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



Monday, January 30, 2012

Made In America (Again)

In effort to bring manufacturing jobs back to America, the Obama administration will highlight an American manufacturing company this week.

Vice President Biden will travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he will visit American Seating Company’s factory. The Vice President will discuss with workers the Administration’s plan to help businesses bring manufacturing jobs back to America by eliminating incentives to ship jobs overseas and offering tax credits for insourcing.


American Seating Company is a 125-year-old company that makes seats for buses, trains, stadiums, and concert arenas.  The company has done its work in Grand Rapids since the 1880s, and 75 percent of its components come from Michigan, Indiana, or Ohio.

President Obama, who will speak in Falls Church, Virginia on February 1st about the economy in Fairfax County, is proposing to eliminate unfair tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas that put companies like American Seating at a disadvantage.

Friday, January 27, 2012

If I Could Be 'Like Michelle Obama'!

We all know First Lady Michelle Obama inspires millions, both here in the U.S. and abroad.

Books have been written about her, bloggers track her every move, fashion and style mavens write about her commanding and glamorous style, food critics critique her healthy eating initiativemilitary families are thankful for her, and kids love her for keeping them active!

So, it was just a matter of time before someone came out with a song about her.

Enter Talia Wheeler, one-fifth of the talented members of Hip Hop Education (H.H.E.), the educational hip hop group that puts positive rap lyrics to music for young people. Their mission is to provide youth with an opportunity to use their voices for positive and social change.

In her song, 'Like Michelle Obama', Wheeler raps about being just like the first lady.

Take a listen.



More about H.H.E.
Another purpose of H.H.E. (per their website) is to educate, empower and activate young people to become the next generation of social justice leaders by giving them a voice in front of their peers to inspire positive change in their community.

I can honestly say that the kids of H.H.E. are doing just that.  I was first introduced to them at a rally for the members of the Jena 6 in 2007.  I was in awe watching them perform, and have been a fan ever since.

Make sure you remember the name, Hip Hop Education, because this family-oriented and talented group of youngsters are both today's, and the future's, shining stars!

Shining stars even First Lady Michelle Obama would be proud to know.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

State of the Union: First Lady's Guest List Announced

The White House released the guest list of those joining First Lady Michelle Obama in her section during tonight's State of the Union Address.


Guests include Dr. Jill Biden, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President; SGT Ashleigh Berg, USA Malibu, California whose husband, SGT Matthew Berg, USA is currently deployed to Afghanistan on his 3rd combat tour. 

Other scheduled guests include:

Alicia Boler-Davis, Plant Manager, General Motors Orion Assembly, Detroit, Michigan. Davis is the plant manager at General Motors Orion Assembly and Pontiac Stamping, and is responsible for overseeing the production of the first new small car program from General Motors to be manufactured in the United States. 

Debbie Bosanek, Assistant, Berkshire Hathaway, Bellevue, Nebraska. A Nebraska native Bosanek has worked for Berkshire Hathaway for 37 years and has been Warren Buffett’s secretary for almost two decades. Last September, the President proposed the “Buffett Rule” as part of comprehensive tax reform, and is working tobuild an economy that works for everyone, including Americans like Ms. Bosanek, not just a wealthy few. Ms. Bosanek lives in Bellevue, Nebraska with her husband of 23 years and their son, and spends most of her time and energy trying to keep up with her boss.

Jackie Bray, Process Operator at the Siemens Charlotte Energy Hub, King's Mountain, North Carolina. Bray is a single mother from King’s Mountain, North Carolina. Last January she was laid off from her job as a high speed packaging mechanic. That is when she enrolled in Central Piedmont Community College to prepare for Siemens pre-hiring test. After finishing the course and passing the test, Ms. Bray was hired by Siemens in August of 2011. This type of partnership between businesses and community colleges is exactly what President Obama hopes to strengthen tomaximize workforce development strategies, job training programs, and job placements. Ms. Braynow works as a process operator, combining her machinist background with new skills she has been trained on since working at Siemens: laser training, robotics training, penetrant inspection training, and product orientation. 

Mayor Julián Castro, San Antonio, Texas. Castro was first elected mayor of San Antonio in 2009 and at 37 years old is the youngest mayor of a top 50 American city. He is a former city councilman and founder of a law firm.  In January 2012, Mayor Castro announced that CPS Energy, a municipally-owned utility, has entered negotiations to bring at least 800 jobs and $100 million in capital investment to San Antonio. This is expected to be one of the nation’s largest solar projects resulting in 400 megawatts of zero-emissions solar energy.

Bruce Cochrane, President and CEO of Lincolnton Furniture, Lincolnton, North Carolina. Cochrane comes from a family that has manufactured furniture in North Carolina for decades, but when Cochrane Furniture was sold in 1997, the new owners moved manufacturing to China. Two years ago, Mr. Cochrane decided the time had come to start his own furniture company back in his home state. In January 2012, production began at Lincolnton Furniture in the same plant his family once ran. Lincolnton Furniture is expected to add 130 new jobs to the area. Mr. Cochrane attended President Obama’s Insourcing American Jobs Forum earlier this month.

Sara Ferguson, Teacher, Columbus Elementary, Parkside, Pennsylvania.  Sara Ferguson teaches literacy and math at Columbus Elementary, and has worked for the Chester Upland School District for 20 years. She is a third generation educator in Chester Upland, and a proud product of that district. When the Chester Upland School District faced bankruptcy earlier this year in light of severe state budget cuts, Ms. Ferguson vowed to continue teaching even without being paid, saying “we are adults; we will make a way. The students don’t have any contingency plan. They need to be educated, so we intend to be on the job.”

Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita, Founder, President and CEO Quality Electrodynamics, Cleveland, Ohio. Fujitais is the founder, president and chief executive officer of Quality Electrodynamics (QED), in Cleveland, Ohio. Coming to America from Japan in 1988 and after receiving his Ph.D. in physics from Case Western Reserve University in 1998, Dr. Fujita chose to continue his professional training in America. In 2006 he started his own company, QED, which is a developer and manufacturer of highly proprietary state-of-the-art MRI radiofrequency antennas. QED is now one of the world’s largest suppliers of these products and ships throughout the globe. In 2010, Dr. Fujita founded his second company, eQED, a solar energy-related electronics development and manufacturing company. With the founding of both QED andeQED, today Dr. Fujita is creating high tech, advanced manufacturing jobs in the healthcare and energy sectors in the United States.

Mahala Greer, Student, Denver, Colorado.  Greer is currently a student at the University of Colorado Denver majoring in Spanish, and has just been accepted into Teach for America as a Bilingual Education Corps Member. In May she will graduate with more than $35,000 in student loans.Last October, Ms. Greer introduced President Obama when he spoke to students at CU Denver about how his Administration is working to make college more affordable and reduce student loan debt.

Adrienne Howard, San Diego, California. Howard is a military spouse from Lynchburg, Virginia, and currently lives in San Diego, California with her three children. Her husband, Commander Colby Howard, USN, is currently on a seven month deployment.  This past September, Mrs. Howard was inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden's Joining Forces initiative to reach out to her community, and the response was overwhelming. Mrs. Howard shared her storyof rallying her community to 'adopt' a Sailor on theJoining Forces Blog.

Mike Krieger, Co-founder Instagram, San Francisco, California. Krieger is the co-founder of Instagram,the fastest growing social mobile startup in the U.S. today, with over 15 million registered users.  Mr. Krieger worked for a year on his student F-1 visa, later applying for and receiving an H-1B visa as a high-skill worker. Mr. Krieger wants to permanently stay in the U.S. and has applied for a green card.

Captain Mark Kelly, USN, Ret., and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Lorelei Kilker, Analytical Chemist, Brighton, Colorado.  Kilker is an analytical chemist for an environmental laboratory, and lives in Brighton, Colorado with her domestic partner and their two children. In October of 2011, Ms. Kilker was one of a class of women who benefitted from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) investigation of alleged systematic sex discrimination at her former employer that resulted in the award of back wages and significant remedial relief, arrangements that were achieved through a cooperative process between the employer and EEOC. Since the creation of the President’s Equal Pay Task Force in January 2010, EEOC obtained almost $50 million in monetary relief through administrative enforcement for victims of sex-based wage discrimination, obtained changes to workplace practices that benefit over one quarter of a million workers, and filed five cases including sex-based wage discrimination claims.

Admiral William McRaven, USN.  Admiral McRaven assumed command of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) on June 13, 2008. Prior to assuming command, he served from June 2006 to March 2008 as commander, Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR). In addition to his duties as COMSOCEUR, he was designated as the first director of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre (NSCC), where he was charged with enhancing the capabilities and inter-operability of all NATO Special Operations Forces.

