Covering

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



Monday, January 31, 2011

Let's Get Started, America!

White House Launches Entrepreneur Initiative and Partnership (Watch Live here)

Startup America,” a national campaign to help America achieve these goals by promoting high-growth entrepreneurship across the country with new initiatives to help encourage private sector investment in job-creating startups and small firms, accelerate research, and address barriers to success for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the belief that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country. And in fulfilling this promise, entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs. That’s why we're launching Startup America, a national campaign to help win the future by knocking down barriers in the path of men and women in every corner of this country hoping to take a chance, follow a dream, and start a business”, said President Obama.
 
A few promising features in the Startup America plan include:

The President’s new budget will propose making permanent the elimination of capital gains taxes on key investments in small businesses, which was passed as a temporary provision in 2010 as part of the Small Business Jobs Act the President signed in September. The budget will also propose expanding the New Markets Tax Credit to encourage private sector investment in startups and small businesses operating in lower-income communities.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) will direct $2 billion in existing guarantee authority over the next 5 years to match private sector investment funding for startups and small firms in underserved communities, as well as seed and early-stage investing in firms with high growth potential, through its Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program.

Together SBA and the Department of Energy will boost high-quality mentorship for cleantech startups, while the Veterans Administration is launching new training programs for Veterans who want to start new businesses.

The Department of Commerce will expand the i6 Challenge to help foster the commercialization of clean technologies, and are finalizing a plan to allow entrepreneurs to request faster review of their patents, an initiative that should lower patent pendency times overall and speed the deployment of new ideas to the marketplace.

Private Sector and Philanthropic Committments
Some examples of the private sector and philanthropic commitments that will be announced alongside the launch of the “Startup America Partnership,” the private sector initiative, are below:

Expand startup accelerators that provide seed funding and intensive mentorship, allowing the Astia network to serve twice as many women entrepreneurs, the MassChallenge competition to extend its national reach from Boston’s Innovation District, and the new TechStars Network to boost the success rate of 6,000 entrepreneurs in 15 regions, including Miami, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Nashville, and New Orleans.

Scale up programs that prepare K-12 and college students to start their own companies, such as the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Blackstone LaunchPad, Junior Achievement, National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, the Virtual Incubation Network for America’s Community Colleges, and the Artists & Instigators Practicum.

Increase corporate investment and support for start ups from companies such as Intel, HP, IBM, Facebook, and others.

Foster innovation and entrepreneurship in states and regions such as Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and New Orleans, building on the success of models such as JumpStart America and the Deshpande Foundation’s innovation centers.

The initiative joins the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), the organization that brings entrepreneurial training to high school students, especially those in low income communities.

“When I launched NFTE nearly 25 years ago, it was with one simple belief, that learning basic business principles at an early age is the best anti-poverty program of all. NFTE is proud to be a member of the Startup America Partnership and contribute to the White House’s goal of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem that will strengthen the America economy immediately and make it more resilient for years to come,” said Steve Mariotti, NFTE’s Founder.


NFTE Alum, Zoe Damacela, will be the lead off speaker at the White House event today telling her inspirational story of how entrepreneurship changed her life:  "I had an intern and three employees at 17", said Damacela, who visited earlier today with President Obama in the Oval office. 

Damacela, an aspiring fashion designer, said of NFTE that it helped her with writing a business plan and pricing her product.

"I sold my first dress for $13, when I should have sold it $250", said Damacela as she explained her business naivete before NFTE.

Said Secretary of the Department of Commerce, Gary Locke, "We can out-innovate any country in the world."  Adding, helping get the ideas of entrepreneurs "from the drawing room to the factory floor" helps America compete in the global marketplace.

The event was co-chaired Karen Mills, Administrator of the Small Business Administration, Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and top entrepreneurs and small business owners from across the country.

Empowering Entrepreneurs, a roundtable disscussion website, geared toward listening to barriers entrepreneurs face, and how to remove them, will be available in the near future.  Entrepreneurs will be able to submit their experiences and talk about the struggles they face.

More on the initiative here.

Start Up America News
IBM commits $150M to SUA
AOL, HP, FaceBook other businesses on board
Follow SUA on Twitter at #startupamerica

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union Address - 2011




[Having trouble watching the President'sSOTU address?  Click
here.]

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As President Obama prepares to make his second State of the Union address, many can expect the president to cover a myriad of issues ranging from gun control laws to partisanship.

The lamb and the lion will sit side-by-side in the U.S. Capitol during tonight's scheduled 9 pm address, as for the first time Republicans and Democrats - at least for an hour - will have to tolerate one another for the good of the country.


Following the President's Address, senior White House officials will take your questions on the president's speech, live from the White House. The panel will include Brian Deese, Deputy Director, National Economic Council; Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy; David Simas, Director and Aide to the Senior Advisor; and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications.

People can send their questions via one of three ways: 1) Twitter: Reply to @whitehouse using the hashtag #sotu;  2) Facebook: Post your questions to the White House wall; and 3) at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sotu-questions by using the web form.

Guests gracing the First Lady's box at the address will include Dr. Jill Biden; Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President and Director, Office of Legislative Affairs; Gary and Robert Allen (Rochester Hills, MI); Ursula M. Burns (Norwalk, CT); Amy Chyao (Richardson, TX);  Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis (Santa Cruz, CA), Brandon and Julie Fisher (Berlin, PA); Brandon Ford (Philadelphia, PA);  The Green Family (Tucson, AZ), parents of nine year-old Christinia Taylor, killed during the Tucson tragedy; Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta (Hiawatha, IA); Daniel Hernandez (Tucson, AZ);  Jim Houser (Portland, OR); James Howard (Katy, TX);  Staff Sergeant Brian Mast and Brianna Mast (Washington, DC); Gunnery Sergeant Nicole Mohabir (Fort Lee, VA); Mikayla Nelson (Billings, MT);  Kathy Proctor (Winston-Salem, NC); Dr. Peter Rhee (Tucson, AZ);  Diego Vasquez (Phoenix, AZ); and Wendell P. Weeks (Corning, NY), Corning CEO. 

