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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This 4th of July: Before You Grill Know The Drill

USDA Offers Familiar Grilling Advice For This 4th of July

The Fourth of July is nearly upon us, and many Americans will celebrate our Nation's birthday by grilling or attending cookouts. USDA is reminding consumers that following safe food handling steps are the key to making your cookout safe and healthy for your guests.

"Barbecuing is a great way to celebrate Independence Day, and it's important to take a few seconds to measure your food temperature to help protect your family and friends this summer," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Make a food thermometer your most important grilling tool."

USDA has four basic steps to help you Be Food Safe and declare independence from foodborne illness any time of year:

1. Clean: First things first – start with clean surfaces and clean hands. You and your guests should wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Equally important are the surfaces that come in contact with raw and cooked foods – make sure they are clean before you start and are washed frequently.

2. Separate: Raw meats and poultry should be prepared separately from produce and cooked foods. Use separate cutting boards when chopping raw meats and produce, as juices from raw meats may contain harmful bacteria that can cross-contaminate ready-to-eat foods.

3. Cook: Your food thermometer is the most important tool that will tell you if your food is thoroughly cooked, as color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. The safe minimum internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria in steaks, roasts, chops and fish is 145°F, while ground beef should reach 160°F. Take extra care with frozen hamburgers as these take longer to reach a safe internal temperature throughout the patties. It is important to measure the temperature in several areas of your burgers. All poultry and fully cooked meats like hot dogs should be grilled to 165°F or until steaming hot.

4. Chill: Perishable food should never sit out for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90°F – which is common at summer picnics – perishable foods shouldn't sit out more than one hour. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly, and discard any food that has been out too long.

Additionally, throughout the week, USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) will offer important information about how to prevent foodborne illness at 4th of July events - and throughout the year – using a variety of tools that are sure to reach all audiences:

The FSIS Twitter feed will count down to the Fourth of July with a daily tip tailored to the holiday. Check the feed everyday at 12:00 p.m. EDT through July 5 to find the daily tip.

On Wednesday, June 30, FSIS will release a new podcast in English and Spanish on summer grilling. Access the podcasts available here.

On Thursday, July 1, FSIS will release a Video News Release on summer grilling that includes a demonstration of how to properly check if your burgers are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Access the video news release at, or on FSIS' YouTube channel.

On Thursday, July 1 at 1:00 p.m. EDT, FSIS' Meat and Poultry Hotline Manager Diane Van will host a live chat on Facebook, answering consumer and media summer food safety questions. Go to to ask Diane any food safety questions you have before serving your Fourth of July guests. Or, visit the Meat and Poultry Hotline.

Ask the FSIS virtual representative "Ask Karen", your food safety questions, available 24 hours a day at You can also "Chat live" with Karen between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm EDT, Monday through Friday.

The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.

Podcasts and SignFSIS video-casts in American Sign Language featuring text-captioning are available online at

Throughout the week, FSIS' website will feature a special emphasis page for summertime food safety. It will feature links to all of FSIS's resources regarding shopping, preparing, cooking, and storing food for gatherings in the summer heat. You can access the page at

America Celebrates The Fourth of July To Air July 2nd!

Congresswoman Norton Helping Homeowners Save Their Homes

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved counselors, 13 mortgage lenders, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provided one-on-one services to 765 homeowners at the Saving Homes, Foreclosure Prevention Day sponsored by the Obama Administration and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

Norton said, "It was clear that Saturday's Foreclosure Prevention Day served a crying need in this town. With the loan modification rate in D.C. at less than two percent, we have begun to make sure that the Making Homes Affordable program lives up to its promise by helping hundreds of people receive loan adjustments."

Paula McMillan, a Ward 5 resident, said she saw Norton's public service announcement (PSA) on TV about the free event after receiving calls from two different people saying they could help modify her home loan, one for a fee of $2,500 and the other for $3,000. After watching Norton's PSA, McMillan called her bank to put a stop payment on her checks to the callers.

Norton said, "Such services are free of charge through NeighborWorks and Hope Now. These callers may have been scam artist. Homeowners should call my office when they receive such phone calls, and should never pay for loan modifications."

Ashley Jordan, a Ward 8 resident, previously received a loan modification, but because of continued financial hardship, she desired a second modification. Within 15 minutes, she received another loan adjustment at Foreclosure Prevention Day.

"I will continue to partner with Treasury to get modifications for residents and to alert vigilance for people who want them to pay for free loan modification."

For foreclosure info, and how to possibly save your home, click here.

First Ladies Grace The Campus of Duke Ellington School of the Arts

First Lady Michelle Obama with DESA principle Rory Pullens and Russia's First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva.

First Lady Obama invited Russia's First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva to a performance at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts after Russia hosted President and Mrs. Obama in Moscow last summer.

While there, the First Family was treated to a performance by the Moiseyev Dance Company.

"That’s why I’m so pleased to have this opportunity to return the hospitality that my family received, and to showcase the extraordinary young people that are here at this school and in this city", said First Lady Obama. "It’s important for the world to see."

Important it is.  Especially to the students and alumni of the famed establishment that has garnered several local talents such as keyboardist Cherie Mitchel-Agurs,Tony Terry, actor Lamman Rucker, and vocalist <>Sylver Logan Sharp.

"First of all I'm just proud", said Sharp.  "It means the world to me to be here, because I'm very proud of my high school. I'm very proud of what the students are doing.  Of all the places that she (First Lady Obama) could be, she's here for Duke Ellington and I'm glad to be a part of it."

For a school that has formed alliances and has the star power of artists like Stevie Wonder in its corner, also having the support of First Lady of the United States speaks volumes.

"This is the most incredible experience", said Duke Ellington principle Rory Pullens.  "This brings exposure to and highlights the excellent Arts program that we have here at Duke Ellington.  We are honored to have the First Lady (of the United States) and the First Lady of the Russian Federation as well."

