Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Christmas begins!" when the White House Christmas Tree arrives

You know it's the Christmas holiday season in Washington when the official White House Christmas tree makes its arrival.

On Friday First Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by her two young nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson, graciously accepted the last Christmas tree of her tenure. The tree made its way up to the North Portico of the White House by a horse-drawn carriage flanked with a sign on the both sides that read, White House Christmas Tree 2016, while a military quartet played, O', Christmas Tree.

It isn't an elaborate ceremony by any stretch of the imagination, lasting just under ten minutes, but still delights reporters and guests who get an up close view of the first family and first dogs Bo and Sunny.

FLOTUS walks toward White House after accepting this year's Christmas tree
with her young nephews Aaron and Austin Robinson. Photo/CD Brown.
Past Christmas tree receptions have always featured Obama daughters Sasha and Malia. The girls opted out of this year's reception (and turkey pardoning), leaving a younger Obama generation to experience both White House traditions.

Mrs. Obama referred to her two young nephews as this year's "replacement kids."  The 'replacement kids' took in all the delight of the occasion posing for pictures in front of the tree and along side the horse-drawn carriage before the ceremony; photographs that will likely serve as family mementos as the Obamas wind down their final year in the White House.

"This is what happens when you get teenagers", Mrs. Obama said.

"One is asleep, these two are up", referring to the two handsome, young boys who obviously know a thing or two about Christmas trees.

"It's great", Austin said.

"Should we accept it?" asked the first lady to an approving reply of, "Yes."

It was a unanimous thumbs up to the beautiful 19-foot Balsam fir that will soon be decorated by military Gold Star and Blue Star family volunteers.

"Alright, our work here is done", the first lady said.

In about a week a decorated fir tree will adorn the Blue Room of the White House along with many other delightfully ornate and brightly colored Christmas decorations that are part of a White House Christmas tradition.

A final Obama family White House Christmas tree arrives. Photo/CD Brown.
This tree has history

This year's tree was donated by a tree farm in Pennsylvania and presented to First Lady Obama by Dave and Mary Vander Velden of Oconto, Wisconsin, who are the 2016 winners of the National Christmas Tree Association national tree contest.

Members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented the official White House Christmas Tree for display in the Blue Room since 1966.

According to the association's web site The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) is the national trade association representing the Christmas tree industry representing more than 700 active member farms, 29 state and regional associations, and more than 4,000 affiliated businesses that grow and sell Christmas trees or provide related supplies and services.

Read more about White House Christmas trees here.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Cleveland Cavaliers Make White House Visit; James Makes Three-peat Visit

On Thursday, LeBron James made his third White House appearance as a NBA Champion; twice with the Miami Heat (2012, 2014) and on Thursday with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. James joined his team on the South Lawn (previous honors took place in the East Room) of the White House as President Obama honored the 2015 Champions after having won their first-ever NBA title in the franchise’s history.

Kevin Love  presents a Cavs jersey to President Obama. Photo/CD Brown.
Said President Obama, "They start winning their first 10 games in the playoffs, setting record after record for three-point shooting.  But obviously what this all comes down to is a team that, for the first time in NBA history, comes back from being down 3-1 in the finals -- the first team in history to dig themselves out of a hole like that."

Obama gave his synopsis of Game 7 calling the comeback, "remarkable."

"The comeback was remarkable, And you learn about people when they’re down against a historically good Warriors team", said the president. "Cavs won Games 5 and 6 by double digits.  You had both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving becoming the first duo ever to score 40 points apiece in a Finals game. And then, in Game 7, the Cavs fall behind on the road, only to fight back and lock up the title with an unbelievable two minutes.  There was “The Block” what LeBron has said was the defining play of his career.  “The Shot” by Kyrie putting the Cavs up five. “The Stop” by Kevin Love... I hadn’t seen defense like that."

Cavs in the Community

The president also commented on the work the Cavs have done in their community.

