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Tanya SomanaderAugust 20, 2014
11:47 AM EDT
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is traveling to Ferguson, Missouri today to review the Department of Justice's ongoing independent investigation into the tragic death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
In an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Attorney General Holder pledged to help find justice for a community that is rightfully hurting and looking for answers:
Today, I will be in Ferguson to be briefed on the federal civil rights investigation that I have closely monitored since I launched it more than one week ago. I will meet personally with community leaders, FBI investigators and federal prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to receive detailed briefings on the status of this case.
The full resources of the Department of Justice have been committed to the investigation into Michael Brown’s death. This inquiry will take time to complete, but we have already taken significant steps. Approximately 40 FBI agents and some of the Civil Rights Division’s most experienced prosecutors have been deployed to lead this process, with the assistance of the United States Attorney in St. Louis. Hundreds of people have already been interviewed in connection with this matter. On Monday, at my direction, a team of federal medical examiners conducted an independent autopsy.
We understand the need for an independent investigation, and we hope that the independence and thoroughness of our investigation will bring some measure of calm to the tensions in Ferguson. In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson. Although these acts have been committed by a very small minority -- and, in many cases, by individuals from outside Ferguson -- they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice. And they interrupt the deeper conversation that the legitimate demonstrators are trying to advance.
Lindsay HolstAugust 20, 2014
10:49 AM EDT
Ever wondered what a first day as a new employee at the White House looks like?
What about a first day as the very first employee of a brand-new government service designed to remake the way people and businesses interact with their government online?
From parking forms to press conferences, from orientation to setting a new BlackBerry password to meeting with senior advisors, follow along as Mikey Dickerson, Administrator of the newly created U.S. Digital Service, makes his way through Day One.
August 19, 2014
04:37 PM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Labor's blog. See the original post here.
Leading up to Labor Day 2014, Secretary Tom Perez is traveling across the country to talk with Americans about how we can help more people succeed in the workplace and at home. Follow him along the way with live updates at www.dol.gov/LaborDay.
71-year-old Austraberta Rodriguez has been a janitor for more than 30 years. For most of those years, she could only dream about vacation days and paid time off. She was making $5.15 per hour and she had small children and grandchildren. All of her money was going to the bare essentials. Looking back, she doesn’t know how she survived. In 2006, all of that changed.
Tanya SomanaderAugust 18, 2014
07:56 PM EDT
This afternoon at the White House, President Obama delivered a statement on the latest developments in Iraq and in Ferguson, Missouri — two issues he has been following closely each day.
First, the President relayed to the nation that the American operation in Iraq has effectively protected our personnel by stopping the terrorist group ISIL from advancing on the city of Erbil, and by helping Iraqi forces to recapture the largest dam in Iraq:
The Mosul Dam fell under terrorist control earlier this month and is directly tied to our objective of protecting Americans in Iraq. If that dam was breached, it could have proven catastrophic, with floods that would have threatened the lives of thousands of civilians and endangered our embassy compound in Baghdad. Iraqi and Kurdish forces took the lead on the ground and performed with courage and determination. So this operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together in taking the fight to ISIL. If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America.
David HudsonAugust 18, 2014
04:25 PM EDT
Earlier this afternoon, Vice President Biden ceremonially swore in former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro as the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Secretary Castro -- who was confirmed by the Senate last month in a 71-26 vote -- made significant progress in San Antonio and implemented a number of housing and economic development programs to help the city's residents. In a statement last month, President Obama called Secretary Castro "a proven leader -- a champion for safe, affordable housing and strong, sustainable neighborhoods."
The President also voiced his confidence that Secretary Castro will work in his new role to "build on the progress we've made battling back from the Great Recession" -- rebuilding America's housing market, reducing veteran homelessness, and connecting neighborhoods with good schools and jobs that help Americans succeed.
August 18, 2014
11:14 AM EDT
The President of the United States must be ready to travel anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice. Fortunately, modern Presidents have access to a variety of transportation options, including flying aboard Air Force One. Strictly speaking, the term “Air Force One” is used to describe any Air Force aircraft when the President is on board, but since the middle of the 20th century, it has been standard practice to use the title to refer to specific planes that are equipped to transport the Commander-in-Chief.
Lindsay HolstAugust 16, 2014
06:00 AM EDT
President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the State Dining Room of the White House, Aug. 8, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
In this week’s address, with schools getting ready to open their doors again over the next few weeks, the President talked directly to students and parents about the importance of preparing for an education beyond high school.