Pullens who introduced the pair of ladies after the students' performances, joked with the audience asking, "What could we possibly follow up with to match the creative, artistic expression of our students? "I can think of two individuals who just might fit that bill." 

Pullens called the two First Ladies "international champions of the Arts", saying they both understand how critical a component the Arts are to the well being of every nation.

First Lady Medvedev, a pianist, pointed out that Russia is very fond of  jazz music.

Mrs. Medvedeva praised the students' performance and said she would like to form a friendship between Duke Ellington School and Russia's performing Arts students.

"I would like to see the children of our schools, yours and ours, to become friends.  And the friendship that you will establish probably will be the best friendship that you will carry all your lives."

Duke Ellington alumni Derrick Speller agrees, adding that the First Ladys' visit both "enriches" and "brings great energy to the school."

"That's a beautiful thing.  The more people we can get in contact with outside of our own country, helps makes it a whole better place.

The students of Duke Ellington School of the Arts have performed at the White House, and at President Obama's 2009 inauguration.

"I think we’ve really worn you guys out because we have you at the White House almost all the time", said Mrs. Obama. "I think every time we want some young people there, we’re like, Call Duke Ellington!”  

Those sentiments bring smiles to the face of Duke Ellington's rising senior, DeMar Sarter.

"I was proud", the Visual Arts major said.  "It's so nice to hear her talking about our school like that.  I feel like we have accomplished something."

Photo gallery.

Note:   President Medvedeva visited with President Obama - their seventh meeting - where, at the White House, they discussed nuclear non-proliferation, national security, and U.S.- Russian economic ties.   See White House presser here.

Vice President Biden's Visit To New Orleans

A pool reporter is providing updates on Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Louisiana where he is there to assess the damages from the BP oil spill.

Here's the most recent update (as of 1:01 pm EST).

The motorcade arrived at 10 a.m. at the unified command center in downtown New Orleans, where a half-dozen protestors stood outside in a light rain carrying signs that said, "Oil kills."

Vice President Biden went to the 14th floor of the 24-story Poydras Plaza, where more than 100 BP, government and military offcials were seated at rows of tables working on laptop computers in a cavernous office dubbed "the bullpen."

The workers were arranged in various groupings, such as "Critical Resources Unit," "Documentation Unit," and "Technical Specialists." A large projection TV flashed weather updates and the latest track for Tropical Storm Alex. The offices are the same ones used by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina.

Sitting at the head of a horseshoe arrangement of tables behind temporary partitions at one end of the bullpen, Biden was flanked by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on his left and Adm. Thad Allen on his right.

Also participating in the briefing were Jindal; Cao; BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles; NOAA Adminstrator Jane Lubchenco; Rear Adm. James Watson, the federal on-scene coordinator; Rear Adm. Paul Frederick Zukunft; Charles Henry, Jr., NOAA senior scientific coordinator; Kari Sheets, a NOAA scientist; and Michael Joseph Saucier, a regional supervisor for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement.

After an hourlong briefing, Watson gave Vice President Biden a brief tour of the bullpen.

The vice president  seemed impressed with the size of the operation and said, "I don't think the American people have any idea" how many resources are being used to fight the spill.

Watson said the "Documentation Unit" records everything that happens at the unified command center, where more than 430 people work each day.

"We're learning a lot," Watson said. "There's never been an oil spill like this in history. So we're recording everything so we can learn from history."

The pooler added this bit of info as well.  We are enroute to Pomes Seafood, an eastern New Orleans wholesaler that used to serve free all-you-can-eat crabs at nearby Crazy Al’s bar on Wednesday nights. The good deed typically required 600 to 800 pounds of crab each week. It’s unclear whether the oil spill has impacted this popular tradition.

Bobby Jindal is asking BP to fund a 20-year, $400 million program to test seafood for oil contamination and rehabilitate fisheries.

"Thirty percent of the nation's seafood comes from waters off Louisiana, where commercial fishing is $2-billion-a-year industry while recreational anglers contribute another $1 billion to the local economy", said Jindal.

"Our message to BP is that the cost of this program is just a fraction of the damages that could be caused if we don't do this."

Administration Remarks On Passing of Senator Robert Byrd

Senator Robert Byrd (D- WVA) died Monday.  At 92, he was the longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history.

President Obama and Vice President Biden share their thoughts on the passing of Senator Robert Byrd

President Obama:  Throughout his 51 years, the longest tenure of any member in Congress in the history of the United States, Robert C. Byrd was a tough, compassionate, and outspoken leader and dedicated above all else to making life better for the people of the mountain state -- his state, the state of West Virginia. He never lost sight of home. He may have spent half a century in Washington. But there’s a guy -- if anybody wondered -- he never, never, never, never took his eye of his beloved mountain state. And we shall not -- to paraphrase the poet -- we shall not see his like again. And the Senate is a lesser place for his going."

Vice President Biden: "As we used to say in my years in the Senate, if you’ll excuse a point of personal privilege here for a moment, a very close friend of mine, one of my mentors -- a guy who was there when I was a 29-year-old kid being sworn into the United States Senate shortly thereafter; a guy who stood in the rain, in a pouring rain, freezing rain outside a church as I buried my daughter and my wife before I got sworn in, Robert C. Byrd. He passed away today. He was the -- we lost the dean of the United States Senate, but also the state of West Virginia lost its most fierce advocate and, as I said, I lost a dear friend.

Byrd was related to Harry F. Byrd Sr. who is named after the highway that extends to Winchester, Virginia, also known as Route 7.

In a meeting at the White House, a press pooler reported that President Obama was asked whether Senator Byrd's passing would affect financial reform passage in Congress. 

