-solid 2.5 percent rate observed in the second quarter. The economy has made substantial progress since the end of the recession, with real GDP now 5.3 percent higher than it was at its peak prior to the recession. Nevertheless, more work must be done to increase economic growth and boost job creation. 

  • This week, the Senate will vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would provide strong federal protections against discrimination, making it explicitly illegal to fire someone because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

    In this explainer video, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney highlights the importance of ENDA – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good for business and the economy.

    Watch on YouTube

    In case you missed it, read President Obama’s Op-Ed in support of ENDA.

  • Today, President Obama is visiting the Lone Star State to thank volunteers in Dallas for helping fellow Texans learn more about their new choices, new benefits, and new protections under the Affordable Care Act. I'm proud to lead that same kind of effort in San Antonio, and I know that mayors across our state are doing everything they can to educate our citizens about the law.  That's because we think giving as many people as possible the chance to buy affordable health insurance is more important than trying to score political points.

    Usually, we do things bigger in Texas. But right now, when it comes to covering the uninsured, some of our neighboring states are trying to beat us to the draw. In Arkansas, for example, they¹ve cut the total number of uninsured in the state by nearly 14 percent in just over a month.

    There's one big reason for that. Under the Affordable Care Act, states can choose whether or not to expand Medicaid to cover more of its citizens, and Arkansas chose "yes."  If we made that same choice in Texas, it would cover more than one million of our citizens, and save our taxpayers $1.7 billion over the next decade in unpaid hospital bills.

    Conservative Republican governors in Michigan and Ohio looked at similar numbers in their states and decided that expanding Medicaid was a no-brainer. I just wish our governor saw it the same way. Because with a stroke of his pen, he could save more than one million of his fellow Texans from financial ruin if they get sick ­ and save taxpayer dollars in the process. And there's nothing foolish about that.

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau blog. See the original post here.

    We want to hear about your debt collection experience - weigh in now.

    Since we began taking debt collection complaints a few months ago, companies have responded to more than 5,000 debt collection complaints. We see that this is an important issue for consumers and today we’re adding these complaints about debt collection to our public Consumer Complaint Database.

    We’re also taking the first steps to gather information to determine what rules would be appropriate to protect consumers who are subject to debt collection. We’re issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) today —and what that means is that we are considering issuing rules for the debt collection industry, but first we want to hear from you so we can learn more about the debt collection system. We’d like to hear about your experience with debt collectors and how they should act when they try to recover debts.

    Getting input from the public – you – is an important part of the process. Debt collection is a complicated topic, with many consumer protection concerns.  We are issuing an ANPR in order to ask a number of questions about different aspects of the industry and the consumer experience. The ANPR will be published in the Federal Register, where anyone can submit comments to respond to the questions. We’re particularly interested in learning about the accuracy of information in the debt collection industry, whether consumers are aware of the debt and their rights, and whether consumers are being treated fairly.

  • This morning, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough addressed the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Meeting in Washington, D.C. and discussed the President’s plan to grow the economy and build a strong middle class. McDonough underscored the importance of continuing the progress we are seeing in our economy and providing certainty for businesses across the country, and warned that we should avoid self-inflicted wounds from Washington that only set that progress back. 

    Please find Mr. McDonough’s remarks below, as prepared for delivery:

  • President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with business leaders to discuss immigration reform to bolster U.S. economic growth

    President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with business leaders to discuss immigration reform to bolster U.S. economic growth, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Nov. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, I joined the President, Vice President and senior Administration officials for a meeting at the White House with a group of top U.S. business leaders to discuss the importance of commonsense immigration reform to bolster U.S. economic growth, and improve the climate for business, and job creation.  These leaders shared with the President their desire to see our broken immigration system fixed, both because it is the right thing to do, and because it will be good for the U.S. economy.

    In addition to the 7.5 million jobs we have created in the U.S. over the past three and a half years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), over the next two decades, the bipartisan bill that has already passed the Senate would grow our economy by an additional $1.4 trillion, and shrink our deficits by nearly $1 trillion.  The Senate bill would modernize our legal immigration system. 

    With common sense immigration reform, American colleges, universities, and businesses can attract the brightest minds in the world to our shores to start new businesses, and spur economic growth for all Americans.  And, reform would also make sure everyone plays by the same rules, providing a pathway to earned citizenship for those who are living in the shadows, including passing a background check, learning English, paying taxes and a penalty, and getting in line behind everyone else.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama joins students for a Bollywood Dance Clinic in the State Dining Room of the White House.

    First Lady Michelle Obama joins students for a Bollywood Dance Clinic in the State Dining Room of the White House, Nov. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Today, First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed guests to the White House for a Diwali celebration. The celebration started with the First Lady suprising local students at a Bollywood dance clinic and trying out some moves herself.