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See profiles of the guests that include science students, business owners, and victims of the Tucson tragedy,  here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

USDA and Department and Health and Human Services To Announce New Dietary Guidelines

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will announce the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).

USDA and HHS DGA policy document, is the federal government's evidence-based nutritional guidance to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. The policy document assists policy makers, nutrition professionals, food assistance program administrators, food industry, scientists and academics, and the nutrition-focused media with a consistent, science-based foundation for their nutrition efforts.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are reviewed and updated every five years by USDA and HHS as mandated by law. Consumer materials which support and reflect the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will be released at a later date.

The announcement will be made at GWU on Monday, January 31st.  It will be streamed live at www.usda.gov/live.  More info available here.

Vice President Biden Has Jury Duty

Not even the title of Vice President can prevent one from getting out of jury duty.

Vice President Biden was called to his home town of Wilmington Delaware where he participated as a private citizen in a jury selection at the Superior Court of Delaware at the New Castle County Courthouse.

President Biden outside a Delaware court house today.
President Obama was called to duty last year, but did not participate.  Coincidently, Biden who said he didn't "consider myself different than any other person" , said he hopes the president will participate this year.

"I hope the president serves in Chicago if he is called", said Biden.

Biden and the other selected jurymen and women, actually ended up being dismissed.

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In other VPOTUS news, Vice President Biden, Chair of the White House Middle Class Task Force, will travel to Greenfield, Indiana on Wednesday of this week where he will visit Ener1, Inc., a leading manufacturer of advanced lithium-ion battery systems.

Ener1 was awarded a $118.5 million Recovery Act grant to expand its production of advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles. The Vice President will discuss with workers how the Administration is incentivizing investment in innovation and helping to lay the foundation for American competitiveness in the 21st century.

Rahm Emanuel Thrown Off Mayoral Ballot?

Rahm Emanuel was thrown off the ballot for mayor of Chicago today by an appellate court panel, ruling 2-1 he did not meet the residency standard to run for mayor.


Following the ruling, Emanuel said he is confident he will win an appeal and be on the Feb. 22 mayoral ballot.

“I have no doubt at the end we will prevail,” he said. “As my father has said, ‘Nothing is ever easy.’”

Read entire article here.

Emanuel served as White House Chief of Staff in President Obama's administration, and served as president Clinton's advisor from 1993 to 1998.

On Emanuel's FaceBook page he invites viewers to review a recent press conference, held earlier today, where he he claims to owe a home in Chicago, and pays taxes there.

His website ChicagoforRahm.com does not appear to be functioning.

Presidential Initiative Supports Military Families

“Every American benefits from the profound sacrifices made by our military men and women. As a veteran, I was honored to attend the release of the Obama Administration’s report on support for military families. When a service member who has dedicated their life to protecting this country suffers from physical, mental health, or substance abuse problems, they do not suffer alone, and we owe these patriots and their families more than gratitude – we owe them our support. ONDCP is committed to providing that support through expanded access to drug treatment for active duty military and veterans, extending our support for veterans courts and through comprehensive efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences.”·

According to a survey conducted by the Department of Defense, one in eight active duty military personnel are current users of illicit drugs. This is largely driven by prescription drug abuse, reported by one in nine service members—more than double the rate compared to the civilian population.

The Obama Administration's FY 2011 Budget request includes nearly $3.9 billion in Federal funding for early intervention and treatment services – an increase of $137 million. This includes $418 million – an increase of $13 million dollars – in direct support of veterans' treatment programs that provide effective, safe, efficient, recovery-oriented, and compassionate care for veterans with substance abuse disorders and mental illness.

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden put forward today nearly 50 commitments by Federal agencies responding to the President’s directive to establish a coordinated and comprehensive Federal approach to supporting military families. Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment is the result of an effort led by the National Security Staff and Domestic Policy Council responding to the Presidential Study Directive-9 calling on all Cabinet Secretaries and other agency heads to find better ways to provide our military families with the support they deserve. The result will be a unified Federal Government approach to help ensure:

•the U.S. military recruits and retains America’s best, allowing it to maintain the high standards which have become a hallmark of our armed forces.

• Service members can maintain both strong families and a high state of readiness;

•family members can live fulfilling lives while supporting their service member(s); and

•the American people better understand and appreciate the experience, strength, and commitment of those who serve and sacrifice on their behalf.

View the entire White House Press Release here.  For more information on National efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences visit: www.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Roe v Wade: Some 38 Years Later

Today marks the 38th anniversary of that historic period that suggested a woman had the right to have an abortion.

Norma Nelson McCorvey, aka Jane Doe, a teenage dropout, and drug user from a blue collar background, did not have an abortion, but instead put her child up for adoption.   McCorvey had two other children before the infamous March, 1970 case.  The first child was raised by McCorvey's mother.  The second by the child's father.  By the third pregnancy McCorvey claimed she was raped.   It was letter found to be a lie.
 
McCorvey has since taken a different stance on abortion since becoming a 'Christain' in 1994.

