Read all posts from December 2011
Matt ComptonDecember 31, 2011
05:30 AM EDT
Matt ComptonDecember 30, 2011
03:00 PM EDT
In September 2009, the President announced that—for the first time in history—White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in September 2011. Today’s release also includes several visitor records generated prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public in November 2011 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy. This release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to more than 1.9 million records—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.
Ed. Note: For more information, check out Ethics.gov.
December 30, 2011
02:45 PM EDT
All week, we've been sharing some highlights from 2011. Now it's time for another special list.
After much debate, the interns in the White House Office of Digital Strategy have decided on their 10 must-see videos of 2011. These funny, memorable, inspirational—and even quirky—videos highlight the best behind-the-scenes moments at the White House and feature sensational musical performances, holiday preparations, civil rights leaders, impressive young Americans, and more.
Take a closer look inside the White House and see the behind-the-scenes footage that you don’t want to miss. For even more White House videos from 2011 and years past , visit Youtube.com/WhiteHouse.
10. Smart Youngsters Saving the World: Google Science Fair
This October, President Obama welcomed the winners of the first-ever Google Global Science Fair to the White House. Hear the stories of the three remarkable, young, American women who swept the awards and find out what the journey to success has been like.
Don’t Miss: Cancer research, air quality control, and chicken marinades…unlocking scientific discoveries at the age of 14! Watch the video here.
9. The First Lady Rocks to Beyonce
In May, First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise visit to Alice Deal Middle School to join students in a Lets Move! Flash Workout. More than 600 schools across the country participated in similar workouts at the same time.
Don’t Miss: A special tribute to Beyonce’s dance moves from our very own First Lady, Michelle Obama. Watch the video here.
Derek DouglasDecember 30, 2011
01:38 PM EDT
Today, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development released the report “Federal Rental Alignment: Administrative Proposals” which lays out a broad vision for improving the delivery and operation of affordable housing across the country. The initiatives in this report – many of which are already being implemented - will streamline federal housing requirements to support more efficient delivery of affordable housing, and help state and federal agencies’ staff to better serve low-income families who rent their homes. The Administration's goal is to make government work better by reducing the unintended consequences associated with the reality of housing finance today – multiple overlapping public investments on a given rental property.
The report includes ten initiatives proposed by the Rental Policy Working Group that will more efficiently align rental programs across government agencies, including inspections, financial reporting, appraisals, energy efficiency standards, and fair housing compliance enforcement, among others. And every one of these improvements can be done without legislation or new funding, through a combination of education, outreach, issuing Agency guidance, and rule changes.
This effort dates back to 2010 when the White House Domestic Policy Council created the interagency Rental Policy Working Group (RPWG) with the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and the Treasury. The RPWG convened several conferences at the White House with local and state housing agencies and property owners and developers to discuss best practices in affordable housing delivery.
As we begin implementation of these initiatives, we look forward to sharing our progress with you and hope you will keep in touch with our efforts through the Domestic Policy Council Urban Affairs blog and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's site.
Derek Douglas is a Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council
Matt ComptonDecember 30, 2011
12:00 AM EDT
This week, we're taking a look back at the President's third year in office, highlighting behind-the-scenes footage and some of our favorite Presidential moments.
Watch West Wing Week here.
Megan SlackDecember 29, 2011
05:00 PM EDT
May 1, 2011: President Obama and his top national security aides gathered in the White House Situation Room receive minute-by-minute updates about the Navy SEAL operation in Pakistan that ended with the death of Osama bin Laden.
September 11, 2011: President Obama takes a moment to reflect at the newly opened September 11 memorial in New York on the tenth anniversary of the attacks. The memorial features two reflecting pools built over the towers' footprints where the names of the victims are etched in bronze
July 16, 2011: President Obama meets with the Dalai Lama.
