Covering

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



Saturday, May 29, 2010

Liberia's President Visits The White House

President Sirleaf: "The Administration as well as the Congress have been very supportive of us."

Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson with President Obama in the Oval Office, vowed "Liberia shall rise again."  Photo/CD Brown.

Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson visited the White House on Thursday for talks with President Obama.

Liberia has had its share of problems.   A nation devastated by war, people displaced, a broken infrastructure, and dysfunctional institutions.  In the midst of all that, it is the children who have suffered the most.

But the country has been making successful strides, to which Sirleaf credits the involvement of the United States.

"I come today on behalf of the Liberian people to say that we’ve made a lot of progress in that commitment. We’ve been able to maintain peace for seven years now. And I say that today, our children who are entering first grade have known -- not known a gun and not had to run, and that’s great progress", said Sirlfeaf.    Adding, "We could not have achieved the progress that we have had if we had not had the support in those initial days when we were just scrambling and looking for the ways to be able to go forward. The U.S. was there as a great partner."

President Obama told the Sirleaf that the U.S. remains committed to the country, calling the U.S. and Liberia, "close friends, and long-standing partners."

The U.S. is working with Liberia on on a food initiative that will help to create greater food security and independence in the country, and continues to work with the Liberian government on issues like maternal health and education.   The U.S. has invested millions in Liberia's Education Trust organization.

Liberia's legislative and presidential elections will take place next year in 2011.  

President Sirleaf overcame her own personal struggles, having been a prisoner in her country, to becoming Liberia's (and the continent's) first female President. Her story mirrors that of Nelson Mandela, who also was jailed in his homeland, and later became president.

President Obama, stating that Sirleaf is "committed to rule of law" praised Sirleaf and said "her legacy is that she will continue to usher in a sense that democracy as the regular way of doing business in Liberia", calling her work in the country an example for countries like Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire and Niger to follow. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

BP Oil Spill: President Obama Answers Media Inquiries

President Obama on the BP Oil Spill: "This is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about."

Obama addresses questions from the press on BP, immigration, and more. Photos/CD Brown

Yesterday in the East Room of the White House, President Obama responded to a bevy of questions regarding the response and cleanup of the BP Oil Spill, again telling reporters the Administration acted swiftly since Day 1 of the tragedy, and that BP is the responsible party.

Obama, stating he has the "brightest minds and most advanced technology in the world" at his disposal working on the oil spill, has delegated a team led by Energy Secretary and Stephen Chu, along with experts who have experience dealing with oil spills.

Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, is alleged to have ties to BP. In 2007, BP awarded the bulk of a $500 million grant to the University of California, Berkeley laboratory where Chu was then director.

As the oil spill continues to make its way to and through the Louisiana coast line, one name hasn't surfaced from the Obama Administration, or from any other outlet, until now.

Joe Madison, host of The Joe Madison Show on XM satellite radio, wants the president to consider the likes of retired Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré.  Honoré, known as the 'The Rajin Cajun', was commander of a Joint Task Force on Hurricane Katrina responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for affected areas across the Gulf Coast (He also served as the 2nd Infantry Division Commander while stationed in Korea).

In an interview with Madison, Honoré (a Louisiana native) is asked if he would come out of retirement to help President Obama with the clean up of BP's oil spill.

"I'm a soldier at heart. Will always be", said Honoré.  "I'll do what I need to do to help."

The Administration has delegated 20,000 people to the region and has activated around 1,400 members of the National Guard, in four states. The Coast Guard is also on site. There are more than 1,300 vessels assisting in the containment and cleanup efforts.

Even with all of that, and as this article is written, thousands of barrels of oil continue to spill into our waters, killing wildlife, putting people's health and way of life in jeopardy.

"I grew up in Hawaii where the ocean is sacred. And when you see birds flying around with oil all over their feathers and turtles dying, that doesn’t just speak to the immediate economic consequences of this; this speaks to how are we caring for this incredible bounty that we have."

President Obama has extended the moratorium for six months on new deepwater drilling permits and plans to halt operations at thirty-three deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Because I think everybody understands that when we are fouling the Earth like this, it has concrete implications not just for this generation, but for future generations", added Obama as he recounted his daughter Malia asking one morning as he was shaving, "Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?"

Related
Watch Entire Press Conference
Honore on Leadership

Duke In The House!

NCAA Champs Honored At The White House (Again)

The Duke Blue Devils, 2010 NCAA Champions, Being Honored by President Obama At The White House Yesterday. Photo/CD Brown.

Forget about the third time being the charm. When it comes to the Duke Blue Devils winning NCCA Championships, and getting invited to the White House for their winning efforts, the FOURTH time's the charm.

We had to ask Coach Krzyzewski if the other guy from the other prominent North Carolina, championship winning, institution of higher learning, ever called to congratulate the team during its NCAA championship wins.

"No. Mike never calls", said Krzyzewski smiling.

Mike may not have called, but President Obama certainly did. He called the Blue Devils to not only congratulate them, but to invite them to the White House - even after he had originally picked another team to win the NCAA bracket.

"Now, I know that all of you remember last year, when I filled out my bracket I picked North Carolina to win it all. It wasn’t anything personal. Just trying to win some money", joked the President in a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House yesterday.

Krzyzewski originally said Obama "should focus more on the economy than brackets", after learning that Obama didn't think Duke had the juice to make it to the Final Four.

Coach 'K' presents President Obama with a gift - the NCAA bracket with Duke prominently displayed front and center. Photo/CD Brown.

Coach 'K' put all that aside and said of the president it was good of him to spend time with him and the team what "with all he has going on today".

To show no harm was done, Coach K and the team presented the president a wooden replica of this year's bracket, complete with Duke right in the center as a 'gentle' reminder of who the winner is.