McCorvey sued the state of Texas in a lawsuit that suggested that government does not have the right to intrude on private family matters.

Said president Obama on the occasion of the anniversary, "I am committed to protecting this constitutional right.  I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.  And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

We'll Bet This Sarah Isn't Smiling, Now.

Todd Palin, Sarah Palin's husband, involved in sex scandal with massage therapist.

What is it with the Palin women and their men?  

And just weeks before Valentine's Day, too.
First, daughter Crystal's boyfriend/soon-to-be-hubby/no that's off/wait, it's on-again/no, off-again relationship with Levin Johnson, the father of her child, embarrasses the nation, now this. (Didn't he pose for Playgirl?)

According to reports, The National Enquirer (to be fair, known for its ludacris scandals), reports that Sarah Palin's husband, Todd, is involved in a sex scandal involving an extramarital affair with a massage therapist who has been "busted for prostitution."

Shailey Tripp, 36, was arrested in March of this year for running a brothel.  Police may have evidence from the raid of the house that could prove Sarah Palin's husband was, if nothing else, cheating.  
The Palins, have denied previous allegations that either spouse has cheated.

Pallin, ex-Alaskan governor, author, speaker, and Fox News political commentator is a staunch supporter of the Tea Party movement, calling it "the future of politics in America." 

She is known (among other things) for criticizing President Obama for rising deficits, and has called the president "weak on the war on terror" for allowing theChristmas bomber to board a plane in 2009 headed for the United States.

Pallin posted an 8 minute speech on YouTube after Congresswoman Gabrielle Guiffords was shot in Tucson, AZ by a crazed gunman, accusing journalists and pundits of inciting hatred and violence, when it was Pallin who suggested supporters of her movement "reload" in the Congresswoman's Arizona district.

Republicans Try New Approach to Prohibit Use of District Funds for Abortion for Low-Income Women

The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced today that the new House Republican majority has launched its first attack on the District of Columbia’s right to home rule, only two weeks after stripping the taxpaying residents of the District of Columbia of their vote on the House floor in the Committee of the Whole.

Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ) yesterday introduced radical anti-choice legislation (H.R. 3) that would expand existing prohibitions on federal funding for abortion, and would re-impose the prohibition on the District’s use of its local taxpayer-raised funds for abortion for low-income women. During the past four years, Norton succeeded in removing all the bans on the District’s use of its local funds, including for needle exchange, abortion for low-income women and medical marijuana.

“The new Republican majority has spent its first three weeks preaching about the need to reduce the federal government’s power,” Norton said. “Yet the third bill they introduced this Congress prohibits a local jurisdiction from spending its own local funds.”

The bill represents a new and expanded way to interfere with the District’s right to self-government. Historically, Republicans have attached riders to annual appropriations bills banning the District from using its local funds for certain activities only during that fiscal year. Passage of this authorization bill would make it more difficult to remove the abortion ban, which Norton succeeded in doing in the 111th Congress.

Congresswoman Norton strongly opposes the entire bill.

White House Welcomes Chinese President

Chinese President Hu Jintao  was given a welcome reception in Washington by the White House as he and President Obama talked trade, trust, and human rights issues.
 
President Obama and Chinese president Hu Jintao take a photo after their joint press conference. Photo/CD Brown.
"Let’s also never forget that throughout our history our people have worked together for mutual progress.  We’ve traded together for more than 200 years.  We stood together in the Second World War.  Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans have helped to build America, including many who join us here tonight", said President Obama.

While the White House was welcoming the foreign president (the eighth time the two presidents have met), those on Capitol Hill cited reasons why the U.S. should not be so diplomatic with the current Chinese president.

Rep. Christopher H. Smith, (R-NJ) touted president Hu as China's "iron fist in Tibet, referring to the Chinese leader's activities in the region during his career.

Smith then referred to Chinese dissidents who claim to have been shocked under their armpits and in their genitals with electronic cattle prods. "Hu Jintao presides over that sickness and perversity," Smith said.

Protesters outside the White House view President Jintoa as a failed leader. Photo/CD Brown.
When the issue was addressed during Wednesday's joint press conference in the East Room of the White House with reporters, president Hu said: "China is always committed to the protection and promotion of human rights.  And in the course of human rights, China has also made enormous progress, recognized widely in the world."

Outside the White House protesters held signs that read "Hu Jintao: Failed Leader" and chanted  "Free Tibet now."

While the U.S. is fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of democracy, protesters proclaimed they want democracy for the people of the Chinese Republic.
 
Others held banners that read, "Ban Chinese Missiles."  As day turned into night, an even eerier protest continued as demonstrators dressed in red skeleton customes with white skulls held signs that read "There are skeletons Hu's closet."

Still president Obama recognized the Chinese nation and their rise as a force.

"We welcome China's rise", Obama said.  "I absolutely believe that China’s peaceful rise is good for the world and it’s good for America.  First of all, it’s good for humanitarian reasons.  The United States has an interest in seeing hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty.  We believe part of justice and part of human rights is people being able to make a living and having enough to eat and having shelter and having electricity."

Obama said China is good for the U.S. in terms of China purchasing U.S. products, calling it an "enormous economic opportunity."

"We want to sell you all kinds of stuff.  We want to sell you planes.  We want to sell you cars.  We want to sell you software."

Whether it's selling planes, trains, or automobiles, what President Hu thinks needs to be done to strengthen US-China relations and meet global challenges are:  1) "Row in the same direction.... as we tackle future challenges."; 2) "increase our communication and coordination"; 3) "respect and accommodate each other’s interests and concerns."

