Friday, October 30, 2009

Transparency like you’ve never seen before

Transparency like you’ve never seen before
Posted by Norm Eisen on October 30, 2009 at 04:31 PM EDT
Today marks a major milestone in government transparency -- and an important lesson in the unintended consequences of such vigorous disclosure.

We previously announced that the White House in December of this year would -- for the first time in history -- begin posting all White House visitor records under the terms of our new voluntary disclosure policy. As part of that initiative, we also offered to look back at the records created before the announcement of the policy and answer specific requests for visitor records created earlier in the year.

So far we’ve processed 110 disclosure requests from September that yielded nearly 500 visitor records. All of these are now available on the White House website in accessible, searchable format for anyone to browse or download. Consistent with our earlier announcement that we will only release records 90 days or older, this first batch covers the period of time between January 20, 2009 to July 31, 2009. Future batches will be posted on an ongoing basis. (You can submit a request here.)

This first release is only the latest in a series of unprecedented steps by the President to increase openness in government. They include putting up more government information than ever before on data.gov and recovery.gov, reforming the government’s FOIA processes, providing on-line access to White House staff financial reports and salaries, adopting a tough new state secrets policy, reversing an executive order that previously limited access to presidential records, and web-casting White House meetings and conferences. The release also compliments our new lobbying rules, which in addition to closing the revolving door for lobbyists who work in government have also emphasized expanding disclosure of lobbyist contacts with the government.

There’s an important lesson here as well. This unprecedented level of transparency can sometimes be confusing rather than providing clear information.

A lot of people visit the White House, up to 100,000 each month, with many of those folks coming to tour the buildings. Given this large amount of data, the records we are publishing today include a few “false positives” – names that make you think of a well-known person, but are actually someone else. In September, requests were submitted for the names of some famous or controversial figures (for example Michael Jordan, William Ayers, Michael Moore, Jeremiah Wright, Robert Kelly ("R. Kelly"), and Malik Shabazz). The well-known individuals with those names never actually came to the White House. Nevertheless, we were asked for those names and so we have included records for those individuals who were here and share the same names.

Norm Eisen is special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform

Play Ball!

Play Ball!
Posted by Molly Fedick on October 30, 2009 at 02:26 PM EDT
previous photoGame 1 of the World Series Show Gallery Info.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden visit Yankee Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees.
The White Sox may be out of the running, but that didn’t stop First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden from attending Game 1 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, N.Y., between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees.

Donning their custom World Series jackets, the two accompanied baseball great Yogi Berra and retired Army Capt. Tony Odierno onto the field. Odierno, a West Point graduate and Yankees employee who lost his left arm in Iraq, threw out the first pitch.

Word from the White House: Introduction of the Affordable Health Care for America Act

Word from the White House: Introduction of the Affordable Health Care for America Act
Posted by Jesse Lee on October 30, 2009 at 01:53 PM EDT
It's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day, along with any related articles, documents, or reports.

Supporting bill description: "The Affordable Health Care for America Act," Speaker.gov

Talking Points: Introduction of the Affordable Health Care for America Act

•The introduction of the Affordable Health Care for America Act is another critical milestone in the effort to bring about reform that will provide stability and security for Americans with insurance, affordable options for those without insurance, and lower costs for American families, businesses, and the nation as a whole.
•This legislation is the product of unprecedented cooperation and countless hours of hard work by Speaker Pelosi, Chairmen Waxman, Rangel, and Miller, Congressman Dingell, and scores of House members who share the conviction that we can’t wait another year for health insurance reform.
•The House legislation includes critical reforms to the insurance industry, so that Americans will no longer have to worry that they will be denied coverage, or that their coverage will be dropped or watered down when they need it most.
•It also includes a public option that competes with private insurers, which the President has repeatedly said he believes is the best way to ensure choice and competition that are so badly needed in today’s market.
•Finally, it is fully paid for and will reduce the deficit in the long term.
•This is an historic step forward and we are confident that members will continue to work together to deliver meaningful reform for America’s families and businesses.

Flu Prevention Tips on the Fields and Courts

Flu Prevention Tips on the Fields and Courts
Posted by Katie Stanton on October 30, 2009 at 11:33 AM EDT
There are a number of common sense precautions being taught at homes and schools across America to help prevent the spread of the flu, including frequent hand washing, sneezing into the elbow, and getting a vaccination when it becomes available.

If your kids are playing on sports teams this fall, here are a few more tips to help them stay healthy:

•Have coaches remind children to cover sneezes and coughs with their sleeve or a tissue. Dispose of any tissues in a separate bag.
•Coaches (and parents) should make sure players stay home if they have a cough, cold, or flu for 24 hours after their symptoms have cleared.
•Have players wash their hands or use hand sanitizers before starting the game.
•Make sure players bring in their own water bottles and do not share them.
•Instead of post-game handshakes or high-fives, cheer or clap for the opposing team.
For more tips for parents or information about flu, visit Flu.gov.

Katie Jacobs Stanton is Director of Citizen Participation and a Soccer Mom

Flu Prevention Tips on the Fields and Courts

Flu Prevention Tips on the Fields and Courts
Posted by Katie Stanton on October 30, 2009 at 11:33 AM EDT
There are a number of common sense precautions being taught at homes and schools across America to help prevent the spread of the flu, including frequent hand washing, sneezing into the elbow, and getting a vaccination when it becomes available.

If your kids are playing on sports teams this fall, here are a few more tips to help them stay healthy:

•Have coaches remind children to cover sneezes and coughs with their sleeve or a tissue. Dispose of any tissues in a separate bag.
•Coaches (and parents) should make sure players stay home if they have a cough, cold, or flu for 24 hours after their symptoms have cleared.
•Have players wash their hands or use hand sanitizers before starting the game.
•Make sure players bring in their own water bottles and do not share them.
•Instead of post-game handshakes or high-fives, cheer or clap for the opposing team.
For more tips for parents or information about flu, visit Flu.gov.