Joan Milligan, Orlando, Florida. Faced with losing their home, President Obama’s Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) allowed Joan and her husband to refinance their existing loan when other means of refinancing were not open to them. As Mrs. Milligan has said, “I can’t believe how easy the process was. The bank bent over backwards to accommodate us”. The Milligans will celebrate 50 years of marriage in October 2012.

Amber Morris, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Morris, a Virginia Beach resident, responded to the White House’s call in December asking Americans “What does 40 mean to you?” saying, “Forty dollars a pay check means that I'll be able to pay my bills, but most months it'll be a tight squeeze. It means that I'll have no spending money which means I can't do my part in encouraging my local economy. Forty dollars a paycheck may not seem a lot, but it could mean a steady job for me and my coworkers or unemployment.” Ms. Morris graduated from Northeastern Law School in 2008 and found herself unable to find a job in her field. She was working for a non-profit in Boston, but after they lost funding she found herself unemployed in 2009 and forced to move back home with her parents. She’s since found work as a waitress in a local restaurant and although it’s less than ideal, she feels “lucky to have paycheck” to help pay student loans and help save up for the Virginia bar exam.

Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and Chair of Emerson Collective, Palo Alto, California. Powell Jobs is founder and chair of Emerson Collective, an organization focused on harnessing the potential of individuals from underserved communities to help them build a better life. Ms. Powell Jobs also serves as president of the board of College Track, an after-school program she founded in 1997 to prepare underserved high school students for success in college.  Ms. Powell Jobs holds a BA and a BSE from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Earlier in her career, she spent several years working in investment banking and later co-founded a natural foods company in California.

Adam Rapp, Fall Creek Township, Illinois. Rapp lives in Fall Creek Township, Illinois, and is the only child of Stephen and Lisa Rapp. On his 23rd birthday, he was diagnosed with cancer, and without the Affordable Care Act he would have lost health insurance coverage the same day. Adam’s mother wrote President Obama a letter last May thanking him for passing the health reform law so that her son could remain on their health insurance policy. After undergoing treatment, Mr. Rapp is now cancer-free and engaged to be married to Adrienne Mast of Quincy, Illinois.

Juan Jose Redín, Attorney, North Hollywood, California.   After enduring many challenges throughout his journey to achieve his dream of higher education. Juan benefited from California's Assembly Bill 540 and was able to enroll, and excel, in his studies at UCLA. He received both his undergraduate (with honors) and law degrees from UCLA. Now a US citizen and a practicing attorney, Juan is as passionate as ever about ensuring educational access to all.

Bryan Ritterby, Lab Technician, Holland, Michigan. Mr. Ritterby laid off from his job went through the Grand Rapids Community College Composite Technician Training Program in conjunction with a new start-up company, Energetx Composites. Upon completion of the program, Mr. Ritterby was hired by Energetx Composites as a composite technician in April of 2010. Today, Mr. Ritterby is a Lab Technician for Energetx Composites conducting material tests in the company’s laboratory verifying materials to be used in wind turbine blades, as well as working on blade validation tests for all of the community scale wind blades Energetx is manufacturing.

Colonel Ginger Wallace, USAF, McLean, Virginia.  Wallace is an Air Force intelligence officer who has led airlift and intelligence operations during Operations SOUTHERN WATCH, PROVIDE RELIEF, UPHOLD DEMOCRACY, ALLIED FORCE, ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. She currently lives in McLean, Virginia with her partner of over a decade, Kathy Knopf. In December, Ms. Knopf attended Col. Wallace’s promotion ceremony and participated in the “pinning on” of Col. Wallace’s rank, marking the first such event reported following the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” Col. Wallace is currently training to deploy to Afghanistan in the Spring 2012 through the Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands program.

To see the full bio of guests, and their photos, click here.
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Related:  Speaker Boehner to have his own guest list -  supporters of the Keystone Pipeline.

State of the Union Address 2012: Events, Schedule, and Excerpts

President Obama will address the nation tonight, taking the stage for his third State of the Union speech where he is expected to talk more about jobs creation, reviving the economy, and affordable education. 

'We're headed in the right direction, but we have more work to do', is how many believe the president's speech will be themed.   The president will also continue to pitch his idea that richer Americans should pay their fair share of taxes.




Here are a few excerpts from the evening, as provided by the White House.
“….The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.”

“Think about the America within our reach:  A country that leads the world in educating its people.  An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs.  A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world.  An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded. “

“As long as I’m President, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum.  But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.

No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits.  Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.”



“Let’s never forget:  Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same.  It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom:  No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts.  An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.”

The address can be seen live at www.whitehouse.gov/sotu.

Following the address, at the above website, Americans can interact in a segment the White House is calling 'What Would You Ask the President?' Throughout the week, culminating on Monday, January 30, the White House will take questions from various American groups on issues that matter to them.

On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, a group of policy experts and advisors to the President will sit down for Office Hours on Twitter, discussing the issues that matter to you and your community.  Finally, on Monday, January 30, President Obama will join the conversation in a special Google+ Hangout, a live multi-person video chat, from the White House.

Visit the White House YouTube channel to submit your questions and vote for your favorites between now and January 28. A few participants will be chosen to join the President in the Google+ Hangout to ask their questions of the President live!

The full schedule of State of the Union events is below.

Tuesday, 9:00 p.m ||  Watch the enhanced version of the speech that features graphics, data and stats that highlight the issues the President is discussing on WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU. Use the Twitter hashtag #SOTU to discuss the speech live. 



10:00 p.m.: Immediately following the speech, pose your questions to a live panel at the White House. Senior advisors will answer your questions about the President’s address submitted via Twitter (use #WHChat and #SOTU), Facebook, Google+, and an in-person audience of Tweetup participants.

Wednesday, Office Hours Schedule
All Day: Josh Earnest, Principal Deputy Press Secretary, answers your questions on Twitter (@jearnest44)

1:00 p.m.: Office Hours with Mark Zuckerman, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council
3:00 p.m.: Office Hours with Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44), White House Communications Director

Thursday, Office Hours Schedule
10:00 a.m. Veterans: Matt Flavin, White House Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy
11:00 a.m. LGBT: Miriam Vogel, White House Senior Policy Advisor and Gautam Raghavan, White House Associate Director for Public Engagement
12:00 p.m. Women: Racquel Russell, Special Assistant to the President for Mobility and Opportunity and Avra Siegel, White House Deputy Executive Director for the Council on Women and Girls
1:00 p.m. Seniors: Jeanne Lambrew, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy and Nick Papas, Assistant Press Secretary
2:00 p.m. Latinos: Felicia Escobar, White House Senior Policy Advisor, Julie Rodriguez, White House Associate Director of Public Engagement and Luis Miranda, White House Director of Hispanic Media
4:00 p.m. Small Business Owners: Christine Koronides, Senior Advisor for Economic Policy, National Economic Council

Last, again, but not least:

5:00 p.m. African Americans: Danielle Gray, Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
6:00 p.m. Asian American Pacific Islanders: Chris Lu, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary

TBD, Youth: Administration official to be announced.
Friday, Office Hours Schedule
11:00 a.m. Foreign Policy: Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting
12:00 p.m. Education: Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy
1:00 p.m. Health: Jeanne Lambrew, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy and Nick Papas, Assistant Press Secretary
2:00 p.m. Energy: Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change and Dan Utech, Deputy Director for Energy Policy
3:00 p.m. Consumer Protections: Brian Deese, Deputy Director National Economic Council
4:00 p.m. The Economy: Jason Furman, Principal Deputy Director National Economic Council
5:00 p.m. Job Opportunities: Portia Wu, Senior Policy Advisor for Mobility and Opportunity Policy  (Side bar:  we think this topic should ALSO be further up the ladder)
6:00 p.m. Urban Issues: Racquel Russell, Special Assistant to the President for Mobility and Opportunity

Finally, on Monday, January 30President Obama participates in a Google+ Hangout from the White House.

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**Update: 9:49 pm -
President Obama unleashes 'Blueprint for An America Built To Last'.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Resigns

It has been one year since Giffords became the victim of a gun shot wound to the head while reaching out to her constituents in a shopping center in Tucson. Her recovery has been nothing short of miraculous.

Now, just two days away from the president's 2012 State of the Union address, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made the decision to step down from Congress.

In 2011 an empty seat where Giffords would have sat, set the stage for the president honoring her and remembering the other victims of that unfortunate day.

"I'm getting better every day. My spirit is high," said Giffords in an online video, her speech recognizably slow.



A statement by the president recognized Giffords for her "dedication to fairness, a willingness to listen to different ideas, and a tireless commitment to the work of perfecting our union".