Said Hu, "I’m convinced that as long as our two sides continue to act in this spirit, and as long as we continue to work together with other countries concerned, we will be able to engage in cooperation in an even broader range of areas to the benefit of world peace and development."
 
A pool report from the state dinnder indicated that Hu made the following comment about US-China relations since President Obama has been in office:  Hu said that relations between the two countries have greatly improved. "In the past two years since President Obama has taken office, our relations have made tremendous headway," Hu said.

Hu also met with Chicago businessman on Thursday as part of his four day visit to America.

Related
Chinese Panda Bears To Remain At National Zoo 'Till 2015
China Partners With Alcoa, Duke Energy
Arrival Ceremony
Gao Zhisheng

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The State Dinner

All the trade, trust, and human rights issues aside, the real talk of the day was the state dinner and what the First Lady would be wearing. Here we see the First Lady wearing a beautiful off-the-shoulder (because we know she likes to show her shoulders) gown, her hair up, with shawl draped around her arms.

Of the 225 guests scheduled to attend were Jackie Chan, Vera Wang, Olympic skater Michelle Kwan, and Barbara Streistand.


State Dinner arrival: President and First Lady Obama welcome Chinese president Jintao Hu at the North Portico of the White House. Photo/CD Brown.

The menu, with many items from local famers and The Chef's Garden, consisted of traditional American cuisine as requested by the Chinese Delegation, and included:  Pear Salad with goat cheese, poached main lobster, orange glaze carrots and black trumpet mushrooms, dry aged rib with double stuffed potatoes and creamed spinach.   The dessert item was as American as you can get:  old fashioned apple pie with vanilla ice cream (my favorite!).

State Dinner place setting adorned with flowers and Clinton chinawear. Photo/CD Brown.
Entertainment on the evening saw the likes of Chris Botti (who performs at the Kennedy Center on February 14th), Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, and Lang Lang in a beautifull night of Jazz.

Click here to see a performance. Click here to see photos of our first state dinner with India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Lady Teams Up With Walmart For Healthy, Affordable Food

Our fabulous First Lady shows no signs of slowing down this week.

After hosting Chinese president,  Hu Jintao at the second State Dinner of her husband, President Barack Obama; speaking to students at Howard University about studying abroad in China; and surprising tour groups during the visit to the White House, the First Lady, in partnership with Walmart, announced the company’s Nutrition Charter initiative, a groundbreaking new initiative designed to help families across America put healthier, more affordable food on their tables.  

"We can do this", said the First Lady who admitted she had doubts when she first launched her Let's Move campaign designed to rid childhood obesity in U.S. children. 

With a conglomerate like Walmart behind her, Mrs. Obama's initiative is even more realized.

"When I see a company like Walmart launch an initiative like this, I feel more hopeful than ever before that the answer to these questions is yes", said the First Lady speaking at THEARC recreation center in Southeast, DC. "Efforts like this show us that yes, we can improve how we make and sell food in this country – and what we feed our kids.  Yes, we can give parents better information so they can make better decisions for their families."\

Walmart’s Nutrition Charter consists of three major pillars aimed to impact the health and well being of  families by making critical changes to accessible and affordable food: 

1) Reformulating thousands, of everyday packaged food items by 2015 by reducing sodium 25 percent and added sugars 10 percent, and by removing all remaining industrial produced trans fats;

2) Reducing the cost of fruits and vegetables and the healthier options.   

3) Developing a healthy seal that will make it easier for customers to identify health products and quickly make a healthy choice.  

“We have enormous respect and admiration for the First Lady’s leadership on this important issue. She was a catalyst that helped make today’s announcement a reality and her spirit of collaboration made our commitment to bring better nutrition to kitchen tables across this country even stronger,” said Leslie Dach, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, WalMart.

Walmart plans stores in the areas of Wards 4, 5, 6, 7 in Washington, DC, areas that have a heavy concentration of fast food chains including Chinese restaurants that serve mainly fatty, unhealthy food items. 
Partnership for a Healthier America will be working with Walmart to evaluate and monitor their progress with these efforts.

(Commentary: It is quite ironic that Walmart and the First Lady make this announcement on the heels of the Chinese president's visit to the Nation's Capital. This news centers around a conversation I had with a media member where I stated if I had the chance to ask President Hu a question, it would be why are there so many Chinese restaurants and grocery stores in predominately African American neighborhoods that sell such poor quality food.  Luckily our First Lady is on the case.   My next hope would be that she tackles the food being served in our country's hospitals and nursing homes.  Have you seen the menu lately? It could use some work.  A major overhaul even.)

First Lady Encourages Studying Abroad

Wednesday at Howard University First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to the nation's future leaders about the benefits of studying abroad, especially in China.

On the heels of Chinese president Hu Jintao visiting Washington, Mrs. Obama told students at Howard's Cramton Auditorium, "The fact is, with every friendship you make, and every bond of trust you establish, you are shaping the image of America projected to the rest of the world.  That is so important.  So when you study abroad, you’re actually helping to make America stronger."

The event was highlighted by a panel of students who have experienced Chinese culture and language. 

One former Howard alumni called the initiative "exciting".  As a Howard University graduate that studied in Beijing during the spring of 2005, she said writes, "I know just how spectacular the RJB center is. Best experience of my entire life."

Mrs. Obama was joined at Howard by Madame Chen Naiqing, the wife of China’s ambassador to the U.S., Zhang Yesui, and Mary Kaye Huntsman, wife of U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.  

During President Obama's visit to China in 2009 the president introduced the 100,000 Strong Initiative, citing the strategic importance of the U.S.- China relationship.
   