Katie Jacobs Stanton is Director of Citizen Participation and a Soccer Mom

The Act in Action: New Report Shows Recovery Act Creating Jobs Throughout the Nation

The Act in Action: New Report Shows Recovery Act Creating Jobs Throughout the Nation
Posted by Jared Bernstein on October 30, 2009 at 10:46 AM EDT
Good news, folks. The Recovery Act is working, and so are over one million people whose jobs have been saved or created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But why take it from me when you can see it for yourself? Thanks to unprecedented real-time data collection by the independent Recovery, Accountability, and Transparency Board (RATB), you will soon (as in this afternoon) be able to visit Recovery.gov and learn about the approximately 650,000 jobs directly created by part—and I emphasize that these 650,000 or so jobs are a subset of the more than one million—of the Recovery Act dollars at work in our economy.

Since that 650,000 is based off of about half the bucks at work in the economy so far, you can double it to get a rough estimate of the total jobs impact so far, getting you to over a million jobs, saved or created.

Can’t wait until this afternoon? Then watch this new video of real people doing real jobs supported by the Recovery Act.

Play/pauseMute/unmuteRewind and stop
Download Video: mp4 (125MB) .Here are the details. As of last month, there was about $340 billion in Recovery Act dollars at work in the economy, through fiscal relief to states, committed infrastructure projects (some in progress, some yet to start), tax cuts, unemployment benefits, small biz loans, and much more. According to both our estimates and those of independent analysts, this ramp up of the Act has created or saved about one million jobs so far.

Now, a little less than half that amount applies to direct spending projects for which recipients are required by Congress to report job information to the independent RATB. As you can see in the video above, we’re talking everything from construction workers, teachers, scientists, and more. After cleaning the data, and summing it all up, the board tells us that these direct jobs amount to about 650,000, located throughout the country.

The other half of the spending includes subsidized loans to small businesses, unemployment compensation, tax cuts, and other forms of Recovery Act support that doesn’t lend itself to direct job reporting so easily. The recipient reports also omit indirect jobs—those created when the directly hired contractor orders some cement, the school teacher orders classroom supplies, or when both of them spend their paychecks in the economy, generating more economic activity and jobs than would have occurred if they were unemployed (econo-types will recognize these as “multiplier effects”).

So that’s the story today, but there’s a lot more to come from the Recovery Act. Given that more than half of the Act’s funds have yet to be obligated or reflected in tax cuts, the fact that many funded projects have a lot more hiring to do, and the fact that these recipient reports account for around 650,000 jobs through the end of September despite all the omissions just noted, we are solidly on track to meet our goal of 3.5 million jobs saved or created by the end of next year.

So, a major hat-tip to the RATB for their path-breaking work and we thank all the recipients for providing us with this information.

But as we applaud these unprecedented efforts in transparency and this new confirmation that the Recovery Act is successfully creating jobs across America, we are also acutely aware that even the highest estimates of jobs created or saved by the Act only partially offset the extent of job losses since the recession took hold last year. For this reason, we plan to continue to squeeze every job out of every dollar left to spend in the Recovery Act, and to do so with the same level of transparency achieved thus far.

And we’ll keep you posted of our progress.

Jared Bernstein is Chief Economist to Vice President Biden, and Executive Director of the Middle Class Task Force

The First Lady at the Kitchen Garden Fall Harvest

The First Lady at the Kitchen Garden Fall Harvest
Posted by Catherine Mccormick-Lelyveld on October 29, 2009 at 06:27 PM EDT
Today, the First Lady welcomed students from Bancroft Elementary, who have been helping the White House Kitchen Garden team since the groundbreaking on the south lawn in March, as well as students from Kimball Elementary. Together, they worked on the South Lawn of the White House this afternoon for the Fall Harvest of the White House Kitchen Garden. Staff and volunteers from Miriam’s Kitchen, the local DC food shelter that has received multiple donations from the White House of produce and honey, were also there. Stay tuned for an update on just how much was harvested!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The GDP, Small Business and Health Insurance Reform

The GDP, Small Business and Health Insurance Reform
Posted by Jesse Lee on October 29, 2009 at 03:58 PM EDT
Play/pauseMute/unmuteRewind and stop
Download Video: mp4 (196MB) | mp3 (14.3MB) .This afternoon the President took to the South Court of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to speak about small business. And as important to the identity and history of America as small businesses are in their own right, it is also the case that they are at the heart of the two issues dominating the news today.

The first issue is today’s encouraging news regarding the growth in Gross Domestic Product, as discussed by CEA Chair Christina Romer this morning. As stark a turnaround as this news represents from the past year, it will be in large part small business who convert this growth into actual jobs over the coming months, and indeed it can’t be said enough how much work there is left to do.

The second issue is the one we have heard so much about over the past months: health insurance reform. But now, with the smoke of the partisan attacks and bickering having begun to clear, it is worth thinking again about the very real and very positive impact reform can have on small business – an impact also fleshed out this morning in a new report posted here.

The President’s word on the GDP numbers:

I am gratified that our economy grew in the third quarter of this year. We've come a long way since the first three months of 2009, when our economy shrunk by an alarming 6.4 percent. In fact, the 3.5 percent growth in the third quarter is the largest three-month gain we have seen in two years. This is obviously welcome news and an affirmation that this recession is abating and the steps we've taken have made a difference.

But I also know that we got a long way to go to fully restore our economy and recover from what's been the longest and deepest downturn since the Great Depression. And while this report today represents real progress, the benchmark I use to measure the strength of our economy is not just whether our GDP is growing, but whether we're creating jobs, whether families are having an easier time paying their bills, whether our businesses are hiring and doing well. And that's what I'm here to talk with you about today.

And an excerpt on health insurance reform:

We all know that family premiums have skyrocketed more than 130 percent over the past decade. They have more than doubled. But small businesses have been hit harder than most. A story in the paper just the other day said that many small businesses may see their premiums rise about 15 percent over the coming year -- twice the rate they rose last year. And in part because small businesses pay higher administrative costs than larger ones, your employees pay up to 18 percent more in premiums for the very same health insurance.

In one national survey, nearly three-quarters of small businesses that don't offer benefits cited high premiums as the reason -- and that's not surprising.