Added President Obama, "Over the last year Gabby, and her husband Mark, have taught us the true meaning of hope in the face of despair, determination in the face of incredible odds, and now – even after she’s come so far – Gabby shows us what it means to be selfless as well. Gabby’s cheerful presence will be missed in Washington.  But she will remain an inspiration to all whose lives she touched – myself included.  And I’m confident that we haven’t seen the last of this extraordinary American."

Giffords says she will step down this week, but promises, "I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Busy Week for the Vice President

When he wasn't predicting (to a group of wound-up San Francisco 49er fans --- in San Francisco) that the New York Giants were going to the Super Bowl, or fighting wild fires in Reno, the VP still made time to visit wounded warriors and their families at Camp Pendleton.


Our pool report comes from Elaine Sanchez, American Forces Press Service who informs us that:

Biden, along with the second lady, Dr. Jill Biden, visited the 30,000-square-foot center opened in October 2011 to provide counseling, reconditioning and transitioning services for wounded and ill Marines, sailors and their families. The vice president said he and his wife visit service members and their families at every chance they get for one reason: “to say thank you.”

“We only have one sacred obligation in the government,” he said. “We have a lot of obligations to the old, to the young, to educate, but we have only one sacred obligation and that is to equip those we send to war and care for those we bring home from war. It is the single most significant obligation the United States of America has."

Biden added, "This generation of warriors is the finest generation of warriors the world has ever seen, he noted. Biden said he’s been in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq -- “not like you,” he said, addressing a wounded Marine in front of him -- but 23 times. More than 2 miliion warriors since 9/11 have “strapped on a helmet … put your boots on that sand and climbed into those mountains.”“It’s just astounding, astounding what you do,” he said. “It takes my breath away.” You guys are amazing -- absolutely, positively amazing.”

Biden also acknowledged the family members in the room, quoting English poet John Milton: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Biden recalled when his son, Beau, was deployed to Iraq in 2008, He said he’d come in every morning and see his wife in the kitchen with a cup of coffee standing over the sink. “I could see her lips moving,” he said, “She’d say a prayer every single morning. The same prayer. “Biden told the wounded warriors “phenomenal” advances and breakthroughs were on the horizon. He alluded to technology that would enable doctors to connect the nervous system to a prosthesis, enabling wounded warriors the same mobiilty as before their injury.“There is real hope,” he said, “and there’s an absolute, positive commitment this country has made and we are going to keep.”

Biden concluded by telling the warriors, “We owe you. We owe you guys more than anybody could ever be able to repay you.”

Biden then began mingling with the wounded warriors and their families as Dr. Biden did the same in another part of the room. The vice president sat on a couch next to wounded warrior Marine Corps Sgt. Eric Rodriquez, his wife,Tanya Rodriquez, and their daughter, 3-year-old Camilla.

Biden also chatted with Camilla and her parents for a few minutes before he moved on to greet a double amputee seated in a wheelchair nearby. Marine Corps Sgt. James Amos was injured in Afghanistan on June 6, 2011. The vice president, Amos said, thanked him for his service and sacrifice. Biden also visited with a veteran of a past war. He knelt down in front of Thomas Marino, seated in a wheelchair, and asked him about his service in World War II, as his son, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. David Marino and his wife, Laura Marino, stood close by.

Biden then donned a Semper Fi cap as he and his wife continued to talk to more families.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

With Perry Bowing Out, Republican Candidates Take On South Carolina

Earlier today Rick Perry gracefully bowed out of the presidential race after a lackluster performance in Iowa.  Amid that announcement, Perry outdoes himself one further by announcing he is endorsing the 'open marriage' minded Newt Gingrich.

"Today, I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich for President of the United States", Perry said during a morning press conference.

The final four sparred off in a heated debate in South Carolina where Gingrich came under fire (again).



Meanwhile, former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who 'suspended' his campaign first, announced during the Southern Republican Leadership Conference today at the College of Charleston, SC that he plans to endorse the "We the People" campaign.

Quoting the Preample to the Constitution: We the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, Cain said, "The union is in trouble."

View his remarks here, at the 7:15 marker, to learn why he thinks it is..

Pool Report: President Obama does Disney, the Apollo Theatre, and Spike Lee's Joint

President Obama had quite a busy day today, first spoke at Disneyland's Magic Kingdom where he unveiled a strategy that will significantly help boost tourism and travel.

Here are a few colorful reports on the day from White House pool reporters who have been traveling along with the president, courtesy of NY Times reporter, Jackie Calmes.

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Orlando/Disney Magic Kingdom pool report:     

The pool entered the Magic Kingdom looking like we’ve only dreamed of – empty of people for the most part.


At 12:40 p.m. POTUS took the stage in the middle of the kingdom’s faux late 19th-century Main Street, against a backdrop of Cinderella’s blue-spired castle and a cloudless blue sky on a gorgeous day. He opened with a couple of jokes for the audience of about 150 people seated in front of him, and scores more, many of whom looked to be Disney employees, lining the faux storefronts. (After he spoke, one of those seated in front said she and some others were members of several unions, and attendees included local politicians.)

POTUS said it was rare for him to do something that would make his daughters jealous. And while Mickey Mouse was nowhere to be seen (except, of course, stuffed and for sale) POTUS said he looked forward to meeting him, adding, “It’s always nice to meet a world leader who has bigger ears than me.” Much laughter at that.

He outlined the tourist and travel initiatives he was implementing by executive order, saying the goal is to keep trying to make the country “the top tourist destination in the world” and to signal “America is open for business.”

You can watch the video here.

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 New York pool report: Spike Lee's Joint (his home) for a DNC fundraiser event.

President Obama sings an Al Green song at DNC fundraiser event.
 At about 8 pm the pool was ushered through the foyer and a corridor of Spike Lee's Upper East Side home and into a small dining room with 5 tables of 10 seats each as the director's wife, writer Tonya Lewis Lee, was introducing POTUS. She noted that Spike's hosting the fundraiser might seem odd to some since he has been critical of POTUS on occasion. But, she added, "I'm sure he doesn't like all of Spike's movies." (Laughter, including from Lee).  POTUS would recall, Lee also hosted an event at his Martha's Vineyard home during a presidential vacation there.

Lee's wife called for "another four years" and to warm applause. POTUS took the mic. He said Spike Lee has long been special to him because, as he previously recalled at the MV event, "on my first official date with Michelle" he took her to see "Do The Right Thing".

 "I was showing my sophistication" by taking her to a movie by a hot new director", said the president.

"Good thing you didn't choose 'Driving Miss Daisy,'" Spike Lee interjected, cracking himself up.

POTUS hit the same points as at the prior two fundraisers .

"We're obviously at a historic moment but this is also a moment of great promise " 22 months of private-sector job growth, ending war in Iraq, transitioning out of Afghanistan, health care insurance, don't ask, don't tell, laying the foundation to address problems that have been building for decades.  We need to make the tax code fair and equitable and the financial system stable.

"Everybody in this room is going to be doing fine.Couldn't be more proud of the record so far but "we've got a lot more work to do."

As at the previous fundraiser, he teased about whether folks might want to wander off to watch the GOP debate, and again the donors laughed at the thought. Again, "I'm absolutely confident we're going to win this thing. I have extraordinary faith in the American people. We can't take it for granted; there are a lot of headwinds" with the economy still in tough shape.

He should be "rightly held accountable." As much as he likes this elegant setting, he said, "We're also going to have to hit the streets," to which Spike Lee nodded his head in agreement.

POTUS promised: "I will work even harder this year than I did in 2008." As usual, pool was ushered out when he opened it up to questions. Among the donors are singer Mariah Carey and husband Nick Cannon and retired NY Knicks guard Allan Houston. Lee's walls are crowded with iconic photos of African-Americans through history, including Mohammad Ali and Malcolm X, art with African or African-American themes and artifacts including a clapper board from Godfather I.

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Before speaking at Spike Lee's home, the president spoke at the famously, historic Apollo Theatre where he broke into a rendition of Al Green's Let's Stay Together.  Green opened up the event, performing with India.Arie.   Here's a snippet of the president singing. 

“I told you I was going to do it", he said.

POTUS goes through his usual list of achievements, but this larger and more diverse audience (1,400 was the advance estimate, with tickets at $100 and $200) interrupts with enthusiastic applause and shouts, unlike the relatively more sedate high-dollar donors at the night’s earlier functions. 

With one hand in a pocket and leaning the other arm onto the podium, POTUS, as he often does, invoked Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement that his priority is to make POTUS a one-term president. “My top priority is putting people back to work,” he said to applause, and educating kids, making sure everyone has affordable health care.

 As previously at fundraisers, he noted how much farther right Republicans have moved since his first election campaign -- when his Republican rival “was not a climate-change denier,” favored broad immigration reform, opposed torture. ­­­Long pause. “The contrast this year could not be sharper,” he added.

