Ben RhodesMarch 20, 2012
09:05 AM EDT
In a video message earlier today, President Obama sent his best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz.
Nowruz is a time when so many Iranian families and loved ones come together in celebration. Moreover, it is a holiday that reminds us of the rich culture of the Iranian people, and the extraordinary contributions that they have made to human history. Yet even as holidays like this underscore the connections that we share as human beings, the Government of Iran is going to great lengths to isolate the Iranian people by cutting them off from the outside world.
For far too long, the Iranian regime has tried to control the flow of information and ideas to and from the Iranian people and the outside world. As people everywhere are making their voices heard through new technologies and social media, the people of Iran often find their voices stifled and their ability to connect denied. Like the Iron Curtain of the 20th century, an Electronic Curtain is descending as the Iranian regime attempts to control what its citizens see and hear.
The Iranian people have a universal right to access information, and to freely assemble online. Yet the Iranian regime increasingly denies these rights, and uses technology to suppress its people. Reporters Without Borders named Iran an “Internet Enemy” for 2011, and the Committee for the Protection of Journalists calls Iran one of the world’s “Ten Online Oppressors.” Below are just some of the many ways Iran’s government has earned these titles.
Megan SlackMarch 20, 2012
09:00 AM EDT
President Obama’s health reform law requires that new health insurance plans cover preventive services with no co-pay or deductible. In the last 18 months, approximately 20.4 million women with private health insurance have received preventive health services such as mammograms and pap smears at no additional cost because of this provision in the Affordable Care Act.
Besides improving access to services that help women stay healthy and detect health problems early on, health reform helps women in many other ways. For example, insurance companies are banned from imposing a limit on the amount of care they’ll cover over a woman’s lifetime, and are now required to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on care—not overhead.
Women who have been unable to purchase health insurance because of a pre-existing condition such as cancer or having been pregnant now have an option to obtain the insurance they need through the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan.
Matt ComptonMarch 20, 2012
08:30 AM EDT
Today, the White House will partner with the Departments of Justice and Education for a discussion with community leaders, advocates, and members of the public on efforts to ensure safety and security for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Kori SchulmanMarch 19, 2012
04:30 PM EDT
Today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced the return of First Question, an online engagement series that utilizes social media to answer questions from people across the country. On a regular basis, the Press Secretary takes questions from the press – via First Question, he adds questions from citizens to that mix.
Through Twitter and the White House Google+ page, hundreds of people submitted their questions for Jay. He responded to questions on gas prices, tax breaks for oil companies and the Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act. Check out the full video, or use the links below to jump to a specific question.
March 19, 2012
03:30 PM EDT
More than 67,000 veterans spent one night homeless, living in emergency shelters, transitional housing units or on the streets in 2011, according to last year's "point in time" count conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in coordination with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
It's not always easy for volunteers and outreach workers to know where to send them to get help. That's why the VA is excited to launch a competition to provide easy access to resources that the homeless need, when they need them, and where they can get them.
Project REACH (Real-Time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless) challenges applicants to make a free, easy-to-use, and broadly accessible web- and Smartphone app to provide current and up-to-date information about housing and shelter, health clinics, food banks, and other services available to the homeless. It is designed to tap the enormous talent and deep compassion of the nation's developer community to help us deliver vital information to the people who care for the homeless.
People caring for homeless veterans will be able to use this app to look up the location and availability of shelters, free clinics, and other social services - and instantaneously be able to share this critical information with those in need.
March 19, 2012
02:57 PM EDT
Last week I was in Atlanta, on the campus of Georgia Tech for a “Day of Engineering” Facebook pep rally to kick off the President’s new Stay With It campaign devoted to recruiting, retaining and graduating 10,000 engineers each year to maintain America’s competitive edge. Corporate leaders, educators and students have gathered for dialog and panel discussions on the dire need to increase the number of American engineers. Fourteen universities from across the nation are participating via Facebook viewing parties. Spearheaded by Intel President & CEO, Paul Otellini, who is also a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, the Stay With It campaign will provide mentors and other supports to increase the number of American engineering graduates which has fallen woefully behind other surging economies and has led to a shortage of skilled workers for American jobs.