"And that’s why the Cavs have always given back to their fans and the community that’s been so loyal to them.  Over the last 22 years, they’ve given more than $23 million to local charities. And more than just the money players and coaches made about 200 visits annually to schools, hospitals, food kitchens, and more, including assisting educational programs that reach more than 100,000 kids in Northeast Ohio."

The franchise has also supported the Obama adminstration's My Brother’s Keeper, Let’s Move! and Joining Forces initiatives. James has committed to paying tuition to over 1,100 deserving Cleveland youth.

The 6-1 Cavaliers are in town to take on the 2-5 Washington Wizards Friday at Verizon Center.

In this vid, James talks about meeting their rival Wizards.

See : Cavs visit veterans.

President-elect Trump meets President Obama

President Obama met Thursday with president-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office, the first time the two men have ever met. The pair spoke for nearly two hours in a meeting that Obama described as "excellent."

The president said the pair discussed both foreign and domestic policy and explained  he was looking for a "smooth transition" of political power. Obama said he advised his "team" to ensure that president-elect Trump "has everything he needs to succeed."

WATCH: President Obama meets Trump

Said President Obama, "I just had the opportunity to have an excellent conversation with President-elect Trump.  It was wide-ranging.  We talked about some of the organizational issues in setting up the White House.  We talked about foreign policy.  We talked about domestic policy.  And as I said last night, my number-one priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our President-elect is successful."

Trump met with President Obama Thursday. Photo/ P. Martinez
There have been several anti-Trump protests across the country since he won the election. While the news has reported on protests in major U.S., to include Washington, D.C., smaller cities have also staged protests. Students across the country are also having their say. Students at Virginia Commonwealth Universtiy in Richmond, Va met at the Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee Wednesday at midnight to protest Trump's racism as well as Richmond's racist past.  With chants of "f*8k Trump!", students also chanted "and f*8k these racist statues."

Trump campaigned on what many said were racist ideas and ideology, suggesting he would "build a wall" to keep Mexicans out of the country. He also made disparaging remarks about Muslims to infer all were responsible for ISIS and Islamic attacks on the U.S.

In light of the Trump-inspired divisiveness within the country President Obama is hopeful.

"And, I believe that it is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together, to deal with the many challenges that we face."

Trump appeared civil during his visit with Obama saying he had "great respect" and was looking forward to meeting with President Obama in the future.

"So, Mr. President, it was a great honor being with you, and I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future", Trump said.

While the two men were meeting, First Lady Michelle Obama met with the in-coming first lady to also ensure a smooth transition.

The White House has produced a fact sheet entitled Facilitating Smooth Transition to the Next Administration mapping out the transition planning that includes preparing for the incoming administration, ensuring this Administration’s records are appropriately archived, and facilitating the off-boarding of current Administration personnel.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

White House Staffers on Trump Win

Thanks to White House pooler Jen Bendery of the Huffington Post for providing this report on the mood of White House staffers after President Obama delivered remarks on president-elect Trump's win.

Bendery wrote:

Obama gave remarks in the Rose Garden about Donald Trump winning last night's presidential race.

The event was open press, but here's a little color.

Obama talked for about 10 minutes about the need to unify the country now that the election is over. Biden stood alongside him. Check transcript for exact quotes.

"A lot of Americans are exalted today. A lot of Americans are less so," he said with a slight chuckle. "Don't get cynical. Don't ever think you can't make a difference."

At least 150 WH staffers came out to hear Obama speak. They lined up in the garden behind the press, listening intently. When he was done, they applauded for a solid minute, at least. Your pooler saw three staffers crying, and many others with closed eyes or staring up at the sky.

The mood here is somber and quiet. Your pooler asked one aide in tears what was going through her mind; she said "I'm just sad," before walking away. When it was suggested to another aide that today was bittersweet, the aide replied, "I don't know about sweet."

How The White House Is Dealing With the Trump Win

The individual who made it his business to insult Muslims, African Americans, women, the disabled, his running mates, stated that he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone, and has shown an affinity for Russian president Vladmir Putin (and Wikileaks) has convinced Americans that he is the better choice to be president of the United States of America.