The biggest burst of applause to that point came when he said that it is important for “those who are most fortunate to pay their fair share.” He disdainfully noted that Republicans call such statements “cla­­­­­­­­­­­ss warfare” but added, “I should pay more taxes and folks in my income bracket should pay more taxes” – not because he simply wants to take the money but “because we’ve got basic investments” to cover.

He summarized the Republican agenda as give more tax cuts for the rich and let companies do whatever they want even if it hurts people. “We tried that. I don’t know if you remember, but we tried that. It never worked.”
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Real and lasting change is hard, he said, adding, “It’s hard. It takes time. It takes more than a single term. It takes more than a single president.” But change comes, he added. “I’ve lived it. I’ve seen it.”

“Yes my hair is grayer. Yes, we’ve got some dings and some dents.” And yes, the financial crisis has taken a long time to recover from. But, he said, getting louder and building to his finale, “There is no other country that doesn’t envy our position. They understand that this country is still that last best hope and they are counting, the world is counting, and our fellow citizens are counting on our not giving up, not giving in to despair.”

He said if his supporters want to end the game-playing, cynicism and soundbites in Washington, you’ve got to send a message “that you intend to keep hoping and keep pushing and keep fighting just as hard as you did four years ago. And “if you’re going to work just as hard, if you’re able to generate that same passion and commitment, then I’ll there next to you.”

“I am just as determined now as I was then,” he said, “and if you are willing to stand alongside of me…” At this point, people had begun rising to their feet, clapping and shouting so loudly that pool, sitting in the rear row, could no longer see or hear POTUS except to catch the line, “Change will come…”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No XL Pipeline. (At least Not Yet)

President Obama has made his decision.  No Keystone XL Pipeline.

The president put off deciding to have the pipeline built until further recommendations and assessments could be made.  The pipeline would run from Canada to Texas.

In an official White House press release, President Obama stated, "Earlier today, I received the Secretary of State’s recommendation on the pending application for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.  As a result, the Secretary of State has recommended that the application be denied.  And after reviewing the State Department’s report, I agree", writes the president. 

"This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people.  I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my Administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.  Under my Administration, domestic oil and natural gas production is up, while imports of foreign oil are down.  In the months ahead, we will continue to look for new ways to partner with the oil and gas industry to increase our energy security –including the potential development of an oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico – even as we set higher efficiency standards for cars and trucks and invest in alternatives like biofuels and natural gas. "

Speaker Boehner, in a press conference earlier today said the pipeline has bipartisan support, yet "the president has broken his promise to the American people." 

"This is not the end of this fight", said Boehner of the Pipeline.  "It's good for our country, especially those who are looking for work."

The president believes his decision will both "benefit American workers and businesses without risking the health and safety of the American people and the environment."

The Keystone XL is a proposed 1700-mile oil pipeline from the U.S.- Canadian border in Montana, through Cushing, Oklahoma, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What/Where Is This Mysterious Bohemian Grove?

Does Presidental candidate Newt Gingrich know (or Participate)?

You decide.



More:Facts About Bohemian Gorve || We Are Change.org

Occupy DC Protestors Pitch Smoke Bomb at White House

 By Reuters JoAnne Allen

The White House was locked down for more than an hour on Tuesday night as authorities investigated what appeared to be a smoke bomb tossed over the fence of the executive compound, a Secret Service spokesman said.



The device was thrown over the fence at one point when about 1,000 to 1,500 "Occupy DC" protesters were demonstrating outside the White House, Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie said.

He gave the "all clear" later in the evening.

A majority of the protesters had left the area earlier and there had been no arrests, he said.
President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, went out to dinner to celebrate her birthday and were not at the White House when the incident began but returned while the investigation was under way.

Members of the White House press pool were prevented from leaving for about 45 minutes before they were escorted off the grounds. Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was also closed during the investigation.
Demonstrators from the Occupy movement marched to the White House after earlier converging at the U.S. Capitol and congressional office buildings to protest against the influence of money on lawmakers.

Several hundred demonstrators, some from as far as Nevada and San Diego, staged rallies and attempts to meet lawmakers as they returned from a holiday break. One demonstrator was arrested for assaulting a police officer and three others for crossing a police line, a Capitol Police spokeswoman said.

###

The White House was also targeted in November, 2011 when Oscar Ramiro Hernandez-Ortego of Idaho shot through the windows of the White House while the President and First Lady were attending the Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. 

He has since been charged with 17 criminal counts, including the attempted murder of President Barack Obama.

**Update**

10:35 pm. A pool report from the Hill newspaper reported the following: "After holding in the briefing room for 45 minutes, a WH official escorted the press corps out of the WH grounds through the EEOB and out to an exit on 17th Street."

Related
OccupyTheDream to take on Federal Reserve.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Apparently Dropping Out Is Better Than Third Place

Bachman, Now Huntsman: Who Will Be Next?

Presidential candidate John Huntsman, who thought he was doing fine coming in third place in the recent New Hampshire primaries just last week, has decided to drop out of the presidential race altogether.

The former Obama administration's ambassador to China said he "didn't want to stand in the way of the candidate most prepared to beat Obama and turn around the economy."

The 'candidate' he's referring to is Mitt Romney who currently holds a first place lead in the running in front of Perry, Santorum and Gingrich.

"Despite our differences I believe that candidate is Mitt Romney", said Huntsman.

Listen to Huntsman's 'most important' speech, conceding his candidacy.



The next stop for the remaining candidates move to South Carolina.

Friday, January 13, 2012

President Obama and First Lady Hosts Movie Screening of 'Red Tails'

President and the First Lady hosted the Tuskegee Airmen along with cast and crew members of the movie Red Tails for a screening at the White House.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle address the Tuskegee Airmen at the screening of Red Tails at the White house. Official White House photo.
Red Tails stars Terence Howard in a presentation of the first group of African-American fighter pilots to serve in the U.S. armed forces.
Howard also screened the movie with former president George W. Bush.

Said one movie goer of the advanced screening, "The movie is intriguing and has edge-of-your-seat action. It's well done, and certainly worth seeing."

The movie was fronted and produced by George Lucas, who described Red Tails as being "close to 'Star Wars: Episode 7' as you could get."

Lucas faced many challenges to get the movie made due to most major studios not wanting to take on a big budget risk with an almost entirely African American cast. He spent $100 million of his own money.

Red Tails, which Lucas referred to as "an old fashioned film", is in theatres January 20th.

First Lady Joins Forces With iCarly

First Lady Michelle Obama joined forces with the cast of the hit Nickelodeon TV show iCarly today at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, VA.

First Lady Michelle Obama 'random dances' with the cast of Nickelodeon's iCarly during a Joining Forces event at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, Virginia.  Photo/CD Brown
The White House and Nickelodeon are bringing awareness to ways kids can support U.S. military families. In a special episode called iMeet The First Lady, set to air Monday, January 16th, Carly Shay (played by Miranda Cosgrove) is devastated when she learns that her dad was deployed yet again and could not return home as originally planned to celebrate his birthday.   Her friends, in an effort to support the disappointed Carly, devise a plan where Carly gets to talk to her father via the Internet.   When the first lady finds out about the Internet webcast and Carly's friends rallying around her to offer their support, she makes a surprise visit to Carly.

Carly's real life dad, an Air Force Colonel, is currently serving overseas. Two other cast members also have parents serving in the military.

Mrs. Obama chats with iCarly cast and takes questions from students. Photo/CD Brown.
Students also shared their stories about being in a military family.  Hayfield has a huge student population of military families.

"I mean, I have to be the bigger man to take the place for the household, because I got to watch my little sister and make sure my mom stays happy", said Antonio whose father is a command sergeant major in Afghanistan and mother is a retired as a staff sergeant.

The first lady asked the Hayfield students to rally around their friends and fellow classmates with families in the military.

"Can we get that commitment from you guys here?", Mrs. Obama asked to a resounding 'Yes!' from the Hayfield students.

The first lady and iCarly cast members did a live PSA taping in support of US military families that will also air during the January 16 episode of 'iMeet the First Lady' on Nickelodeon.

Mrs. O. isn't the first FLOTUS to appear on a TV sitcom.  Back in November we featured First Lady Betty Ford in an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore. (Take a watch).  First Lady Nancy Reagan appeared on an episode of Different Strokes back in the '80s promoting her 'Say No To Drugs' campaign.

Dreams Do Come True.
The first lady and the students at Hayfield held a question and answer segment where questions where fielded for both the cast members and the first lady.


Superhero Michelle Obama. Photo/DC Magazine.
Of the questions directed to the first lady, she was asked: If you could have a superpower what would it be, and why?
In almost prophetically answered fashion, the first lady responded, "I've always wanted to fly. I've always had dreams about flying", said the first lady. "You could go anywhere on a dime and feel so free."