More than 65 companies have already committed to doubling their 2012 summer engineering internships, including Intel, GE and DuPont – making an overall $70 million investment in giving students valuable hands-on experience. In addition, engineering deans from some of the nation’s top universities – including Georgia Tech – have developed a gold seal standard of excellence for colleges and universities focused on improved retention and graduation rates.
The participation of NASA and Intel is particularly important because aerospace and computer technology are clearly the growth industries of the future; but the only way to ensure that growth is by maintaining a constant pipeline of qualified workers. The centerpiece of our efforts to close the skills gap is the engagement of more students in the study of science, technology, engineering and math or the STEM disciplines.
NASA is now embarking on ambitious agenda of deep space exploration that will carry our astronauts to places where we have never been, including an asteroid and eventually Mars. We need engineers to help us design the new rockets and capsules that will carry us there. We need scientists and researchers to help us develop materials to withstand the stresses of deep space exploration, to sustain humans for long-duration stays in space, to make air transportation quicker, safer and more efficient and to aid us in our quest to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos and improve life here on Earth.
Megan SlackMarch 19, 2012
12:20 PM EDT
The average senior on Medicare will save $4,200 on their health care by 2021 because of the Affordable Care Act.
President Obama’s health reform law strengthens Medicare for seniors in a few ways. It gives them access to preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, with no co-pay or deductibles, as well as a free annual wellness visit. Nearly 32.5 million people have already received a free preventive service.
And, the Affordable Care Act is making it easier for seniors to pay for the medications they need, by providing a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs for seniors once they hit the prescription coverage gap known as the “donut hole.” By 2020, that donut hole will be closed completely.
Already, more than 5.1 million seniors and people with disabilities saved over $3.2 billion in drug costs. That comes to an average savings of $635 per person.
For more information:
- How health reform helps seniors
- VIDEO: Health reform is giving Helen, a senior from West Philadelphia, peace of mind and more money in her pocket
- Tell us your story: How is the Affordable Care Act improving your care?
Brad CooperMarch 19, 2012
12:01 PM EDT
Earlier this month, I joined with a company called Orion International and 12 private sector companies in Ft Hood, Texas, one of America’s largest military bases, for one reason: to hire American Soldiers transitioning out of the world’s greatest Army.
These companies included: Allied Wire, HESS, Kansas City Southern Railway, Schlumberger, NOV, US Bank, USES, Dollar General, Honeywell, Siemens, Marathon and McCormick.
The event was full of excitement, education – and “win-win” opportunities for both the companies involved, as well as transitioning soldiers, some of whom were just weeks away from leaving the Army after having served our nation during a time of war.
With America hiring once again, events such as these are being seen more and more around the country – and for good reason: employers recognize the value of hiring veterans.
As Dave Ebbrecht, Executive Vice President for Kansas City Southern Railway, put it: “It was an absolutely great event with very good candidates, in every rank … capable of filling a variety of different positions for our company, and we ended up hiring 22 veterans from this event.”
That’s 22 Soldiers hired by one company… in one day… and 35 Soldiers have already been offered jobs. More than 100 soldiers are in some phase of an interview process.
March 19, 2012
10:53 AM EDT
Ed Note: This was originally posted on HealthCare.gov, a website by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Helen R. is a senior who likes to keep busy. From helping her grandson with his education, to assisting other seniors at a West Philadelphia senior center, Helen knows there are lots of people counting on her. That’s why it’s a relief to Helen that she can count on the Affordable Care Act to get the care she needs at an affordable cost.
The law provides free preventive services under Medicare, such as cancer screenings and an annual wellness visit for Helen and other seniors to sit down and talk with their doctor about their concerns and needs. She says that it’s good to know that she and other seniors can access these services “without breaking the bank.”
Helen also falls into the prescription drug coverage gap called the “donut hole”, but because of the law, she receives a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs. By 2020, the donut hole will be closed.
“I am a grandmother who is trying to assist a grandson with his education. I take seven different medications. Getting the donut hole closed, that gives me a little more money in my pocket,” Helen explains.
March 19, 2012
10:50 AM EDT
The President put it best when he said, “Americans with disabilities are Americans first and foremost, and like all Americans are entitled to not only full participation in our society, but also full opportunity in our society.” And, the truth is that Americans with disabilities can’t fully participate and will not have the full opportunity to do so unless they have access to the technology that is so critical to that participation and those opportunities. That’s why, at the President’s direction, his Administration has focused on enhancing our commitment to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, so that Americans outside the government can access information about their government and those working inside the government can be productive employees.