President-elect Donald Trump. Photo/NY Times
In a stunning upset Trump, who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, Tom 'Deflate-Gate' Brady and Deflate-Gate enabler Bill Belichick defeated rivalry (and long-time friend) Hillary Rodham Clinton to become the 45th president.

[Listen to Trump's acceptance speech.]

Supporters came out in mass to support the man that opponents said didn't have the temperament to be president, was a lose cannon on Twitter and bragged about groping women's crouches. In the wake of several women coming forth to claim they were in someway affected by Trump's behavior, Trump subdued and silenced the Democratic party by winning 276 of the electoral votes (270 was needed). Clinton, who struggled to connect with millennial (despite performances from entertainers Jay-Z, BeyoncĂ© and an extraordinary effort by Chance the Rapper) in the same way her boss did in both 2008 and 2012, manged to win only  218.

Trump supporters cheer win. Photo/NY Times
Clinton did manage to win Virginia (a mainly Democractic state) and her (and Trump's) home state of New York. Florida, the battleground state where many hoped would sure up the election for Clinton after Trump attacked the Latina community, favored Trump instead. The 'Latinas for Trump' movement is real. Trump won 29 electoral votes in Florida, the state that has decided every presidential election since 1992.

Reaction to Trump win

Twitter sphere was all abuzz over president-elect Trump's win. Click here to see what world leaders tweeted and what Mexico's president had to say.

Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway (who we expect might be rewarded handsomely by Trump, if he decides to pay her) said the win was "quite delicious" and said the 'undercover' Trump supporters was also "real" in helping Trump win.  The undercovers are those secretly and covertly kept their decision private from friends and family all the while knowing they would cast their vote for Trump.

With Trump basking in his win, promising to "not let you down", both Clinton and President Obama have come to the realization of the current event telephoning Trump to congratulate Trump on his historic win.

Clinton's 2016 concession speech (Remarks at 43:11)

The White House put out this statement earlier this morning.

"From the White House residence, the President phoned Donald Trump to congratulate him on his victory early this morning. The President also called Secretary Clinton and expressed admiration for the strong campaign she waged throughout the country. 

The President will make a statement on Wednesday at the White House to discuss the election results and what steps we can take as a country to come together after this hard-fought election season. 

** Update** 12:35 p.m. - President Obama's speech on Trump win 

The President invited the President-elect to meet with him at the White House on Thursday, November 10th, to update him on the transition planning his team has been working on for nearly a year. Ensuring a smooth transition of power is one of the top priorities the President identified at the beginning of the year and a meeting with the President-elect is the next step."

MUST SEE: More reaction to Trump win

The New York Times apparently had cameras everywhere and has reaction from several demographics responding to the Trump win. Click here to view.

See also: Trump at WHCAS | Trump not running for president | Trump declares run for presidency |
Clinton's 2008 concession speech |  

Monday, September 26, 2016

Funding for climate, transportation and public safety announced today

Office of the Press Secretary
September 26, 2016

FACT SHEET: Announcing Over $80 million in New Federal Investment and a Doubling of Participating Communities in the White House Smart Cities Initiative

“If we can reconceive of our government so that the interactions and the interplay between private sector, nonprofits, and government are opened up, and we use technology, data, social media in order to join forces around problems, then there’s no problem that we face in this country that is not soluble.” – President Barack Obama

With nearly two-thirds of Americans living in urban settings, many of our fundamental challenges—from climate change to equitable growth to improved health—will require our cities to be laboratories for innovation. The rapid pace of technological change, from the rise of data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and ubiquitous sensor networks to autonomous vehicles, holds significant promise for addressing core local challenges.

That’s why last September the White House launched the Smart Cities Initiative to make it easier for cities, Federal agencies, universities, and the private sector to work together to research, develop, deploy, and testbed new technologies that can help make our cities more inhabitable, cleaner, and more equitable.

Today, to kick off Smart Cities Week, the Administration is expanding this initiative, with over $80 million in new Federal investments and a doubling of the number of participating cities and communities, exceeding 70 in total. These new investments and collaborations will help cities of all sizes, including in the following key areas:
·       Climate: The Administration is announcing nearly $15 million in new funding and two new coalitions to help cities and communities tackle energy and climate challenges. For example, one Department of Energy (DOE) campaign has already signed up 1,800 buildings representing 49 million square feet with data analytics tools that could reduce their energy footprint by 8 percent or more, on average.