We'll point out here that the first lady does, in fact, fly. She does so aboard Marine and Air Force One, and she does go anywhere - having traveled the world since becoming first lady. Some argue that she even flys on a dime - the taxpayer's dime.  Some say she already is a superpower.  We'll add one more. A definite force to be reckoned with.

"Yeah, I'd fly", said Mrs. Obama.

Dream big folks.  Dream big.

--
View photos from the day here, and watch the First Lady's 'random dance' below.



--

US Military News
US Marines in unspeakable act, charged.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The First Lady's Pre-Birthday Fun and Appearance-Filled Schedule

Happy (early) birthday to First Lady Michelle Obama who will be celebrating her 48th birthday January 16th.

To begin a busy weekend leading up her birthday, First Lady Obama will join the cast of Nickelodeon’s iCarly this Friday at a special screening of “iMeet The First Lady,” a new episode featuring Mrs. Obama that honors America’s military children.  The show’s lead character, Carly Shay (played by Miranda Cosgrove), is the daughter of an Air Force Colonel currently serving overseas in the military.  In “iMeet the First Lady,” Mrs. Obama talks with Carly about her service to America as a member of a military family and thanks her friends for supporting her during her father’s deployment.  The episode airs on the first lady's birthday on Nickelodeon, Monday, January 16th.  Mrs. Obama will also appear in a Joining Forces PSA produced by Nickelodeon that will debut immediately following the airing of “iMeet the First Lady”.


The iCarly cast has hosted special screenings of “iMeet the First Lady” at military bases across the country that began January 9th to give military kids the first chance to see the new episode.  The cast will visit Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California; Naval Submarine Base, New London, Groton, Connecticut and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Wrightstown, New Jersey.  As the final event of the tour, Miranda Cosgrove and the iCarly cast will be joined by Mrs. Obama at a local area school on Friday.  The school has a large number of military children.

On Saturday, the first lady will participate in the 2012 BET HONORS, celebrating the outstanding achievements of extraordinary legends in music, literature, entertainment, media, service and education. This year's honorees include poet and actress Maya Angelou, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Spike Lee, The Tuskegee Airmen and Beverly Kearney. The Honors will air during Black History Month on Monday, February 13, at 9:00 PM on BET. 

As the first lady's birthday falls on Monday, January 16th, along with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, we can expect to see her in the community at several community service events to mark the occasion.


The first lady also took a stab at joining the Twitter community today.  The new Twitter account @michelleobama is run by the #Obama2012 campaign staff. As with her husband's Twitter account that is signed 'BO', identifying the president's personal tweet,  the first lady's tweets sent directly from herself will be signed, 'mo'.

Wanna guess how Sasha and Malia's tweets will be signed (should they begin tweeting)?

SO, and MO#2, would be our guess.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Colleges Add Training to Assist Health Care Needs of Military Families

Virginia Commonwealth University and The University of South Florida are just a couple of the 130 schools associated with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) pledging to leverage their missions in education, research, and train the nation’s physicians to meet the unique health care needs of the military and veterans communities.



Speaking at Virginia Commonwealth University today, the first lady said, "I’m inspired to see our nation’s medical schools step up to address this pressing need for our veterans and military families.  By directing some of our brightest minds, our most cutting-edge research, and our finest teaching institutions toward our military families, they’re ensuring that those who have served our country receive the first-rate care that they have earned,” says First Lady Michelle Obama.

Together, the AAMC and AACOM are committing to improve the education in their medical schools, the research in their laboratories, and the clinical care in their hospitals to better address the health issues that military families face.  Specifically, these organizations are committing to training their medical students as well as their current physicians, faculty, and staff to better diagnose and treat veterans and military families as well as develop new research and clinical trials on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and TBI in an effort to better understand and treat those conditions.  The organizations will continue to work with the VA and the Department of Defense to make sure that everyone is providing the best care available.

The effort is yet another initiative the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden have worked in partnership with Joining Forces to care for U.S. military personnel and their families.  Recently the first lady announced another initiative to help returning military forces find employment.

To see the entire list of educational institutions participating and for more on the First Lady's Joining Forces initiative visit www.joiningforces.gov.www.aamc.org

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

White House Schedule For Wednesday, January 11th: 'Jobs Insourcing'

Staying true to his promise to the American people of his intent to create jobs President Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden, will host an “Insourcing American Jobs” forum at the White House on Wednesday. 


The forum will focus on the increasing trend of companies choosing to “insource” jobs and invest in growing in the United States.

As part of the “Insourcing American Jobs” forum, the President will meet with business leaders, as well as experts on the topic, to discuss why it’s competitive to locate in the United States and what more can be done to work with companies to take similar steps to insource American jobs. Following the meeting, the President will deliver remarks to a group that will include leaders from the government and the private sector that are taking steps to encourage companies to insource and invest in America. In the afternoon, Cabinet officials will host panel discussions with both small and large businesses and experts on insourcing and investing in America.

During today's press briefing Jay Carney reiterated the president's accomplishments in saving the auto industry, creating jobs for hundreds of American workers.

"Today, that industry is coming back, creating jobs and moving cars off the line", said Carney. "Last month the automotive industry added 11,000 positions, bringing the total number of jobs added in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 36,000. The industry added 100,000 jobs over the course of 2011. In December, we saw auto sales climb for the seventh consecutive month, and the Big Three (Ford, GM and Chrysler) all saw sale increases for December and the year as a whole. Since Chrysler and GM emerged from bankruptcy in June of 2009, the auto industry has added back more than 170,000 jobs, the best period of job growth for that industry in more than a decade."

More Administration Staff Changes

Cecilia Muñoz Pegged As New White House Director of Domestic Policy Council

The White House announced that current Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz will now serve as the Director of the Domestic Policy Council.  Ms. Munoz will coordinate the policy-making process and supervise the execution of domestic policy in the White House.

“Over the past three years, Cecilia has been a trusted advisor who has demonstrated sound judgment day in and day out,” said President Obama. “Cecilia has done an extraordinary job working on behalf of middle class families, and I’m confident she’ll bring the same unwavering dedication to her new position.”

Cecilia Muñoz currently serves as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs where she oversees the Obama Administration’s relationships with state and local governments. As Director of Intergovernmental Affairs under Valerie Jarrett, Ms. Muñoz leads a partnership between federal, state, local, and tribal governments that Governing magazine described as “more prominent and responsive than it ever was,” citing praise from local and state elected officials from across the political spectrum.  Under Muñoz’s leadership, this partnership has brought the voices of local elected officials and the people they represent into the White House in the development and execution of policies to address local challenges in the economy, health care, disaster relief, and transportation infrastructure among others.

Ms. Muñoz also leads the Administration’s efforts to fix the broken immigration system so that it meets America’s 21st century economic and security needs. In addition, she serves as Co-Chair of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, which has worked to not only continue to address the question of the island’s political status, but also partnered with local officials to address immediate concerns over jobs and the economy, health care, education, the environment, energy, and infrastructure.

Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Muñoz served as Senior Vice President for the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization.  She supervised NCLR’s policy staff covering a variety of issues of importance to Latinos, including civil rights, employment, poverty, farmworker issues, education, health, housing, and immigration.  Her particular area of expertise is immigration policy, which she covered at NCLR for twenty years. 

Ms. Muñoz is the former Chair of the Board of Center for Community Change, and served on the U.S. Programs Board of the Open Society Institute and the Board of Directors of the Atlantic Philanthropies and the National Immigration Forum.  In June 2000, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in recognition of her work on immigration and civil rights.

Ms. Muñoz is the daughter of immigrants from Bolivia and was born in Detroit, Michigan.  She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and her master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley.  In 2007, she served as the Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

Muñoz replaces former Director of Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes who is quoted as saying "I'm proud of the things we've been able to accomplish over the last few years."  Barnes cited the auto industry bailout, the administration's work to advance civil rights, and the expansion of Pell grants for college students as major accomplishments under the current administration.

Barnes plans to 'spend time with family' while deciding what her next endeavor will be.

The Muñoz change is the second personnel change of the Obama administration this week.  White House Chief of Staff William Daley resigned yesterday. Replacing him is former OMB Director, Jack Lew.

When asked about the recent changes in White House staff, press secretary Jay Carney commented saying, " I don’t think the President is concerned about staff turnover; transitions are an inherent part of it.  These are demanding jobs.  I mean, think about what flows through the corridors and offices here.  Decisions of enormous global impact are made every day, and the pressure is significant.  The privilege is profound.  But these are not jobs that people occupy for long periods of time.  That’s always been the case, and especially in this White House where the Chiefs of Staff in all cases have been and will be empowered and have significant portfolios and responsibilities.  These are tough jobs, and the President appreciates Bill’s service just as he greatly appreciated Rahm Emanuel’s service."

