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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

VP Doesn't "Need Any Tires"; Watches Maybe

Vice President Biden made a trip to Arlington, VA's grand opening of Costco where he was put some mileage on his newly re-activated Costco card.

Per a White House pool report :

"The Bidens have been Costco members in the past. The Vice President and Dr. Biden’s Costco memberships were re-activated yesterday; they paid the $55 membership re-activation fee to receive their new cards.The Vice President received his own card which he is carrying today while shopping at Costco."

Vice President Biden was greeted by Costco CEO Craig Jelinek and Co-founder Jim Sinegal.

After perusing the store's various departments and indulging in the store's available sorted food samples, he was invited to stop by the tire department but declined the offer saying to the employees, "Hey man I don't need tires, I don't drive anymore."
After delighting Costco shoppers with handshakes and photo ops the VP made his way to checkout where he was seen purchasing the following items: childrens' books, fire logs, a 32 inch Panasonic TV, and a big apple pie.

The pool report indicates he also looked long and hard at watches in the store, but it was unclear if he purchased one a $1,200 one that caught his eye.

The VP also used the opportunity to push the fiscal cliff agenda where mentioned to patrons that he is calling on Congress to extend Bush-era middle class tax cuts, saying that "consumer confidence is growing; the last thing we need to do is dash that."

"Folks don't need to see their taxes go up", said Biden. "It's important Congress acts now, right now."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Launches “Doing Business in Africa” Campaign in Johannesburg