"Obviously it’s not a smart thing to bet against Coach K. This is a guy who has 868 wins; 12 ACC championships; 11 Final Fours; four NCAA championships; a couple of Olympic gold medals for men’s basketball, including in 2008, when he brought the gold back to where it belongs –- the USA", pointed out President Obama.

The team managed to fit in a tour of the White House, take some pics, and visit with a few veterans in commemoration of this weekend's Memorial Day holiday.

We asked the players if their visit to the White House had inspired any of them to get into politics after graduation.

President Obama's assistant, Reggie Love, played forward for the Duke Blue Devils basketball team, and played on the 2001 team that won the NCAA national championship. He was also captain of the 2005 team.

He received a standing ovation from the crowd that included several Duke alumni, staffers, and political types (Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Ric Shinseki; Congressman K. Butterfield; North Carolina Mayor Bill Bell, Representative David Price - professor at Duke since 1973, and Under Secretary of Energy, Dr. Kristina Johnson - former dean of Duke's Pratt School of Engineering) as he walked to the podium to place the President's remarks at the podium.

"It's possible", said Lance Thomas, Duke's former power forward. "After watching Reggie, it's definitely possible."

It should be noted that Duke's guard, Nolan Smith, is from the Washington, DC area (Upper Marlboro, MD), and said it was good to be back home visiting.

Duke won this year's March Madness contest by defeating Butler, 61-59, in a game that came down to the final shot.

Related
World Cup-bound.  Players pose outside the White House.Photo/CD Brown

It was a day full of sports teams at the White House yesterday. The men's U.S. World Cup soccer team also were honored.

President Bill Clinton, and Vice President Biden joined President Obama in wishing the team good luck as they prepare to participate in this year's World Cup event.

As we reported here, Biden will participate in the opening ceremony.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Obama Responds To Heckler

"Hey, I'm dealing with Congress, here. It takes a little time."

Move faster on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", shouted a heckler has President Obama was speaking at a Barbara Boxer fundraising event.

In response, Obama told the heckler, "Hey, I'm dealing with Congress, here. It takes a little time".

 


Nebraskan senator Bob Nelson, a key figure in the process, plans to vote to ban the DADT policy.

"I don't believe that most Nebraskans want to continue a policy that not only encourages but requires people to be deceptive and to lie. The 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy does just that," said Nelson. "It also encourages suspicion and senior officers to look the other way. In a military which values honesty and integrity, this policy encourages deceit."

President Obama called for the policy's repeal last month in his State of the Union address. "This year I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are, pledged Obama. "It's the right thing to do."

In a recent ABC News poll, it showed that 75% of Americans are in favor of gay people serving in the U.S. military.  Read the report here.



Biden To Deliver Commencement Address


On Friday, May 28, 2010, at 10:00 AM EDT, Vice President Joe Biden will deliver the commencement address at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Naval Academy was founded in 1845 by the Secretary of the Navy, George Bancroft, in what is now historic Annapolis, MD.

The Academy has graduated several of America's most notables to include former president Jimmy Carter, and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain.

Last weekend President Obama delivered the commencement address to the 2010 class of West Point graduates. (Photos)

BP's Proposed Allottment To Revive Florida Tourism Challenged

U.S. Senators (And Others) Want More

Representative Kendrick Meek demanded $75 million more in aid from BP to revive Florida tourism, the state's number one industry, in a letter sent today to BP CEO Tony Hayworth.

The letter comes just days after BP's promise to the state that it would spend $25 million on a marketing campaign aimed at attracting visitors back to Florida. Ad buyers who were asked to approximate the cost of the marketing campaign described by VISIT FLORIDA, the state's tourism office, estimated that it would cost a minimum of $100 million for just 12 weeks of advertising in the top cities where Florida tourists travel from. These cities are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Hartford, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, St. Louis, Washington, DC and Toronto. The campaign would include television, radio, print, online, outdoor and promotional advertising.

Kendrick Meek has consistently opposed drilling off Florida's beaches.

The letter reads below:

Dear Mr. Hayward,

While I applaud your company's promise to make $25 million available to promote Florida tourism, it simply is not enough. I am writing to request that you pledge an additional $75 million - the amount of money required by conservative estimates to run an adequate domestic and international marketing campaign. This type of ad campaign will cost at least $8 million a week. Over 12 weeks, it will cost the state at least $100 million.

Florida earns over $65 billion per year from its tourism economy. It is the #1 industry in Florida employing over 1 million people. Recreational fishing alone accounts for $5 billion and 50,000 jobs. A $25 million ad campaign is just a drop in the bucket of what is truly needed and it will not turn the tide on the pervasive perception that Florida's beaches and water have been oiled.


In a normal year, the state of Florida's annual tourism marketing budget is $100 million. In the wake of the oil spill, we need to double-down on these efforts in order to bring tourists back to our beaches. 

Many of the small counties on Florida's coast have been effected. Charter boat operators, fisherman, market workers, and small hotel owners are experiencing huge drops in the numbers of tourists due to the perception that Florida's beaches are damaged and that the state is now closed for tourism. Generations of Floridians who have been living and working in the area are now having their livelihood severely threatened. Moreover, this is going to be a long-term problem.

A national and international campaign is going to be pivotal to rebuilding the economy that once was. Over 80 million people visit Florida every year, but tourists from around the world are not going to come if they believe their vacation might be ruined by your oil washing up on our beaches. I urge you to pledge additional funding and take more responsibility for the decline in Florida's tourism since the spill.

Sincerely,



Kendrick Meek

Drug Courts Being Honored?

Has Own Celebratory Month (May)

Citing the success of drug courts in helping people restore their lives through treatment and other social services, R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, today paid tribute to the observance of May as National Drug Court Month. Director Kerlikowske lauded the drug court system as a model of the kind of collaborative, evidence-based and effective approaches the Nation must embrace to reduce drug use and its consequences.