July 15, 2011: Norman Rockwell's iconic painting "The Problem We All Live With," depicting the desegregation of New Orleans schools, hangs in the West Wing at President Obama's request. Ruby Bridges, the girl portrayed in the image, joined the President to see how a painting commemorating this personal and historic milestone looks hanging on the wall outside of the Oval Office.
Colleen CurtisDecember 29, 2011
12:47 PM EDT
More than 1.2 million people “Like” WhiteHouse.gov on Facebook, and one thing we noticed throughout 2011 is that many of you also like sharing your thoughts on the stories and videos we post on our page. Here are the top 10 stories people commented on in 2011:
December 20, 2011: What Does $40 Mean to You? What would you have to give up or go without? Share your story here and add your voice to the debate.
December 10, 2011: "Do Republicans in Congress think our financial crisis was caused by too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors? Of course not. And every day America has to wait for a new consumer protection watchdog is another day that dishonest businesses can target and take advantage of students, seniors, and service members." - President Obama
October 1, 2011: “These are the people who need a win, and I will be fighting for this jobs bill every day on their behalf. If anyone watching feels the same way, don’t be shy about letting your Congressman know. It is time for the politics to end. Let’s pass this jobs bill." - President Obama
Matt ComptonDecember 28, 2011
02:31 PM EDT
This was a year marked by some major moments at the White House -- and we were fortunate enough to capture a lot of them on film. Check out the top 10 most popular videos of the year from YouTube:
On May 1, 2011, President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been slain by U.S. forces.
Watch President Obama's full remarks here.
On January 25, 2011, President Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to give a State of the Union address.
Watch President Obama's full remarks here.
In the Weekly Address on Christmas Eve, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama offered a holiday tribute to the men and women of the U.S. military.
Watch President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama's full remarks here.
As part of his appearance at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, President Obama showed a trailer for a proposed White House sequel to "The King's Speech."
Watch the video here.
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusDecember 28, 2011
12:06 PM EDT
As we ring in the New Year, we also want to take a minute to reflect on the progress we made in 2011. I’m proud to say that we had a very productive year for protecting the health of all Americans, especially those who are least able to help themselves. From strengthening Medicare to expanding access to preventive services to holding insurance companies accountable – young adults, families, and seniors have begun to see benefits from the health care law that took effect in 2010.
Here are eight important ways that you or your family might have benefited from the health law in 2011:
Making Sure More Americans Have Health Coverage – 2.5 million more young adults have health insurance coverage thanks to a provision in the health law allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. This means more young adults in this country can now go on and live their lives with less worry about visiting their doctor when they get sick, or facing catastrophic medical bills if they are in an accident.
Families around the country are benefitting from this part of the law, including families like the Houghs, whose daughter Natalie was diagnosed with a rare heart condition after suffering cardiac arrest at school. Her condition requires a lifetime of medication and care. Now, thanks to the health care law, Natalie can stay on her family’s plan and has started college. And by the time she turns 26 it will be illegal for a plan to deny coverage to anyone, regardless of their health, and Natalie will have access to a choice of quality, affordable health plans.
Shedding Light on Insurance Companies – Prior to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies in too many states were able to raise their rates without explaining their actions. But now, insurers who want to hike their rates by 10%or more have to explain and justify those increases in writing. Experts will scrutinize those explanations and, in many cases, can tell the insurer to reduce their price.
As a result of this law, over the last year, 42 states, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories have stiffened their oversight of proposed health insurance rate increases. And results are beginning to come in. For example, Connecticut’s Insurance Department rejected a 20% rate hike by one insurer. And Oregon chopped the rate increase by one of its largest insurers almost in half, saving money for 60,000 people.
Giving You More Value for Your Dollar – A new consumer protection took effect in 2011 called the 80 / 20 rule. It makes sure that at least 80%of your premium dollars are being spent on health care and improving your care – not on advertising and executive salaries. If your insurer fails this test, you get a rebate, starting this summer. This rule makes sure that you get your money’s worth from your health insurance company.