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank today announced the launch of the “Doing Business in Africa” campaign at an event in Johannesburg, South Africa. This campaign is part of a larger U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which President Obama issued earlier this year. In her remarks, the Acting Secretary emphasized the United States’ ongoing commitment to deepening trade, investment, and economic ties with these nations. She also shared a message from President Obama in support of the campaign.
Remarks as Prepared for Rebecca Blank, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary
Thank you. Good afternoon. It is wonderful to be here in Johannesburg with all of you. I want to thank our sponsors:
First, the Corporate Council on Africa, which represents nearly 85 percent of all U.S. investment on this Continent. Thank you, CCA, for continuing to work with us to raise the profile of Africa in the U.S. business community.
Second, Business Unity South Africa. Thank you for helping ensure that the private sector continues to play a constructive role in this nation’s growth.
I also want to thank Ambassador Don Gips, the U.S. Embassy staff, and the Foreign Commercial Service officers from the Department of Commerce who are based here, including Larry Farris. Thanks also to Undersecretary Francisco Sanchez and Assistant Secretary Michael Camuñez who continue to do such great work throughout Africa.
For decades, people around the world have talked about doing business in Africa. But today, it’s real. It’s happening. And Africa is rising as a result.
Just months after his inauguration, President Obama traveled to Ghana. He laid a foundation for the future of the U.S.-African relationship – a relationship based on mutual responsibility and mutual respect. He called for an era of deeper engagement among our leaders in government, business, and other sectors.
More recently, President Obama said he believes that Africa can be the world’s next major economic success story. He’s absolutely right. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 6 of the 10 fastest growing markets in the world. Economic growth in this region is predicted to be strong – between 5 and 6 percent – in coming years. And – most importantly – millions of Africans are finding a path from poverty to greater security, opportunity, and prosperity.
The United States is committed to helping build on and accelerate this success.
Earlier this year, the President reaffirmed that commitment when he issued theU.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.
This Strategy directs the U.S. to dedicate greater support for efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, while continuing both to advance peace and security in Africa, and to promote opportunity and development. But most importantly for all of us today, the Strategy commits the U.S. to elevating our efforts to spur economic growth, trade and investment.
But before I discuss this in more detail, let me recognize the successes of the past four years.
The Obama Administration has strengthened democratic institutions and challenged leaders whose actions threaten peaceful political transitions. We continue to support strong, transparent, democratic institutions that are guided by the rule of law.
The Administration has supported regional security, including the support for the peaceful birth of South Sudan, the African Union Mission in Somalia, and working with regional partners to counter the predatory Lord’s Resistance Army. We continue to promote regional stability and security because it is the right thing to do and because it is an essential element for continued growth.
The Administration has heavily invested in development partnerships that promote food security, increase resilience to climate change, and empower communities that are responding to HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other health threats. We continue to lead major efforts like the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which aims to lift 50 million Africans out of poverty in the next decade.
And, finally, under President Obama’s leadership, the United States has been the world’s leader in responding to humanitarian crises – such as the famine in the Horn of Africa.
Despite all of these successes, Africa’s dynamic growth and its increasing strategic importance demand that we deepen our engagement even more.
Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, is experiencing rapid change. Internet and mobile technologies are dramatically shifting the way business is done – even while population expansion, political instability, and other challenges threaten the positive progress that many nations are making. But economic progress is clearly visible – private investments in Sub-Saharan Africa now exceed direct aid, thereby fostering long-term stability in both large and small countries.
This is our moment to work together to ensure that we both secure Africa’s gains – and build on them. And I believe strongly that one of the ways we can do that is for U.S. businesses to invest in Africa, and to believe – like we all do here – in Africa’s bright future.
That’s why the President’s Strategy to spur economic growth, trade and investment in Sub-Saharan Africa is crucial. Through it we want to support a business climate that enables and promotes trade and investment. We want to support efforts to better integrate Africa’s markets, allowing them to compete more effectively and transparently. We want to support African companies’ ability to access global markets and tap global supply chains. And, woven throughout these efforts, we want to promote Africa as a key destination for American investment and trade.
The good news is, the U.S. commercial and economic relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa has already begun to blossom. Two efforts are particularly praiseworthy in this regard.
First, the African Growth and Opportunity Act – AGOA – continues to support the flow of African goods to the U.S. More than ever before, American businesses and consumers are buying African products such as flowers, fruits, nuts, cocoa, footwear, and wine. Importantly, nonpetroleum exports under AGOA have tripled to nearly $5 billion. Compared to a decade ago, more than twice the number of eligible countries are shipping non-commodity goods under AGOA.
We are building on this by connecting even more African businesses – including small businesses – to global markets and supply chains. For example, the Commerce Department recently worked with X-Chem – a black, woman-owned AGOA exporter – to link her into the Walmart/Massmart supply chain. I believe Angela is here today.
And I was thrilled to see that three months ago, President Obama signed into law the renewal of the third-country fabric provision. This will ensure that we can continue to support apparel manufacturing in less-developed Sub-Saharan countries. This is especially helpful to women, who hold about 90 percent of these jobs.
Looking forward, the Administration will work with Congress to ensure that AGOA is renewed in 2015.
A second example of how commercial ties are already blossoming is President Obama’s National Export Initiative – an effort led by the Commerce Department.
President Obama set the goal of doubling U.S. exports from 2009 to 2014. As we know, the consumer class in Africa and throughout the world is growing, and demand for Made-in-America products has never been greater.
Right now, this Initiative is focusing on countries that are known to be stable, fast-growing markets, with significant commercial opportunities. South Africa, not surprisingly, is one of those. That’s why we are: increasing the number of trade missions, focusing our advocacy efforts on markets like this one, expanding our lending activities, and bolstering our overall engagement on trade policy.
As a whole – due to our efforts under AGOA, the National Export Initiative, and more – the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa reached $95 billion in two-way trade last year, an increase of 16 percent from 2010.
However, U.S. trade with Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 2.6 percent of U.S. total trade with the world. So, we are still far from reaching the full potential of U.S.-African trade – as well as investment. We can and must do more.
As Africa’s wealth increases, so does its demand for improved transportation, telecommunications, housing, energy, consumer goods, financial services, healthcare and more. American companies are poised to bring their entrepreneurial spirit, their expertise, and their know-how, to help meet that demand.
For all these reasons, I am thrilled today to announce the launch of the Doing Business in Africa Campaign.
And I’m pleased to be bringing a message from President Obama himself. He writes the following:
“Sub-Saharan Africa is a region of extraordinary opportunity for growth and economic development. That is why this June, I issued theU.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, a plan aimed at strengthening democratic institutions; spurring economic growth, trade, and investment; advancing peace and security; and promoting opportunity and development in the region.
“To advance the goals of this strategy, and to deepen trade and investment between the United States and the nations of Sub-Saharan Africa, I am pleased to support the Department of Commerce’s “Doing Business in Africa” (DBIA) campaign.
“The economies of sub-Saharan Africa are among the world’s fastest growing, and this economic expansion—partly a result of our long-standing investment in Africa—provides an opportunity to lift millions out of poverty and foster long-term stability. Our challenge is to ensure these gains continue and spread, and to enable American companies and the African Diaspora to obtain the support they need to take advantage of these new trade and investment opportunities.
“Many American entrepreneurs and business leaders are unaware of the tremendous trade and investment prospects in sub-Saharan Africa or face challenges establishing business relationships in the region. The DBIA campaign seeks to change this by increasing awareness about key sectors and markets in Sub-Saharan Africa and opportunities to expand trade activities. The initiative promotes enhanced financing opportunities to bolster American exports and provides trade counseling and advocacy for entrepreneurs who want to tap into these growing and dynamic markets. The strategy also aims to further engage the African Diaspora community living in the United States to improve our commercial and economic ties with sub-Saharan Africa.
“Through the DBIA campaign, we are responding to the emergence of African regional economic communities, and working with our partners to deepen integration, reduce barriers to trade and investment, and support existing and new investments by American businesses. By doing so, we continue the work of creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity that will help drive our economy and support the growth of our African trading partners.”
I am pleased to share just a few of the many efforts that we are immediately undertaking as part of this new campaign.
First, the Commerce Department has a powerful network of U.S.-based Export Assistance Centers as well as Commercial Service Officers in strategic embassies around the world. Through this campaign, we are going to train these counselors on how to help businesses start or expand their exports to Africa. Importantly, we will also ensure that these counselors have timely information about new opportunities that are arising on this Continent.
Second, we will place a special focus on empowering the African Diaspora in the United States – one of the world’s largest. We know there is significant untapped potential for commercial interaction in these communities. We plan to reach out to the businesses in this community, making sure they not only know about opportunities… but that they can also find the tools they need to trade and invest in Africa.
Third, we will work with organizations such as CCA and the Business Council for International Understanding to launch a series of Africa Global Business Summits in the U.S. in 2013. These Summits will bring U.S. Ambassadors and commercial service officers from Sub-Saharan Africa back to the U.S. to share strategies and tips with entrepreneurs and business owners to help them successfully enter key markets.
Fourth, for the first time ever, we will partner with the State International Development Organization to train economic development leaders at the state and regional levels in the U.S., with a special focus on the opportunities and possibilities for doing business in Africa.
And fifth, we will bring business leaders to visit each others’ countries and find new opportunities, because more than anything else, mutual economic growth is dependent on person-to-person relationships. For example, I’m happy to know that next week, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Terrence McCulley, will lead a Nigerian business delegation to a number of U.S. cities to see some of our biggest trade shows. And here in this room, I am delighted to note that person-to-person connections are being made today. As part of a trade mission led by Undersecretary Sanchez, we have brought a diverse group of both small and large U.S. firms to Zambia and now to South Africa. These companies have traveled here because they have rightly discarded the old and false perceptions about Africa. They understand that the commercial opportunities in Africa are too compelling to ignore – and they want to help the Continent grow and thrive.
There are over a dozen on this mission, ranging from a Midwest-based agricultural and construction equipment manufacturer, to a Florida-based well-water treatment company, to a California company that integrates GPS and laser technologies with application software and wireless communications.
Could all of the companies that are on this mission stand and be recognized? [I hope your conversations here in Africa are fruitful.]
I have one final announcement to make as part of the Doing Business in Africa campaign – and it’s related to the important area of financing.
I am traveling today with leaders from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. Each of these agencies has dramatically increased their investments and activities in Africa in recent years.
In the past four years, OPIC has committed more than $2 billion in financing, insurance, private equity, and other support to Sub-Saharan Africa. In the past year alone, Ex-Im Bank supported $1.4 billion in authorized transactions with Sub-Saharan Africa. And USTDA has conducted studies, workshops, and reverse trade missions, while also supporting over $1 billion in U.S. exports in partnership with African project sponsors.
So thank you for all that these agencies are doing here in the region.
All of us here know that having energy in people’s homes and businesses is crucial to development. We also know that Africa has abundant clean energy resources just waiting to be harnessed.
Notably, the South African government has made extraordinary progress in this regard. It has increased access to electricity from 15% of the population to about 85 percent today, making it a leader in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet there is more to be done both here and throughout the region.
Here’s our key challenge. One of the main obstacles to accelerating clean energy investment in Africa is an inability to fund project development costs. Even projects that have clear potential for broad impact and strong financial returns to investors often fail to secure financing.
So, as part of the Doing Business in Africa campaign, I’m pleased to announce today that the Obama Administration will work through these agencies – OPIC, USTDA, and Ex-Im – to establish the new U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Development and Finance Center.
The Center will operate out of the U.S. Consulate General here in Johannesburg. Its mandate is two-fold: to help implement clean energy projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, and to promote U.S. private-sector participation as this sector continues to grow.
Specifically, the Center will provide technical and financial support for projects related to solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydro, ocean and natural gas.
Starting in March, Peter Ballinger will be spearheading this effort as OPIC’s representative in Africa – working side-by-side with Larry Farris as well as Jason Nagy of USTDA, also here today. And I should note that Peter will be the only OPIC employee not based in the United States. Congratulations Peter, and thank you all in advance for the work you will be doing. [I should note that in a few moments, you will be hearing from a panel of our agency partners who will discuss this and other efforts.]
So, the Doing Business in Africa campaign starts now. We have no time to waste.
In fact, this afternoon I will be meeting with the U.S. Chiefs of Mission stationed in several countries: including Ambassadors Gips of South Africa, Cretz of Ghana, Gavin of Botswana as well as Deputy Chief Fox of Lesotho. They are here today, and I want to thank them for serving as crucial partners and advocates for this campaign.
In the coming days, months, and years, even more Administration officials will be working and traveling to raise the visibility both of this campaign and of the U.S. Strategy overall.
I, myself, will be going to Nairobi tomorrow for the East African Community’s annual heads of state summit. We will be working with the EAC – among other things – to establish a regional investment treaty, to provide trade-capacity building assistance, to build a more open and predictable business climate, and to launch the EAC-U.S. Commercial Dialogue – America’s first Commercial Dialogue in Africa.
Overall, we must continue to find new ways for both business and government leaders throughout the U.S. and Africa to form powerful linkages that lead us all to greater prosperity.
And as I look around this room, I am confident of what we can achieve – together. It is significant that we are launching the Doing Business in Africa Campaign here in South Africa with all of you – in a country where U.S. companies have strong ties, as evidenced by those represented here. This nation has grown and diversified its economy and it serves as a crucial gateway to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.
You have already paved the way for the success and prosperity of businesses, workers, and citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.
And yes, as our new campaign confirms, U.S. firms are excited to be doing business throughout Africa from the Kentucky-based, water pump company now working with a South-African distributor to help small towns curb pollution, to major U.S. firms like GE which is supplying Kenya Airways with 20 jet engines for their new planes.
We want more stories like those.
Let me close with a quote from Nelson Mandela. Mandela once said: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
The U.S. and Africa have reached a wonderful moment – a moment where we are working with each other, learning from each other, and building on each other’s prosperity – every single day.
As commerce flourishes between us and as our nations become more intertwined economically, it feels as though we have indeed reached the summit of a great hill.
Now, let us press on. Let us continue our journey together. And let us ensure that the United States is a strong partner in the rising prosperity of Africa in the 21st century.