“Drug courts provide a critical service to our Nation’s families and communities by offering viable treatment options for individuals struggling with substance abuse, while reducing the burden on the Nation’s courts, jails, and prisons,” said Director Kerlikowske. “Drug courts are a key element of a holistic approach for reducing the drug abuse and its consequences in the Nation.”

Drug courts, established in 1989, are specialized, mostly locally based courts, dedicated to diverting non-violent, low-level offenders whose underlying problem is drug use, away from prison and into supervised treatment. Through a combination of escalating sanctions, mandatory and random drug testing and aftercare, drug courts are a proven solution that reduces substance abuse, prevents crime, and leverages limited financial resources. With over 2,459 drug courts operational today, approximately 120,000 people annually receive the help they need to break the cycle of addiction.

Earlier this month, Director Kerlikowske attended a drug court graduation ceremony in San Diego and ONDCP Deputy Director Tom McLellan attended a graduation ceremony in Noble County, Indiana; two of over one hundred drug court graduations to take place during May. Director Kerlikowske will also speak at the annual conference of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADPC) on June 5.

“National Drug Court Month is an opportunity to highlight the tremendous impact drug courts have on reducing substance abuse and crime and transforming our criminal justice system,” said West Huddleston, NADCP’s Chief Executive Officer. “With drug courts restoring lives, reuniting families, and making communities across this Nation safer, the time has come to put drug courts within reach of those in the criminal justice system most in need of this life-saving program. On behalf of 27,000 drug court professionals, I wish to thank Director Kerlikowske and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for their critical support of this goal.”

The success stories of drug court graduates illustrate the positive results of coordination among public health and public safety professionals. Drug courts bring the judicial, law enforcement, and treatment communities, and other social and public services together through rigorous case management to address a participant’s overall needs, including education, housing, job training, and/or mental health referral.

The Administration’s 2010 National Drug Control Strategy sets broad goals of preventing drug use in communities, emphasizing evidence-based strategies for preventing substance abuse and crime, and contains strong support for drug courts. The Strategy emphasizes the need to expand drug courts in both “scope and size,” and calls for a more concentrated effort on high-risk/high-need offenders, those at risk for “continuing substance abuse and criminal activity.”

The Administration’s commitment to courts that increase and enhance access to drug abuse treatment is reflected in a FY2010 President’s Budget of $117 million for these courts.

For more information about the Office of National Drug Control Policy and its programs visit:
www.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov

President Obama To Again View Progress of BP Oil Spill Cleanup

Makes Second Trip To Gulf Coast

On Friday morning, May 28, the president will travel to the Louisiana Gulf Coast to assess the latest efforts to counter the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Administration has mobilized one of the largest responses to a catastrophic event in history, with more than 1,200 vessels in the region and more than 22,000 people, including many of the brightest scientific minds from both the public and private sector, working around the clock to mitigate the oil’s impact.

The President will join more than 22,000 people in the region, including many of the brightest scientific minds from both the public and private sector, who are working around the clock to mitigate the oil’s impact.

The administration will continue to hold the responsible parties accountable for repairing the damage and repaying Americans who’ve suffered a financial loss. BP continues to process claims via its claims website (www.bp.com/claims) and its helpline (1-800-440-0858). BP reports that 25,227 claims have been opened, from which $29.4 million has been disbursed. No claims have been denied at this time. There are more than 432 claims adjusters on the ground. To file a claim, visit www.bp.com/claims or call BP’s helpline at 1-800-440-0858. Those who have already pursued the BP claims process and are not satisfied with BP’s resolution, can call the Coast Guard at (800) 280-7118.


BP's live video feed. More here.

As the oil spill continues to threaten the way of life for many in the regions, particularly those who make a living from the oilspilled waters of the Gulf Coast, the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved 15 economic injury assistance loans totaling $571,000 for small businesses in the Gulf Coast region. Additionally, the agency has granted deferments on 64 existing SBA disaster loans in the region.

SBA is offering economic injury loans and deferrals on existing loans to fishing and fishing-dependent small businesses as a result of the Deepwater BP oil spill that shut down commercial and recreational fishing waters. Additionally, homeowners in the region who have existing SBA disaster home loans can request a deferment if their business or employment has been impacted by the oil spill.
 
Photo of tanker oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska after the March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Earlier this week Admiral Thad Allen, and Carol Browner, Assistant to the the President for Energy and Climate Change, met with reporters in the James Brady briefing room of the White House to discuss the ongoing cleanup efforts in the region.

"There are a number of solutions and they're doing them in sequence based on risk. The ultimate solution is going to be to drill a relief well, take the pressure off that well and cap it. That will be sometime in August. We don't want to wait that long. So we’re trying a series of interventions, starting with the insertion tube to evacuate the oil that we can, the top kill shot that will be scheduled for I believe early Wednesday now to try and force mud down the blowout preventer into the well to stop the pressure so it can be sealed", Allen said in the press briefing.

"There’s a series of events. They're trying the least risky ones first and moving on down. But we cannot stop. We’ve got to try every means at our -- every means that we can to stop this leak."

Read more about the current Administration's efforts and response to the Golf Coast oil disaster here.

Related
President Obama Wants To Seek Alternative Fuel Sources

Liberian President to Visit the White House

President Sirleaf in 2007 at LiberiaTrust Function.  Photo/CD Brown

On Thursday, May 27, President Obama will welcome President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to the White House.

A press released earlier from the White House states, "The United States greatly values its historic bonds with Liberia. Liberia is an important democratic partner of the United States that has made tremendous strides in consolidating stability, improving governance, and contributing to regional peace and development in recent years.

The American people have maintained our links to the Liberian people through some of the country’s most challenging times, and we remain deeply engaged now as Liberia continues to look to its future. President Obama welcomes the opportunity to discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues of mutual importance with President Sirleaf."