“Students who study abroad learn firsthand how critical international exchange programs are to developing the next generation of global citizens”, “said Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock.

It is reported that ten times more Chinese students come to the United States for educational programs than Americans who study in China, and 600 times more Chinese study the English language than Americans study Mandarin, hardly matching the efforts of  The State Department that sends more Americans to study abroad in China than to any other country.

"And as a consequence, studying abroad isn’t just an important part of a well-rounded educational experience.  It’s also becoming increasingly important for success in the modern global economy.  Getting ahead in today’s workplaces isn’t just about the skills you bring from the classroom.  It’s also about the experience you have with the world beyond our borders -- with people, and languages, and cultures that are very different from our own", added Mrs. Obama.

100,000 Strong:  New Efforts

The First Lady also highlighted several new efforts launched under the 100,000 Strong Initiative, including:

·         The D.C. Center for Global Education and Leadership (CGEL) will create up to 1,000 study abroad opportunities over the next four years in support of the President’s Initiative for students, teachers, and education policymakers from Washington, D.C. public and public charter schools, an underserved community.
·         Although community colleges enroll more than half of the undergraduates in the United State, community college students represent only three percent of those who study abroad.  To address this discrepancy, the Center for Global Advancement for Community Colleges (CGACC) is establishing an inter-semester China program in collaboration with the West Los Angeles Community College. The program would offer month-long, study-abroad opportunities tailored to community college students. Students from West Los Angeles College, Northern Virginia Community Colleges, Community College of Spokane, Richland Community College, Miami Dade College, and Bronx Community College will be invited to participate in the pilot project, which will later be expanded nationwide.

·         In support of the Initiative, last week Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a letter to leading educational umbrella groups encouraging their member organizations to increase the number of their students who study abroad in China. To date, 324 institutions have answered in support of her invitation and have pledged to double their numbers over the next four years. Included in these supporters are the 47 public Historically Black College and University members of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund; the 39 private HBCU members of the United Negro College Fund; and the 199 U.S.-based Hispanic-serving members of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. This commitment will help address the significant underrepresentation of minority students in study abroad overall and in China in particular. 

·         A Federal Advisory Committee composed of celebrated China experts and private-sector leaders is being created to provide guidance and support to the Initiative.

Other new efforts include:

·         Zinch, a private U.S. information management company with operations in China, will create a free online database for American students to find study abroad opportunities in China.

·         The Ford Foundation, a U.S. non-profit with a long-history in China, is providing seed money to the non-profit organization Golden Bridges for the creation of a robust alumni network to bring together students who have traveled to China as part of the 100,000 Strong cohort and previously. 

·         GreenPoint Group and the Friends of Charitable Education Trust have offered scholarships to students from rural Kansas to participate in the Experiment in International Living’s China program. 

·         Van Eyck Global has contributed $100,000 in support of the Initiative to the U.S.-China Education Trust.  USCET has distributed this money among four forward-looking colleges to provide travel grants for their students to go to China: University of Arkansas, Boston University, North Alabama University, and San Francisco State University.  
  
·         The Chinese government has offered 10,000 scholarships for Americans studying in China.  These “bridge” scholarships will cover all in-country costs and target high school and college students and teachers. 

·         In addition, the State Department is working with a large number of schools and study abroad programs to help them identify new sources of funding so that they can scale up their excellent China study programs. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

First Lady Michelle Obama's Open Letter to Parents Following the Tragedy in Tucson

Dear Parents,

Like so many Americans all across the country, Barack and I were shocked and heartbroken by the horrific act of violence committed in Arizona this past weekend.  Yesterday, we had the chance to attend a memorial service and meet with some of the families of those who lost their lives, and both of us were deeply moved by their strength and resilience in the face of such unspeakable tragedy.

As parents, an event like this hits home especially hard.  It makes our hearts ache for those who lost loved ones.  It makes us want to hug our own families a little tighter.  And it makes us think about what an event like this says about the world we live in – and the world in which our children will grow up.

In the days and weeks ahead, as we struggle with these issues ourselves, many of us will find that our children are struggling with them as well.  The questions my daughters have asked are the same ones that many of your children will have – and they don’t lend themselves to easy answers.  But they will provide an opportunity for us as parents to teach some valuable lessons – about the character of our country, about the values we hold dear, and about finding hope at a time when it seems far away.
We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis.  And we can help them do that in their own small way – whether it’s by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts.

We can teach them the value of tolerance – the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us.  We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree. 

We can also teach our children about the tremendous sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country and by their families.  We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it. 

Christina Green felt that call.  She was just nine years old when she lost her life.  But she was at that store that day because she was passionate about serving others.  She had just been elected to her school’s student council, and she wanted to meet her Congresswoman and learn more about politics and public life.

And that’s something else we can do for our children – we can tell them about Christina and about how much she wanted to give back.  We can tell them about John Roll, a judge with a reputation for fairness; about Dorothy Morris, a devoted wife to her husband, her high school sweetheart, to whom she’d been married for 55 years; about Phyllis Schneck, a great-grandmother who sewed aprons for church fundraisers; about Dorwan Stoddard, a retired construction worker who helped neighbors down on their luck; and about Gabe Zimmerman, who did community outreach for Congresswoman Giffords, working tirelessly to help folks who were struggling, and was engaged to be married next year.  We can tell them about the brave men and women who risked their lives that day to save others.  And we can work together to honor their legacy by following their example – by embracing our fellow citizens; by standing up for what we believe is right; and by doing our part, however we can, to serve our communities and our country. 