Today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a report describing OCR’s progress and activity over the last four years on civil rights enforcement and educational equity.
The report, “Helping to Ensure Equal Access to Education,” describes how OCR has transformed its enforcement approach to better promote and advance educational equity for all students, while maximizing the office’s efficiency and impact, even as the number of complaints received by OCR has grown by almost a quarter over the last four years. OCR both received and resolved over 28,500 complaints during this time period, a record figure compared to past four-year periods.
The report also discusses OCR’s work to:
· support the equal rights of students to a safe school environment and to resources and programs they need to be prepared for college and careers;
· revamp the Civil Rights Data Collection to provide educators and the public with a clearer picture of the “equity health” of schools; and
· align its efforts with President Obama’s goal of restoring this nation’s position as a global leader in the proportion of college graduates by 2020, by improving educational equity and excellence.
“OCR’s work over the last four years has moved us closer to equal access and opportunity for all students, no matter what their race, sex or disability status,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The OCR team has accomplished a lot through its innovation and its passion for equity.”
In addition to investigating resolving complaints, OCR has protected students’ civil rights by launching over 100 proactive, systemic investigations at schools and colleges across the country. In both its complaints and its proactive investigations, OCR has placed a priority on developing robust remedies that attack discrimination at its roots.
OCR has also catalyzed improved compliance across the education community by issuing groundbreaking policy guidance on questions regarding the civil rights laws OCR enforces, such as the obligations of schools and colleges to prevent and address bullying, harassment and sexual violence; the equal rights of all students to a public education regardless of their race, national origin or citizenship status or that of their parents; and the obligation of schools and colleges to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to the new technologies that are playing an increased role in classrooms.
The report also documents a range of systemic improvements OCR has made in how it operates, and highlights the impact of those improvements by describing numerous important cases OCR has resolved during the last four years.
“We have transformed our approach to enforcement to make it more targeted and efficient, while fielding more complaints than ever before. We’ve revamped our technical assistance, and expanded our outreach to new heights,” said Assistant Secretary Russlynn Ali. “Removing barriers to equal educational opportunity will help ensure all students have a fair chance at a good education – a goal that is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity as well.”
Today’s report fulfills a requirement of Section 203(b) of the Department of Education Organization Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96-88, which provides that the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights shall make a report to the Secretary and the President “summarizing the compliance and enforcement activities of the Office for Civil Rights and identifying significant civil rights or compliance problems as to which such Office has made a recommendation for corrective action and as to which, in the judgment of the Assistant Secretary, adequate progress is not being made.”
The mission of the Office for Civil Rights, which comprises nearly 600 staff located in a headquarters office in Washington, D.C., and 12 regional offices around the nation, is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. Among the federal civil rights laws OCR is responsible for enforcing are Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Treasury Awards $18 Million to Institutions Serving Economically Distressed Communities