In 2007 President Sirleaf made a visit to Washington where she attended an event, held at Union Station, for the Liberian Education Trust.    Then Senator Hilary Clinton, also attended the event in support of Liberia. Clinton had not decided to run for U.S. president at that time, but rumors swirled. Sirleaf, Liberia's first female president, when asked at the event what it was like to being a female president said, "It is a good thing", as she looked over to Senator Clinton.

Learn more about the U.S. and its relationship with Liberia.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The President Establishes a Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

President Obama wants to delve deeper into what caused the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and institutes measures to insure the "environmental disaster" doesn't occur again.  Puts blame on BP - and Washington.

In his weekly address the president talks about his executive order establishing a National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

The Commission will be composed of seven members who shall be appointed by the President to examine the relevant facts and circumstances concerning the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and develop options for guarding against, and mitigating the impact of, oil spills associated with offshore drilling -taking into consideration the environmental, public health, and economic effects of such options - to include improvements to Federal laws, regulations, and industry practices applicable to offshore drilling that would ensure effective oversight, monitoring, and response capabilities; protect public health and safety, occupational health and safety, and the environment and natural resources; and address affected communities; and organizational or other reforms of Federal agencies or processes necessary to ensure such improvements are implemented and maintained.

The Commission's members will be drawn from among distinguished individuals, and may include those with experience in or representing the scientific, engineering, and environmental communities, the oil and gas industry, or any other area determined by the President to be of value to the Commission in carrying out its duties, and is expected to submit a final public report to the President with its findings and options for consideration within six months of the date of the Commission's first meeting.

Earlier this year President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the Administration will expand oil and gas development and exploration on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), but has since suspended those efforts in the wake of the BP Oil spill that began one month ago.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

U.S. Attorneys Nominated

President Obama nominated David J. Hickton and William C. Killian to serve as U.S. Attorneys.

“I am proud to nominate these outstanding individuals to serve as United States Attorneys,” said President Obama. “I am confident they will serve the people of Pennsylvania and Tennessee with distinction.”

David J. Hickton Bio. (Southern District of California)
David J. Hickton has been a founding member of Burns, White & Hickton, LLC, since the firm’s inception in 1987. Prior to this, Mr. Hickton was an Associate Attorney for Dickie, McCarney & Chilcote, LLC from 1983 to 1987. From 1981 to 1983, Mr. Hickton served as a law clerk to the Honorable Gustave Diamond, United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Mr. Hickton is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University in 1978 and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1981.

William C. Killian Bio. (Eastern District of Tennessee)
William C. Killian has been a sole practitioner at William C. Killian, Attorney at Law, P.C., since 1979. Mr. Killian has also served as a City Attorney for the town of Monteagle from 1981 to 1988, and from 1996 to present; and as an Assistant District Attorney for the 12th Judicial District of Tennessee from 1976 to 1979, and from 1998 to 1990. From 1979 to 1980, Mr. Killian was an adjunct professor at both Edmondson Junior College and the Northeast State Junior College. Mr. Killian served in the United States Army as part of the Tennessee National Guard from 1970 until 1973, when he received an honorable discharge as a corporal. Mr. Killian is a graduate of the University of Tennessee in 1971 and the University of Tennessee School of Law in 1975.
 
The President nominated Judge Anthony Joseph Battaglia (for United States District Court, Southern District of California), Judge Edward J. Davila (for United States District Court, Northern District of California), and Robert L. Wilkins (for United States District Court, District of Columbia).

President Obama also nominated Susan L. Carney for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Carney has served as Deputy General Counsel of Yale University since 2001. Carney joined the General Counsel’s Office in 1998, and served as Yale’s Acting General Counsel from July to December 2008.

The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden to Travel to Egypt, Kenya and South Africa

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will travel to Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa the week of June 7, 2010.

While in Egypt, the Vice President will meet with President Mubarak to discuss a full range of bilateral and regional issues.

The Vice President will then meet with key leaders in Kenya, including Kenyan President Kibaki and Kenyan Prime Minister Odinga. In addition to discussing a range of bilateral issues, the Vice President will address our shared interests in peace and stability in the region, particularly in Sudan and Somalia.

Finally, the Vice President will travel to South Africa, where he will meet with South African Deputy President Motlanthe, South African Foreign Minister Nkoana-Mashabane, and other world leaders in attendance at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

The Vice President and Dr. Biden will represent the United States at the opening ceremonies of the June 11-July 11, 2010 FIFA World Cup, and attend the U.S. Men’s National Team’s first game, before returning to Washington, DC.

Related
Street Soccer Comes To DC For Good Cause

Kevin Costner Wants To Help Clean Up BP Oil Spill

Who Says Hollywood Types Don't Care Enough About The Environment?

Not us.

Proving that point, here's word on actor Kevin Costner trying to do just that. His funded device, a centrifuge that helps pull oil from water is being considered by - wait for it (wait for it), - BP Oil.

The 'Costner Machine'. Described as a centrifugal processing device that separates oil from water, pegged to help clean up BP Oil spill.

Also a fisherman (when he isn't preparing for the silver screen) Costner purchased the devices from the government over 15 years ago and invested $24 million to develop the machines for the private sector.

BP has already approved six of the machines for testing in the gulf, where they will extract the spilled oil, send it back to a tanker and pump 99 percent purified water back into the ocean.

Chop, chop, BP! The world is waiting for you to clean up your mess!

Oddly enough, and as we head into Memorial Day Weekend, this is national Safe Boating Week. The president issued a proclamation admonishing us all to be responsible boaters of our nation's waterways (that aren't prohibited for use due to millions of barrels of spilled oil).

"Our Nation's waterways provide endless opportunities for family recreation, exercise, or moments of quiet solitude and reflection. As the weather warms and people prepare to spend time on the water, let us recommit during National Safe Boating Week to practicing safe techniques so boaters of all ages can enjoy this pastime.