Over the past few years, we have taken several affirmative steps regarding Section 508. For the first time, the Chief Information Officer Council and the Chief Acquisition Officer Council now jointly chair the Chief Information Officers Accessibility Committee. Following that creation, in July 2010, OMB issued a memorandum, Improving the Accessibility of Government Information to set forth additional steps. This memo focused on (1) increasing awareness of responsibilities and requirements associated with Section 508, (2) improving agency accountability and accessibility performance, and (3) improving outreach and communication. It also included a requirement to host listening sessions with the community across the nation to gather input on Federal implementation of Section 508.
Recognizing that we still needed to do more, in July 2011, the President announced an effort to develop a strategic plan for Section 508 and the intent to share the strategy with the public. To support development of this plan, senior officials and staff from across the Executive Office of the President have met with advocacy groups, Section 508 coordinators, the CIOC Accessibility Committee, the Access Board, the General Services Administration, and other key stakeholders inside and outside the government. We have taken the information from the listening sessions as well as all the input received through various stakeholder meetings and pulled together a framework for the next phase in our efforts to improve Section 508 management.
March 19, 2012
10:46 AM EDT
Ed Note: This was originally posted on HealthCare.gov, a website by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The President's health law gives hard working, middle-class families the security they deserve. The Affordable Care Act forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy through annual or lifetime limits, and, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition.
For seniors, the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, not only means more time with their doctor and important new benefits like free preventive services like cancer screenings and annual wellness visits, but it also means more money in their pocket. The new health care law strengthens Medicare. Already, more than 5.1 million seniors and people with disabilities saved over $3.2 billion in drug costs. That comes to an average savings of $635 per person for seniors caught in the coverage gap known as the donut hole. And, 32.5 million people with Medicare have received preventive service without a deductible or copay, thanks to the new law.
Here are more ways the law helps seniors:
- You get free preventive services. Medicare now covers certain preventive services, like mammograms or colonoscopies, with no cost sharing. You also can get a free annual wellness visit.
- You get cheaper prescription drugs. If you’re in the donut hole, you will receive a 50 percent discount when buying brand-name prescription drugs covered by Medicare Part D. The discount is applied automatically when you fill your prescription—you don’t have to do anything to get it. These changes are already saving seniors billions of dollars. And by 2020, the donut hole will be closed.
- Your doctors are supported to better coordinate your care. Many doctors, hospitals, and other providers are taking advantage of new programs to help them work better as teams to provide you the highest quality care possible. They are working to get you the care you need at the time you need it.
- The law fights fraud and strengthens Medicare. The Affordable Care Act builds on our efforts to combat fraud and abuse. These efforts are saving billions of dollars in money that was being stolen from people with Medicare. And thanks to these efforts and other improvements, the life of the Medicare Trust fund has been extended.
- Your Medicare coverage is protected. Under the new health care law, your existing Medicare-covered benefits won’t be reduced or taken away. As always, you will be able to choose your own doctors.
Kori SchulmanMarch 19, 2012
09:19 AM EDT
Today, we’re pleased to bring back “First Question” – an online engagement series that utilizes social media to answer questions from citizens across the country.
You’ve probably seen White House press secretary Jay Carney take questions from the press in the Brady Briefing Room here at the White House. With “First Question,” we’re inviting Americans to ask their questions online for Jay to answer.
So, what’s your question for the White House press secretary? Here’s how it works:
- In the morning, Jay will ask for that day's questions in a post to his @PressSec Twitter account. Be sure to follow his account and the White House's main Twitter account (@WhiteHouse) to find out when we’re open for questions.
- Once @PressSec has posted, anyone can fire away with questions using the hashtag #1q on Twitter. If you see a question you'd like answered, retweet it. You can also ask your question on the White House’s Google+ page and +1 the questions you like.
- Over the next hour or two, we’ll collect your questions.
- Jay will answer some of the questions you submitted and we’ll post the response on WhiteHouse.gov, Twitter and Google+.
We’re always looking for new ways and technologies to connect Americans with their White House. We hope you’ll participate in First Question and stay tuned for more chances to engage with the White House online.