The bottom line is that too many Americans like you can't afford to build the kinds of businesses you'd been hoping to build. Too many budding entrepreneurs can't afford to take a gamble on a smart idea because they can't give up the health insurance they get in their current job. Too many of you not only can't afford to provide health insurance to your employees, too many of you are having a tough time just affording health insurance for yourselves. That's bad for our economy, it's bad for our country, and that's what we'll change when health insurance reform becomes law.

Just this morning, the House of Representatives released its version of health reform legislation, and I want to commend Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Caucus for their leadership in achieving this critical milestone. They forged a strong consensus that represents a historic step forward. This bill includes reforms that will finally help make quality insurance affordable. Importantly, this bill is also fully paid for and will reduce the deficit in the long term.

Now, there is no doubt that this legislation, and the legislation that's being drafted in the Senate, would benefit millions of small businesses. It's being written with the interests of Americans like you and your employees in mind.

And yet, there are those who have a vested interest in the status quo who are claiming otherwise, and they're using misleading figures and disingenuous arguments. So I want to try to explain as clearly as I can exactly what health reform would mean for small business owners like you and the workers you employ.

The first thing I want to make clear is that if you are happy with the insurance plan that you have right now, if the costs you're paying and the benefits you're getting are what you want them to be, then you can keep offering that same plan. Nobody will make you change it.

What we will do is make the coverage that you're currently providing more affordable by offering a tax credit to small businesses that are trying to do the right thing and provide coverage for their employees. Under the House and Senate bills, millions of small businesses would be eligible for a tax credit of up to 50 percent of their premiums. That's in the legislation that's already been proposed.


President Barack Obama remarks on his Administration's plans to help small businesses while speaking to members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, and small business owners and organizations from across the country at the White House, Oct. 29, 2009.

VA, DoD Coming to Grips with the Mental Health Costs of War

VA, DoD Coming to Grips with the Mental Health Costs of War
Posted by Brandon Friedman on October 29, 2009 at 01:45 PM EDT

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Robert Gates meet before the first-of-its-kind National Mental Health Summit in Washington, D.C. on October 21, 2009.
.When troops leave the active military after service in Iraq and Afghanistan, many find themselves lost in a blur of reality shows and superficiality—in a world where nothing explodes but tempers, and in a place where the rush of combat is soon dulled by the slow drip of alcohol. The symptoms of most Veterans might not be so pronounced, but there’s always someone living through this.

For my part, when I returned home in 2004, I sympathized with Martin Sheen in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now—though, in my case, I made post-combat stress look way less cool. And while I never punched a mirror, I learned quickly that I wasn’t immune from the foundation-shaking effects that war can have on the mind.

The problem of post-traumatic stress is new for neither Veterans, nor for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. However—from “soldier’s heart” after the Civil War to “shell shock” to “combat fatigue”—the services have typically handled PTSD only to the point that it doesn’t boil over into a major social or political problem. And while that’s been good enough for many, it hasn’t been good enough for America’s combat Veterans.

However, that’s why DoD and VA are now coming together to not only seek practical solutions to mental injuries, but to de-stigmatize them as well. This week, for the first time, the departments are holding a joint national summit meant to harness “the programs, resources and expertise of both departments to deal with the aftermath of the battlefield.”

In his opening remarks at the event, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki noted that “as a provider of mental health services, VA is challenging all of our assumptions about mental health care. We are undergoing a fundamental and comprehensive review of our programs to see that our approaches are Veteran-centric, uniform, and accessible.” But, he continued, “VA does not operate in a vacuum. Our collaboration with DoD is mission-critical because we share the same clients—the same population—at different stages in their lives. There can be no ‘seamless transition’ or ‘continuum of care’ without serious and high-quality collaboration between both departments.”

And that collaboration, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates is something that has, thus far been lacking.

As a Veteran myself, of course, I’m happy to see these steps being taken and I’ve been happy to attend. But much work remains to be done in terms of turning the dialogue at the summit into real change. I’m confident, however, that we’re now at a point where that can happen—primarily because both Secretaries understand that such change much start at the top with leaders who are willing to set the example.

Because, in reality, for the ideas from this summit filter down through the ranks, troops must be made to feel comfortable talking about and seeking assistance for these injuries. And if a company commander or a squad leader says it’s okay, then a young PFC coming off his or her first deployment, will be more at ease. And it is there—in the heart of military culture—where the real solution lies. Because, ultimately, it is those in uniform who will change the way America—and its military class—views mental injuries sustained in combat.

Both the military and the nation at large have far to go in terms of treating and de-stigmatizing the mental wounds of war, but any first step in a comprehensive process must include joint efforts on the part of VA and DoD. And now that Secretaries Shinseki and Gates are driving the dialogue between the medical field and ground combat commanders, that step has been taken.

We as troops, Veterans, and family members—just need to keep it going.

Brandon Friedman is the Director of New Media at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The New Energy Frontier

The New Energy Frontier
Posted by Secretary Ken Salazar on October 29, 2009 at 12:45 PM EDT
On Tuesday President Obama announced the largest single power-grid modernization investment in U.S. history. Under the Recovery Act, the Department of Energy is funding 100 grants totaling $3.4 billion to help companies, utilities and cities build a nation-wide smart grid.

Yesterday, I was in Houston, Texas – the Energy Capital of the World - visiting CenterPoint Energy Houston. CenterPoint is a regional utility that received $200 million of this grant to spur its deployment of a smart grid to improve efficiency and help area consumers manage and control their electricity usage. Investments like this one will create jobs, save energy, and empower consumers to cut their electric bills, as I explained in his video:


These grants are just some of the many ways federal agencies are working together to bring about a new energy frontier. I also announced a Memorandum of Understanding with eight other federal agencies that will expedite the siting and permitting of electric transmission projects on federal lands.

Ken Salazar is Secretary of the Interior

The New Energy Frontier

The New Energy Frontier
Posted by Secretary Ken Salazar on October 29, 2009 at 12:45 PM EDT
On Tuesday President Obama announced the largest single power-grid modernization investment in U.S. history. Under the Recovery Act, the Department of Energy is funding 100 grants totaling $3.4 billion to help companies, utilities and cities build a nation-wide smart grid.