Responsible and informed behavior on board can keep boaters and passengers free from harm. Wearing a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, taking a boating safety course, being aware of weather conditions, and ensuring all boats have the necessary
safety equipment are all important steps Americans can take to minimize risk on the water. Those who operate boats must also take extra precautions to keep their passengers safe and never boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.


To help save lives and prevent accidents, the United States Coast Guard partners with boating organizations to raise awareness and teach safe boating practices. Boaters can take advantage of these opportunities to learn, make informed decisions, and teach family and friends to use caution while on board. By practicing safe boating habits and encouraging others to do the same, Americans can protect themselves and others throughout the boating season.


In recognition of the importance of safe boating practices, the Congress, by Joint Resolution approved June 4, 1958 (36 U.S.C. 131), as amended, has authorized and requested the President to proclaim annually the 7-day period prior to Memorial Day weekend as "National Safe Boating Week."
Question. Is there a National Responsible Oil Drilling Week?

Dan Rather Honored At Youth Gala

'Power of Dream' Annual Gala Honors Stars Galore


Dan Rather poses along side of US Dream Academy honorees Judge Joe Brown, actress Angela Bassett, Mr. and Mrs. Wintley Phipps (Academy founders), and MLB's Jonathan Mariner. Photo/CD Brown.

Dan Rather, perhaps the most famous face of America's evening news for more than half a century, was honored by the U.S. Dream Academy this past Tuesday.

Rather's extensive resume includes the coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and the September 11, 2001 U.S. terror attack.

Rather, who came under fire for his comments about President Obama during his 2008 election campaign, currently anchors Dan Rather Reports, with hard-edged field reports and in-depth interviews and investigative pieces. 

He was honored along with actress Angela Bassett, The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, Dr. Bernice King, Judge Joe Brown, Mary Bryant Tucker (mother of actor Chris Tucker), Executive Vice President and CFO of MLB's Office of the Commissioner, Jonathan Mariner, and actor Charles S. Dutton for their commitment to youth causes and community involvment.

In 2003 President George W. Bush highlighted the worked of the U.S. Dream Academy, a non profit organization that provides educational and enrichment opportunities to children with incarcerated family members, during a speech celebrating the one-year anniversary of the USA Freedom Corps. 

Bush also reaffirmed his support of programs like the U.S. Dreamy Academy during his 2003 State of the Union.

Photo gallery.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

President Obama's Second State Dinner and Reception

"To The Happiness Of Our People"

Our First Lady (looking gorgeous, as usual) and President Obama (bow-tie a bit off center) with Mexican President Calderon and Mrs. Margarita Zavala. (More photos).

Tonight’s State Dinner will be held in the East Room of the White House with State Dinner performances held under a tent on the South Lawn of the White House.  Performances are expected by Beyonce, Rodrigo y Gabriela and the United States Marine Band.

The most recent State Dinner held at the White House was for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mrs. Gursharan Kaur of India hosted on November 24, 2009.  (Our coverage here).

A Message From President Calderon at the State Dinner
President Calderon points out the similarities between he and President Obama, explaining the two want the same things - "Happiness of our people."

"We both belong to the same generation, almost the same age. We both are lawyers, for a time we went to the same University; we both marrieed a beautiful, charismatic and intelligent wife; both of them are lawyers, we both are left handed, and are president of two beautiful countries and in charge of millions of beautiful souls... but we share something more important: we both are looling for the same dream: the happiness of our people".

"We not only are neighbors, not only partners, not only allies: We really are friends", said Calderón.

Welcoming Mexico's President
President Calderón and Mrs. Zavala were welcomed at the White House earlier this morning on the South Lawn of the White House by President Obama and First Lady Michelle where a 21 Gun Salute and the singing of the National Anthem of Mexico along with the U.S. National Anthem were performed.

Mrs. Obama and Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala visited the New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland in the afternoon where the issue of immigration came to a head when a student commented "Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn't have papers", to which Mrs. Obama replied, "“We have to work on that. We have to make sure that people can be here and get the right kind of papers; that’s exactly right. We have to work on that. We have to fix that.”  (See video)

The First Lady participated in an exercise session with the students as part of her Let's Move! campaign which stresses the importance of exercise and healthy eating for youth to combat obesity in a generation.  In that spirit, the kids dined on a lunch of whole grain breaded chicken drumstick, seasoned potatoes, dinner roll, broccoli cuts with ranch dressing, assorted fresh fruit, and milk.

Mrs. Zavala then presented gifts to the students—little books about the butterflies of Michoacan, Mexico, home of several famous Monarch butterfly reserves.

Joint Press Availability
In the afternoon President Obama held a 'press conference' with President Calderón on the South Lawn where the two reaffirmed their committment to the two countries, both expressing how the two countries "compliment" each other.

"I can highlight here that the areas where we agree are broader than our differences",  said Calderón.

President Obama with Mexico's president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa in the South Lawn today. (Photo/CD Brown).

Topics that were addressed in earlier meetings on the day between the two included jobs, education, immigration, and border control.
"We gave special attention to the border matters", said Calderón. "The border is not only a place of encounter for both our nations, but it’s also an area of opportunity for our aspirations that we share regarding development. For this we will allocate more resources for the border infrastructure in order that it will be at the height of the needs of our economies and communities, and that it will benefit both sides of the border. We will strengthen the coordination among the government officials on both sides of the border to reinforce security."

When asked a question by a member of the attending media on the issue of Arizona's Immigration Law, President Obama said the law was "potentially discriminatory". 

"I want everyone, American and Mexican, to know my administration is taking a very close look at the Arizona law. We’re examining any implications, especially for civil rights. Because in the United States of America, no law-abiding person -- be they an American citizen, a legal immigrant, or a visitor or tourist from Mexico -- should ever be subject to suspicion simply because of what they look like."

The president has tasked the U.S. Justice Department to take a careful look at the language of the law to see whether it complies with existing legal standards.  A final report from JD is expected soon.