·       Transportation: The Administration is announcing more than $15 million in new grants and planned funding to evolve the future of urban transportation, including National Science Foundation (NSF) funding for researchers in Chattanooga to test, for the first time, how an entire urban network of connected and autonomous vehicles can automatically cooperate to improve travel efficiency and operate safely during severe weather events.

·       Public safety: The Administration is announcing more than $10 million in new grants and planned funding for public safety, resilience, and disaster response. For example, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is funding the development of low-cost flood sensor-based tools in flood-prone areas of Texas, where predictive analytics will give first responders and local officials new capability to issue alerts and warnings, and the ability to respond more rapidly to save lives when a flood strikes.

·       Transforming city services: MetroLab Network is launching a new effort to help cities adopt promising innovations in social programs, like a collaboration between three counties surrounding Seattle and the University of Washington to use predictive analytics to identify precisely when city services succeed in helping homeless individuals transition into permanent housing, offering the promise of a future of personalized intervention.


The White House Smart Cities Initiative represents an example of how the Administration has worked over the past seven and a half years to develop a smarter, more collaborative approach to working with local communities—putting citizens, community groups, and local leaders at the center of its efforts. The Administration’s approach involves working together with communities to identify local needs and priorities, develop and build upon evidence-based and data-driven solutions, and strategically invest Federal funding and technical assistance.

The Smart Cities Initiative is informed by and builds on the work of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), including its Technology and the Future of Cities report. In the report, PCAST identified several actions that the Federal Government can take to help cities leverage technology, and which the initiative is already beginning to implement.

The initiative has supported a number of breakthrough activities in the last year. Two such examples are:

·       Smart City Challenge: In June, the Department of Transportation (DOT) selected Columbus, Ohio to receive $40 million to prototype the future of urban transportation, out of 78 cities that accepted its Smart City Challenge. The city’s plan, which will also leverage over $100 million in private resources, involves piloting new technologies, from connected vehicle technology that improves traffic flow and safety to data-driven efforts to improve public transportation access and health care outcomes to electric self-driving shuttles that will create new transportation options for underserved neighborhoods.

·       Fitness Tracker for Cities: With funding from NSF and Argonne National Laboratory, the City of Chicago and the University of Chicago last month began installing a “fitness tracker for the city”—500 outdoor sensor boxes called the “Array of Things” that will allow the city and public to instantly obtain block-by-block data on air quality, noise levels, and traffic. This real-time open data will help researchers and city officials reduce air pollution, improve traffic safety, and more. For example, a team is already working to build a mobile application that will alert asthma sufferers about poor air quality based on real-time measurements taken on their city block.

In addition to the initiative, the Administration has also taken several complementary steps that support local innovation, including the newly-announced Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, through which NSF is working with the private sector to invest nearly $100 million to develop four city-scale testing platforms for wireless technologies, including 5G and beyond. Additionally, the Administration’s Opportunity Project is spurring the creation of private sector digital tools based on Federal open data that help communities find information about resources needed to thrive, such as affordable housing, quality schools, and jobs. The Police Data Initiative andData-Driven Justice Initiative are helping local authorities use data to improve community policing and divert low-level offenders out of the criminal justice system, respectively.

The upcoming White House Frontiers Conference, held in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, October 13, will further advance the initiative by bringing together some of the world’s leading innovators to discuss how investing in science and technology frontiers—including smart and inclusive local communities—can help improve lives and keep America on the cutting edge of innovation.