He responded by saying, "I'm concerned about the fact that a giant in the Senate and a personal friend of mine passed away. I don't think about that in the context of financial regulatory reform. I'm confident that, given the package that was put together, that senators, hopefully on both sides on the aisle, will recognize that it's time we put in place rules that prevent taxpayer bailouts" and "that we don't have a financial crisis that will tank the economy."

The president also remarked that he thinks there will be "enough interest in moving reform forward that we will get this done."

President Obama called Byrd's career "unparalleled", and added that Byrd "helped to transform the institution of the Senate."

"Through his own personal transformation, he embodied the kind of changes in America that have made us more equal, more just, more fair. And he will be sorely missed."

Both President Obama and Vice President Biden are scheduled to attend and make remarks at the senator's funeral July 2 in Charleston, West Virginia.

The president has issued the following Proclamation:
"As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding service of Senator Robert C. Byrd, President pro tempore of the Senate, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on the day of his interment. I further direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
I also direct, that in honor and tribute to this great patriot, that the flag of the United States shall be displayed at full-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and Naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions on Independence Day, July 4, 2010. I further direct that on that same date, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at full-staff at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

First Lady Launches President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama joined students from Bell Multicultural High School to launch the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and introduce the 2010 Council co-chairs and members.

In conjunction with the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, this year President Obama has broadened the scope of the Council, formerly known as the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, to include a focus on healthy eating as well as active lifestyles. Yesterday, the President signed an Executive Order outlining the Council’s new emphasis on both good nutrition and physical fitness.

The President has named Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, and Dominique Dawes, three-time Olympian and former U.S. national champion in women’s gymnastics, 2010 Council Co-Chairs. Dawes delivered remarks at the event and Brees recorded a video message that was shown at the launch.

Joining Dawes were 2010 Council Members Dan Barber, Tedy Bruschi, Allyson Felix, Michelle Kwan, Curtis Pride, Donna Richardson Joyner, Dr. Ian Smith, Carl Edwards, Cornell McClellan and Dr. Stephen McDonough. Council Executive Director, Shellie Pfohl, was also in attendance. Following the announcement, the First Lady, Pfohl and the Council Members joined the kids in participating in a series of activity stations that saw the First Lady juggling, doing yoga, and jumping rope (on one foot, arms crossed).

"But today we know that being healthy is about more than just being physically fit", said the First Lady. "It’s also about eating healthy foods and really learning which foods to enjoy in moderation. That’s one of the reasons I talk about burgers and fries, because a life without burgers and fries is really depressing.

As one student added, "and fried chicken".  Mrs. Obama, laughing, and in agreement said, "and fried chicken."

The president, recognizing that good good nutrition goes hand in hand with fitness and sports participation, signed Executive Order 13265 this week with the main focus on (a) expand national interest in and awareness of the benefits of regular physical activity, fitness, sports participation, and good nutrition; (b) stimulate and enhance coordination of programs within and among the private and public sectors that promote physicalactivity, fitness, sports participation, and good nutrition; (c) expand availability of quality information and guidance regarding physical activity, fitness, sports participation, and good nutrition; and (d) target all Americans, with particular emphasis on children and adolescents, as well as populations or communities in which specific risks or disparities in participation in, access to, or knowledge about the benefits of physical activity, fitness, sports participation, and good nutrition have been identified.

The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition is a committee of volunteer citizens who advise the President through the Secretary of Health and Human Services about opportunities to develop accessible, affordable and sustainable physical activity, fitness, sports and nutrition programs for all Americans regardless of age, background or ability.
The Council’s mission is to engage, educate and empower all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition. For more information about the Council and its members, visit

Note:  Due to the McChrystal incident, the president was unable to attend the event.

Thank You, But No Thank You

President Obama Praises General Who Scouffed At His Administration

As we reported last evening U.S. military bad boy, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan resigned over his remarks made about the Obama administration and civilian officials.

In an address today in the Rose Garden President Obama stated, "Mr. McChrystal's conduct does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan."

As such, President Obama accepted McChrystal's resignation earlier today, replacing the loose-lipped military top-brass with General David H. Petraeus.
The decision to accept the resignation was not an easy one for the president and he commended Petraeus on making a great personal sacrifice to himself and to his family for accepting his new post. "He is setting an extraordinary example of service and patriotism by assuming this difficult post."

(Can't view the video?  Click here.)

Amid McChrystal's scathing remarks, President Obama said "Stan McChrystal has always shown great courtesy and carried out my orders faithfully. I've got great admiration for him and for his long record of service in uniform."


Great courtesy, Mr. President?   You read his remarks about your administration.  Remember?  Those words (probably spoken in uniform) angered you, as relayed yesterday to the media by White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs.

But I do understand your being the bigger person in all this when you said, "...war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president. And as difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security."

McChrystal was summoned to Washington from Afghanistan to meet with the president. Those in opposition said the president could have accepted the General's resignation - from a distance.

William S. Cohen, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, spoke with talk radio's Joe Madison of The Joe Madison Show today, and voiced his opinion about President Obama’s decision to meet with General McChrystal.

Cohen stated that if it was up to him, and the decision was to fire McChrystal, he would not have summoned the General to the White House, but instead would have asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to make a phone call and say “thank you very much for your service, but it is no longer required.”

Whether from afar in Afghanistan, or here at home, Mr. McChrystal, your service is no longer required.

Obama Calls McChrystal "One of Our Finest Soldiers"

Homelessness No More - In About Five To Ten Years

The White House yesterday unveiled its plan to eradicate, and prevent, homelessness in America within the next five to ten years through its Opening Doors initiative.

(L to R) HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius,
and Veterans Affairs Secretary Erick K. Shinseki, with Domestic Policy Council Directory, Melody Barnes. Photo/CD Brown.