The president was adament when it comes to those entering the country illegally - outlining a series of points that needed to be addressed - the president said, "The third thing we have to do is to make sure that those who have come to this country illegally are held accountable. And that means they need to pay a fine, they need to pay back taxes. I believe they should learn English. I believe that it is important for them to get to the back of the line and not in the front, but that we create a pathway so that they have an opportunity, if they are following the rules, following the law, to become legal residents and ultimately citizens of this country."

The president supports "a comprehensive immigration reform approach."

The Guest List
Guests to join the President & First Lady with His Excellency Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, President of Mexico and Mrs. Margarita Zavala include:

The Honorable Tom Atkin, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director, NSC; Mr. Monte Briggs Hawkins; The Honorable Joe Baca, United States Representative; Mr. Robert C. Barber, Cambridge, MA; Mrs. Denise Bauer, Belvedere Tiburon, CA; Mr. Steve Bauer; The Honorable Robert Rand Beers, Under Secretary for National Protection Programs, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC; Mrs. Marian Beers; The Honorable Alan D. Bersin, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for International Affairs; The Honorable Barbara Boxer, United States Senate; Mr. Michael Camuñez, Special Assistant to the President, Office of Presidential Personnel; Mr. Steven Means; Mr. Thomas Castro, BMP Radio, Houston, TX; Ms. Jacqueline Castro; The Honorable Gil Cedillo, California State Senate, Los Angeles, CA; Mr. Gilbert Martinez; The Honorable James E. Clyburn, United States Representative, Washington, DC; The Honorable Henry Cuellar, United States Representative; Amy Travieso; Mr. Jim Demers, Concord, NH; Mr. Carlos Elizondo, Washington, DC; Mr. Mark Dumas; The Honorable Eliot Engel, United States Representative; Mrs. Patricia Engel; The Honorable José W. Fernández, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC; Ms. Andrea Gabor; Ms. María Garza, President, Mexican American Council, Homestead, FL; Edward Garza; Mr. Stuart Grant, Greenville, DE; Mrs. Suzanne Grant; The Honorable Raúl Grijalva, United States Representative Ms. Marisa H. Grijalva; The Honorable Gary Grindler, Acting Deputy Attorney General of the United States; Christine Grindler; Ms. Christy Haubegger, Creative Artists Agency, Los Angeles, CA; Mr. Steven Wolfe Pereira; The Honorable David Heyman, Assistant Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC; Ms. Victoria T White; The Honorable Rubén Hinojosa, United States Representative; Mrs. Martha Hinojosa; The Honorable Fred Hochberg, Export-Import Bank, Washington, DC; Dr. John P. Holdren, Washington, DC; Ms. Roberta Jacobson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for North American Affairs; Mr. Jonathon Jacobson; The Honorable David Johnson, Assistant Secretary of State for INL; Ms. Scarlett Swan; Mr. Lon Johnson; Mr. Michael Kempner, East Rutherford, NJ; Mrs. Jacqueline Kempner; Mr. Steven Lerner, Chapel Hill, NC; Dr. Sharon Van Horn;
The Honorable David Lipton, SAP and Senior Director for International Economics; Ms. Mary Galbraith; The Honorable Nita Lowey, United States Representative; Mr. Stephen Lowey;
The Honorable Ben Ray Lujan, United States Representative;
Ms. Deanna Archeleta; Ms. Maria Matos, Wilmington, DE; Ms. Sindy Ortiz; Mr. Gary Matthews, Chicago, IL; Mrs. Sandy Matthews; Mr. John F. McShane; Mrs. Kathleen C. McShane; The Honorable Daniel Meltzer, Deputy Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy Counsel to the President, White House Counsel; The Honorable Janet Murguía, President and CEO, National Council of La Raza, Washington, DC; Mauro Morales, The Honorable Grace Napolitano, United States Representative; Ms. Angela Salinas;
Mr. Danny Ortega, Chair, National Council of La Raza Board, Phoenix, AZ;
Mr. Raul Perea-Henze; Mr. Stephen B. Sobhani; Mr. Jon Ralston, Las Vegas Sun, Henderson, NV; Ms. Madeline Ralston; The Honorable Vivian Rapposelli, Secretary, Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families, Newark, DE; Stephen Rapposelli; The Honorable Nick Rasmussen, SAP and Senior Director for Counterterrorism; Mrs. Maria Rasmussen; Mr. Sean Regan, Director, NSSS Transborder Security Policy; Mrs. Eva N. Regan; Ms. Rosa Rosales, San Antonio, TX; Mr. Brent Ashley Wilkes, Executive Director, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Washington, DC;
The Honorable Lucille Roybal-Allard, United States Representative; Mr. Edward Allard; The Honorable Francisco Sánchez, Undersecretary of Commerce, Washington, DC; Ms. Mileydi Guilarte; The Honorable Linda Sánchez, United States Representative; Mr. James Sullivan, Guest of Then Honorable Linda Sanchez; The Honorable Loretta Sanchez; Ms. Esther L. Coopersmith; The Honorable Elizabeth Sears Smith, Office of Cabinet Affairs; Mr. Douglas Smith; Mr. Jeffrey Stirling; Mrs. Cynthia L. Stirling; The Honorable Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs; Mrs. Kristin Stockton; The Honorable Bruce Swartz, Department of Justice; Ms. Deborah Goodings; Ms. Grace Tsao-Wu, Chicago, IL; Ms. Laura Kofoid; Ms. Mimi Valdés Ryan, Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Kidult.com, New York, NY; Mr. Florian Bachleda; Mr. Jorge Valencia, West Des Moines, IA; Ms. Ramona Rowbury-Valencia; Secretary Tom Vilsack, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC; Mrs. Christie Vilsack.

Entertainment provided by Beyoncé, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and the U.S. Marine Band.