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) provided 59 FDIC-insured depository institutions with awards for serving economically distressed communities across the nation that totaled nearly $18 million.
The awards were granted through the CDFI Fund’s Bank Enterprise Award Program (BEA Program), which recognizes and seeks to expand the important role that banks and thrifts play in community development activities. The program provides monetary awards to institutions that increased their investments in communities where at least 30 percent of residents have incomes below the national poverty level and 1.5 times the national unemployment rate. This year’s awardees increased their investments in such areas by more than $383 million.
BEA Program awardees are required to reinvest their awards into low-income and distressed communities, helping to create economic opportunity for Americans throughout the country. Well over half of this year’s awardees are certified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) which means that they already have a primary mission of promoting community development.
Receiving a BEA Program award encourages an institution to expand its lending, investing, and services to low-income residents. City FirstBank of D.C., a certified CDFI, has received seven awards since 2000 totaling more than $6.4 million. In 2012, City First was selected to receive an award of $415,000 for its support of CDFIs and for providing affordable housing development loans and project investments in Washington, D.C.
City First works in many areas of economic development in Washington, providing financing for such organizations as Bread for the City, a comprehensive center that provides services to low-income D.C. residents. Bread for the City also provides free food, clothing, medical care, legal, and social services to low-income D.C. residents — approximately 10,000 clients each month. City First also helped finance Bread for the City’s expansion to a second facility that includes a dental clinic and a rooftop vegetable garden that allowed the organization to double its food storage and distribution capacity.
Many of this year’s awardees are equally involved in the economic development of their neighborhoods. In addition to their more than $383 million increased investment in distressed communities, the 2012 BEA Program awardees accomplished the following:
  • Increased their loans, deposits, and technical assistance to CDFIs by $21.1 million;
  • Increased their equity, equity like loans, and grants to CDFIs by $258,000; and
  • Increased the provision of financial services in distressed communities by $5.5 million.
The 59 BEA Program awardees are headquartered in 18 states and the District of Columbia. And just about a third of the awardees are minority-controlled institutions.
More information about yesterday’s announcement can be found at
Article by Kimberly Beauman, Legislative and External Affairs Specialist at the CDFI Fund at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fiscal Cuts Threaten Health Care

Forget the 'fiscal' cliff. Maybe those calling the so-call economic demise of American economics as we know it, the 'physical cliff', had a point.

Physical as in naked bodies showing up in the halls of Congress and all their physical glory in an effort to protest cuts in social programs.