The initiative, in collaboration with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and under the guise of HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan,  Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Erick K. Shinseki, seeks to end chronic homelessness in five years; prevent and end homelessness among Veterans; and prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children in ten years.  The Opening Doors initiative also seeks to align with mainstream housing, health, education, and human services while strengthening existing partnerships with agencies like HUD and the Veterans Affairs, to forge new partnerships with agencies like HHS and the Department of Labor.

"This is the first comprehensive federal plan after 30 years of ineffective policies that have not ended homelessness", said John Lozier, Executive Director of the National Care for the Homeless Council.  "It recognizes the critical connection between homelessness and poor health, and looks to the opportunities present in Health Reform to help break those deadly linkages."

The Obama Administration's FY2011 Budget supports the key priorities reflected in the HEARTH ACT, enacted by Congress in May 2009,that includes the Emergency Solutions Grant, 10,000 new unitis of permanent supportive housing, and a newly authorized competitive rural program.

"This is an unprecented coordination of federal resources and support from the White House and from members of the Cabinet to insure that we address these goals, recognizing that even in a difficult environment that we're moving forward, that we're bringing together the resources of all these agencies as well as other members of the USICH to get the job done",   White House Domestic Policy Council Director, Melody Barnes told us after the session.

While the House and Senate may be divided on issues like health care, Barnes said both parties have offered their support to end homelessness.

"This is a reflection of the fact that Republicans and Democrats - from all over the country - realize that we have to deal with this problem right now."

In 2009, there were 110,917 adults experiencing chronic homelessness; 983,835 people accessing shelters and transitional housing programs.

"Opening Doors will require strong partnerships with Congress, states, localities, philantrhopy, and faith based and community organizations across the country", said USICH Vice Chair and Labory Secretary Hilda Solis.

Sharayna Warmsley of Buffalo, New York (and Ohio) knows homelessness.

"I've been homeless quite a few times", said Warmsley who told us that unstable family conditions caused her to be homeless.  She left home over issues of abuse and violence.

"After the abuse I said no, and I didn't want to take it, and went off on my own."

Warmsley said she had been on her own since ten, even though she continued to come back home.

"It was hard to obtain funding or get into programs without ID, or a social security card, or birthday certiticate so I came home."

Sharayna Warmsley shares her homelessness story with a reporter. Photo/CD Brown.

Warmsley, now twenty-two, said during her periods of homelessness she would stay house-to-house, in abandoned buildings, and old cars. She credits a friend for taking her to a teen drop-in help center where she was introduced to YEP (a Youth Empowerment Program) that connected her with another agency that provided her with basic needs like shoes, school supplies, and a stipend to help with rent.

She says the strategy of USICH "makes sense".  Although currently unemployed, she shares her story of homelessness with other youth around the country to encourage them.

Homelessness Documentary: Dr. Sheila Johnson's Other City

Affordable Health Care - Three Months Later

President Obama comforts a teary-eyed Amy Wilhite at yesterday's briefing marking the
Three Month Anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act.  Photo/CD Brown.

Today the president remarked on the 90 Day Anniversary of his signing of the Affordable Care Act into law, and the New Patient's Bill of Rights.

Speaking from the East Room the president spoke on ways his administration is planning to put into affect provisions of the new law and also announced the release of new regulations implementing the Patient's Bill of Rights protections included in the Affordable Care Act.

"This law will cut costs and make coverage more affordable for families and small businesses. It’s reform that begins to bring down our government’s long-term structural deficit. It’s reform that finally extends the opportunity to purchase coverage to the millions who currently don’t have it and includes tough new consumer protections to guarantee greater stability, security and control for the millions who do have health insurance."

The president was introduced by Amy Wilhite of Marblehead, Ohio whose daughter, Taylor, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Taylor received three rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. The cancer treatment produced multiple side effects: problems with her heart and hip, short-term memory loss, steroid-induced diabetes, and a compromised immune system. Taylor’s father’s insurance plan has a $1 million lifetime limit. As Taylor approached the limit, her parents requested a $500,000 extension and it was granted.

"Amy, you and Taylor are why the Affordable Care Act bans those lifetime limits. And you’re why these members of Congress right here fought so hard, despite some very tough politics, to make this happen."

Under the Affordable Care Act, all insurance companies are prohibited from imposing lifetime benefit limits, effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010. Also starting in September, some of the worst abuses will be banned such as discriminating against children with preexisting conditions, and retroactively dropping a patient’s policy when they get sick if they made an unintentional mistake on an application.

Under the Patient’s Bill of Rights, barriers between patients and their doctors will eliminated.

Americans will be able to keep the primary care doctor or pediatrician they choose. You’ll be able to see an OBGYN without a referral. You’ll be able to seek emergency care at a hospital outside the plan’s network without fighting to get approval from an insurance company first. And consumers will finally have access to simple, clear information about their choices and their rights. These protections to preserve America’s choice of doctors made up the original Patient’s Bill of Rights. It was a proposal that was debated over a decade ago with significant bipartisan support, but was never enacted until now as part of the Affordable Care Act", said Obama.

Supporters of the bill agree.  "I'm thrilled to be here", said one member of a consumer's watchdog group. "I think he did a fair accounting of the consumer benefits that are in the bill."

"This Patient’s Bill of Rights is something that people have talked about for the last twenty to twenty five years", said National Medical Association's Executive Leader, Kweisi Mfume

"The fact that it's actually taking shape, or taking form is significant.  For those of us who are working in the larger medical and health care industries, we applaud that.  At the same time, we are watching Congress and conjoling members of the House and Senate to go back and fix the Medicare cut which is going to disproportionately affect physicians all across this country, and at the end of the day will disproportionately affect their ability to serve patients, so we commend the president for his comments.  We are actively urging Congress to do what it should do in terms of fixing the Medicare cuts, and I think this was a significant day - especially in respect to the Patient's Bill of Rights."

According to the administration, Americans should already see the bill working.