Key Steps by the Administration Being Announced Today

NSF is announcing over $60 million in new smart cities-related grants in FY16 and planned new investments in FY17. NSF is bringing together academic researchers from an array of disciplines with community stakeholders to unlock transformational progress on important community challenges. Examples of this work include an effort by researchers in Chattanooga to test an entire urban network of automatically cooperating connected and autonomous vehicles; and a flood-warning pilot project in several Maryland cities that integrates sensor data and social media posts in a novel way to potentially save lives by providing advance notice of flash floods, which kill more people in the United States each year than tornadoes, hurricanes, or lightning. The investments include:

·       $24.5 million in planned investment in FY17 and $8.5 million in new awards under the Smart & Connected Communities program. The planned investment significantly expands NSF’s research focus in this area and builds on a number of high-risk, high-reward Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research awards supporting integrative research that enhances understanding and design of our future cities and communities.

·       $10 million in new awards to develop and scale next-generation Internet applications and technologies through the US Ignite program, supporting access to the gigabit-enabled networks and services that bring data and analytics to decision-makers in real time.

·       $7 million in new Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity projects that involve academic-industry collaborations to translate breakthrough discoveries into emerging technologies related to smart communities, ranging from smart buildings to sensor networks that improve transportation efficiency.

·       $4 million in new Cyber-Physical Systems awards focused on Smart & Connected Communities. Collectively, these awards help establish the technological foundation for smart cities and the Internet of Things, which enables connection of physical devices at enormous scale to the digital world through sensors and other IT infrastructure.

·       $2 million in new “Spokes” that extend the Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs and $1.4 million in new Big Data research, which will use data science to improve the smart electric grid, keep bridges safer, grow better crops through the use of drone technology, and allow students to conduct citizen science on air pollution.

·       $1.5 million in new Smart and Connected Health research awards with a focus on Smart & Connected Communities. The awards being announced today will support the development of next-generation health care solutions that leverage sensor technology, information and machine learning technology, decision support systems, and more.

·       $1 million for researchers to participate in the 2016 NIST Global City Teams Challenge, supporting high-risk, high-reward research on the effective integration of digital and physical systems to meet real-world community challenges.

·       $1 million in new research and capacity-building awards supporting lifelong learning that will be critical to cities and communities of the future.

DOE is announcing new coalitions to build cleaner, smarter communities, and more than $15 million in new and planned funding to support smart, energy-efficient urban transportation systems and to unlock distributed clean energy sources.

·       DOE is announcing the launch of the Better Communities Alliance (BCA), a new DOE-led network of cities and counties with the goal of creating cleaner, smarter, and more prosperous communities for all Americans. Through the BCA, which is part of the Better Buildings Initiative, DOE is creating a one-stop shop for cities and counties to plug into DOE resources and AmeriCorps resources from the Corporation for National and Community Service to support them in tackling energy and climate challenges. DOE will gather key stakeholders to promote knowledge exchange and collaboration, while streamlining access to community-focused DOE resources and funding through coordinated assistance across programs and a common digital portal. Initial member communities and affiliate organizations include:
§  Anchorage, Alaska
§  Atlanta, Georgia
§  Boston, Massachusetts
§  Boulder, Colorado
§  Broward County, Florida
§  Chattanooga, Tennessee
§  Chicago, Illinois
§  Chula Vista, California
§  Des Moines, Iowa
§  Dubuque, Iowa
§  Fort Worth, Texas
§  Huntington Beach, California
§  Kansas City, Missouri
§  King County, Washington
§  Knoxville, Tennessee
§  Los Angeles County, California
§  Miami-Dade County, Florida
§  Milwaukee, Wisconsin
§  New York, New York
§  Newark, New Jersey
§  Orlando, Florida
§  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
§  Phoenix, Arizona
§  Portland, Oregon
§  Richmond, Virginia
§  Roanoke, Virginia
§  Rochester, New York
§  Salt Lake City, Utah
§  San Francisco, California
§  Seattle, Washington
§  Sonoma County, California
§  West Palm Beach, Florida
§  Will County, Illinois
§  Alliance to Save Energy
§  American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
§  Arup
§  C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
§  Cityzenith
§  Emerald Cities Collaborative
§  Energy Foundation
§  Global Cool Cities Alliance
§  Governing Institute
§  Hatch
§  ICLEI USA - Local Governments for Sustainability
§  Institute for Market Transformation
§  Institute for Sustainable Communities
§  International City/County Management Association
§  Kresge Foundation
§  National Association of Counties
§  National Association of State Energy Officials
§  National League of Cities
§  Natural Resources Defense Council
§  Philips Lighting
§  Smart Cities Council
§  Solar Foundation
§  STAR Communities
§  Surdna Foundation
§  U.S. Green Building Council
§  Urban Sustainability Directors Network