Sincerely,

Michelle Obama

Originated  January 13, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

President and Mrs. Obama along with several administration staff members participated in several MLK, Jr. community service projects around the country.

The First Family participated in a service event at Stuart Hobson Middle School earlier this morning while the Vice President and  Dr. Biden are participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in Wilmington, DE. 

"This is just an outstanding program, an example of what Martin Luther King’s birthday should be all about", said President Obama. 

"Michelle and I the girls are extraordinarily proud that each year on Martin Luther King’s birthday this is how we celebrate, is making sure that we're giving a little something back to the community.  And I hope that all the projects that are taking place all across the country on this day are getting similar attention, because this is part of what America is all about.  And after a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it’s good for us to remind ourselves what this country is all about.  This kind of service project is what’s best in us and we're thrilled with everybody who is participating."

Other officials helped celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday as well:

Secretary Steven Chu hosted a Martin Luther King, Jr., Day celebration in the auditorium at the Department of Energy; Ambassador Ron Kirk delivered remarks at a Martin Luther King Jr., reception at the World Bank; Secretary Hilda L. Solis participated in the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s Martin Luther King Day Parade in Los Angeles, California.  

President Obama paints at Stuart Hobson Middle School.
On Sunday Secretary Arne Duncan was the keynote speaker at a breakfast with Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network at Kramer Middle School, 1700 Q Street, SE, DC. 

Also on Sunday, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes joined hundreds of George Washington University Students where she participated in school beautification projects at five D.C. public schools.   Barnes delivered remarks on Dr. King’s legacy and the importance of service as a solution to our nation’s toughest challenges.  

On a separate note, Mrs. Obama celebrates her 47th birthday today.  She was greeted by students and staff with a rendition of  "Happy Birthday".

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

American Scrapbook: Jackie Kennedy & 'A Celebration of Verse'

"There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all."  —Jackie Kennedy

On Jan 29 - Feb 6, 2011 at the Kennedy Center's Family Theater poetry written and compiled by Caroline Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, will be featured during the world premiere Kennedy Center commission that uses spoken word and music to explore the touchstones of the life of one of America's most heralded families.
The production of 'A Celebration of Verse' moves audiences to the words of Kennedy family favorites by Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, Edgar Allan Poe, Gwendolyn Brooks, E.E. Cummings, and others. 

J. Kennedy Facts:
Jacqueline Kennedy, a lifelong lover of poetry, also wrote poems from an early age, some of which were published in the local newspaper. Her poem, "Sea Joy," is just one of her poems that will be read during the American Scrapbook performances.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Vice President Biden Visits Afghanistan. Awards Medal of Honor.



Vice President Joe Biden awards a Bronze Star to Staff Sgt. Workman at Forward Operating Base Airborne in Wardak Province, Afghanistan.
  Vice President Biden visited Afghanistan earlier this week to meet with  the country's president Hamid Karzai.

He traveled also to the Wardak Province for a meeting with local Afghan officials, service members, civilian personnel, Afghan community leaders and US personnel to discuss counter-insurgency operations in the region.

The Vice President was briefed on efforts made by U.S. and Afghan forces to clear and hold surrounding areas that will eventually be transferred to Afghan security control.

The United States ended its combat mission in Iraq on August 31, 2010, having drawn down to fewer than 50,000 troops from approximately 144,000 in January 2009. The remaining troops are advising and assisting Iraq’s security forces, conducting partnered counter-terrorism operations, and protecting U.S. civilians.

The visit will mark the Vice President's seventh visit to Iraq.



Biden is also traveling to Baghdad today where is expected to meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqiyya leader Ayad Allawi, President Jalal Talabani, Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, and other political leaders.

While there he remarked, "Well, Mr. President, we have one overwhelming desire. The single best thing that can happen to the United States, literally, is for you to be a free, prosperous democracy in the middle of this part of the world. It's the single most significant strategic thing that can happen to the United States in this region."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Arizona Congresswoman Shot. Fighting For Life.

 **Update**  Beyond Our Greatest Hopes

During remarks at Arizona University last evening President Obama gave the nation good news that Congresswoman Giffords opened her eyes.

"I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak.  And I want to tell you, her husband, Mark is here and he allows me to share this with you: right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues in Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time. Gabby opened her eyes for the first time", exclaimed the president.  

Giffords was last Saturday afternoon at a Safeway supermarket in Tucson, Arizona during one of her 'Congress on the Corner' events where she met with the community to discuss political issues of concern.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz recall their visit with Giffords at University Medical Center where Giffords is recovering quite remarkably. 

Read their remarks below:

Kirsten Gillibrand:  "Well, we were very excited that we were even going to have the chance of getting to visit her hospital room. We didn’t know when we first came whether we had that opportunity. And so when we did have the chance, we were so excited to get to see her. And when we came in the room, the doctor was there, her parents were there, Mark is there, and  Speaker Pelosi and Debbie and I went in.

And we just were so excited, so we were telling her how proud we were of her and how she was inspiring the whole nation with her courage and with her strength. And then Debbie and I started joking about all the things we were going to do after she got better. And we were holding her hand and she was responding to our hand-holding. She was rubbing our hands and gripping our hands so we could -- she could really -- we knew she could hear and understand what we were saying and she moved her leg, and so we knew she was responding. And the more we joked about what we were going to do, she started to open her eyes literally.