"While it will take a few years to fully implement this law, we can already see it taking effect, said Obama. "Last month, 4 million small business owners found a postcard in their mailbox informing them that they could be eligible for a health care tax cut this year worth tens of thousands of dollars to help them cover their employees. And America’s largest businesses are filling out applications for critical relief to help them provide coverage for retirees who aren’t yet eligible for Medicare."

The president added that the law will strengthen Medicare by going after waste and fraud and abuse in the system, and aggressively pursuing those who prey on seniors with scams.

"So this is a long-overdue victory for America’s consumers and patients. And yes, it does away with the status quo that some insurance companies have taken advantage of for so long. But insurance companies should see this reform as an opportunity to improve care and increase competition. They shouldn’t see it as an opportunity to enact unjustifiable rate increases that don’t boost care and inflate their bottom line."

The president met with company CEOs who were instrumental in reforming the previous healthcare system, many present in yesterday's briefing.

"What Americans expect in return is a greater level of accountability and fairness and security. We expect to get what we pay for. And these rights guarantee just that -- basic rules of the road that will make America’s health care system more consumer-driven and more cost-effective, and give Americans the peace of mind that their insurance will be there when they need it."

The president was met by those he called "on the other side of the aisle" who opposed the plan's measures.  The president proclaimed America can't go back to the old status quo of providing healthcare.

"Would you want to go back to discriminating against children with preexisting conditions?", asked Obama. " Would you want to go back to dropping coverage for people when they get sick? Would you want to reinstate lifetime limits on benefits so that mothers like Amy have to worry?

Supporters of the bill share the president's sentiments.

"Obviously those people don't think we should extend healthcare to everybody", said Congresswoman Donna Christiansen (D-VI).

"They don't seem to believe insurance companies need reform.  I think it is a lot of anti-Obama sentiment there, because a lot of those complaining about the bill who will eventually benefit from the bill.  They are arguing against something that is in their best interest." 

"They want to go back to the system we had before, said Obama of his detractors who would like to see the old status quo prevail.

"We’re not going back.  I refuse to go back."

For more on health care reform click here.

America's Healthcare Stories: Meet Nathan and Laura
Video: President Obama's Remarks

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

McChrystal Resigns Over Administration and Afghanistan Remarks.

CNN is reporting that Gen. Stanley McChrystal has submitted his resignation.  

His resignation comes after comments McChrystal, a ranking U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, made in an upcoming June 25th Rolling Magazine article began surfacing on the Internet.

The article details McChrystal criticizing senior White House aides, while his assistants make fun at administration officials overseeing the war. 

It is reported that McChrystalmade fun of White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones -- a retired four-star general -- calling him a "clown stuck in 1985." 

The Rolling Stone article also became evident on a Facebook page owned by one Michael Yon

Yon has snippets of the RS article that shows more evidence of McChrystal's sentiments about his job, and President Obama, saying Obama didn't really know much about him before hiring him for the Afghanistan job.

"Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn’t go much better. “It was a 10-minute photo op,” says an adviser to McChrystal. “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”

During today's press briefing Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said "General McChrystal has made an enormous mistake."

"There are more than 90,000 of our bravest men and women in Afghanistan, and what we owe them is nothing short of our full support and our best efforts to get a new strategy in that country right.  That's the President's focus. That should be everybody's focus."

Gibbs said the president was "angry" over McChrystal's remarks.  (See video).

The president has not spoken to McChrystal as yet, but plans have been made for McChrystal to fly back from Afghanistan to meet with President Obama tomorrow in the Situation Room

And what a situation it is.

In his remarks this evening after meeting with members of his cabinet, Obama was asked if he was going to fire McChrystal.

"General McChrystal is on his way here and I am going to meet with him. Secretary Gates will be meeting with him, as well. I think it’s clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showedpoor judgment. And -- but I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decisions", said Obama.

Here's what we do know.

If one soldier can fly home from Afghanistan, couldn't others be brought home as well?

End this crazy war.

McChrystal's Psyche and Middle Finger

Kendrick Meek Wins Debate

MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. - The Kendrick Meek campaign reacted to Kendrick winning today's debate with Jeff Greene:

"Kendrick proved what we knew all along -- he is the only candidate who will fight for middle-class Florida families. Today, he showed that he is the lone progressive in this race running against three men who have each run for office as a Republican. From the oil spill to job creation, Kendrick displayed a command of the issues facing Florida and proved that he is the only candidate who middle-class Floridians can trust to reign big business run amuck," said Abe Dyk, Kendrick Meek for Florida campaign manager.

"In the debate, we saw that Florida families simply can't trust Jeff Greene to fight for them. It was Jeff Greene who helped wreck the economy and housing market by betting against middle class homeowners -- nothing Jeff Greene said today could change that fact. Using risky investments Warren Buffett called 'financial weapons for mass destruction,' Jeff Greene worked with big Wall Street banks to make nearly a billion dollars off of middle-class homeowners who couldn't make mortgage payments.

"In these stark economic times, Floridians need a leader like Kendrick Meek who isn't afraid to tackle big issues and will fight for middle-class Florida families, not a billionaire who made his fortune helping wreck Florida's middle class."

Kendrick Meek is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Florida. Prior to running for elected office, Kendrick was a Trooper in the Florida Highway Patrol.

For more information, go to

Monday, June 21, 2010

Read My....Pins?

The Art Of Communication

Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection opened at the Smithsonian Castle on June 18 and it will be on view through Oct. 11, 2010. This exhibition features more than 200 pins, many of which Secretary Albright wore to communicate messages during her diplomatic tenure.

Blue Bird Pin.

Albright, explaining the story behind her Blue Bird pin said, “Until the twenty-fourth of February 1996, I wore the pin with the bird's head soaring upward. On the afternoon of that tragic day, Cuban fighter pilots shot down two unarmed civilian aircraft over international waters between Cuba and Florida. To illustrate my feelings, I wore the bird pin with its head pointing down, in mourning for the free spirited Cuban-American fliers.”