In today’s economy, some higher education continues to be the surest ticket to the middle class, but for too many families across the country, paying for higher education is a constant struggle. The President and First Lady know this first hand -- they only finished paying off their student loans 10 years ago -- and that’s why they have made it a priority to help make college more affordable for families. They have taken action to reform student loans, expand grants and college tax credits, help make loan payments more manageable, and have proposed plans to make sure colleges also do their part to bring down costs. And just this week, as part of the President’s Year of Action, the administration announced a new series of commitments to support students who need a little extra academic help getting through college.
August 15, 2014
04:11 PM EDT
This week, President Obama gave updates on the continuing humanitarian crisis in Iraq and the situation in Ferguson, Missouri; the White House announced progress on raising the minimum wage; and the Administration launched the U.S. Digital Service to help modernize our government.
Check out what else you may have missed this week in our weekly wrap up.
Yesterday, President Obama delivered a statement about what's happening in Iraq. He said that although conditions are still dire for Iraqis who are "subjected to ISIL's terror throughout the country," the situation for civilians stranded on Mount Sinjar has "greatly improved and Americans should be very proud of our efforts."
The President also spoke about the events in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. He called on the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney on the scene to work with local officials in making sure the investigation is open and transparent. "Now is the time for healing," he added.
I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred. There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That’s part of our democracy. But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law; a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest; a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us; and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.
August 15, 2014
04:08 PM EDT
Seventy-nine years ago, on August 14, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt said, "We can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-stricken old age."
With that, he signed the Social Security Act into law, ushering in an era of economic prosperity for middle-class families. The first American to get Social Security received 17 cents in benefits. Today, 79 years later, Social Security stands as a major source of income for 54 million Americans who have paid into the system for their entire working lives.
President Obama understands that many seniors rely on Social Security, and believes that every one of them should be able to retire with dignity, which is why he’s acted to strengthen the Social Security system and ensure it remains solvent for years to come.
Adam GarberAugust 15, 2014
02:48 PM EDT
Welcome to a special Summer Edition of the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, the President focused on the developing situations both in Iraq and in our nation's heartland, in Ferguson, Missouri. Also, West Wing Week tagged along for the first few hours and days of one of the newest employees here at the White House, and for the launch of the newly created U.S. Digital Service. That's August 8-15 or, "Mikey Goes to Washington."
Tanya SomanaderAugust 15, 2014
02:46 PM EDT
Each day, American businesses are firing on all cylinders to create jobs and drive America's economic growth. Just last month, our private sector added jobs for the 53rd straight month, the longest streak on record. In total, American businesses have added 9.9 million jobs since early 2010. This week, we saw another sign of progress, as the number of available jobs rose to the highest level in more than 13 years.
American business owners advertised 4.67 million jobs in June, the highest number of openings since February 2001 — a clear signal that the economy is strengthening. Take a look at how we went from record lows during the Great Recession to hitting a new high this summer — then share the good news:
Ezra MechaberAugust 15, 2014
12:53 PM EDT
On Friday, August 1, President Obama signed a bill into law that again made it legal for consumers to unlock their cell phones in order to take them to a carrier that best suits their needs. It marked the very first time a We the People petition led to a legislative fix.
It's a win for consumers, and an important milestone for We the People -- which has generated more than 15 million users and 22 million signatures on over 350,000 petitions since it started in 2011.
Here's how it happened:
August 15, 2014
11:49 AM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Tradeology, the official blog of the International Trade Administration. You can see the original post here.
Whatever your fancy -- toes in sand, skis in fresh powder, or your golf ball in the middle of the fairway (we hope) -- your travel plans support millions of jobs throughout the United States.
We have the data to prove it: New data from the Department of Commerce show the travel and tourism industry supported 7.6 million jobs in 2013, up 146,000 jobs from 2012.
Cecilia MuñozAugust 14, 2014
05:19 PM EDT
Yesterday, the Department of Education unveiled a new grant opportunity to partner with states and local communities to expand the reach of high-quality preschool. The $250 million grant competition will provide thousands of additional 4-year-old children across the country with a high-quality preschool education. The Obama administration’s Preschool Development Grants program is a critical piece of the President’s plan to boost access to high-quality preschool and support early learning for every child in America, beginning at birth and continuing through school entry.
The return on our dollar is highest when we invest in our youngest children, and we have recent research showing that sufficiently scaled Pre-K programs in cities like Boston and Tulsa are having a significant, positive impact on children’s literacy, language development, and math skills. Still, only approximately 28% of America’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in state preschool programs in the 2012-2013 school year. The high cost of private preschool programs and insufficient funding for public preschool in many communities narrows options for families, especially those in low-income communities.
In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool education to every child in America. Last January, he challenged more Americans to join this effort — and governors, mayors, school superintendents, corporate and community leaders, foundations, and policymakers have responded.
August 14, 2014
04:47 PM EDT
This week, we welcomed outstanding students and teachers from across the country to the White House for the Presidential Environmental Education Awards National Recognition Ceremony. We were wowed by their smarts, their ingenuity, and their commitment to environmental issues.