And then you have to recognize, her eyes hadn’t opened -- we didn’t know that -- and so she started to struggle. And one of her eyes is covered with a bandage because it was damaged in the gunfire. So her eye is flickering. And Mark sees this and gets extremely excited. And we didn’t -- I didn’t know what that meant. And so he said, Gabby, open your eyes, open your eyes. And he’s really urging her forward. And the doctor is like perking up and everyone is coming around the bed. And she’s struggling and she’s struggling and it’s a good -- we couldn’t figure it out, maybe 30 seconds, where she’s really trying to get her eyes open, like doing this, this, this.

And then she finally opens her eyes and you could she was like desperately trying to focus and it took enormous strength from her. And Mark could just -- can’t believe it. I mean, he’s so happy. And we’re crying because we’re witnessing something that we never imagined would happen in front of us.

SENATOR GILLIBRAND:  "And we just thought, okay -- and you could watch -- when you’re watching her eyes, she’s really trying to focus. Like you could see she hadn’t opened her eyes in days. And then instead of giving the thumbs up, she literally raises her whole arm like this -- like this. It was unbelievable. And then she reaches out and starts grabbing Mark and is touching him and starts to nearly choke him -- she was clearly trying to hug him.

And so like -- she was -- it was such a moment. And we were just in tears of joy watching this and beyond ourselves, honestly. And then Mark said, you know, touch my ring, touch my ring. And she touches his ring and then she grabs his whole watch and wrist. And then the doctor was just so excited. He said, you don’t understand, this is amazing, what’s she’s doing right now, and beyond our greatest hopes."

Doctors, addressing the media earlier this week, also report that she is breathing on her own.

____

Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head during a public event in Tucson today.


Congresswoman Giffords with now House Speaker John Boehner.

Giffords has represented Arizona's 8th Congressional district since 2007 and is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Democrats. She was the first Jewish woman elected to Congress from Arizona. Giffords narrowly defeated tea party-backed Republican Jesse Kelly to win a third House term in November, sources say.

 Giffords and 18 others were targeted in the event.  While Gifford remains in critical condition, several people have passed.  Among them 9 year old Christina Taylor Green (born 9/11/2001) who was there to watch Congress in action since recently having been elected to serve on her school’s student council.  Other victims include

"This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tucson, Arizona, at a constituent meeting with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. And while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded", said President Obama.

"We do not yet have all the answers. What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society. I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers."

Twenty-two year old Jared Lee Loughner has been charged and is believed to have targeted Giffords.

Giffords' congressional office in Tucson was vandalized in March after she voted in favor of the health care reform bill.

Related

VA Governor Participates In NFL's Play 60 Event

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Redskin Lorenzo Alexander at NFL Play60 event at Fred Lynn Middle School in Woodbridge, VA.  Photo/ Courtesy Redskins.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell, along with Tanya Snyder, wife of Redskins team owner Daniel M. Snyder, Washington Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen, Redskins Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, debuted a Redskins Youth Fitness Zone last Thursday at Fred Lynn Middle School in Woodbridge, Virginia.

The Redskins Youth Fitness Zone is part of the Redskins’ and GlaxoSmithKline’s commitment to Play 60 which encourages youth to be active for 60 minutes every day as a way to combat childhood obesity.

According to the Prince William Health Partnership:
· 28.2% of children and adolescents in the greater Prince William area are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight,
· 54% of middle school students did not meet the federal recommendations for physical activity for a seven day period, with
· Minority children are disproportionately affected by this growing threat of obesity.

Lorenzo Alexander participates in Play60 event with youth at Fred Lynn Middle School. Photo/ Courtesy Redskins. 
The Redskins Play 60, GSK’s Healthy Communities program and the Governor’s Health and Wellness initiative will help Prince William County students lead more active lives.

The Redskins Youth Fitness Zone, a multi-media instructional tool for physical education teachers, was donated by the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline.

Governor Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell, Redskins' General Manager Bruce Allen and Lorenzo Alexander led 50 students in a series of exercises designed to help make fitness an everyday activity.

Kudos to the governor for encouraging our youth to keep moving with exercise. We know First Lady Obama applauds your efforts.

December Jobs Numbers: Not Good Enough

Friday morning the President was at Thompson Creek Manufacturing in Landover, Maryland to see an example of a company that is beginning to thrive, and to hear what role his Administration's actions have had.  For Thompson Creek, it wasn't just the 16 tax cuts for small business, as it turned out they manufacture energy-saving windows that help other businesses cut costs; and so the President's incentives for that have given them a huge boost.
According to a statement by David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to the President, roughly 113,000 new private sector jobs were created by America’s businesses in December, the twelfth consecutive month of positive job growth in this country. In 2010, 1.3 million private sector jobs were added, the strongest job growth since 2006. During the fourth quarter of 2010, the unemployment rate dropped .4 percentage points to 9.4%.  (Although higher in some individual states).

Even with those encouraging figures, there are still too many people out of work.

Said President Obama, "Even though our economy is recovering, we’ve still got a lot to do. This was a brutal recession that we went through, the worst in our lifetimes. It left a lot of destruction in its wake. More than 8 million jobs were lost. So even though we’ve created 1.3 million jobs and we saved a whole lot of jobs, you’ve still got a whole bunch of folks who are out there looking, still struggling. We've got a big hole that we’re digging ourselves out of."

The president has added Gene Sperling, who was recently appointed Director of the National Economic Council.to help accelerate hiring and to accelerate growth.  Sperling  led efforts to pass the small business jobs bill to help American companies.

Watch the president speak on the jobs numbers and his efforts to strengthen the economy by creating more jobs.