During her service as ambassador to the United Nations, and then as U.S. Secretary of State, Albright came to understand how powerful a symbol an item of jewelry could be, and chose pins to reflect her diplomatic mission, reinforce her negotiating position or express her pride of country and office. The pins on view span more than a century of jewelry design and range from dime-store pins to designer creations to family heirlooms. 

The exhibit examines the collection for its historical significance and the expressive power of jewelry and its ability to communicate through a style and language of its own.

Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection” was organized by the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.

Father's Day: Obama Style

President Obama with daughter, Sasha, getting ice cream Saturday at The Dairy Godmother.

While the President was taking care of his own Father's Day responsibilities that included taking the First Daughters out for an ice cream treat this past Saturday, the president also shared what it means to be a father with young men and father's today at The Arc.

In his address President Obama said that fathers are "our mentors, our role models who show us by the example they set the kind of people they want us to become."

It is fitting for Obama to make these remarks in a community that needs the mentoring and leadership of men (and fathers) more than ever.   Too many of our nation's children, especially in urban communities, are without fathers.

"But we also know that what too many fathers missing from too many homes, missing from too many lives. We know that when fathers abandon their responsibilities, there’s harm done to those kids. We know that children who grow up without a father are more likely to live in poverty. They're more likely to drop out of school. They're more likely to wind up in prison. They’re more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. They’re more likely to run away from home. They’re more likely to become teenage parents themselves."

Obama, who's own father left the family when he was just two years old, said he "still felt the weight of that absence".

Admitting that he himself hasn't been the perfect parent, citing that the demands of work sometimes caused him to miss precious moments of his daughter's childhood lives, Obama told the audience that "our children don’t need us to be superheroes. They don’t need us to be perfect. They do need us to be present. They need us to show up and give it our best shot, no matter what else is going on in our lives. They need us to show them -- not just with words, but with deeds -- that they, those kids, are always our first priority."

The president has launched a new, nationwide Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative, explaining that it is "a call to action" with cities and states, with individuals and organizations (to include the NFL, and PTAs) across the country to raise awareness about responsible fatherhood and working to re-engage absent fathers with their families.

Just like last Father's Day, the White House held a Father's Day barbeque earlier this afternoon.

One year ago this week, the Administration kicked off a national conversation on fatherhood and personal responsibility, that included hearing from fathers and families about the challenges that they face.

In a Father's Day Proclamation, Obama writes,
"From the first moments of life, the bond forged between a
father and a child is sacred. Whether patching scraped knees or helping with homework, dads bring joy, instill values, and introduce wonders into the lives of their children. Father's Day is a special time to honor the men who raised us, and to thank them for their selfless dedication and love.

Fathers are our first teachers and coaches, mentors and role models. They push us to succeed, encourage us when we are struggling, and offer unconditional care and support. Children and adults alike look up to them and learn from their example and perspective. The journey of fatherhood is both exhilarating and humbling -- it is an opportunity to model who we want our sons and daughters to become, and to build the foundation upon which they can achieve their dreams.

Fatherhood also carries enormous responsibilities. An active, committed father makes a lasting difference in the life of a child. When fathers are not present, their children and families cope with an absence government cannot fill.Across America, foster and adoptive fathers respond to this need, providing safe and loving homes for children facing hardships. Men are also making compassionate commitments outside the home by serving as mentors, tutors, or big brothers to young people in their community.

Together, we can support the guiding presence of male role models in the lives of countless young people who stand to gain from it. Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a step-father, a grandfather, or caring guardian. We owe a special debt of gratitude for those parents serving  the United States Armed Forces and their families, whose sacrifices protect the lives and liberties of all American children. For the character they build, the doors they open, and the love they provide over our lifetimes, all our fathers deserve our unending appreciation and admiration."
Video: Father's Day At The Arc
Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Salahis Talk

Tariq and Michaele Salahi talk to Carol Joynt of the Q&A Cafe With Carol at the Georgetown Ritz Carlton.  Photo/CD Brown.

After crashing the White House State Dinner (they still claim it never happened), and pleading the Fifth on Capitol Hill about crashing the White House State Dinner, the Salahis did talk about their upcoming roles in The Real Housewives of DC.

The Salahis were guests on the DC 50 talk show, Q & A Cafe with Carol Joynt, the former Nathan's of Georgetown restaurant owner.

Among other topics discussed were the status of the Oasis winery the couple owns in Fauquier County, the State Dinner, and of course Bravo's reality show.

On the White House State Dinner...
"We've moved on from it.  The President and the Vice President laughed about it, and we're just ready to move on from it."

Carol gently reminded the couple that the state's attorney has not "moved on from it" and they could still be prosecuted. The couple again implied that they did not wish to discuss the White House State Dinner event.

On Oasis Winery...
The Salahis plan to reopen the winery that has caused family friction about whether or not it should be sold or kept in the family.

"My father, who is ill, wanted the winery to go to me", said Tariq.

On RHoDC...
Although the couple wouldn't comment on whether they are using the reality show to seek fame and stardom, and money of course, Michaele said, "You'll have to watch the show, and you'll see it's tastefully done."

The premiere of RHODC kicks off August 8th, with a premiere party down town, near the White House.

Exact location, also not disclosed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 2: BP Oil Exec Testify On Capitol Hill

Watch all the latest developments in the BP Executives' Capitol Hill hearings here.

The President and the Vice President met with BP executives this week in the Roosevelt Room. Attendees for the meeting included:

Adm. Thad Allen, National Incident Commander, Carol Browner, Office of Energy and Climate, Larry Summers, National Economic Council, Bob Bauer, White House Counsel, Don Verrilli, White House Counsel’s Office, Melody Barnes, Domestic Policy Council, Tom Perrelli, Department of Justice, Carl-Henric Svanberg, Chairman, BP, Tony Hayward, CEO, BP, Bob Dudley, Managing Director, BP; Lamar McKay, CEO, BP America, Rupert Bondy, General Counsel, BP, and Jamie Gorelick, WilmerHale.