A Review Of The Day
 
President Obama and First Lady Welcome President of Mexico
Perhaps The One And Only Slip Up?
Behind-The-Scenes of The State Dinner

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

President Says Economy Is Getting Better (At Least In Youngstown)

The President visited Youngstown, Ohio today where he toured the facilities of V&M Star, a manufacturer of steel tubular goods, before delivering remarks on jobs and the economy to workers. 

The President discussed how efforts to rescue the economy are working, creating jobs, growing small businesses and keeping communities like Youngstown going. The President also talked about how the unpopular choices he made on the economy were the right choices to make, as evidenced by the fourth straight month of job growth and largest increase of jobs in four years.

He rebuked Republicans for making a politically calculated decision early on to sit on the sidelines and obstruct any measure aimed to help Americans during these difficult economic times. The President reminded all of us how much work we have to do and how he’ll keep fighting until every American who wants a good job has one.

His remarks follow:

"It is good to be back in Ohio, and it is good to be back in the Mahoning Valley. I appreciate the chance to tour this impressive facility and see some of the work you do here. I saw your 85-ton electric arc furnace. I didn’t see any evidence, but I know you’re building Iron Man’s suits here somewhere.

I appreciate the chance to spend some time with all of you, too. It’s always nice to get out of Washington for a day and spend some time with the people I work for, hearing your concerns and your hopes and your dreams. I’ve been trying to make a habit of that whenever the job allows. And obviously, the issue that’s front and center on everyone’s mind is the state of our economy.



You know, in the two years I was running for President, I was no stranger to this state. I saw firsthand what years of failed policies had done to working families here. And the Mahoning Valley is a place that doesn’t need an economist to tell you when a recession begins or ends.


Plenty of folks here have known their own private recessions for thirty years – even if they haven’t seen one like this, with an unemployment rate here at 14 percent and families having a tougher time than they’d ever imagined. Plenty of folks probably aren’t impressed by another President swooping in to talk to you about the economy, either – not when the only headline they want to see is “you’re hired.”


But I do want to talk about a piece of encouraging news for a change – because for much of the last two years, we didn’t always get to.

A year ago, we took significant action to jumpstart economic growth and job creation. That action included making investments in sectors with the greatest potential for private sector job growth – areas like clean energy and infrastructure.

One of those investments is going towards revitalizing the site next door, preparing it for new construction, and building a rail spur that connects to the Norfolk Southern line that runs through town. And as a result of that investment, V&M Star’s parent company has decided to invest $650 million of its own into building a new one million square-foot mill right here in Youngstown – the largest industrial plant built in the Mahoning Valley since GM built its plant over in Lordstown in the 1960s. Right here, in the heart of the old steel corridor, where some never thought we’d see an investment like this again, they’re placing their bet on American manufacturing and on this community.

That bet’s going to pay off with 400 construction jobs after you break ground this summer; and 350 new manufacturing jobs once the mill comes online – doubling your current workforce. And, as you all know, every time a new factory or plant opens or expands in America, it becomes important to more people than the workers it employs – it becomes an economic lifeline to a community, capable of supporting dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of jobs indirectly. That’s a success story you’re all a part of.

Now, I don’t want to suggest this one plant and the jobs it will create are going to make the difference for an entire community. But consider, for a moment, where we were just over a year ago. Our economy was shrinking. Our businesses were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Economists across the spectrum were seriously warning of another Great Depression. And all of this was on top of one of the toughest decades America’s middle class has ever faced.

So, we had a choice to make. We could sit back, do nothing and watch America’s decline – or we could stand up and fight for our future. Well, that’s why I ran for President, Youngstown. Because I believed we were at a defining moment in our history. And if we were going to keep the American Dream alive in our time, we couldn’t sit back and put off solving our problems any longer. We had to tackle them head on.

Job one was rescuing our economy. And that required some steps that were, frankly, unpopular – steps like stabilizing a financial system on the brink of collapse, and intervening in an auto industry on the brink of extinction. I knew those steps would be largely unpopular. I also knew that politics being what it is, some folks would try to score some political points off them.

But I think any fair-minded person would say that if we hadn’t acted, more people in the Mahoning Valley, more people in Ohio, and more people across America would be out of work today. We know, for example, that the GM plant over in Lordstown wouldn’t be there. GM would be defunct.

Instead, it’s paying back its debts, turning a profit for the first time in three years, and a third shift is about to come back to work in Lordstown, putting that plant at max capacity. And today, my Administration is announcing a landmark agreement to help dozens of communities like Youngstown revitalize and redevelop old, shuttered GM facilities, preparing them for new industries, new jobs, and new opportunity.

These steps were the right things to do. And it was the right thing to do to give tax relief to small businesses and working families – 4.5 million working families in Ohio alone. It was the right thing to do to give loans to small businesses to keep their doors open – more than 2,400 in this state. It was the right thing to do to extend unemployment benefits and make COBRA cheaper for people caught up in the recession until they could get back on their feet. It was the right thing to do to help governors like Ted avoid massive cuts to Medicaid or layoffs of teachers and police officers. And it was the right thing to do to invest in this town’s infrastructure. That’s why we put all of that in the recovery package. It was the right thing to do.

Now, we’ve got a long way to go before this recovery is felt in the lives of all our neighbors and in all the communities that have lost so much ground in this recession and for years before.

But despite that sobering reality, and despite the naysayers in Washington, who look for the cloud around every silver lining; the fact is that our economy is growing again. Last month, we gained 290,000 jobs. That was the largest increase in four years and the fourth month in a row that we’ve added jobs – the vast majority of which were in the private sector. And last month also brought the largest increase in manufacturing employment since 1998, which is a positive sign for communities like Youngstown.

And you know what? I think those critics know it – these folks who opposed us every step of the way, predicting and even rooting for failure. Because even as they tried to score political points by attacking what we did, many of them went home and claimed credit for the very things they voted against. They show up and they cut the ribbons, and send the mailings home touting the very projects they opposed in Washington, and try to have it both ways. Imagine that in politics?