The president plans to visit Schenectady, New York to visit the birthplace of General Electric. The site is home to GE’s largest energy division, including steam turbines, generators, wind and solar, and the future home of GE’s advanced battery manufacturing facility.  The President will tour the site with GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt and he will make remarks on the importance of growing the economy and making America more competitive by investing in jobs, innovation and clean energy.

The GE plant in Schenectady is a direct beneficiary of GE’s power turbine deal with India announced during the President’s trip last November.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Swearings In. Goings Out.

A busy day in Washington today as the 112th Congress is sworn in, press secretary Robert Gibbs talks about leaving; and the First Lady gains a new Chief of Staff.
The 112th Congress

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., administered the oath today during the noon-time ceremony that saw the Democratic party relinquishing its reign to their rival Repbulican party.

Republicans hold a 242-193 majority in the House and plan to make their voices heard, promising to challenge the president on all fronts (as they have been doing), especially on the president's Health Reform bill.


Outgoing Democratic Housespeaker Nancy Pelosi transfers the gavel of power over to Republic HouseSpeaker John Boehner.   A/P photo.
 "The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions" , said Boehner.
 
The 112 Congress consists of House of RepresentativesSpeaker: John Boehner (R) / Majority (Republican) LeadershipMajority Leader: Eric Cantor / Majority Whip: Kevin McCarthy / Majority Chief Deputy Whip: Peter Roskam / Conference Chair: Jeb Hensarling / Campaign Committee Chairman: Pete Sessions / Policy Committee Chairman: Tom Price / Conference Vice-Chair: Cathy McMorris-Rodgers / Conference Secretary: John Carter /

The Democratic Minority Leadership consists of Minority Leader: Nancy Pelosi / Minority Whip: Steny Hoyer / Assistant Minority Leader: Jim Clyburn / Senior Chief Deputy Minority Whip: John Lewis / Chief Deputy Minority Whips: Maxine Waters, Jim Matheson, Ed Pastor, Jan Schakowsky, Joseph Crowley, Diana DeGette, G.K. Butterfield, Debbie Wasserman Schultz / Caucus Chairman: John B. Larson / Caucus Vice-Chairman: Xavier Becerra / Campaign Committee Chairman: Steve Israel.

Congress convenes Tuesday, Jan 25, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

----


Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Confirms He's Leaving In 2011

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told White House press corps today he just needs a break. 

Gibbs, 39, has worked closely with Obama since campaigning for then Senator Obama in 2008.  He said he would continue to advise the president and help aide his 2012 campaign.

No official leave date has been given but Gibbs said his last day would be "sometime toward the beginning of February."

White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, addresses the media on his decision to step down at the end of January, 2011.
Photo/CD Brown.
The real reason for leaving?:  "Recharging", said Gibbs.

"What I'm going to do next is step back a little bit, recharge some. We've been going at this pace for at least four years. I will have an opportunity I hope to give some speeches. I will continue to provide advice and counsel to this building and to this President. And I look forward to continuing to do that."

Said President Obama on Gibbs' departure:  “For the last six years, Robert has been a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate from the podium for what this administration has been doing to move America forward.  I think it’s natural for him to want to step back, reflect and retool.  That brings up some challenges and opportunities for the White House – but it doesn’t change the important role that Robert will continue to play on our team.”

Both the press secretary's Twitter and and Facebook accounts will continue after Gibbs' tenure .  "We want to continue the dialogue through social media", said Gibbs.

"I got on something like Twitter largely from watching you guys tweet while the President was standing right here.  And it’s a fascinating concept.  All this stuff moves much faster.  I think that will endure", said Gibbs.

Gibbs called his job as press secretary "the opportunity of a lifetime. Something I'll will be forever grateful for."

While Gibbs may be forever grateful for his opportunity, he admits he hads not had a vacation in over seven years. "When was the last time I took a vacation and didn’t take my BlackBerry?, It’s probably been almost seven years", said Gibbs. 

He said taking a vacation "will be nice".


When asked if he'd come back to work with President Obama should the president win a second term, Gibbs commented, “Well, I’m not going to -- I wouldn’t close the door.”

Video/First Question: Gibbs answers why he's leaving.

----
First Lady's New Chief of Staff
In other White House news, the First Lady has tapped Christina (Tina) Chen as Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady.
“I am thrilled to welcome Tina to my team". said First Lady Obama. 

"I have admired her work with the White House Council on Women and Girls and her leadership with the Office of Public Engagement.  Tina’s tenure at the White House has focused on ensuring that communities across the country have a voice and a presence at the White House, and her office has worked closely with mine to develop many of our outreach efforts, so she was the natural choice for this role.  We particularly share a commitment to nurturing young women and utilizing the White House as a platform for education and inclusion, and I look forward to continuing that work together." 

Tchen was previously a partner in corporate litigation at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. In that capacity, Tchen represented public agencies in state and federal class actions, including the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Illinois Department of Public Aid, and the Chicago Housing Authority. Tchen is the recipient of many awards, including the Leadership Award from the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (1999); "Women of Achievement" award from the Anti-Defamation League (1996); and Chicago Lawyer "Person of the Year" (1994).

Mrs. Obama, who has known Tchen for twenty years, said Chen has the right experience to lead her team. 

"[Tchen's] reaching out to people across the country and encouraging Americans from all walks of life to feel connected to this White House, makes her uniquely qualified to step up to this position. I look forward to working with her in the years ahead to develop effective strategies for the Let’s Move! campaign, to broaden our work on behalf of military families, to continue the arts and cultural events in the White House, and to advance our international agenda.”

Tchen, who will continue to serve as Executive Director of the Council in her new position.

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