The White House Internship: A Public Service Leadership Program

The application period for the Summer 2012 White House Internship Program is now open. Applicants have until January 22, 2012 to apply for a Summer 2012 White House Internship.


The White House Internship Program provides a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. This hands-on program is designed to mentor and cultivate today’s young leaders, strengthen their understanding of the Executive Office and prepare them for future public service opportunities.

The White House Internship Program’s mission is to make the “People’s House” accessible to future leaders from around the nation.



Click here for more details.

Dallas Mavericks Honored at the White House

The Dallas Mavericks were recognized by President Obama on Monday for winning the 2011 NBA Championship.

Dallas Mavericks' head coach Mark Cuban with President Obama
 at the White House on Monday. Photo/CD Brown.
The Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat, 105-95, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, winning their first NBA title in franchise history.

"Some called them the Bad News Bears", joked President Obama who predicted that his beloved Chicago Bulls would be standing in the Mavs' place next year.

The president continued to quote the 'naysayers' who had counted the team as down and out.

"Some said Jason Kidd was too old. Some said Dirk Nowitzky was too slow."



Looking around for Dirk, President Obama said to a room full of laughs, "They did say that Dirk. I'm sorry".

Nowitzky may been labeled slow, but he more than made up for it - scoring 48 points in the win in Game 6 over the favored, and newly assembled Miami Heat.

The newly acquired Vince Carter and former LA Laker, Lamar Odom were also in attendance.

"It's an honor", said Carter on getting the chance to visit the White House. He described the opportunity as "second to none".

The Mavs currently rank 'second' in the Southwest division with a 4-5 record.

No worries for Vince Carter who said his team is "doing fine".

"We're right in the mix of things", Carter said. "Once we start gelling together we're going to be okay."
While the visit to the White House was Carter's first experience, it Lamar Odom's second. He visited the White House as an LA Laker, along with former teammate Kobe Bryant and again as a Dallas Maverick.

"It's always great", said Odom. "It's a tremendous opportunity to be around tradition. It's a blessing."

The Mavericks also visited with wounded warriors while visiting at the White House as part of the team's off-the-court community service efforts.

Monday, January 9, 2012

White House Chief of Staff Resigns

Lew To Take The Reins

President Obama announced today that White House Chief of Staff William Daley is moving on to 'different' pastures.

The COS has resigned citing he will 'spend more time with family', but reports indicate Daley will also serve as co-chair of president's Chicago-based re-election efforts.  He will be replaced later this month by former OMB director, Jack Lew.



Said President Obama in a late afternoon announcement in the State Dining Room, "Obviously this was not easy news to hear.  And I didn’t accept Bill’s decision right away.  In fact, I asked him to take a couple of days to make sure that he was sure about this.  But in the end, the pull of the hometown we both love; a city that’s been synonymous with the Daley family for generations, was too great.  Bill told me that he wanted to spend more time with his family, especially his grandchildren, and he felt it was the right decision."

Daley replaced former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel who resigned last year to become mayor of Chicago.

News of the Daley resignation comes on the heels of a book (out this week) by author Jodi Kantor who suggests, among other things, that Daley had little experience running President Obama's administration. The book, titled The Obamas, also points to Rahm Emanuel having sparring-like situations with First Lady Michelle Obama, who is seen as the wife with a vested interest in her husband such that she, too, suggested changes needed to be made in her husband's personnel. 

The White House, today, shrugged off these claims.

White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said today in a White House briefing, "Again, I think that books like these generally over-sensationalize things. I know some people groan a little bit when I do this, but I've covered a couple of White Houses myself, and the fact of the matter is I've been here all three years, although not in this position. The atmosphere and collegiality here is much better than any of the White Houses I've covered. And that's been the case from day one here and continues to be the case."

Daley and Emanuel aren't the only top brass personnel from the Obama administration to resign from their positions.

Among resignees, former White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, who also expressed the need to 'spend more time with family'. In the book, The Obamas, Gibbs was cited as having issues with the First Lady to the point that he cursed at Mrs. Obama.

When asked today about the incident Carney answered, "But these are high-pressure jobs.  There's always a lot at stake.  And the commitment the people show to the President, to the First Lady, and to the causes that brought them here is fierce.  And sometimes that intensity leads people to raise their voices or have sharp exchanges.  But the overall picture is one of remarkable collegiality and a genuine focus."

That focus, 2012 Campaign aside, continues to be on jobs creation and strengthening the economy.

"So there is no question that I’m going to deeply miss having Bill by my side here at the White House", said President Obama. "But as he will soon find out, Chicago is only a phone call away and I’m going to be using that phone number quite a bit.  I plan to continue to seek Bill’s advice and counsel on a whole range of issues in the months and years to come." 
Of the new Chief of Staff, the president said, "And here in Washington, I have every confidence that Jack will make sure that we don’t miss a beat and continue to do everything we can to strengthen our economy and the middle class and keep the American people safe."   

It will be interesting to see, should President Obama reach a second term, how long it will be before Lew, too, will want to 'spend more time with family'.

Friday, January 6, 2012

What Is The New Definition of Rape?

When one looks at 'Dictionary.com for the definition of 'rape' we find the following answer:
For decades the definition of rape was thought to have included just women and young girls only. Today the FBI has decided to do one better.

Based on reported data that includes more information from victims, that have included men, the new definition of rape is now: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

“These long overdue updates to the definition of rape will help ensure justice for those whose lives have been devastated by sexual violence and reflect the Department of Justice’s commitment to standing with rape victims,” Attorney General Holder said. “This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes.”

Holder announced revisions to the Uniform Crime Report’s (UCR) definition of rape, which will lead to a more comprehensive statistical reporting of rape nationwide.

One can only discern that the brutal, heinous acts brought by Penn State football coach Gerry Sandusky as he took sexual liberties with young boys had a hand in the decision of the FBI's decision to make these changes.

“Rape is a devastating crime and we can’t solve it unless we know the full extent of it,” said Vice President Biden, a leader in the effort to end violence against women for over 20 years and author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. “This long-awaited change to the definition of rape is a victory for women and men across the country whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years.”

For more click here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

We Can't Wait: President Obama To Create Jobs For Teens

We Can’t Wait: The White House Announces Federal and Private Sector Commitments to Provide Employment Opportunities for Nearly 180,000 Youth.

Summer Jobs+ initiative to create summer jobs for teens in 2012.
The White House announced Summer Jobs+, a new call to action for businesses, non-profits, and government to work together to provide pathways to employment for low-income and disconnected youth in the summer of 2012. The President proposed $1.5 billion for high-impact summer jobs and year-round employment for low-income youth ages 16-24 in the American Jobs Act as part of the Pathways Back to Work fund. When Congress failed to act, the Federal government and private sector came together to commit to creating nearly 180,000 employment opportunities for low-income youth in the summer of 2012, with a goal of reaching 250,000 employment opportunities by the start of summer, at least 100,000 of which will be placements in paid jobs and internships. Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of executive actions the Obama Administration is taking to strengthen the economy and move the country forward because we can’t wait for Congress to act. 

“America’s young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they’ve got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job.  It’s important for their future, and for America’s.  That’s why I proposed a summer jobs program for youth in the American Jobs Act – a plan that Congress failed to pass.  America’s youth can’t wait for Congress to act.  This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.  That’s why today, we’re launching Summer Jobs+, a joint initiative that challenges business leaders and communities to join my Administration in providing hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for America’s youth,” said President Obama.

“While young people who are currently disconnected from school or work are not contributing to our economy, we see these young people as ‘Opportunity Youth’ – because of the untapped potential they bring to the Nation.  Today, the White House challenged all sectors to go all-in and work together in creating pathways to youth employment.  Summer jobs are an important step – and to stay on the path to success, Opportunity Youth need social supports and access to relevant education, mentoring and training.  This spring, the White House Council for Community Solutions will participate in community discussions nationwide to learn from best efforts by youth, families, government, business, educators, and nonprofits to connect young people to meaningful career opportunities,” said Patty Stonesifer, Chair of the White House Council for Community Solutions (WHCCS).

The Administration also announced its intention to launch, within 60 days, the Summer Jobs+ Bank, a one-stop search tool for youth to access postings for any participating employers seeking to reach them where they are online. The search tool builds upon an open standard, the JobPosting schema endorsed by schema.org in November, 2011 in support of the Veterans Jobs Bank, and will include technical and promotional support by Google, Internships.com, AfterCollege, LinkedIn and Facebook. Today the Corporation for National and Community Service released a new toolkit created in collaboration with the WHCCS and employers to support businesses and communities in their efforts to help young people become productive citizens and connect to greater opportunities, both of which are critical for the long-term strength and competiveness of the Nation.