Colleen CurtisDecember 27, 2011
01:13 PM EDT
On December 4, the President welcomed the 2011 Kennedy Center honorees to the White House for a ceremony before the live performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The annual awards show celebrates individuals who have made a lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts—whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television.
This year’s honorees are singer Barbara Cook, singer and songwriter Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins, and actress Meryl Streep.
Before you tune in for the "Kennedy Center Honors" tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on CBS, take a look at what the honorees had to say about being recognized for their body of work -- and about being invited to the White House. Watch the video here.
December 27, 2011
12:23 PM EDT
Ed. note: The application for the Summer 2012 White House Internship Program is now open. This blog post introduces readers to Aisha Hasan, a former intern who worked in the Office of the Vice President in the spring of 2011. When asked about her internship experience, Aisha writes:
“If someone had told me prior to the spring of 2011 that I would someday intern at the White House, or that I would have the honor of hearing the President, the Vice President, the First Lady, and other senior members of the Obama Administration speak, I would have quickly dismissed the thought as being beyond my wildest dreams.
But, once I received notice that I had been accepted into the White House Internship Program, I knew that I was about to begin the most transformational journey of my life.
The four and a half months that I spent interning in the Vice President’s Domestic Policy Office at the White House were, undoubtedly, the best months of my life. I woke up every morning with a vibrant smile on my face, excited for what that day would bring. The days passed quickly as I simultaneously assisted with conducting research, writing memos, staffing events, managing public inquiries, and attending meetings in a fast-paced environment. Friday evenings brought a yearning for Monday mornings when I would return to those majestic halls to observe and assist with important work for our country.
From watching Marine One land on the South Lawn, to having thought-provoking conversations with White House senior advisors, there was never a dull moment. Every day at the White House was a unique gift filled with diverse events and exceptional learning opportunities. From working on issues such as the Vice President’s initiative on ending violence against women, to tutoring students through a community service project at a local high school, as an intern, I gained a plethora of invaluable skills and made friendships that will last forever.
The knowledge, confidence, and exposure that I gained from this internship have given me the ability to execute any task in an effective manner. Even now, my White House internship experience continues to propel me in my work and studies. If you are interested in positively changing the world and you are yearning for an experience that will deepen your understanding of public service, do not wait another second – the time is now – apply for the Summer 2012 White House Internship Program.”
The White House Internship Program’s mission is to make the “People’s House” accessible to future leaders from around the nation. Consider applying for this program today.
Megan SlackDecember 27, 2011
11:15 AM EDT
Yesterday, the President and First Lady sent their warmest wishes to all those celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season:
Today marks the beginning of the week-long celebration honoring African American heritage and culture through the seven principles of Kwanzaa -- unity, self determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
We celebrate Kwanzaa at a time when many African Americans and all Americans reflect on our many blessings and memories over the past year and our aspirations for the year to come. And even as there is much to be thankful for, we know that there are still too many Americans going through enormous challenges and trying to make ends meet. But we also know that in the spirit of unity, or Umoja, we can overcome those challenges together.
As families across America and around the world light the red, black, and green candles of the Kinara this week, our family sends our well wishes and blessings for a happy and healthy new year.
Colleen CurtisDecember 26, 2011
09:02 AM EDT
Learn the history behind the White House menorah. Watch the video here.
A very special menorah was the centerpiece of this year's Hanukkah celebration at the White House. It was created in a displaced persons’ camp after World War II and is dedicated to General Joseph T. McNarney, who served as the Commander in Chief of United States Forces in the European theatre from November 1945 to March 1947.
The Hebrew inscription on the lamp, “A great miracle happened there,” is found on the dreidls (or tops) that children play with on Hanukkah and refers to the miracle of Hanukkah, but may in this instance also poignantly signify the liberation and salvation of the Jews in the displaced persons’ camp.