Yesterday, I was in Houston, Texas – the Energy Capital of the World - visiting CenterPoint Energy Houston. CenterPoint is a regional utility that received $200 million of this grant to spur its deployment of a smart grid to improve efficiency and help area consumers manage and control their electricity usage. Investments like this one will create jobs, save energy, and empower consumers to cut their electric bills, as I explained in his video:


These grants are just some of the many ways federal agencies are working together to bring about a new energy frontier. I also announced a Memorandum of Understanding with eight other federal agencies that will expedite the siting and permitting of electric transmission projects on federal lands.

Ken Salazar is Secretary of the Interior

Reality Check: AP Story Misleads on Recovery Act Job Reporting

Reality Check: AP Story Misleads on Recovery Act Job Reporting
Posted by Ed DeSeve on October 29, 2009 at 12:22 PM EDT

You may have seen a misleading Associated Press story this morning on the accuracy of Recovery Act job reports that were posted earlier this month on Recovery.gov. On the same day that we learned that the economy has begun to grow again for the first time in over year, the very critics who opposed economic rescue from the beginning are now trying use this misleading story to twist the truth about the early success of the Recovery Act.

Here is what you should know:

Governors, mayors, county executives, private businesses and community organizations across the country submit reports to Recovery.gov so that you can get an unprecedented look at how your taxpayer dollars are being spent creating jobs and boosting the economy through the Recovery Act. These reports are not from the federal government – but from the very people putting Recovery funds to work.

Our top priority is ensuring that, when the reports are posted on Recovery.gov tomorrow, you will get the most accurate look possible at what has taken place with the Recovery Act over the last eight months. That’s why we have been working with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board – an independent oversight body – and the actual people that submitted the reports to conduct an extensive three-week review of them.

Three business days into the review, the Board posted a preliminary portion of those reports – just federal contracts which represent less than 2 percent of the Recovery Act and are a sliver of the information collected – on Recovery.gov so that you could get a look at what had been turned in initially. We support the Board’s act of transparency – but were clear that day that we considered the reports "partial and preliminary" and noted that it was "too soon to draw any global conclusions" from them.

Our twenty-day review wraps up today and we can say with confidence that the full set of reports going up tomorrow – corrected versions of the reports posted on October 15th, and many more new reports being posted for the first time now -- are far sharper than the initial ones you saw two weeks ago. In fact, our review process had already caught four out of five items that AP's misleading story cites as “over-counting” jobs. With every review of the reports, with every call to the person filing them to confirm them, the information has gotten better and better – and we are looking forward to their public posting tomorrow. It will be a historic moment for government transparency.

Here are the real facts on AP's misleading story:

“The government has overstated by thousands the number of jobs it has created or saved with federal contracts under the president’s $787 billion recovery program, according to an Associated Press review of data released in the program’s first progress report.”

FACT: The reports are not from the government, but from the very people putting Recovery Act funds to work – governors, mayors, county executives, private businesses and community organizations across the country. We take our responsibly of reviewing these reports for accuracy very seriously – that’s why we are putting them through an extensive three-week review process that ends today. And the initial preliminary set of data representing just a sliver of the overall reports was not posted by the government – but by an independent oversight body overseeing our Recovery Act efforts.

“The errors could be magnified Friday when a much larger round of reports is released.”

FACT: The federal contract data AP reviewed was a test run posting of a small sub-set of the data that was made available to the public after less than three business days of review time. The full data that will be posted on Friday will have undergone an extensive review process for twenty days involving the Recovery Board, federal agencies and direct communication with the recipients themselves. So the data posted this Friday will be more accurate – not less – than what was posted on October 15th.

FACT: The federal contract data AP surveyed represents just 2 percent of overall Recovery Act spending and just a fraction of what will be posted on Recovery.gov on Friday. It does not provide a statistically significant indication of the quality of the full reporting that will come on Friday.

"A Colorado company said it created 4,231 jobs with the help of President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan. The real number: fewer than 1,000."

FACT: The very first example AP cites was already corrected more than a week ago as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday. This item represents over 3,000 – or 60 percent – of the “nearly 5,000 jobs” AP uses to try to make its argument.

FACT: The company in question actually did hire more than 4,000 workers – but because the work was not full time, full year work, the rigorous standards at Recovery.gov don’t count it as 4,000 workers. AP is wrong in saying that 4,000 workers is not a “real” number: 4,000 people got paychecks and got work thanks to the Recovery Act. The posting was erroneous because our higher standards only count the equivalent of full-time, full-year jobs as jobs “created or saved.”

FACT: All recipients were given through October 30th to clarify and confirm their data – including those linked to federal contracts. Any conclusions drawn about the quality of that small portion of data as it was posted two weeks ago are simply premature.

"Officials at East Central Technical College in Douglas, Ga., said they now know they shouldn't have claimed 280 stimulus jobs linked to more than $200,000 to buy three semi-trucks and trailers for commercial driving instruction, and a modular classroom and bathroom for a health education program."

FACT: This item – which represents less than .06 percent of the total jobs reported was also already corrected more than a week ago as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday.

FACT: All recipients were given through October 30th to clarify and confirm their data – including those linked to federal contracts. Any conclusions drawn about the quality of that small portion of data as it was posted two weeks ago are simply premature.

"The San Joaquin, Calif., Regional Rail Commission reported creating or saving 125 jobs as part of a stimulus project to lay railroad track. Because the project drew from two pools of money, the commission reported that figure twice, bringing the total to 250."

FACT: This item – which represents less than .04 percent of the total jobs reported - was also already corrected as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday.

FACT: All recipients were given through October 30th to clarify and confirm their data – including those linked to federal contracts. Any conclusions drawn about the quality of that small portion of data as it was posted two weeks ago are simply premature.

"The Toledo, Ohio-based Koring Group also received two FCC contracts to help people make the switch to digital television. The company reported hiring 26 people for each of the two contracts, bringing its total jobs to 54 on the government's official count. But the company cited the same 26 workers for both contracts, meaning the same jobs were counted twice. The job count was further inflated because each job lasted only about two months, so each worker should have counted as one-sixth of a full-time job."