March 18, 2012
08:56 AM EDT
Ed note: Former WNBA player and four-time Olympic champion Lisa Leslie joined First Lady Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron, wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Washington, D.C., area children in a mini-Olympics competition to celebrate the 2012 London Summer Olympics and the “Let’s Move!” initiative. The First Lady will lead the Presidential Delegation to the Opening Ceremonies of the Games.
When I was contacted to participate in the First Lady’s Let's Move initiative, I was thrilled! It was just as much of an honor to have the opportunity to introduce Michelle Obama as it was to represent our country in the Olympics.
I also had the pleasure of meeting and introducing Samantha Cameron, the Prime Minister's wife of the United Kingdom. This summer, she will welcome people from all over the world to her country for the Summer Olympic Games.
We talked about nutrition and staying fit by choosing a healthy life style. The 60 kids then participated in a Mini Olympic Games with other Olympians and Paralympians such as Dominique Dawes and Dan O'Brien, to name a few. We taught them skills in: basketball, tennis, soccer, track and field but mostly we wanted to teach them that physical activity is fun and something they should do every day – with their friends, with their parents, even by themselves. And while it is great to have a goal like becoming an Olympian, participating in sports is about more than winning – it’s about learning new skills, getting stronger and faster and more agile. It’s about learning how to be your best self.
You never know which kid amongst us will become an Olympian, but our call to action was to spread the First Lady’s message to all kids and adults: Let's Move, Let's Move, Let's Move!
Megan SlackMarch 17, 2012
05:00 PM EDT
President Obama left the White House this afternoon to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by grabbing a pint of Guinness at the Dubliner, an Irish pub near the Capitol. Check out some photos from his visit to the bar below.
Matt ComptonMarch 17, 2012
05:30 AM EDT
Alejandra CampoverdiMarch 16, 2012
07:14 PM EDT
This past week, a group of twelve students ages 13-15 from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson College (EGA) in Islington, London visited Washington during the UK Official visit. EGA is an all-girls school with students ranging in ages from 11-17 where nearly 90% of the girls come from minority ethnic backgrounds and 2/3 speak English as a second language. First Lady Michelle Obama visited EGA during her trip to London in 2009 and invited a group of EGA students to join her at Oxford University in 2011, as well as to visit the United States. Their trip this week, which was focused on diplomacy, leadership and community, included a visit to the White House where they were joined by White House Mentees in attending a Women’s Leadership Panel in the State Dining Room. The panel was moderated by Sarah Hurwitz, Special Assistant to the President, Senior Advisor to the Council on Women and Girls and Senior Presidential Speechwriter, and featured four White House staffers – Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Policy and Projects for the First Lady Jocelyn Frye, Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Danielle Gray, Secret Service Agent Leslie Pichon, and myself.
While we initially spoke a bit about our professional backgrounds and what our jobs entail at the White House, the afternoon took a more personal turn as we took questions from the students. The girls wanted to know what kinds of obstacles we had overcome in our lives, if we ever felt insecure about our abilities or hesitant to share our opinions, and when we knew what we wanted to do in our careers. We shared our personal experiences and admitted to doubts, confusion and hurdles along the way. We all came from different backgrounds and experiences, parts of the country and perspectives, yet the common theme that came across from all the women on the panel was the importance of discovering your passion and having the courage to allow it to guide your path.
I imagine that I speak for the other panelists as well when I say that meeting these girls was a highlight of my experience at the White House. My background likely has similarities to theirs, despite being an ocean apart, which was something I talked about. I was raised in a Mexican immigrant household by a single mother and my family dealt with issues such as limited access to health care, unemployment, and immigration status, as well as struggling in general just to make ends meet. Spanish was the primary language in my home during my childhood and dreams such as working in the White House didn’t seem anywhere near the realm of possibility. I know how much it would have meant for me when I was their age to hear from women who came from similar experiences, faced comparable obstacles and overcame the statistics.
EGA’s motto is “learning without limits, achieve without limits and futures without limits.” I believe that truly is the most important lesson to internalize as one dares to find the courage to dream big. I hope in a small way, the girls were able to see themselves in us just as I was able to recognize myself in them. And just as President Obama encourages young people everywhere to “dream big dreams,” he is the example of the extraordinary places our dreams and our education can take us.
By White House Deputy Director of Hispanic Media Alejandra Campoverdi
March 16, 2012
07:04 PM EDT
Ed. note: The Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation is commemorating AmeriCorps Week to celebrate the remarkable individuals who have served and their contributions to our country. This blog post introduces readers to Todd Schnittke, a veteran who served from 1989-1993 and continues to serve through AmeriCorps. When asked about his AmeriCorps experience, Todd writes:
After serving our country for four years during the Gulf War as a Multiple Launch Rocket System Technician, I decided to resume my education and get a college degree. I learned about AmeriCorps after entering North Central State College in Mansfield, OH, and I was immediately drawn to the program. Working as an AmeriCorps member at AMVETS Career Center Post #26 in Mansfield offered me the unique opportunity to serve others in my community—especially active duty personnel and veterans—while earning the money I needed to attend college.
I am now in my second year as an AmeriCorps employment specialist at AMVETS. The rate of unemployment for veterans in the State of Ohio is around 16 percent—higher than the national average. The AMVETS Career Center where I work is one of 61 locations that help veterans secure employment through free job training, resume workshops, mock interviews, and access to employment opportunities.
Coming Home is Not Always Easy
The transition from the military to a civilian lifestyle can be very challenging, and I strongly believe that all men and women who risk their lives for our country should have every opportunity for success at home.
March 16, 2012
06:49 PM EDT
A quick look at what happened this week at WhiteHouse.gov:
No Quick Fix: Speaking from Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland on Thursday, the President explained his all-of-the-above strategy to develop every available source of American-made energy. “We need an energy strategy for the future,” the President explained. “Yes, develop as much oil and gas as we can, but also develop wind power and solar power and biofuels.”
Rock-Solid Alliance: On Wednesday morning, President Obama – together with the First Lady, the Vice President and Dr. Biden – welcomed British Prime Minister David Cameron and Samantha Cameron to the White House during the Official Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn. Later that evening, the Prime Minister and his wife were honored with a State Dinner, where they were joined by dignitaries from both countries. “In war and I peace, in times of plenty and times of hardship,” President Obama remarked, “we stand tall and proud and strong, together.”
Announcing a New Trade Case: After forming the Trade Enforcement Unit two weeks ago, President Obama announced on Wednesday that, “we’re bringing a new trade case against China – and we’re being joined by Japan and some of our European allies.” The effort is focused on expanding American manufacturers’ access to rare earth materials, which China currently supplies and, due to their policies, prevents the United States from obtaining.
Bracketology: Before the madness began, the President took time to fill out his brackets for the 2012 NCAA men and women’s basketball tournaments. While Kentucky, Ohio State and Mizzou made his Final Four, it’s the North Carolina Tar Heels who he selected as his national champion. On Monday night, the President headed to Dayton, Ohio with Prime Minister Cameron to catch some early round action in person.
Dr. Jill BidenMarch 16, 2012
05:07 PM EDT
Ed note: Dr. Jill Biden wrote this op-ed for USA Today.
Danny Anderson is an American hero. He is also a role model — in more ways than one.
Danny spent six years in the Army. He loved serving his country, and when he completed his time in the military, he was eager to find other ways to serve. So Danny decided to use his military benefits to earn his degree and enrolled in Hopkinsville Community College's nursing program. Through a partnership between Gateway Medical Center and Hopkinsville Community College in Kentucky, Danny became a registered nurse and is now employed in Gateway's emergency care department.
I met Danny last month when I traveled with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis on a five-state "Community College to Career" bus tour to highlight the types of successful community college industry partnerships that are working and can serve as models for the nation.
The impact Danny's community college education had on his life is clear — and is one I see replicated on community college campuses across the country, as well as in my own 18 years as a community college professor.
Kori SchulmanMarch 16, 2012
05:01 PM EDT
Two years ago, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act – legislation to improve our health care system – into law. As the President said in March, 2010: “The bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see.”
As we look back on two years of progress, senior administration officials are turning to Twitter to answer your questions about the Affordable Care Act in a series of White House Office Hours.
On Monday, March 19th at 10:30 a.m. EST, Nancy-Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff and former Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, will be on Twitter for "Office Hours." Then on Friday, March 23rd at 2:00 p.m. EST, Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, will answer your questions.
A unique view of 2012