Megan SlackDecember 24, 2011
10:00 AM EDT
The holidays are a very special time at the White House, from the magnificent decorations in every room to the festive celebrations held throughout the month of December. This year’s holiday theme, “Shine, Give, Share,” honors members of the military and their families for all that they do and sacrifice for our nation. The décor throughout the White House, hung with care by a team of volunteers from 37 different states, reflects the theme and pays tribute to our service members and their loved ones.
We pulled together a roundup of some of our favorite videos that take you inside the White House during this special time of year.
Watch a time lapse video of volunteers transforming the White House over a long weekend. Check out the video here.
A closer look at how the White House and Naval Observatory, the Vice President’s official residence, put military families at the center of their holiday celebrations. Check out the video here.
Meet “The Littlest Bo,” and learn more about the Bo topiaries created as part of the seasonal decor. Check out the video here.
For more holiday coverage, visit our 2011 holiday page.
Colleen CurtisDecember 24, 2011
05:30 AM EDT
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama offer a special holiday tribute to some of the strongest, bravest, and most resilient members of our American family – the men and women who wear our country’s uniform and the families who support them:
Watch President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama's full remarks here.
Katelyn SabochikDecember 23, 2011
05:07 PM EDT
Today, President Obama sent the email below to the White House email list. Earlier this week, we asked the folks on our email list to share their stories about what losing $40 a paycheck would mean for them and their families if Congress didn't pass the payroll tax cut. The response was overwhelming. To date, over 42,000 people have shared their stories with us via WhiteHouse.gov and many more have shared their stories on Twitter using the hastag #40dollars. These voices in the debate made a real difference and today, President Obama signed a 2-month extension of the payroll tax cut into law.
Earlier this week, it looked like Congress would go home for the holidays without preventing a tax increase that would mean millions of American families would have about $40 less in each paycheck.
But then something pretty incredible happened.
It began when we asked everyone to show us how that missing $40 would affect them and their families. In a matter of hours thousands of vivid, powerful stories from Americans of all ages, all backgrounds, from every corner across the country were pouring in. For some, $40 means dinner out with a child who's home for the holidays. For others it means a tank of gas or a charitable donation. In just two days, tens of thousands of Americans were making their voices heard.
You spoke up. Your voices made all the difference.
Thanks to you, Congress reached an agreement to extend the payroll tax cut. On top of that, vital unemployment insurance will continue for millions of Americans who are looking for work.
Yesterday I had the chance to meet a few of the folks who took to the web to make this happen.
We aren't done fighting for the middle class. When Congress returns, they need to keep working to reach an agreement that will extend this tax cut and unemployment insurance for all of 2012 -- without drama or delay.
That's just the beginning of our work ahead in the new year to put more Americans back to work, restore middle-class security, and ensure that folks who work hard and play by the rules get a fair shot.
More than ever I'm confident that, together, those are goals we can achieve.
Thank you, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays,
President Barack Obama
Colleen CurtisDecember 23, 2011
02:25 PM EDT
Watch President Obama's full remarks here.
President Obama today signed into law a two month extension of the payroll tax cut, which means that 160 million American workers will not see their paychecks shrink starting Jan 1, 2012. The President thanked Congress for ending the stalemate and urged them to keep working to reach an agreement that extends this tax cut as well as unemployment insurance through all of 2012, saying it is the right thing to do for American families and for the economy, and called it "a boost that we very much need right now."
The extension came after tens of thousands of working Americans turned to the internet to let politicians in Washington know just how much they were relying on that tax break, which amounts to about $40 per paycheck for a family making $50,000 a year, and the President acknowledged just how valuable their contributions had been to the conversation happening in the Capital:
Finally, I want to take a moment to thank my fellow Americans for bringing their voices to this debate. I met with several here at the White House yesterday. I really think it takes courage to believe that your voice can make a difference. And I promise you, the American people, your voices made a difference on this debate. Whether you tweeted or called or wrote, you reminded people in this town what this debate and what all of our debates should be about -- it’s about you. It’s about your lives. It’s about your families. You didn’t send us to this town to play partisan games, and to see who’s up and who’s down. You sent us here to serve and make your lives a little bit better; to do what’s right. And fortunately, that’s how this week ended.