Today’s announcements build on previous commitments from the Obama Administration to support summer youth employment. In 2009 and 2010, communities across the country used Recovery Act funds to directly support summer work opportunities for over 367,000 young people. In the summer of 2011, the Department of Labor brought together private sector commitments to employ over 80,000 youth.

A new analysis released today by the WHCCS showed that in 2011 alone, taxpayers shouldered more than $93 billion in direct costs and lost tax revenue to support young adults disconnected from school and work. Over the lifetime of these young people, taxpayers will assume a $1.6 trillion burden to meet the increased needs and lost revenue from this group. Read the full analysis here. 


Businesses, non-profits and government can accept the President’s call-to-action by directly hiring youth as well as providing corporate mentorship experiences, internship, and other opportunities that connect young people to jobs. The three key ways organizations can engage are:

·         Learn and Earn: Provide youth jobs for the summer of 2012 in the form of paid internships and/or permanent positions that provide on-the-job training. Of the roughly 180,000 job commitments announced today more than 70,000 are Learn and Earn commitments.


·         Life Skills: Provide youth work-related soft skills, such as communication, time management and teamwork, through coursework and/or experience.  This includes resume writing or interview workshops and mentorship programs.

·         Work Skills: Provide youth insight into the world of work to prepare for employment.  This includes job shadow days and internships. More information about this initiative can be found at dol.gov/summerjobs.

As the nation continues to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression, American youth are struggling to get the work experience they need for jobs of the future. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (Current Population Survey):


·         48.8 percent of youth between the ages of 16-24 were employed in July, the month when youth employment usually peaks. This is significantly lower than the 59.2 percent of youth who were employed five years ago and 63.3 percent of youth who were employed 10 years ago. 

·         Minority youth had an especially difficult time finding employment this past summer. Only 34.6 percent of African American youth and 42.9 percent of Hispanic youth had a job this past July.

In addition to the organizations making commitments for the summer of 2012, the Department of Labor will honor UPS, We Are Golf, Wells Fargo, and Jamba Juice for their strong participation in their 2011 summer jobs effort and the Corporation for National and Community Service will honor Bank of America, State Street, Viacom, Deloitte, and JP Morgan for their leadership in corporate mentoring over the past year.

Commitments Announced Include:

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is committed to improving employment outcomes for the many people with disabilities who are ready, willing, and able to work.  The AAPD Summer Internship Program will provide 30 young people with disabilities the opportunity to engage in ten weeks of public service through paid internships on Capitol Hill, in ederal agencies, nonprofits, and for-profit businesses. 

AT&T is committed to providing nearly 350 summer jobs in 2012 through a variety of summer job initiatives.  These opportunities help students, from high school to recent college graduates, develop skills and gain insight while preparing them to more successfully enter the job market.  Examples of AT&T summer opportunities for college students include leadership development internships on the fields on finance, retail, IT and engineering, as well as participation in college internship initiatives with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Dr. Emmett J. Conrad Leadership Program.  In addition to these unique opportunities, AT&T will also provide high school students the opportunity to experience the world of work through the Mayor’s Interns Fellows Program in Newark, NJ.  Also in 2012, AT&T will reach their initial goal of providing 100,000 high school students the opportunity to learn more about career options and what it takes to be successful in today’s workforce through the AT&T/JA Worldwide Job Shadow Initiative.

Bank of America, as part of its broader three-year $50 million goal to support education and workforce development opportunities for underserved populations, will continue to invest significantly in youth and young adults in 2012, including 1,500 paid internships  at the company and local nonprofits as well as job placement programs, in conjunction with more than 80,000 hours from employee volunteers. Recognizing the value of mentoring to help make opportunities possible for young people, Bank of America served as the primary sponsor of the National Mentoring Partnership’s 2011 National Mentoring Summit, at which the Corporate Mentoring Challenge was launched.  In 2011, Bank of America invested more than $15 million, and its employees volunteered more than 75,000 hours to help youth and young adults attain life and work skills to propel them towards long-term success.

Baxter International Inc. pledges to support Summer Jobs+ by expanding their education initiative, Science@Work.  As an extension of Science@Work – a multiyear commitment to support teacher training and student development in healthcare and biotechnology through a partnership with Chicago Public Schools – Baxter will reach 300-500 students. These students will participate in a variety of programs: the Career Training Program, in which Baxter professionals will assist students with career planning, soft skill development and interviewing skills; the 2012 Summer Job Shadowing program, in which students will participate in a unique shadowing experience with young Baxter professionals; and through Science @Work Community of Support, in which students will participate in an on-going relationship management program that provides counsel and professional support during college careers.
Bender Consulting Services, Inc. is committed to investing in youth who are living with disabilities, to support the development of life and work skills required by private and public sector employers.  Partnering with local high-schools in Pittsburgh, PA and Newark, DE, Bender Consulting, through the year-long Bender Leadership Academy Program will train 60 high-school students with disabilities, many who are low-income, about how to be successful in the world of work.   Four students who complete this program will work on a short-term paid summer internship in Bender Consulting’s offices in Pittsburgh, PA.  Bender Consulting will also provide two to four, 12 week summer HR internships to low income youth, including youth with disabilities.

The Camber Corporation provides young people with real-life work experience, opportunities to enhance their professional skillsets, and mentorship from their qualified employees during paid internships. In 2011, 25% of their graduated interns were hired as full-time Camber employees to serve in the areas of accounting, engineering, and human resources. In 2012, Camber plans to offer 8 internship opportunities.

CenturyLink has had summer internship programs for more than 25 years and looks forward to participating in Summer Jobs+ in 2012.  CenturyLink believe that one of its strengths is the diversity of its people, and they are committed to fostering diversity among the 50 summer jobs they will hire this year. 

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has made a commitment to provide approximately 4,000 disadvantaged youth with national service opportunities through AmeriCorps programs operating in the summer of 2012. The AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate Program, funded in part through private sector commitments, will place youth in communities across the country to address poverty and hunger.  In addition, AmeriCorps State and National programs will engage youth in education and conservation projects, and the AmeriCorps NCCC Summer of Service program is designed to introduce teenagers, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to national service and to foster in them such values as teamwork, responsibility, and the ethic of serving one’s community. These stipended service opportunities train youth in the life and work skills, such as teamwork, problem solving, and leadership, that are critical for success in the labor market, while engaging in activities that tackle tough societal challenges.
CVS Caremark is committing to hire over 20,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in 2012. Many of the new employees will occupy part-time and full-time positions such as pharmacy service associates, technicians, cashiers and interns in a variety of corporate functions.

Deloitte helps American high school students prepare for college and careers through its Their Future Is Our Future program.  As part of this program, 500,000 students have experienced the Life Inc. career exploration curriculum and Deloitte is committed to serve tens of thousands of students in 2012.  Through a series of lessons, self-discovery techniques, and virtual role models tailored for youth in middle and high school, Life, Inc. introduces students to various career possibilities and helps them determine what kind of educational experiences they will need in order to pursue them.   The program includes a website, career guide, teacher’s guide and student journal, which features seven lessons that are delivered by teachers in schools and after school youth programs.  Additionally, through deep relationships with national nonprofits that lead on education including MENTOR, United Way, College Summit and City Year, Deloitte contributes cash, pro bono service and the time of one-on-one mentors to help young people pursue the education and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. 

The Department of Agriculture has made a commitment to provide approximately 7,100 youth with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience during the summer of 2012 by working with various USDA Mission Areas and Agencies throughout the country.  The USDA provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, and related issues based on sounds public policy, the best available science, and efficient management.  USDA is committed to forming a pipeline of talented youth who will be our future leaders by giving them the opportunity for hands-on work experience in a variety of science, technology, engineering, math, administrative, management, agribusiness and industry positions.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will commit to supporting 324 summer jobs for low-income youth in 2012. HHS offices will be supporting paid summer jobs as well as other employment enhancement opportunities.  The Office of Human Resources’ Strategic Programs Division (SPD) will host at least two classes in the “Life Skills” pathway to support 120 youth.  These classes will have up to 50 participants each and will focus on work-related soft skills, such as communication, time management, and teamwork.  Additionally, SPD will allow for 20 students to participate in the “Work Skills” pathway.  These 20 students will shadow SPD employees for the day to offer insight into the federal workplace and to prepare them for employment.

The Department of the Interior has committed to providing approximately 12,000 young Americans with work opportunities in the summer of 2012 on public lands, tribal lands, national parks, wildlife refuges, and environmental restoration projects nationwide. Interior has increased the number of summer job opportunities it offers for young people under the Obama administration by 30 percent – helping more people from all walks of life to enjoy the great outdoors, and to pursue work opportunities and careers in the stewardship of America’s natural, cultural, and historic resources as part of the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative.