The remarks of the President after the meeting follow.
"Good afternoon, everybody. I just concluded a constructive meeting with BP’s chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, and I raised two issues at the meeting. First was the containment of the oil that is still spewing into the Gulf. As I mentioned last night, my administration has directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology, and in the coming days and weeks, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil that is leaking out of the well.

Now, that’s not good enough. So we will continue to press BP and draw on our best minds and resources to capture the rest of the oil until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that is expected to stop the leak completely.
The second topic revolved around the issue of claims. As I traveled across the Gulf I heard growing frustration over the pace at which claims had been paid. And I also heard concerns about whether BP will make resources available to cover legitimate claims resulting from this disaster. So this discussion today was essential.
Currently, under federal law, there is a $75 million cap on how much oil companies could under certain circumstances be required to pay for economic damages resulting from a spill such as this. That amount obviously would be insufficient. That’s why I'm pleased to announce that BP has agreed to set aside $20 billion to pay claims for damages resulting from this spill.
This $20 billion will provide substantial assurance that the claims people and businesses have will be honored. It’s also important to emphasize this is not a cap. The people of the Gulf have my commitment that BP will meet its obligations to them. BP has publicly pledged to make good on the claims that it owes to the people in the Gulf, and so the agreement we reached sets up a financial and legal framework to do it.
Another important element is that this $20 billion fund will not be controlled by either BP or by the government. It will be put in a escrow account, administered by an impartial, independent third party. So if you or your business has suffered an economic loss as a result of this spill, you’ll be eligible to file a claim for part of this $20 billion. This fund does not supersede either individuals’ rights or states’ rights to present claims in court. BP will also continue to be liable for the environmental disaster it has caused, and we’re going to continue to work to make sure that they address it.
Additionally, BP voluntarily agreed to establish a $100 million fund to compensate unemployed oil rig workers affected by the closure of the deepwater rigs.
We’ve mutually agreed that Ken Feinberg will run the independent claims process we’re putting in place. And there will be a three-person panel to adjudicate claims that are turned down. Every effort will be made to expedite these claims. Ken has long experience in such matters, including running the fund that compensated the victims of 9/11. And I’m confident he will ensure that claims are administered as quickly, as fairly, and as transparently as possible.

BP’s liabilities for this spill are significant -- and they acknowledge that fact. We will continue to hold BP and all other responsible parties accountable. And I’m absolutely confident BP will be able to meet its obligations to the Gulf Coast and to the American people. BP is a strong and viable company and it is in all of our interests that it remain so. So what this is about is accountability. At the end of the day, that’s what every American wants and expects.

The structure we’re establishing today is an important step towards making the people of the Gulf Coast whole again, but it’s not going to turn things around overnight. And I want all Americans to know that I will continue to fight each and every day until the oil is contained, until businesses recover, and until the Gulf Coast bounces back from this tragedy, as I know it will.
One last point. During a private conversation with Chairman Svanberg I emphasized to him that for the families that I met with down in the Gulf, for the small business owners, for the fishermen, for the shrimpers, this is not just a matter of dollars and cents; that a lot of these folks don’t have a cushion. They were coming off Rita and Katrina; coming off the worst economy that this country has seen since the Great Depression, and this season was going to be the season where they were going to be bouncing back. Not only that, but this happened, from their perspective, at the worst possible time, because they’re making their entire income for the year in the three or four months* during which folks can take their boats out, people are coming down for tourism.

And so I emphasized to the chairman that when he’s talking to shareholders, when he is in meetings in his boardroom, to keep in mind those individuals; that they are desperate; that some of them, if they don’t get relief quickly, may lose businesses that have been in their families for two or three generations. And the chairman assured me that he would keep them in mind.

That’s going to be the standard by which I measure BP’s responsiveness. I think today was a good start, and it should provide some assurance to some of the small business owners and individuals down in the Gulf who I was visiting with that BP is going to meet its responsibilities. But I indicated to the chairman that, throughout this process, as we work to make sure that the Gulf is made whole once again, that the standard I’m going to be applying is whether or not those individuals I met with, their family members, those communities that are vulnerable, whether they are uppermost in the minds of all concerned. That’s who we’re doing this work for.

All right. Thank you very much, everybody."

President Obama, Vice President Biden and Other Administration Officials to Highlight Surge in Recovery Act Infrastructure Projects This Summer

Vice President Joe Biden today delivered a report, “Summer of Recovery: Project Activity Increases in Summer 2010,” to the President detailing the surge in Recovery Act infrastructure projects that will be underway this summer – and the jobs those projects will create into the fall and through the end of 2010.

The White House reports that the Summer of 2010 is "poised to be the most active Recovery Act season yet, with tens of thousands of projects underway across the country that will help to create jobs for American workers and economic growth for businesses, large and small."   Highlighing that thousands of road, bridge, water and other infrastructure projects will breaking ground this summer.

Biden says the American people will get to see first-hand the Recovery Act dollars being put to work in their communities making long-overdue infrastructure improvements, creating new opportunities for local economic growth and supporting well-paid jobs.

While most of us aren't in the construction, or clean water industries, or live in the areas mentioned, the report, outlines where the jobs will be 2010, as created by the Recovery Act.

Highway Projects

· There will be six times as many highway projects underway in July 2010 as in July 2009 – projects will surge from 1,750 last summer to over 10,700 this summer.

· While last summer about 9,185 miles of highway started being improved, this summer 29,244 miles will start being improved – that’s the equivalent of ten cross-country road trips on improved highways.