The President called on Congress to redouble their efforts to make sure the economy is growing and that jobs are being created, and called this period a make-or-break moment for the middle class in this country..
Megan SlackDecember 23, 2011
01:12 PM EDT
Unlike the Ghost of Christmas Past, the White House of Christmas Past was full of cheer and holiday spirit. Take a look at some of our favorite videos from the last two years highlighting some of the things that make holidays at the White House such an exciting time of year.
A Favorite Holiday Tradition: Building the White House gingerbread house (2009)
Watch a video about the White House gingerbread house here.
Touring the 2009 White House Holiday Decor
Watch a tour of the White House holiday decor here.
Time Lapse: Installing the White House Christmas Tree (2010)
Watch a time lapse video of the official White House Christmas Tree here.
Behind the scenes with volunteers as they decorate for the holidays in 2010
Watch a behind the scenes video of volunteers decorating for the holidays here.
December 23, 2011
10:24 AM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Energy.gov
Since 1998, scientists at the Energy Department's Los Alamos National Laboratory have been using the latest in satellite and radar technology to track Rudolph’s red nose, and in doing so, Santa, as he cruises the globe on December 24th. Thanks to their expert work, we can follow his journey live starting at 6AM EST on Christmas Eve.
Last December, I had the pleasure of talking with the program's lead researcher, Diane Roussel-Dupre. She explained in detail how the lab uses advanced optical cameras and radar receivers on the FORTE and Cibola Flight Experiment space satellites to monitor the breathtakingly-fast gift-giving team and talked openly about Mrs. Claus’ appreciation that the lab can help assure Santa and the reindeers safe travels throughout the night.
Question: I can hardly believe it's been a whole year since we first met. How do you keep yourself busy during the rest of the year?
Diane Roussel-Dupre: I work on several different projects, but one that relates to Santa Tracking is working on the Los Alamos National Laboratory space situational awareness team. We are trying to find ways to keep Santa safe from space debris during his around-the-world adventures.
Q: How did everything go last year? Any surprises or lessons learned?
DRD: Last year went pretty smoothly, though Santa did give us the slip for a few minutes when he used a cloaking device to stop and visit some of our armed forces troops in hospitals in the Middle East. He also evaded us to visit several children's hospitals in Europe, deviating from his original flight path. Just prior to that disappearance, we discovered that his sled and his reindeers' reigns emit very faint electrostatic discharge -- like very weak lightning, the signature of which we can now track.
Q: Are there any changes to the technology this year? Have there been any scientific advances you'll be able to utilize?
DRD: Well, the Cibola Flight Experiment payload can be reconfigured once on orbit. So this year, we put up a new, more sensitive detection algorithm to help track Santa when he is on the ground in snow storms. We think we will also be able to better see the static discharge from the reindeer reins and on the sled.
Q: Do you ever do an after-action review with Santa himself? Any tips we can use? Recommendations for what types of cookies he likes best?
DRD: No, Santa is way too tired to do any after-action review, so we choose not to disturb his rest. With regards to cookies, I believe that Santa really enjoys the wide variety of cookies that the kids put out for him around the world. However, I am sure that in New Mexico, he really enjoys the biscochitos, a regional favorite during the holidays.
Matt ComptonDecember 23, 2011
12:00 AM EDT
With the holidays in full swing and the countdown clock ticking away, President Obama continued to press for the extension of the payroll tax cut for 160 million working Americans and unemployment insurance benefits for those looking for work. The President urged House Republicans to put aside their political games and pass a bill that garnered overwhelming, bipartisan support in the US Senate.
Watch West Wing Week here.