    Then the First Lady spoke during a reception in the East Room:

    “We’ve celebrated this holiday here at the White House every year since Barack took office. And there’s a reason why we've done that,” she said.

    When we say that we want to make the White House the “people’s house,” we mean all people. We mean that we want to honor and embrace all of the many cultures and faith traditions that make us who we are as Americans. And Diwali is very much one of those traditions.

  • Today, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off the resumption of East Wing and Executive Residence tours by surprising White House tour guests in the Blue Room.

    Followers of the First Lady's Twitter and Instagram accounts were given the first heads up that something special was about to happen:

    The President and First Lady welcomed guests with handshakes and hugs. Bo and Sunny made an appearance and guests of all ages affectionately patted and pet the pups.

  • Domestic Violence Awareness Month has ended, but our work to end abuse continues. Today, in this country, women and children continue to suffer from unspeakable violence because they are afraid to seek help without legal status. When immigrant survivors of abuse without legal status are, according to one study, half as likely to call the police to seek the help they need, we must act.

    Since it was first signed into law in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act or VAWA has recognized the need for special protections for immigrant survivors of abuse, including self-petitions and categories of visas for victims of violent crimes and human trafficking. But while VAWA includes key provisions to help immigrant survivors, it is not enough.

    Now, Congress has the opportunity to take an important step towards protecting victims, and supporting law enforcement to create safer communities for all Americans. Commonsense immigration reform would significantly benefit immigrant women all over the country. The Senate has already passed an immigration reform bill by a wide, bipartisan majority. And Democratic leaders have introduced a bill in the House that’s similar to the bipartisan Senate bill.  So it’s up to Republicans in the House to decide whether to move forward with immigration reform. Unlike many other issues in Washington, immigration reform is one that both parties can agree on. Congress must finish the job on commonsense immigration reform

  • President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have made it a priority to open the White House to young people, military families, and Americans of all ages. Today, President Obama and Mrs. Obama surprise guests on a White House Tour and we invite you to watch live.

    Experiencing the White House isn’t limited to those who are able to visit in person. Check out all of the ways the Obama Administration offers virtual visitors unprecedented access to the People’s House, and then find out how to stay engaged with all that is happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    TAKE AN INTERACTIVE TOUR

    Learn about the White House grounds and many of the historic rooms inside the People’s House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    THE GOOGLE ART PROJECT AT THE WHITE HOUSE

    We have partnered with the Google Art Project and allowed their 360 Street View cameras to capture the rooms that are featured on the public tour.

    INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE VIDEO SERIES

    Check out behind thescenes of some of the everyday – and not so every day—activities that take place at the White House.

  • President Barack Obama welcomes the five-time Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks to the White Hous

    President Barack Obama welcomes the five-time Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks to the White House to honor the team and their 2013 Stanley Cup victory, in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 4, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today in the East Room, President Obama welcomed the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks to the White House --  the second time he's honored the team for their Stanley Cup win.

    “Now, since I took office, we’ve hosted a lot of championship teams -- from Boston and New York; Pittsburgh and Miami,” the President said. “But since I’ve been President, only one team has brought a world championship to my hometown of Chicago. And now the Blackhawks have done it twice.”

    President Barack Obama welcomes the five-time Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks

    President Barack Obama welcomes the five-time Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks to the White House to honor the team and their 2013 Stanley Cup victory, in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 4, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • This morning, Katherine Archuleta was sworn-in as the 10th Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and will serve as the Federal government’s personnel chief. She will be the first Latina to hold this position. Katherine shares President Obama’s vision for diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce, which the President said helps “create more effective policymaking and better decision-making [for me], because it brings different perspectives to the table.”

    OPM is uniquely positioned to have a significant influence on the face of the federal government, welcoming people from all backgrounds and utilizing their talents to have a positive impact on our communities. When we draw on the wisdom of a workforce that reflects the population we serve, we are better able to understand and meet the needs of our customers-the American people.

    For example, OPM has recognized and acknowledged the underrepresentation of Hispanics in the federal work force, and the potential and talent they have to offer.  OPM has made it a point to expand outreach and recruitment within the Hispanic community, as well as with veterans, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups to ensure everyone at federal agencies receives equal opportunities to advance in their career. 

    Government-wide, we have made important progress toward hiring a workforce that truly reflects America's diversity, and we will continue to pursue that goal. As the Director of OPM, Katherine will lead an agency of more than 5000 employees. Together she and her team are responsible for the government’s efforts to recruit, retain and honor a world-class workforce of more than 2 million people working in communities and neighborhoods throughout this country.

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