Activists highlight the 'naked truth' about proposed Congressional tax cuts. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
While Boehner and House republicans want to reform the tax code by eliminating special interest loopholes and cut spending for such services that support HIV/AIDS services, naked AIDS activists with painted slogans on their bodies, protested inside the lobby of the Capitol Hill office of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, prior to World AIDS Day, Dec. 1 to show they're not buying what he wants to sell.

The Speaker remains speechless about the unwanted visitors (at least for today) but reporters can expect a mouthful from Boehner during the Speaker's weekly meeting in Congress with reporters on Wednesday.

Both Democrats and Republicans have until year's end before the Bush-era tax cuts expire.

White House press briefing: Heated exchanges with press over fiscal cliff.

Obama Administration To Offer More Than 20 Million Acres in Western Gulf of Mexico for Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Development

November Sale Will Offer All Available Unleased Areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico, Only Latest in a Series of Recent Major Offshore Oil and Gas Sales

As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will hold an oil and gas lease sale that will make more than 20 million offshore acres available, and represents all unleased areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area.

The Western Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale builds on two major Gulf of Mexico lease sales in the past year alone, a 21 million acre sale held last December and a 39 million acre sale held in June.“At President Obama’s direction, his Administration continues to implement a comprehensive, all-of-the-above energy strategy, expanding domestic production, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and supporting jobs,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “Developing public energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico continues to generate much needed revenue for local communities while helping to power our nation and fuel our economy.”

The lease sale will be held on November 28, 2012 at 9:00 AM CDT, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana—and supports the Administration’s goal of continuing to increase domestic oil and gas production, which has grown each year the President has been in office, with domestic oil production in 2011 higher than any time in nearly a decade and natural gas production at its highest level ever.

Foreign oil imports now account for less than 50 percent of the oil consumed in America – the lowest level since 1995.Tomorrow’s offshore lease sale will be the first held under the Administration’s new Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012–2017 (Five Year Program), which makes available for exploration and development all of the offshore areas with the highest conventional resource potential that together include more than 75 percent of the Nation’s undiscovered, technically recoverable offshore oil and gas resources.

BOEM also recently announced that the next Central Gulf of Mexico lease sale, proposed Lease Sale 227, will take place on March 20, 2013, making 38 million acres available.“BOEM is committed to promoting the safe development of the Nation’s critical offshore oil and gas resources while taking steps to safeguard the marine and coastal communities,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau.

“This sale represents a key component of the President’s comprehensive, all-of-the-above energy strategy and the regionally tailored and responsible approach that we are taking under the Five Year Program.”

The sale will include all available unleased areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area – encompassing 3,873 blocks and covering roughly 20.8 million acres, located from nine to 250 miles offshore, in water depths ranging from 16 to more than 10,975 feet (five to 3,346 meters). BOEM estimates the proposed lease sale could result in the production of 116 to 200 million barrels of oil and 538 to 938 billion cubic feet of natural gas.The most recent sale in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning area, Western Gulf of Mexico Sale 218, took place on December 14, 2011. BOEM awarded 181 leases on tracts covering 1,036,205 acres to the successful high bidders who participated in the sale.

The accepted high bids were valued at $324,971,001. The most recent sale in the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning area, Central Gulf of Mexico Sale 216/222, took place on June 20, 2012. BOEM awarded 442 leases on tracts covering 2,335,646 acres to the successful high bidders who participated in the sale. The accepted high bids were valued at $1,681,578,390.BOEM established the terms for tomorrow’s sale after extensive environmental analysis, public comment and consideration of the best scientific information available.

These terms include measures to protect the environment, such as stipulations requiring that operators protect biologically sensitive features and provide trained observers to monitor marine mammals and sea turtles to ensure compliance and restrict operations when conditions warrant. The terms also continue a range of incentives to encourage diligent development and ensure a fair return to taxpayers — including an increased minimum bid for deepwater tracts, escalating rental rates and tiered durational terms with relatively short base periods followed by additional time under the same lease if the operator drills a well during the initial period.

During tomorrow’s sale, BOEM will open 131 bids submitted by 13 companies on 116 offshore blocks.

The Final Notice of Sale information package is available at:

Monday, November 26, 2012

White House Releases New Report on the Impact of Middle-Class Tax Cuts on Retailers and Consumer Spending

Report Details Consequences if Congress Fails to Extend Middle-Class Tax Cuts

The White House released a report from the National Economic Council and the Council of Economic Advisers called The Middle-Class Tax Cuts’ Impact on Consumer Spending and Retailers. This report provides new analysis on the impact to retailers and consumer spending if Congress fails to act to avoid taxes going up on 98 percent of Americans at the end of the year.
The President believes Democrats and Republicans should come together to renew middle-class tax cuts so families and businesses have more certainty at this critical time for our economy. If Congress acts, every American will get a tax break on their first $250,000 of income, and income taxes won’t go up for 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses. The President believes we must take a balanced approach to reduce our deficit, that’s why he has laid out a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan that asks the wealthy to pay a little more and preserves the investments we need to grow the economy. The President has already signed $1.1 trillion in spending cuts and he looks forward to working with Democrats and Republicans on a balanced approach to further reduce our deficit. This is an important moment not just to avoid the fiscal cliff—but to lay the groundwork for an economy that will support a healthy middle class, restore economic certainty, and lead to long-term job growth.