FACT: This item – which represents less than .01 percent of the total jobs reported - was also already corrected as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday.

FACT: All recipients were given through October 30th to clarify and confirm their data – including those linked to federal contracts. Any conclusions drawn about the quality of that small portion of data as it was posted two weeks ago are simply premature.

"While the thousands of overstated jobs represent a tiny sliver of the overall economy, they represent a significant percentage of the initial employment count credited to the stimulus program."

FACT: The overestimate of “thousands” of jobs AP cites is out of hundreds of thousands of jobs that will be reported overall on Friday – the vast majority of which underwent the more extensive twenty-day vetting process.

FACT: Even if you remove the “nearly 5,000 jobs” from the total federal contracts job number, it is still in-line with government and private forecaster’s estimates of about one million Recovery Act jobs overall to-date.



Ed DeSeve is Coordinator of Recovery Implementation

Streaming Live on Flu.gov: CDC H1N1 Briefing

Streaming Live on Flu.gov: CDC H1N1 Briefing
Posted by Erin Edgerton on October 29, 2009 at 12:22 PM EDT
At 2 p.m. EDT today, watch the H1N1 briefing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) live on Flu.gov. Today’s update will include updated information about vaccine availability and anti-viral medications.

Flu.gov continues to be the one-stop clearinghouse for flu information. Updated information on how to find vaccination clinics in your area will continue to be added to Flu.gov, as it becomes available. Visitors can use an interactive widget to search for fraudulent H1N1 flu products and detailed information is available for:

•Parents and Pregnant Women
•Caregivers
•People with Health Conditions
•Seniors
•Travelers
Watch the live briefing on Flu.gov.

Busy Covering Car Sales on Mars, Edmunds.com Gets It Wrong (Again) on Cash for Clunkers

Busy Covering Car Sales on Mars, Edmunds.com Gets It Wrong (Again) on Cash for Clunkers
Posted by Macon Phillips on October 29, 2009 at 12:20 PM EDT
On the same day that we found out that motor vehicle output added 1.7% to economic growth in the third quarter – the largest contribution to quarterly growth in over a decade – Edmunds.com has released a faulty analysis suggesting that the Cash for Clunkers program had no meaningful impact on our economy or on overall auto sales. This is the latest of several critical “analyses” of the Cash for Clunkers program from Edmunds.com, which appear designed to grab headlines and get coverage on cable TV. Like many of their previous attempts, this latest claim doesn’t withstand even basic scrutiny.

The Edmunds analysis is based on two implausible assumptions:

1. The Edmunds’ analysis rests on the assumption that the market for cars that didn’t qualify for Cash for Clunkers was completely unaffected by this program.

In other words, all the other cars were being sold on Mars, while the rest of the country was caught up in the excitement of the Cash for Clunkers program. This analysis ignores not only the price impacts that a program like Cash for Clunkers has on the rest of the vehicle market, but the reports from across the country that people were drawn into dealerships by the Cash for Clunkers program and ended up buying cars even though their old car was not eligible for the program.

This faulty assumption leads Edmunds to a conclusion that is at odds with many independent analyses: Edmunds assumption that more than 80% of the payback from Cash for Clunkers would occur in 2009 isn't how many mainstream analyses, including Moody's and IHS Global Insight approach the problem (see pages 5 and 15 of this CEA report [PDF]). In fact, Deutsche Bank recently concluded that “The important takeaway from recent sales trends is that it suggests that there has been minimal 'payback' for the U.S. government’s 'cash for clunkers' program.”

2. Edmunds also ignores the beneficial impact that the program will have on 4th Quarter GDP because automakers have ramped up their production to rebuild their depleted inventories.

Major automakers including GM, Ford, Honda and Chrysler all increased their production through the end of the year as a result of this program, which will help boost growth beyond the third quarter. The actions of private market participants, who would not increase production if they didn’t think demand for their product would be there through the end of the year, is a far better indicator of market dynamics – and one that Edmunds.com conveniently ignores.

Most importantly, this program is helping boost our economy and create jobs now when we need it most. In a comprehensive report, the Council of Economic Advisers estimated that the Cash for Clunkers will create 70,000 jobs in the second half of 2009. The strength of recent auto sales data suggest that, if anything, this projection underestimates the actual impact of the program. CEA’s analysis is transparent and comprehensive, laying out all of its assumptions for the public to understand. Edmunds.com, on the other hand, is promoting a bombastic press release without any public access to their underlying analysis.

So put on your space suit and compare the two approaches yourself:

•Edmunds.com
•Council of Economic Advisors

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Recovery Act and Clean Energy

The Recovery Act and Clean Energy
Posted by Secretary Hilda Solis on October 28, 2009 at 10:59 AM EDT
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking before more than 3,000 people at the Solar Power International 2009 conference. This crowd was energized and excited by the possibility of a clean energy economy!

I told them we have a choice to make: we can remain one of the world's leading importers of foreign oil, or we can make the investments needed to become the world's leading exporter of renewable energy.

The President knows what the right choice is. That’s why he is making investments in energy efficiency and clean energy –to lead to a more prosperous economy in the future.

Through the Recovery Act, President Obama is investing more than $80 billion in clean energy. This money is putting tens of thousands of Americans to work in developing new battery technologies for hybrid vehicles, making our homes and businesses more energy efficient, doubling our capacity to generate renewable electricity, and building a smart, strong, and secure electricity delivery system.

The excitement about the possibilities being made through the Recovery Act was palpable. I even spoke to the leaders of several companies who are eager to hire workers trained with Recovery Act funds and to grow our economy.

Earlier yesterday, the President also announced 100 grants totaling $3.4 billion to private companies, utilities, cities and other partners to help build a nationwide smart energy grid. These grants are expected to create tens of thousands of new jobs, and also help us make a leap forward in building a clean energy infrastructure that brings clean, reliable, low-cost energy sources to American homes and businesses.

At the Department of Labor we are doing our part as well. In June, we announced grant competitions for $500 million in green jobs workforce training and received nearly triple the normal amount of applications.

I am working with Secretary Donovan to bring clean energy training to residents of public housing. The goal is to help residents take advantage of the promise of green jobs all while greening their homes and reducing their carbon footprint.