Climate change and environmental problems are some of the greatest challenges of our time. Climate impacts threaten lives and livelihoods — from more frequent and intense drought, storms, fires, and floods to higher insurance premiums, property taxes, and food prices. Current and future generations of public servants, scientists, educators, and entrepreneurs will have to work together to solve these problems.
Fortunately for all of us, these impressive students and teachers are doing great work, and the President’s Environmental Education Awards honor that spirit. Since 1971, the President has joined with EPA to recognize the importance of environmental education in protecting our nation’s air, water, land, and ecology. One outstanding student project and up to two outstanding teachers can be selected from each EPA region for national recognition.
When Deepika Kurup of New Hampshire came face-to-face with a lack of access to clean drinking water in India, she took action, building water purifiers that use a chemical reaction catalyzed by sunlight to kill common bacteria. Meanwhile, students in California created “Donate, Don’t Dump,” a campaign to get surplus and short-dated food from grocers, growers, and food companies to the hungry rather than sent to landfills. The campaign has grown into a teen-run nonprofit with 20 chapters in 4 states and 4,000 members.
David HudsonAugust 14, 2014
03:04 PM EDT
This afternoon, President Obama updated the nation on two issues that he's been monitoring closely over the past several days -- America's military operations in Iraq, and the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.
Speaking first on Iraq, the President noted the progress the U.S. has made in carrying out "targeted military operations" in the country:
Last week, I authorized two limited missions: protecting our people and facilities inside of Iraq, and a humanitarian operation to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians stranded on a mountain.
A week ago, we assessed that many thousands of Yezidi men, women and children had abandoned their possessions to take refuge on Mount Sinjar in a desperate attempt to avoid slaughter. We also knew that ISIL terrorists were killing and enslaving Yezidi civilians in their custody, and laying siege to the mountain. Without food or water, they faced a terrible choice -- starve on the mountain, or be slaughtered on the ground. That’s when America came to help.
Cameron BrenchleyAugust 13, 2014
04:44 PM EDT
Earlier today, White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford took Maker Camp campers on a virtual field trip of the White House Kitchen Garden, and answered questions about what it’s like to cook for the First Family and for special guests of the White House.
Campers from across the country chimed in and asked how Chef Comerford balances what fruits and vegetables are in season with the needs of the First Family, how the White House chefs prepare for large events such as state dinners, and finally about her path to becoming a “maker” at the White House. Comerford said that each morning she looks in the White House Garden to see what is ready to harvest and that she changes the menu based on what she can incorporate into upcoming meals. She also said that canning, jarring and pickling gives her flexibility to use fruits and vegetables in future meals.
Cecilia MuñozAugust 13, 2014
01:00 PM EDT
Last January, I listened to the President ask hundreds of college presidents to increase college opportunity for all Americans. He asked them to help because a college degree remains one of the surest pathways into the middle class in America, and is an especially powerful engine of social and economic mobility.
Over this decade, nearly 8 in 10 new jobs will require some postsecondary education or training beyond high school. And of the 30 fastest growing occupations, half require a college degree. At the same time, college graduates earn an average of 77 percent more per hour than a high school graduate. President Obama set forth a goal early in his first term to guide our work in education – to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.
And yesterday, I had the privilege of joining Secretary Duncan in meeting with community college leaders who have made new commitments to ensure student success, because, in order to make progress on our goal to be first in the world, we need to embrace some of the foundational challenges to college enrollment, persistence, and completion.
Our nation’s community colleges are the engines of our higher education system. As the largest part of America’s higher education system, these institutions provide the education and training to prepare our 21st century workforce and are an ideal place to raise the knowledge and skills of our workforce – and to meet the academic needs of a diverse population of learners, from recent high school graduates to adults seeking new skills.
David HudsonAugust 12, 2014
05:02 PM EDT
This afternoon, President Obama issued a statement on the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was fatally shot on Saturday by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri:
The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time. As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed. I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.
Tanya SomanaderAugust 12, 2014
04:09 PM EDT
In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour—a move that would boost the bottom lines of businesses and increase the earnings of 28 million hardworking Americans.
It's a commonsense proposal that Republicans in Congress continue to block—which is why President Obama took action to raise the minimum wage for workers on new federal contracts. And states, cities, and businesses across the country are doing their part, too.
A new White House report released today looks at the progress businesses and communities are making in raising the minimum wage for millions of workers. In fact, since the President first called for a minimum wage increase in 2013, 13 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to increase their minimum wage, which will benefit about 7 million workers.
The economic evidence is clear: It's time to give America a raise. Find out how many more workers would benefit if Congress would take action to raise the wage: