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  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's blog. See the original post here.

    Acid rain. Dangerous DDT. Toxic leaded gas fumes. Rampant air pollution. These environmental challenges once seemed impossible to meet, and they put our nation’s air, water, and land at risk — not to mention our families’ health. The dangers they posed were real, but you probably haven’t heard about them in a while. There’s a good reason for that.

    We put smart policies in place to fix them.

    So this Earth Day, here’s a reminder of a few of the environmental challenges our nation has conquered with EPA leading the way, and where we’re headed next.


    Acid Rain

    Watch on YouTube

    Caused by air pollution mixing with water vapor in the atmosphere, acid rain was once poisoning our rivers and lakes, killing fish, forests, and wildlife, and even eroding our buildings.

    The 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act gave EPA the authority to regulate sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the pollutants causing acid rain, from power plants. The EPA developed the first market-based cap-and-trade pollution reduction program, and guess what — it worked.

    Despite the doomsday warnings from some in the power industry that the regulations would cause electricity prices to spike and lead to blackouts, over the last 25 years, acid rain levels are down 60 percent — while electricity prices have stayed stable, and the lights have stayed on. Thanks to hard work by EPA, states, and industry, our nation has put policies in place to solve the problem over the long haul.

  • This is a picture of Taylor Smith from Holly Springs, Georgia, with her sister, Gabrielle.

    Taylor Smith photo

    Taylor Smith (right) with her sister, Gabrielle Smith.

    Taylor died of an overdose.

    Her mother, Tanya Smith, writes: 

    "Taylor was a freshman, junior varsity and varsity squad basketball and football cheerleader at Creekview High School; known for her quick wit and infectious squeaky laugh, she was an avid animal rescuer, and quickly came to the defense of those she felt were treated unfairly. She was 20 years old when she overdosed in the company of friends, who subsequently dumped her body in the yard of an abandoned trailer to avoid arrest for drug possession.”

    Taylor might still be alive if her friends had known that Georgia, along with 21 other states and the District of Columbia, has legal protections in place that shield people possessing drugs from criminal liability if they’re helping someone having an overdose. 

    Her mother Tanya has channeled her grief into action, pushing to make sure that law enforcement officers in her town now carry naloxone — the antidote for opioid overdose. 

  • President Obama is currently working with Congress to secure the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the most progressive trade deal in history.

    The President knows that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype. That’s why he is negotiating a deal that reflects American values: A free and open Internet, fully enforceable environmental standards, fully enforceable labor standards, and much more. 

    Labor Secretary Tom Perez sat down with Greg Sargent from the Washington Post’s Plum Line to talk TPP and how the President’s modern trade deal will put American workers first. 

    Check out a few excerpts from their conversation below or read the whole interview here.


    The Plum Line: There’s a tremendous amount of suspicion about trade deals. Prior trade deals didn’t raise wages or bargaining rights. What specifically will be in TPP that is somehow different from these other deals, from the point of view of the standard of living of American workers?

    Secretary Perez: I share the skepticism that my friends have about NAFTA. It was woefully weak in protecting workers and on the enforcement side. The question is: Can we meaningfully build a trade regime that has as its North Star protecting American workers and American jobs through meaningful enforcement? I think we can. It’s imperative that we not default to the status quo, which would mean we don’t fix NAFTA.

    We have to bake labor provisions into the core of an agreement. TPP would do that. Under NAFTA, countries had to simply promise to uphold the laws of their own nations. Now the provisions baked into TPP are: You must enact or make sure you have already in place meaningful labor protections, such as the freedom of association, health and safety, acceptable conditions of work.

  • This morning, Senior Advisor Brian Deese sent the following message to the White House email list, highlighting the President's upcoming trip to the Everglades to draw attention to the impacts of climate change.

    Brian also asked readers to get involved and share a National Park or natural space that they would fight to protect from the effects of climate change, and to share it with their friends and followers on social media.

    Didn't get the message? Sign up for email updates here.


    Here's where the President is traveling for the very first time this Wednesday:

    That's the Everglades -- one of our country's most unique and treasured landscapes. But Wednesday's trip is about more than touring an iconic National Park on Earth Day. Here's why:

    The Everglades are flat, and they border a rising ocean. As the sea levels rise, the shorelines erode, and that salty water travels inland, threatening the aquifers supplying fresh drinking water to Floridians. That doesn't just destroy a beautiful and unique national landscape. It threatens an $82 billion state tourism economy, and drinking water for more than 7 million Americans -- more than a third of Florida's population.

    This Earth Day, we're far beyond a debate about climate change's existence. We're focused on mitigating its very real effects here at home, preparing our communities where its impacts are already being felt, and leading an international effort for action. And the President has already acted in big ways. Over the last eight years, the United States has cut more carbon pollution than any other country, while creating 12.1 million private-sector jobs over 61 months; setting aside more public lands and waters than any Administration in history; and releasing a Clean Power Plan to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants -- the single-biggest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.

  • President Obama Weekly Address April 17

    President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. April 16, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    In this week’s address, the President spoke about his commitment to combatting the threat of climate change and to keeping ourselves and future generations safe. The effects of climate change can no longer be denied or ignored – 2014 was the planet’s warmest year recorded, and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have happened this century.

    Climate change poses risks to our national security, our economy, and our public health. The President has already taken historic steps to address climate change, but there’s more that the United States and the international community can do. That’s why next Wednesday, on Earth Day, in the latest part of his effort to call attention to and act on the threat of climate change, the President will visit the Florida Everglades and speak about the threat that climate change poses to our economy and to the world.

    The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, April 18, 2015.

    Transcript | mp4 | mp3

  • President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi participate in a press conference

    President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy participate in a press conference in the East Room of the White House, April 17, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Earlier today, President Obama hosted Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the White House for a bilateral meeting and a working lunch.

    At the press conference between the two events, President Obama praised Prime Minister Renzi's energy and vision as well as his "willingness to challenge the status quo and to look to the future," noting that these qualities have made the Prime Minister a leading voice in Europe.

  • This spring, the President and First Lady will once again open up the White House grounds to visitors from across the country for the 2015 Spring Garden tour! The White House Garden Tours have been a tradition since 1972, when First Lady Pat Nixon decided to open up the White House gardens twice a year.

    And, in keeping with President Obama’s vision to make the White House as transparent and accessible as possible, we are turning the annual Garden Tour into the next in our series of White House Socials.

    Which means that this year, like the last few, we are inviting some of our social media followers to join us!

    We want you to apply to come to the White House: we’re inviting visitors from near and far to apply to attend today.

  • From the size of your paychecks to the duration of your paid leave to the amount you pay in taxes, this was a week of conversation about key issues facing American families. President Obama traveled to Charlotte to hold a town hall with working women, honored leading advocates as Champions of Change at the White House, spoke about the importance of making sure a woman receives the same pay as a man for working the same job, and highlighted how his tax plan supports 44 million middle-class families.

    In case you missed it, here are a couple highlights from the week.


    The President Holds a Town Hall with Working Women:

    President Obama traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday for a special conversation with working women, co-hosted with leading women's sites BlogHer and SheKnows. He took questions both from those in the audience -- as well as from people asking questions online using the hashtag #ObamaTownHall.

  • This week, the President wrapped up a trip to Panama, held a historic meeting with President Raul Castro of Cuba, grooved with Gospel artists, held a town hall about working families, and kicked off a Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride. That's April 10th to April 16th or, "The Quintessential Sounds."

  • Yesterday, I was honored to join President Obama and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez in celebrating 12 "Champions of Change" — ordinary people doing extraordinary things! Each helping more working parents and families succeed.

    These Champions have helped advance policies that are good for both families and businesses — such as a higher minimum wage, equal pay, paid leave, workplace flexibility, and affordable quality child care. Our "champs" are proving that these policies are not just about doing what is right for our families — they are about doing what is smart for our businesses and our economy.  

  • Vice President Biden on UPSkilling

    Vice President Joe Biden and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf talk to workers at Pacific Gas and Electric, in Oakland, California. April 10, 2015. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Last year, the President laid out a vision for our job training system that – as he explained – “trains our workers first based on what employers are telling us they’re hiring for and helps business design the training programs so that we’re creating a pipeline into jobs that are actually out there.” This month, the Administration is taking two key steps to realize that vision – both by partnering with industry and by reforming our own job training system. 

  • Last week, folks from a broad range of diverse backgrounds came together at the White House to discuss a common goal: improving the lives of Native youth. Over a hundred nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, tribal leaders, Native youth, and members of the President’s Cabinet joined the dialogue. We heard devastating stories and statistics from young people and research experts about the high rates of unemployment, domestic violence, and homelessness in many Native communities.

    But, we also heard stories of hope. Nonprofit, philanthropic, federal agency, and tribal leaders discussed the work they are doing to create opportunities for Native young people to use their intellect and perseverance to achieve great things. Native youth shared stories about strengthening their communities through public service and community engagement. Members of the President’s Cabinet described the importance of new Federal investments in education, health, and economic development in Indian Country.

    The First Lady provided remarks and talked about her visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation last June. She described her visit with the President to Cannon Ball, North Dakota -- part of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation -- and the pride, courage, determination, and maturity she witnessed there. And, with those ideals in mind, she noted both the urgency and value of investing in Native youth.

  • The First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces in April 2011 to call on Americans across the country to rally around service members, veterans, and their families.

    This month, Joining Forces is celebrating its fourth anniversary! We're talking about how we can inspire, educate, and spark action from all sectors of society to ensure service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.