If Congress doesn't act, middle-class families will see their income taxes go up on January 1st. The typical middle-class family will see their taxes go up by $2,200 next year, negatively impacting businesses and retailers across the nation. The President has called on Congress to take action and stop holding the middle class and our economy hostage over a disagreement on tax cuts for households with incomes over $250,000 per year. Summary of White House Report: The Middle-Class Tax Cuts’ Impact on Consumer Spending and Retailers President Obama is committed to growing our economy from the middle out by ensuring a strong, secure, and thriving middle-class. That’s why his top priority is promoting jobs and growth while reducing our deficit in a balanced and responsible way.   Since taking office, President Obama has repeatedly cut taxes for middle-class families to make it easier for them to make ends meet. A typical family making $50,000 a year has received tax cuts totaling $3,600 over the past four years – more if it was putting a child through college. Now we face a deadline that requires action on jobs, taxes and deficits by the end of the year. If Congress fails to act, every American family’s taxes will automatically go up - including the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year and the 97 percent of small businesses that earn less than $250,000 a year.

A typical middle-class family of four would see its taxes rise by $2,200. While the President is committed to working with Congress to reach compromises on areas of disagreement, there is no reason to delay acting where everyone agrees: extending tax cuts for the middle-class.   There is no reason to hold the middle-class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the highest income earners. Our economy can’t afford that right now. New analysis by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) finds that: · Allowing the middle-class tax rates to rise and failing to patch the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) could cut the growth of real consumer spending by 1.7 percentage points in 2013. This sharp rise in middle-class taxes and the resulting decline in consumption could slow the growth of real GDP by 1.4 percentage points, which is consistent with recently published estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. · Faced with these tax hikes, the CEA estimates that consumers could spend nearly $200 billion less than they otherwise would have in 2013 just because of higher taxes.   

This reduction of $200 billion is approximately four times the total amount that 226 million shoppers spent on Black Friday weekend last year. As Figure 5 shows, this $200 billion reduction would likely be spread across all areas of consumer spending. American consumers are the bedrock of our economy, driving more than two-thirds of the overall rise in real GDP over 13 consecutive quarters of economic recovery since the middle of 2009. And as we approach the holiday season, which accounts for close to one-fifth of industry sales, retailers can’t afford the threat of tax increases on middle-class families.   President Obama and Congressional Democrats have proposed to extend all the income tax cuts that benefit families who make less than $250,000 per year. The President has called on Congress to act now on extending all income tax cuts for 98 percent of American families and not to hold the middle-class and our economy hostage over a disagreement on tax cuts for households with incomes over $250,000 per year.   The Senate has passed this bill and the President is ready to sign it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Dr. Biden Sponsors Lastest US Naval Submarine

Dr. Jill Biden joined Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at the Pentagon this week at the naming of the Navy's newest submarine.

The next Virginia-class attack submarine  has been named the USS Delaware. Dr. Jill Biden will sponsor the USS Delaware. A longtime Delaware educator and military mom, Dr. Biden started Joining Forces with First Lady Michelle Obama to encourage all Americans to recognize, honor and support military families.

Mabus named the future USS Delaware in honor of the first state in the Union. The name honors the great contributions and support Delaware has given the military through the years and pays homage to the state's more than two centuries of naval heritage.

"I chose the name Delaware to honor the long-standing relationship between the Navy and our nation's first state," said Mabus. "It has been too long since there has been a USS Delaware in the fleet and this submarine will remind future deployed service members and state residents of their strong ties and many shared values for decades to come."

"As a proud military mom, and a proud Delawarean, I am honored to sponsor the USS Delaware," said Dr. Biden. "Our men and women in uniform and their families represent the very best of America, and wherever the Delaware goes, it will take with it the strength, resilience, and bravery of military families in Delaware and across the country."

The Virginia-class submarine will be the seventh ship of the U.S. Navy to be named the USS Delaware. Previously named ships include a frigate launched in 1776, a merchant ship guarding convoys during the Quasi-War with France, a ship-of-the-line decommissioned during the Civil War, a side-wheel steamer decommissioned at the Washington Navy Yard in 1865, a screw-steamer renamed Delaware in 1869, and a battleship that served during WWI and was decommissioned in 1923.

In 2011, Dr. Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama started Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative to encourage all Americans to recognize, honor and support military families.

Virginia-class submarines have enhanced stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities and special warfare enhancements that enable them to meet the Navy's multi-mission requirements.

In addition, they have the capability to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters or other sea-based forces. Other missions include anti-submarine, anti-ship, and mine warfare.

SSN 791 is being constructed by Huntington Ingalls Industries in partnership with the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics in Newport News, Va.

History of US Naval Ships

The White House Christmas Tree Arrived Today

As tradition, the White House Christmas tree made its arrival the day after Thanksgiving Day. A 19-foot Fraser Fir from Jefferson, North Carolina that was selected in early October and harvested this month, made its way to the North Portico of the White House by way of a wagon pulled by two Clydesdale horses.

The first ladies of the White House survey the traditional White House Christmas tree, delivered today.  Photo/CD Brown.
As the military band played the traditional 'Oh, Christmas Tree' song, the first lady and daughters Sasha and Malia made their way from the front of the White House to join them.