I am also partnering with Secretary Chu to award up to $27 million, including $10 million in Recovery Act funds, for the Solar Installer Instructor Training Network which will help train over 1,400 instructors and 168,000 solar workers.

Our goal must be a clean energy future that works for all Americans, so that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren not just a more sustainable economy, but a cleaner planet.

I have carried this message to miners in West Virginia, solar panel manufacturers in Tennessee, auto workers in Michigan, veterans in San Antonio, and youth in East Los Angeles. The message is clear –they want to seize the opportunity of a clean energy economy.

America will lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow because of the work, spirit and ingenuity of those I saw and the countless others committed to a clean energy future and the good jobs it will create for everyone.


The Solar Power International 2009 Conference
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Hilda Solis is Secretary of Labor

Streaming Live at 9:30: Clean Energy Economy Forum with Secretary Chu and Carol Browner

Streaming Live at 9:30: Clean Energy Economy Forum with Secretary Chu and Carol Browner
Posted by Jesse Lee on October 28, 2009 at 09:41 AM EDT
Starting at 9:30, Energy Secretary Steven Chu will host a Clean Energy Economy Forum with stakeholders from around the country. Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner and other top Administration officials will also be featured speakers at the forum, which will include a focus on science, innovation, and job creation in the emerging clean energy economy.

Watch live here at WhiteHouse.gov, or watch and take part in the live chat through Facebook. The White House will be monitoring the chat, taking questions, and incorporating feedback from chat participants during the event.

•Watch live here at WhiteHouse.gov
•Watch, discuss and engage through Facebook

Watch here http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/10/28/streaming-live-930-clean-energy-economy-forum-with-secretary-chu-and-carol-browner

The Smart Grid: Creating Jobs, Saving Energy and Cutting Electric Bills

The Smart Grid: Creating Jobs, Saving Energy and Cutting Electric Bills
Posted by Jesse Lee on October 27, 2009 at 03:34 PM EDT


(President Barack Obama tours the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center with Lew Hey, left, and Greg Bove, right, in Arcadia, Fla, Oct. 27, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
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Standing amongst thousands of black-and-white solar panels, President Obama today discussed an exciting new chapter in the quest for clean and renewable energy: a $3.4 billion investment of Recovery Act funds to modernize the electric grid. Speaking at the Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, the President outlined how a smarter, more reliable energy system will benefit Americans—not to mention the planet:

On their own, the opening of this new solar plant or the installation of new smart meters or the investment in grid modernization will not be enough to meet the challenges posed by our dependence on fossil fuels. But together, we can begin to see what a clean energy future will look like. We can imagine the day when you'll be able to charge the battery on your plug-in hybrid car at night, because your smart meter reminded you that nighttime electricity is cheapest. In the daytime, when the sun is at its strongest, solar panels like these and electricity stored in car batteries will be able to power the grid with affordable, emission-free energy. The stronger, more efficient grid would be able to transport power generated at dams and wind turbines from the smallest towns to the biggest cities. And above all, we can see all this work that would be created for millions of Americans who need it and who want it, here in Florida and all across the country.

So we're on the cusp of this new energy future. In fact, a lot of it is already taking place. Even as I'm here today, Vice President Biden is in Delaware announcing the reopening of a once-shuttered GM factory that will soon put people back to work building plug-in, electric hybrid vehicles. On Friday, I was in Boston -- that's good news. (Applause.) On Friday, I was in Boston, where workers will soon be breaking ground on a new Wind Technology Testing Center that will allow researchers in the United States to test the world's newest and largest wind turbine blades for the very first time. And there are recovery projects like this in cities and counties all across the country.

So at this moment, there is something big happening in America when it comes to creating a clean energy economy. But getting there will take a few more days like this one and more projects like this one. And I have often said that the creation of such an economy is going to require nothing less than the sustained effort of an entire nation -- an all-hands-on-deck approach similar to the mobilization that preceded World War II or the Apollo Project. And I also believe that such a comprehensive piece of legislation that is taking place right now in Congress is going to be critical. That's going to finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America -- legislation that will make the best use of resources we have in abundance, through clean coal technology, safe nuclear power, sustainably grown biofuels, and energy we harness from the wind, waves, and sun.



(President Barack Obama reaches to shake hands with people in the crowd following a tour and remarks at the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Fla., Oct. 27, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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In short, Smart Grid technology will:

•Create tens of thousands of jobs.
•Reduce power outages that cost American consumers $150 billion a year--every man, woman and child in the United States will save about $500 each year.
•Allow consumers to cut their electricity bills through “smart meters.”
•Put Americans on the path to generating 20 percent or more of our energy from renewable sources by 2020.
To read more about the smart grid, the newest American Reinvestment and Recovery Act initiative, read the full fact sheet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"You've Got to Believe" - Building the Cars of the Future in America

"You've Got to Believe" - Building the Cars of the Future in America
Posted by Elizabeth Alexander on October 27, 2009 at 06:01 PM EDT

(Vice President Joe Biden announces that Fisker Automotive of Irvine, California will build plug-in electric sports cars at the shuttered GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware, Tuesday, October 27, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
.The cars of the future are coming, and they will be built right here in the United States. Vice President Joe Biden echoed that sentiment today as he announced that the former GM Boxwood Manufacturing Plant in Wilmington, Delaware was reopening for business. With the help of the Administration, loans from the Department of Energy, commitment from the state of Delaware, and the dedication of the American workforce, Fisker Automotive will soon begin manufacturing long-range, plug-in, electric hybrid vehicles at the Boxwood Plant. By 2014, the company plans to roll 75,000 to 100,000 plug-in, hybrid sedans off the assembly line each year.

The excitement in the crowd today reminded us that American innovation and manufacturing built the automotive industry in the 20th century – now, we will rebuild and retool it during the 21st century in a more efficient, inventive, and environmentally friendly way. As the Vice President said today: “American innovators, American business, American labor has never let this country down when we've been given a fighting chance. And today, this factory in Delaware, and the industry, are going to get back up off the mat.”