    Want to join the conversation? We'll be focusing on specific themes throughout the month. Around each theme, the Joining Forces team will be hosting a Twitter chat to answer your questions on mental health, homelessness, employment, and education -- and hear from you.

    Ask your questions and join the conversation now using the hashtags below, and we'll answer from @JoiningForces on the day of the chat!

  • The Senate and House are taking up the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 — an overhaul of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would bring how we trade into the 21st century. TPA — and the quality jobs, wages, and critical environmental and labor protections that would come from it — is an important step forward for the President’s trade agenda and for leveling the playing field for American workers. 

    Trade authority has a long bipartisan history, dating back to President Franklin Roosevelt. In the decades since the New Deal Congress passed the first trade negotiating legislation, Congress has renewed and modernized that authority 18 different times, under both Democratic and Republican Presidents alike. 

    Through Trade Promotion Authority, Congress does three important things:

    • It defines Congress’s specific objectives for U.S. trade negotiators to follow when crafting an agreement.
    • It lays out how trade negotiators should work with Congress before and during the negotiations.
    • It puts in place the congressional procedures for legislation on trade agreements.

    Congress last passed TPA legislation in 2002, and an update is more than overdue.

    Passing a modernized TPA is important for two reasons.

  • Today, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald welcomed members of all five U.S. military branches to the White House for the eighth-annual Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride. The President, Vice President, and Secretary McDonald led the cheers as participants rode around the South Lawn- the first stop in their three-day, 60-mile long cycling tour.

    Wounded Warrior 8th Ride

    President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers remarks welcoming the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride to the South Lawn of the White House in celebration of the eighth annual Soldier Ride, April 16, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • This morning, Randy George — founder of the Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex, Vermont — sent the following message to the White House email list. He's here today with the President, the Secretary of Labor, and others to talk about the importance of workplace policies that support working families and encourage workplace flexibility.

    Tune in live at 12:15 p.m. ET, and join the conversation online using the hashtag #WorkingFamilyChamps. And if you didn't get this email, make sure to sign up for updates here.


    Hi,

    I'm Randy, the founder of the Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex, Vermont.

    Our 42 employees are the core of everything we do  the heart of Red Hen. That is why my wife Liza and I insist on providing paid sick days, an equal and livable wage, health coverage, and other benefits that help everyone balance the work they love with the life they lead. Through these workplace policies, we know we're making our employees more secure, our bakery more productive, and our business more profitable.

    It's common sense  plain and simple. That's why I'm so excited and honored to be at the White House today as a "Champion of Change" for working families. I'll be joining President Obama, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, and other champions of workplace policies to talk about how crucial they are to building a stronger business. This is too important of an issue for anyone to sit on the sidelines. So you should join us, too.

    Watch live at the White House today starting at 12:15 p.m. ET to hear what ordinary people are doing to make an extraordinary difference for America's hardworking men and women.

  • Watch on YouTube

    This afternoon, President Obama traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina for a special town hall event, co-hosted with leading women's sites BlogHer and She Knows. During the conversation, the President talked with working women about some of the issues they care the most about -- such as paying for child care or sending their children to college.

  • The President and First Lady hosted music legends and top gospel artists at the White House yesterday for the latest installment of “In Performance at the White House.” The evening of musical performances paid tribute to the fundamental role that gospel music has played in shaping American history and culture.

    “Gospel music has evolved over time, but its heart stays true," the President said. “It still has an unmatched power to strike the deepest chord in all of us.”

    Watch the President’s full remarks here:

    Watch on YouTube

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the National Endowment for the Arts' blog. See the original post here.

    Jane Chu with parents

    Jane Chu and her parents.

    As Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), I work with a dedicated and passionate group of people and organizations to support and fund the arts in communities across America. I believe what we do is so important, not just to celebrate and affirm the arts as a national priority critical to America's well-being and future; the power of the arts can be transformative and I've experienced firsthand how this works. My story is especially relevant today as the White House Task Force on New Americans has released its report to the President on recommended actions the federal government can take to build integrated and welcoming communities across the nation.

    I was born into multiple cultures, often with seemingly opposing perspectives. Had I not been engaged with the arts, I don’t know if I would have been able to make sense of my own life.

  • Ed. note: The following piece was originally posted on BlogHer.comTune in today at 2:35 p.m. ET to watch the President answer questions about working women and family issues. Want to join the conversation? Post your questions and comments in the comments section of related posts on BlogHer and SheKnows -- or on social media using the hashtag #ObamaTownHall. 


    As it turns out, you don't have to be a political wonk to have a policy discussion. And that's the way it should be.

    Because here's the reality: When you ask your coworker whether your company offers paid sick leave, you're having a policy discussion. When you ask your boss why you don’t earn the same salary for the same work as the men in the office, you’re having a policy discussion. When you try and put money away for retirement, pay off your student loans each month, deposit your paycheck, or drop your kids off at daycare—those everyday actions are shaped by the policies on the books at your workplace.

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