The trio looked darling as they strolled out with family dog, Bo (appearing to be startled by the snorting of the Clydesdales), led by Sasha who was wearing a mixed horizontal striped dress of blue, beige and black print with black stockings adorned with matching circles. Her older sister, Malia, opted for a gray skit and two-toned beige and burgundy sweater with gray leggings and brown ankle boots that we saw the day before as she helped her dad pardon the Thanksgiving Day turkey.

The White House christmas tree being delivered.  Photo/CD Brown.
"Happy Thanksgiving", said Mrs. Obama as she waved to the press. Mrs. Obama wore a burgundy, paisley printed skirt and belted cardigan with black, suede over-the-knee boots.

The trio rounded the carriage to survey the tree, with mom giving her traditional thumbs-up suggesting that the tree was just right.

"We can have Christmas now", she said.

The tree, originating from Peak Farms in Ashe County, North Carolina – the farm of 2012 National Christmas Tree Association Grand Champion winners Rusty and Beau Estes, will be displayed throughout the holiday season in the Blue Room of the White House.

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

Next week the first lady will welcome military families, including Gold Star and Blue Star parents, spouses and children to the White House for the first viewing of the 2012 holiday decorations.

This year’s Blue Room Christmas tree pays tribute to the courageous service of the U.S. armed forces. The tree will feature ornaments decorated by children living on U.S. Military Bases all over the world.

Talking Turkey At the White House

This Thanksgiving holiday at the White House was all abuzz.

On Thursday President Obama, along with daughters Sasha and Malia, traditionally spared at least one turkey from ending up on someone else's Thanksgiving Day menu.  Cobbler and Gobbler, names choosen for the duo by an elementary school student who participated in the White House Turkey Pardon online voting process, was given a second chance.

The president knows about such second chances, having won re-election using 'forward' as his campaign slogan, and alluded to both in his turkey pardoning remarks.

President Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia pardon Cobbler, the White House Thanksgiving turkey.

"They say that life is all about second chances", said President Obama. "And this November, I could not agree more." 

The president's choice of words seemed to sit well with Cobbler, as he began gobbling afterwards.

"I like this bird", President Obama said.

After winning the 2012 election the president was lauded by his running mate as a president who won because he gave 'gifts' to a certain segment of the population.  

Seeming to speak directly to his failed running mate, the president said, "I have one more gift to give, and it goes to a pair of turkeys named Cobbler and Gobbler."

"The American people have spoken, and these birds are moving forward."

Sidenote here: Sometimes one just has to read between the lines.  But with that statement, the message was clear.  We do have one question for the administration, however:  Was the president somehow, in a cynical sort of way, referring to his presidential and VP challengers as a pair of turkeys?

Jive turkeys, perhaps?


But back to the Thanksgiving turkeys.

Here's a bit of background on Cobbler, and Gobbler (who was not in attendance), you may find interesting. 

The pair of 19-week old, 40-pound turkeys will be driven to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. The National Thanksgiving Turkey will be on display for visitors during “Christmas at Mount Vernon,” a special program through January 6. After the holidays, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate will live in a custom-made enclosure at Mount Vernon’s nationally recognized livestock facility.

The First Family dining with friends, family and staff, feasted on a sorted array of Thanksgiving dinner delights that included turkey (one that wasn't pardoned), ham, cornbread stuffing
oyster stuffing, greens, macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and dinner rolls.  

For dessert the First Family indulged in several kinds of pies; among them: Banana cream, pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, huckleberry and cherry.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving - Vice Presidential Style

Vice President Joe Biden and Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden celebrated Thanksgiving with the military servicemen at the Naval Observatory on Monday.

A pool report, below, gives the deets.

The mouth-watering smells of stuffing and turkey, a crackling fire, guests with bowed heads giving thanks for “second chances” -- Vice President Biden and Dr Jill Biden hosted their fourth Early Thanksgiving For Wounded Warriors on Monday, welcoming servicemen and –women and loved ones to the Naval Observatory.

“Jill and I want to welcome you to the vice president’s home. This is your home,” the VP said in brief remarks as the 26 guests sat at two large tables in the residence’s dining room. He spoke from behind a lectern with the VP’s seal on it, Jill Biden at his side. Candles fluttered over their shoulders on the mantelpiece of the fireplace, in which a robust blaze was already crackling. A Navy harpist played before his remarks.

The vice president said he and his wife were “honored and, quite frankly, flattered” to host the dinner. “It’s one of the highlights and honors of this job.”

“We’re just so incredibly proud of you,” the VP said. “We can never – and I mean this sincerely – never, ever repay you and your families for the sacrifices you’ve made.”

Per the vice president’s office, the wounded warriors are all being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. They were chosen “because they have indicated they will likely not be able to leave the DC area to be with family for the Thanksgiving holiday.” There were five from the Army, four from the Marines, and one from the Air Force. (Thumbnail bios at the bottom of his pool report). Two were in wheelchairs.

Hungry little Oliver Elliott, the 8-month-son of Marine Corps Captain Tommy Elliott of St Claire, IL, sang out a couple of times from his high chair as the VP spoke. “Don’t worry about the baby, it’s ok,” Biden assured his guests. Oliver grew quiet when his mother Deborah gave him his bottle – but by the time your pooler was leaving the room, other guests had yet to dig in to the spread.