The future is now and Americans are investing in the new automobile. Not just the manufacturing, but all aspects of the supply chain—from engineering the battery to powering the cars, from building the materials needed for assembly to shipping the finished product all over the world. As the Vice President said: “Imagine an America that has freed itself from the grip of the oligarchs of oil by plugging their cars into a new electric grid of renewable energy based on wind and solar and geothermal. Imagine a world where people pop the hood of their cars and they see stamped on the battery ‘Made in America.’"

Soon, we won’t have to imagine.

Only A Few Days Left

Only A Few Days Left
Posted by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson on October 27, 2009 at 02:46 PM EDT
This is it. You only have a few days left to join the GreenGov challenge. October 31 is the deadline. I've recorded a short message reminding everyone to get involved. Take a moment to watch the video, then log in to share your ideas, and vote on others.

.As of today, we’ve received thousands of ideas from federal employees and military personnel all over the country. There are all kinds of ways to conserve energy, cut costs and reduce greenhouse gases.

Replacing one incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent prevents 300 pounds of greenhouse gases a year.

Taking mass transit to work just once a week can prevent one ton of greenhouse gases over the year.

If your entire agency turns off every computer, monitor and workspace light tonight, we estimate savings of thousands of dollars and hundreds of pounds of greenhouses gases – in just one day. If we stick with it every day of the year, the results really add up.

We're looking for more suggestions. We want to hear your ideas – before the October 31 deadline. Some of the best ideas will be used to help shape our agency Sustainability Plans, so this is your chance to change the way government works, and help cut dangerous pollution and save taxpayer dollars.

Watch the video and log in to GreenGov today to tell us your solution for making Federal government more sustainable.

Lisa P. Jackson is the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Vaccinations for the First Family

Vaccinations for the First Family
Posted by Catherine Mccormick-Lelyveld on October 27, 2009 at 12:21 PM EDT
We've been asked about whether the President, Mrs. Obama, and Sasha and Malia have received their H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines. All four members of the Obama family have received their seasonal flu vaccine. Malia and Sasha were both vaccinated for H1N1 last week, after the vaccine became available to Washington, DC schoolchildren. President and Mrs. Obama have not yet been vaccinated for H1N1, and they will wait until the needs of the priority groups identified by the CDC – including young people under the age of 24, pregnant women, and people with underlying conditions – have been met. The girls' H1N1 vaccine was administered by a White House physician, who applied for and received the vaccine from the DC Department of Health using the same process as every other vaccination site in the District.

While the initial distribution of vaccine is being administered to priority target groups, there are steps every family can take to help protect against H1N1 and seasonal flu. Remember to check Flu.gov for the latest on vaccine availability near you, steps you can take to protect your family, and what to do if you or a loved one gets the flu.

Catherine Mccormick-Lelyveld is Press Secretary for the First Lady

Streaming at 3:30 EDT: Valerie Jarrett at the Women's Conference

Streaming at 3:30 EDT: Valerie Jarrett at the Women's Conference
Posted by Jesse Lee on October 27, 2009 at 11:17 AM EDT
Earlier this week we released a video with the First Lady and HHS Secretary Sebelius talking about why health insurance reform is so important to women in particular. The First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden also led the White House in marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month and honoring those who fight it.

Today, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett will be a part of the massive Women's Conference, led by California First Lady Maria Shriver. The conference will be streaming all day, from 11 AM EDT/ 8 AM PDT until 10 PM EDT/ 7 PM PDT.

Valerie’s panel will be at 3:30 EDT/ 12:30PM PDT, and is called "A Once-in-a-Lifetime Conversation: How A Woman's Nation Changes Everything." The panel also includes Madeleine K. Albright, Amy Holmes and Claire Shipman, moderated by David Gregory. Watch live below, or watch and discuss it at their site.

The Finest Military in the History of the World

The Finest Military in the History of the World
Posted by Jesse Lee on October 26, 2009 at 07:27 PM EDT

(President Barack Obama arrives to speak to servicemen and women at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, in Jacksonville, Florida October 26, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
.Speaking today at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida, the President honored the fourteen Americans killed in the crash in Afghanistan this morning, the generations that have served in Jacksonville, and our servicemen and women all over the world:

Keeping you strong takes something else -- a country that never forgets this simple truth. It's not the remarkable platforms that give the United States our military superiority -- although you've got some pretty impressive aircraft here, I got to admit. It's not the sophisticated technologies that make us the most advanced in the world -- although you do represent the future of naval aviation.

No, we have the finest Navy and the finest military in the history of the world because we have the finest personnel in the world. (Applause.) You are the best trained, the best prepared, the best led force in history. Our people are our most precious resource.

We're reminded of this again with today's helicopter crashes in Afghanistan. Fourteen Americans gave their lives. And our prayers are with these service members, their civilian colleagues, and the families who loved them.

And while no words can ease the ache in their hearts today, may they find some comfort in knowing this: Like all those who give their lives in service to America, they were doing their duty and they were doing this nation proud.

They were willing to risk their lives, in this case, to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda and its extremist allies. And today, they gave their lives, that last full measure of devotion, to protect ours.

Now, it is our duty as a nation to keep their memory alive in our hearts and to carry on their work. To take care of their families. To keep our country safe. To stand up for the values we hold dear and the freedom they defended. That's what they dedicated their lives to. And that is what we must do as well.

So I say to you and all who serve: Of all the privileges I have as President, I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief. You inspire me. And I'm here today to deliver a simple message -- a message of thanks to you and your families.

Being here, you join a long, unbroken line of service at Jacksonville -- from the naval aviators from World War II to Korea to Vietnam, among them a great patriot named John McCain. You embody that sailor's creed, the "spirit of the Navy and all who have gone before" -- Honor, Courage, Commitment.


(Servicemen and women listen to President Barack Obama at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Fla., Oct. 26, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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The President also pledged to hold up his end of the bargain:

And while I will never hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests, I also promise you this -- and this is very important as we consider our next steps in Afghanistan: I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm's way. I won't risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary. (Applause.) And if it is necessary, we will back you up to the hilt. Because you deserve the strategy, the clear mission, and the defined goals as well as the equipment and support that you need to get the job done. We are not going to have a situation in which you are not fully supported back here at home. That is a promise that I will always make to you. (Applause.)