Here’s the fact: If the just-say-no crowd had won out – if we had done things that way – we’d be in a deeper world of hurt. Families wouldn’t have seen those tax cuts. Small businesses wouldn’t have gotten those loans or the health care tax credits they’re now eligible for. Insurance companies would still be choosing who to cover and when. The steady progress we are beginning to see across America just wouldn’t exist. And neither would the plant you’re about to build.

So I invite anyone who thinks we shouldn’t have taken those actions or made those investments to come to places like this and tell us why. Come here and tell us why companies like this in towns like Youngstown shouldn’t be given every chance to expand and add jobs. Tell us why small businesses shouldn’t receive tax credits to help purchase health insurance for their employees; why seniors shouldn’t receive help paying for their medications when they hit the donut hole; why children with preexisting conditions shouldn’t be able to get insurance. Tell us why doing nothing would be better for America.

That’s not how we deal with crisis. That’s not how we became the greatest economic power the world has ever known. The United States of America doesn’t play for second place. We step up. We face our challenges. We compete. And we win. That’s something on which we should all agree.         Youngstown, I know how tough it is out here. I know the future too often still feels uncertain. I won’t stand here and pretend things are back to normal, or even close. I read too many letters each night from folks who are still hurting or out of work to believe that.
For all we’ve gotten done despite the unified, determined opposition of one party; just imagine how much farther along we could be if we worked together. And I truly believe it’s not too late for us to work together – not when there’s so much progress to make and so many more success stories like this to write. Because we’re not Democrats or Republicans first – we’re Americans first.
But I will tell you one thing: it is people like you and towns like this that are on my mind every day in the Oval Office. I will not rest until that future begins to brighten. And I am absolutely convinced that the steps we’re taking will help bring about that better future for America.



I believe that seeking new markets for our exports and enforcing the rules of free and fair trade is the right thing to do for our workers and companies. I believe that investing in a clean energy economy to create the good jobs of the future is the right thing to do for our economy and our environment. I believe that raising standards in our schools, making college more affordable, and upgrading our community colleges is the right thing to do for our kids and their future. I believe that reforming our health care system to crack down on the worst practices of the insurance industry and lifting the burden of skyrocketing premium increases was the right thing to do for our families and businesses.
So we’re going to keep up every effort to rebuild our economy and restore some security to the middle class – a middle class forged in plants just like this one – so that places like Youngstown don’t just survive year after year, but thrive year after year. And as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I’m going to keep fighting for a future that is brighter for this community, for Ohio, and for the country we love. God bless you and the work you’re doing here, and God Bless the United States of America."

White House Staff To Deliver Elena Kagan's Answers To Senate Judiciary Committee

Eight days after her nomination and five days after receiving the questionnaire, White House staff will deliver Elena Kagan’s answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee today at 3:30 in room 224 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Kagan come under fire early in her appointment regarding her practice of military recruiting. Earlier this week, the White House also requested the expeditious release of Kagan’s Clinton White House records which includes 160,000 pages of paper, including e-mail.

"Those documents may well hold the best clue as to her views and her attitudes, in terms of the role of the federal government and how she would perform as a Supreme Court justice," said Senator John Cornyn.

The White House will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure that the Committee is fully informed and can act in a timely fashion in deliberating on and confirming the nominee.

White House Drug Policy Director Outlines Strategies to Reduce Rising Threat from Methamphetamine and Prescription Drug Diversion and Abuse

(via Press Release)

Today, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), presented the Obama Administration’s National Drug Control Strategy at the National Methamphetamine Pharmaceuticals Initiative (NMPI) annual conference in San Diego, California.

Director Kerlikowske was joined by William Blair, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police/Toronto Police Chief, and experts in methamphetamine and pharmaceutical diversion, including participants from Canada, Mexico, and other countries.

The Administration’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy establishes five-year goals for reducing drug use and its consequences through a balanced policy of prevention, treatment, enforcement, and international cooperation, including efforts to reduce methamphetamine production and trafficking and prevent and treat methamphetamine and prescription drug abuse.

In remarks to some 440 participants, Director Kerlikowske thanked State and local law enforcement officials, as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration, for their tireless work to address the threat from methamphetamine and the growing problem of pharmaceutical abuse and diversion. Concerned about the rising number of methamphetamine labs and the practice of “smurfing” (the diversion of retail sales of pseudoephedrine to manufacture meth), he also cited efforts in Oregon, Mississippi, and Missouri to reduce smurfing by making pseudoephedrine available only by prescription, but cautioned there was more work ahead for State, local, and Federal agencies.

“The scope of our country’s drug problem is disturbingly clear; drug overdoses are fast approaching car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death,.” said Director Kerlikowske. “We also know that nearly one out of every 40 people in the United States meet the diagnostic criteria for illicit drug abuse or dependence, and that prescription drug abuse is the country’s fastest-growing problem. Through a multi-disciplinary approach that includes healthcare providers, law enforcement, and community engagement, we can reverse these trends and improve public health and safety.”

The 2010 National Drug Control Strategy, released last week by President Obama, provides a framework for our anti-drug efforts, and emphasizes community-based prevention, integration of evidence-based treatment into the mainstream healthcare system, innovations in the criminal justice system to break the cycle of drug use and crime, and international partnerships to disrupt transnational drug trafficking organizations. The Obama Administration explicitly opposes efforts to legalize or decriminalize drugs.

NMPI, an ONDCP-sponsored initiative, works to provide State and local officials with the tools they need to address these urgent problems. The three-day meeting brings together law enforcement officials to address methamphetamine issues and pharmaceutical diversion through strategy development, intelligence sharing, legislative initiatives, and training on best practices.

The 2010 National Drug Control Strategy and information about the Office of National Drug Control Policy is available at www.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy seeks to foster healthy individuals and safe communities by effectively leading the Nation’s effort to reduce drug use and its consequences