The VP paid tribute to military families, noting that his son served in Iraq for a year. He described how, during Beau Biden’s deployment, he would find Jill Biden in the kitchen every morning, mouthing a prayer. More than once, he noted that only a tiny percentage of Americans had served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Biden promised the wounded veterans that “the most encouraging thing you’re going to see in your lifetime, in the near term, is some incredible, incredible, incredible medical breakthroughs” in everything from prosthetics and treatment for severe brain injuries to help for post-traumatic stress.

Jill Biden, who wore a Blue Star Mother pin signifying that she’s a military mom, also cited her son’s time in Iraq.“Our son Beau was deployed four years ago, so I know what it’s like to have a loved one who’s not at the table,” she said. Dr Biden highlighted her work with military families.

“As Joe said, I do believe in the power of prayer. And it was prayer that helped me get through that year,” she said. “And I think probably for many of you it’s prayer that’ll help you get through these tough times.” (Chaplain Stan Fornea said a prayer, and the assembled diners bowed their heads. He gave thanks for “the gifts of freedom, love, opportunity and second chances.”)

“The bad news is you guys at this table start off with me,” Biden said, drawing laughs from the guests. The Bidens planned to meet all of their guests throughout the meal.

It was a lovely but crisp evening, the flag fluttering intermittently outside the VP’s residence. Light peeked through the blinds as the pool walked up the drive, suggesting the warmth and comforts of home.
The menu, per the VP’s office follows...

“Buttermilk Brined Roast Turkey
w/ Lemon-Parsley Gravy, Country Bread Dressing, Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, Graham Cracker Sweet Potato Gratin, Roasted Vegetable, Macaroni & Cheese, Snap Beans w/ Caramelized Shallots & Roasted Mushrooms, Fall Harvest Salad, Apple-Pecan Cranberry Relish, Maple-Ginger Pumpkin Pie,
Old Fashioned Lattice Apple Pie
& Thanksgiving Pecan Pie”

SPC Ashley Durham, 26 of Seneca, SC (Army) – Wounded Warrior was in attendance.  She was accompanied by his fiancée, Kayla Eisenhower.

Also attending were SSG Brian Keaton, 38 of New Albany, IN (Army) – Wounded Warrior Brian was accompanied by his wife, Kristen Keaton and three children (Jonathan, Kaitlyn, and Abbigail). SSG Darryl Fletcher, 39 of Trenton, NJ (Army) – Wounded Warrior SGT Adam Keys, 28 of Allentown, PA (Army) - Wounded WarriorAdam was accompanied by his mother, Julie Keys. SSG John Eubanks, 27 of Atlanta, GA (USMC) - Wounded Warrior John was accompanied by his father, Tommy Eubanks. CAPT Tommy Elliott, 34 of St. Claire, IL (USMC) - Wounded WarriorTommy was accompanied by his wife and son, Deborah and Oliver Elliot. CPL Jessie Fletcher, 23 of Syracuse/Watertown, NY (USMC) - Wounded WarriorJessie was accompanied by his fiancé, Emily Ball. LCPL Nathan Jakubisin, 23 of Pleasant City, OH (USMC) - Wounded WarriorNathan was accompanied by his wife, Marli Jakubisin. MSgt Melissa Reich, 42 of Park Falls, WI (Air Force) - Wounded WarriorMelissa was accompanied by her friend, Lacey Smith. SGT Robert C. Easley, 26 of Chambersburg, PA (Army) - Wounded WarriorRobert accompanied by his wife (Megan Easley), father (Robert Easley), mother-in-law (Lillian Mountain), and father-in-law (Dennis Mountain).

On Wednesday, President Obama will perform the traditional pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey.

President Obama will pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey(s) in a ceremony in the Rose Garden.  The President will celebrate the 65th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation, reflect upon the time-honored traditions of Thanksgiving, and wish American families a warm, safe, and healthy holiday. 

The President will pardon Cobbler and his alternate Gobbler, both 19-week old, 40-pound turkeys. The names of the turkeys were chosen from submissions from elementary schools in Rockingham County, Virginia, where the turkeys were raised.  Many of the submissions came from schools in agriculture-producing areas, where students have the chance to learn about the importance of agriculture to the world food supply and to our local economies.  This year, for the first time ever, the American public decided which of the two turkeys – Cobbler or Gobbler – would become the 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey by casting a vote via the White House Facebook page.

The 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate were raised on the farm of Craig and Nancy Miller in Rockingham County, Virginia. After the pardoning, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate will be driven to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. 

The National Thanksgiving Turkey will be on display for visitors during “Christmas at Mount Vernon,” a special program through January 6th. 

After the holidays, the turkeys will live in a custom-made enclosure at Mount Vernon’s nationally recognized livestock facility.   

More White House Holiday Tradition
Also, this week, in the tradition of the upcoming Christmas holiday, First Lady Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia will receive the White House Christmas tree on Friday, after Thanksgiving.

This year's tree comes from Peak Farms in Ashe County, North Carolina – the farm of 2012 National Christmas Tree Association Grand Champion winners Rusty and Beau Estes.  This year’s official tree is a 19-foot Fraser Fir from Jefferson, North Carolina that was selected in early October and harvested this month.  It will be displayed throughout the holiday season in the Blue Room.  Members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented the official White House Christmas Tree for display in the Blue Room each year since 1966.

See last year's White House Christmas Tree arrival ceremony here.