The DirectEmployers Association is a nonprofit HR consortium of leading global employers formed to improve labor market efficiency through the sharing of best practices, research and the development of technology.  They are committed to hiring 5 youths this summer in the Indianapolis area to provide opportunities to learn the skills needed to be successful in the workforce as well as to encourage and motivate them to continue with their education.
Discovery Communications provides multiple avenues for young people to discover a summer job and a lasting career. Through the Discover Your Skills campaign youth can learn about exciting career opportunities in skilled trades and critical growth areas like manufacturing, health care, energy, technology, construction and other industries.  A partnership with Montgomery College provides community college students with the skills they need to take advantage of available job opportunities.  In addition, Discovery’s robust internship program will provide nearly 300 college students career opportunities in a variety of fields in 2012.

Easter Seals will be working to create summer opportunities for three young people with disabilities and will be disseminating information about the Summer Jobs+ initiative throughout their nationwide network of affiliates.  These positions will be in the "learn and earn" category of the initiative. While working for Easter Seals, young people will have the opportunity to learn various aspects of nonprofit management including marketing and corporate relations, public policy, program management, development and more. 
Expeditors, through its Opportunity Knocks program, recruits and supports disconnected youth so they can get training in a professional environment that can be leveraged for future success.  Since starting the program in 2008, Expeditors has helped 25 disconnected youth in six offices throughout the United States and is committed to adding 75 positions in another twenty offices in 2012 to bring the total participation to 100 youth. 
Gap Inc. is supporting 80,000 youth in 2012 through a variety of programs, which include connecting youth to employment through the development of relevant life skills and work ready skills, as well as providing on-the-job training through learn and earn experiences.

General Dynamics C4 Systems is committed to hiring 40 young people during the summer of 2012 and is partnering with Sentinels of Freedom, Wounded Warriors, Diversity Careers, SWE, SHPE, NSBE and WOC to support hiring needs nationwide.

Goodwill Industries International is proud to be one of the first organizations to support the Summer Jobs+ program. Through Goodwill’s unique social enterprise business model, it creates employment and job training. This year, the organization will expand services for youth at the beginning their careers. Goodwill is committed to hiring 1,200 youth ages 16 to 24, provide more than 3,200 youth with life skills services and over 2,300 with work skills services.  Almost 2,000 youth will be engaged in learn and earn services.  Thousands more youth will be provided virtual career mentoring and exploration services.

H-E-B has committed to expand their summer jobs program by 19 percent.  In the summer of 2012, 5,171 16-24 year olds will be hired to work at H-E-B.
J.B. Hunt Transport is focused on providing opportunities for young people to experience a professional working environment, particularly those in the Hispanic community in Arkansas. Through a partnership with ALPFA, the company reaches out to local high school students and helps raise awareness of opportunities in business, and provides mentors for college students. For 2012, J.B. Hunt is increasing the number of summer positions at headquarters to 20, and expanding college internships at our field locations throughout the United States.

Jamba Juice has made a significant commitment to training and hiring young people and will pledge to hire at least 2,500 youth in the summer of 2012. Jamba Juice has a successful summer in 2011 when the company hired nearly 2,700 youth for summer work — 200 more than their pledge made as part of  the "Summer Jobs USA: Make a Commitment" initiative. Additionally, Jamba Juice also recently launched a new internship program for Job Corps students.

JPMorgan Chase has been a leader in supporting “Learn and Earn” and “career and skill development” programs in cities all across the country for decades.  During the 2011 Corporate Mentoring Challenge, JPMorgan Chase was inspired to step up in a leadership role – by funding and launching the Illinois Mentoring Partnership, introducing other potential funders and connecting non-profit organizations, who deliver the programs.  In Chicago, JPMorgan Chase also has supported, since its creation 20 years ago, After School Matters, a program that helps teens discover and nurture their talents and aspirations for future successes. The bank’s support in 2012 will provide 1,300 teens with hands-on, project-based programs to learn about rewarding careers and to help develop marketable job skills.

LinkedIn has committed to offer 200 internships in the summer of 2012. Additionally, LinkedIn is committed to adopting the JobPosting schema and letting any company post their summer internship jobs (or entry level jobs) on the LinkedIn website at no cost.
ManpowerGroup is proud to support summer jobs through a direct commitment of 20 jobs at our global headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and at Manpower branch offices across the nation. Through its work with local Workforce Investment Boards and One-Stop Career Centers, Manpower supports employment opportunities for thousands of people touched by the public workforce system.

Operation HOPE, as part of the Gallup-HOPE Index Cities Initiative, commits to secure 20 businesses and place 500 youth through youth business internships, mentorships, shadow days or actual small business or entrepreneurship start-ups.  Through the Gallup-HOPE Index Cities initiative, Operation HOPE, in partnership with Gallup intend to create a new youth entrepreneurial and business class in America, along with a new culture of progressive business mentoring by Corporate America.
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) maintains a strong focus on providing learning and work opportunities for youth in the United States.  Through its host of early-identification programs and a robust internship program designed for undergraduate students, PwC seeks to provide students the learning, coaching, and training opportunities and professional relationships they need to develop professionally and personally, while also learning about unique opportunities in a career in professional services.  For the summer of 2012, PwC is committed to hiring 1,500 youth across the country.
The SI Organization will hire more than 100 young people in 2012 for full-time entry-level and internship/co-op positions focused on engineering and integration services in the U.S. Intelligence Community, Department of Defense and other agencies.
Starbucks Coffee Company is supporting more than 25,000 youth this summer through a variety of programs. The company will work with local nonprofits and others to engage 20,000 young people in life skills and job readiness development.  This commitment is in alignment with our Youth Action Grants programs, supporting young people to address critical issues in their communities.  Starbucks supports nonprofit organizations to give young people the skills and resources to be catalysts for change through community service.  One example of an organization Starbucks supports is Generation On in multiple cities across the US; this is a program of Hands On Network. Starbucks plans to work closely with its grant recipients to maximize the life skills training and service opportunities and to increase their outreach to underserved youth. The company will also provide hands-on and learn and earn experiences for 5,000 young people working at Starbucks.

State Street Corporation is committed to providing workforce development and education opportunities to approximately 1,000 youth each summer in cities including Boston, New York, Kansas City, and Sacramento among others.  The company supports a continuum of meaningful job opportunities starting with funding subsidized wage placements in community-based organizations for first-time job experiences, as well as placements in professional positions at State Street for those who have developed basic employability skills and are ready for more responsibility.
Syracuse University will provide 200 jobs to college-aged students working in the Say Yes to Education Syracuse’s Summer Camp for academic enrichment and youth leadership.  Syracuse University will also provide 50 positions to 16-21 year olds in a SU partnership with CNY Works on a Summer Youth Initiative.  

The McGraw-Hill Companies is committed to growing its 12-week paid summer internship program which employs youth across all of their businesses to 260 summer internships for 2012.  In 2011, McGraw-Hill employed over 250 Summer Interns and roughly 10% of last year’s interns were offered full-time positions after graduation.  
UPS, the global leader in logistics, is continuing its commitment to summer jobs and will offer 1,500 employment opportunities to youth across the country in 2012.  Most opportunities qualify for employment benefits and UPS’ educational assistance program which can pay up to $3,000 a year for educational benefits. 
Viacom has committed to provide internship and mentorship programs to connect youth to employment opportunities.  Through their Summer Associates Program, VIACOM will provide 10 recent college graduates young people a 10 week paid training program in the summer 2012 fostering professional and personal development and unlocking the doors to valuable real-world experience.  Through their partnership with POSSE’s Career Program, Viacom will provide 30 college students high school students with a paid internship. In addition, mentoring initiatives such as Viacom’s national mentoring program Get Connected, created with the Get Schooled Foundation, will assist students through meaningful connections with adults with the ultimate goal of helping to keep them in school and realize their true potential.

WE ARE GOLF is a national not-for-profit organization formed to tell the story of the nearly 2 million hardworking men and women who make golf a great sport and whose livelihoods depend on it.  Golf courses across the country are building on their 2011 commitment of 2,700 summer jobs and WE ARE GOLF is bringing far more golf courses to this initiative in 2012 to offer tens of thousands more jobs to young people.

Wells Fargo has made an ongoing and significant commitment to its communities, including opportunities for summertime work, networking and training for young people. In the summer of 2012, Wells Fargo will support 1,000 employment opportunities for youth.
Along with significant commitments from across the business sector, national organizations are answering the President’s challenge. United Way Worldwide will work with local chapters in approximately 30 cities and regions to host a series of Community Conversations, where local leaders will join with ordinary citizens to map out what they can do to pull together the support needed to create opportunity and pathways for young adults.

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We really like this initiative. As the aunt of a sixteen year-old who has wanted to work every summer since he was 13, we think the president's teen job initiative is right on point, and timely.