· States across the country will see an increase in highway projects this summer:  Colorado: This summer there will be 90 highway projects underway versus 23 last summer;  Michigan: This summer there will be 646 highway projects underway versus 21 last summer;  California: This summer there will be 450 highway projects underway versus 9 last summer.

Clean and Drinking Water

· This summer 2,828 clean and drinking water projects will be underway versus 129 last summer – more than 20 times as many.

· States across the country will see an increase in clean and drinking water projects this summer:  Michigan: This summer there will be 91 active clean and drinking water projects versus 24 last summer; Ohio: This summer there will be 205 active clean and drinking water projects versus 42 last summer; Massachusetts: This summer there will be 111 active clean and drinking water projects versus 45 last summer.

National Parks

· This July, there will be 799 projects underway at our national parks versus 101 last July – nearly 8 times as many this summer.

· This July, there will be 1,711 public lands projects underway versus 106 last July – 16 times as many this summer.
Home Weatherization

· This summer, 82,000 homes will be weatherized versus 3,000 last summer – 27 times as many homes this summer as last.

· States across the country will see an increase in the number of homes weatherized this summer: California: This summer there will be 5,887 homes weatherized versus 0 last summer;  Michigan: This summer there will be 5,163 homes weatherized versus 106 last summer;  Massachusetts: This summer there will be 2,360 homes weatherized versus 111 last summer;  Ohio: This summer there will be 4,200 homes weatherized versus 2,044 last summer.

The report also cites that the job impact of the Recovery Act will be continue to climb through the summer and into the fall, eventually hitting the original target of 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010.

President Obama plans to visit Columbus, Ohio on Friday, June 18 where he will mark the first of many significant Recovery Act milestones.

By year's end the Obama Administration expects nearly 3.5 million newly created jobs.

Hopefully, we'll see these Recovery Act jobs to hit our area before then.  The employment rate in the DC metro area is still at an all time high of nearly 9%.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Administration's On-going Response To BP's Oil Spill

As oil continues to permeate the Gulf, and photos of wildlife (and apparently people) drenched in oil continue to show the devastation of the spill, the White House continues to give Americans an update on what they say is being done to contain the spill.

While we get the details, the people of Louisiana wait.  And wait.

For a full timeline of the Administration-wide response, visit the White House Blog.

Past 24 Hours: Admiral Allen Meets with BP Claims Officials; Asserts Oversight of Claims Process

At the President’s direction, Admiral Thad Allen today met with top BP claims officials to assert the administration's oversight of BP's claims process in order to ensure that every legitimate claim is honored and paid in an efficient manner. He expressed the American people’s urgent need for additional transparency into BP's claims process, including how the process works, and how quickly claims are being processed for both individuals and businesses impacted by the oil spill. Additional meetings will be held in each of the four impacted states from June 11-13.

Today’s meeting followed a letter sent today from Admiral Allen to BP CEO Tony Hayward directing the company to provide the National Incident Command and appropriate representatives of the affected Gulf Coast states with more detailed information about the full range of activities—from acceptance to processing to payment—BP is undertaking to meet its obligations as a responsible party in this disaster.

The administration will continue to hold the responsible parties accountable for repairing the damage, and repaying Americans who’ve suffered a financial loss as a result of the BP oil spill.

To date, BP reports that 41,958 claims have been opened, from which more than $52.9 million have been disbursed. No claims have been denied to date. There are 533 claims adjusters on the ground. To file a claim, visit 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.

Admiral Allen Provides Operational Update of BP Oil Spill Response
National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen provided a briefing to inform the American public and answer questions on the progress of the administration-wide response to the BP oil spill. A transcript is available here.

Rear Admiral Watson Instructs BP to Execute Oil Containment Contingency Plans
Federal On-Scene Coordinator Rear Admiral James A. Watson has sent a letter to BP instructing them to develop plans—within 72 hours—to “put equipment, systems and processes in place to ensure that the remaining oil and gas flowing can be recovered, taking into account safety, environmental and meteorological factors.”

The letter stressed the importance of redundancies to maintain collection rates in the event of operational problems, the need for multiple recovery vessels once additional capacity is needed, or severe weather, such as a hurricane.

Secretary Solis Visits Gulf Region to Inspect Efforts to Ensure Oil Spill Worker Safety
At the direction of the president, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis traveled to Louisiana to inspect efforts to ensure the health, safety and well-being of workers affected by the BP oil spill. She met with beach cleanup workers in Port Fourchon; discussed worker safety efforts with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staff; and visited the Terrebonne Career Solutions Center, where she met with Vietnamese workers affected by the spill.

Policy Established to Protect Worker Health and Safety as Heat Rises in the Region

In an effort to protect the health and safety of workers amid rising summer temperatures, the Unified Area Command has established a policy requiring all on-shore and near-shore cleanup workers to follow a work/rest cycle to ensure their safety and well-being—which is determined based on the heat index, type of work being performed and required protective clothing. In addition, cleanup workers must be provided with plenty of water and encouraged to hydrate regularly. More information from OSHA is available here.

BP Continues to Capture Some Oil and Gas Using Containment Device
BP continues to capture some oil and burn some gas at the surface using its containment dome technique, which is being executed under the federal government’s direction. After cutting off a portion of the riser, BP placed a containment device over it in order to capture oil at its source.

Approved SBA Economic Injury Assistance Loans Surpass $2.1 Million
SBA has approved 51 economic injury assistance loans to date, totaling more than $2.19 million for small businesses in the Gulf Coast impacted by the BP oil spill. Additionally, the agency has granted deferments on 343 existing SBA disaster loans in the region, totaling more than $1.5m per month in payments.

For information on assistance loans for affected businesses, visit the SBA’s web site, or call (800) 659-2955, (800) 877-8339 for the hearing impaired), or email

The President has made his fourth visit to Louisiana to survey the spill and cleanup efforts.

DeepWater Oil Spill  Response Website