·       DOE is launching a new Better Buildings Accelerator to assist local governments in developing “Zero Energy Districts” within their communities. Through the Accelerator—which will help participants overcome deployment barriers by providing a framework for collaboration among participants as well as technical assistance—DOE will work with city leaders, district developers, planners, owners, and additional key stakeholders to develop the business case and energy master planning documents needed to replicate Zero Energy Districts, which aggregate buildings’ renewable energy sources so that the combined on-site renewable energy offsets the combined building energy usage from the buildings in the district.

·       DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative is launching a Smart Energy Analytics Campaign with an inaugural group of members committing to using smart building energy management technologies to unlock energy savings. Eighteen inaugural members representing 1,800 buildings and 49 million square feet have signed up to adopt data analytics tools—known as Energy Management and Information Systems (EMIS)—that could reduce their energy footprint by 8 percent or more, on average. Some of the campaign participants and their plans include:
o   The Wendy’s Company is piloting software to move all 300 of their company-owned restaurants onto EMIS analytics.
o   Macy’s will leverage its experience using fault detection and diagnostics across their portfolio of over 700 stores to share best practices.
o   University of California, San Francisco will expand its innovative program of “Connected Commissioning” to use fault detection and diagnostics based on a consistent flow of building data analytics to help commission major building renovations and ensure they operate efficiently from the start.
o   Rhode Island Office of Energy is starting a multi-year EMIS project with 18-buildings that will leverage lessons learned through the Campaign to help streamline the rollout of EMIS to a large portion of their portfolio.
The following organizations will also provide technical assistance to the campaign partners: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Building Owners Management Association, International Facility Managers Association, Commonwealth Edison, California Commissioning Collaborative, and the Building Commissioning Association.

·       DOE is announcing $10 million in current and planned investment to expand the DOE SMART Mobility consortium to support the emergence of smart, energy-efficient urban transportation systems and establish a “Technologist in Cities” pilot. In collaboration with the DOT Smart City Challenge, and with an initial focus on Columbus, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan, DOE’s “Technologist in Cities” pilot will pair national laboratory technologists with city leaders to help cities address critical mobility needs with new capacity, tools, and technologies that significantly improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. The DOE Systems and Modeling for Accelerated Research in Transportation Mobility consortium leverages the unique capabilities of DOE National Laboratories to examine the nexus of energy and mobility for future transportation systems, including through connected and automated vehicles, urban and decision sciences, multi-modal transport, and integrated vehicle-fueling infrastructure systems.

·       DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability is announcing approximately $7 million in funding to support the development of sensors and modeling that allow communities to more effectively integrate distributed clean energy sources into their power grids. Currently, integration of distributed clean energy sources—and the emissions, reliability and resilience benefits they provide—is a challenge for electric grids originally designed solely for distribution of electricity, not local generation. Funding will support research and development at utilities and technology providers to harness new sensor data and improved modeling to allow for integration of these resources with greater efficiency and reliability, while aiming to deliver new benefits, such as improved grid resilience against outages in emergency situations.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is continuing to expand the smart cities movement and support technical progress in the Internet of Things.

·       NIST and its collaborators are announcing a new international coalition dedicated to developing anInternet of Things-Enabled Smart City Framework, with an initial release planned for next summer. Through an open, technical working group studying real-world smart city applications and architectures, the coalition will identify pivotal points of interoperability, where emerging alignment on standards can enable landscape of diverse but interoperable smart city solutions. Coalition members include the American National Standards Institute, the U.S. Green Building Council, the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning, the Italian Energy and Innovation Agency, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, and the FIWARE Foundation.

·       NIST’s Global City Teams Challenge