Now, as you meet your missions around the world, we will take care of your families here at home. That's why Michelle has been visiting bases across the country. That's why the Recovery Act is funding projects like improvements to your hospital and a new child development center at Mayport. It's why we're increasing your pay -- (applause) -- increasing childcare, helping families deal with the stress and separation of war.

And finally, we pledge to be there when you come home. We're improving care for our wounded warriors, especially those with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. We're funding the Post-9/11 GI Bill to give you and your families the chance to pursue your dreams. (Applause.) And we are making the biggest commitment to our veterans -- the largest percentage increase in the VA budget, even when we've got very difficult times fiscally -- in more than 30 years.

Now these are the commitments I make to you; the obligations that your country is honor-bound to uphold. Because you've always taken care of America, and America must take care of you -- always.


(President Barack Obama greets servicemen and women after speaking at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Fla., Oct. 26, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Cybersecurity Awareness Month Part IV

Cybersecurity Awareness Month Part IV
Posted by John Brennan on October 26, 2009 at 06:59 PM EDT
During National Cybersecurity Awareness Month I have discussed the types of cyber threats that we face and some of the basic steps that all computer users can take to better protect themselves. This week, I’d like to address another important dimension of this shared responsibility – the role of America’s small businesses.

As the President said in his remarks for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the cyber threat has become one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. America’s competitiveness and our economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on effective cybersecurity. This is especially true for the millions of small businesses that form the backbone of our economy. For this reason, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at the Department of Commerce recently released a guidebook, Small Business Information Security: The Fundamentals, on cybersecurity fundamentals for small business owners. A video related to the guidebook is provided below.


As the guidebook states, “in the United States, the number of small businesses totals to over 95% of all businesses. The small business community produces around 50% of our nation’s Gross National Product (GNP) and creates around 50% of all new jobs in our country. Small businesses, therefore, are a very important part of our nation’s economy.”

However, these small businesses often do not have sufficient resources to effectively secure their cyber infrastructure. Criminals recognize this, and small businesses are more and more often becoming targets of cyber crime. The NIST guidebook helps to mitigate these risks by providing small business owners with detailed (but easy-to-understand) instructions on how to improve their cybersecurity posture.

The guidebook is divided into three sections: absolutely necessary cybersecurity practices, highly recommended practices, and other planning considerations. It includes instructions on topics such as activating and installing firewalls, securing wireless access points, and conducting online banking more securely. I recommend all business owners read this guidebook. Home users may also find many of the cybersecurity instructions useful.

To learn more about cybersecurity tips please also visit www.onguardonline.gov and www.dhs.gov/cyber.

John Brennan is Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

Sunday, October 25, 2009

President Obama Signs Emergency Declaration for H1N1 Flu

President Obama Signs Emergency Declaration for H1N1 Flu
Posted by Erin Edgerton on October 25, 2009 at 01:48 PM EDT
In an effort to proactively address the ongoing pandemic, the President signed a National Emergency Declaration on H1N1 that allows healthcare systems to quickly implement disaster plans should they become overwhelmed.

As experts expected, H1N1 flu is moving rapidly throughout the country and the majority of states now have widespread influenza activity. This declaration gives authority for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to waive certain regulatory requirements for healthcare facilities in response the ongoing pandemic. Specifically, healthcare facilities will be able to submit waivers to establish alternate care sites, and modified patient triage protocols, patient transfer procedures and other actions that occur when they fully implement disaster operations plans.

Under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act [42 USC §1320b–5] healthcare facilities may petition for HHS approval of waivers in response to particular needs within the geographic and temporal limits of the emergency declarations. Before HHS has the authority to approve such “1135 Waivers” two conditions must be met: first, the Secretary must have declared a Public Health Emergency, and second, the President must have declared a National Emergency either through a Stafford Act Declaration or National Emergencies Act Declaration. 1135 Waivers still require specific requests be submitted to HHS and processed, and some State laws may need to be addressed as well.

The Secretary may tailor authorities granted under Section 1135 waivers to match the specific situational needs, but the requirements that may be waived include those related to Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Past instances where authority to grant Section 1135 waivers was enabled include:

•Hurricane Katrina (2005)
•56th Presidential Inauguration (2009)
•Hurricanes Ike and Gustav (2008)
•North Dakota flooding (2009)
Learn more about this National Emergency Declaration and get information on H1N1 and seasonal flu at Flu.gov.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day by Day, Law by Law, Mind by Changing Mind

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23RD, 2009 AT 4:56 PM
Day by Day, Law by Law, Mind by Changing Mind
Posted by Brian Bond
"These ideals, when voiced by generations of citizens, are what made it possible for me to stand here today. These ideals are what made it possible for the people in this room to live freely and openly when for most of history that would have been inconceivable. That is the promise of America. That is the promise we are called to fulfill. And day by day, law by law, mind by changing mind, that is the promise we are fulfilling."
– President Obama, HRC National Dinner, October 10, 2009

I came to work in the White House because I thought I'd be able to change people's lives in real and tangible ways here. I believed that President Barack Obama would not only be the type of leader who would bring about real change, but also that he would put in place a team of committed public servants across the federal government -- smart and gifted leaders, straight and gay, women and men, as diverse as America -- who would work tirelessly to improve the lives of all Americans, including the LGBT community. And I haven’t been disappointed.

I know many don’t think things are changing fast enough. The President shares your urgency. This month, speaking at the HRC National Dinner, he said "while progress may be taking longer than you’d like as a result of all that we face... do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach."

While our long-term focus is on major legislative goals like repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell and DOMA, passing an employment non-discrimination act, and providing domestic partner benefits for federal employees, we are also working daily to find ways to make life a little better and a little fairer for LGBT Americans.

We saw this very clearly this week: HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a series of proposals to ensure that HUD’s core housing programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity; he also commissioned the first-ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the rental and sale of housing.

On the same day, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a plan to establish the nation’s first ever national resource center to assist communities across the country in their efforts to provide services and support for older LGBT Americans.

And just a few weeks ago, the Administration on Aging at HHS issued its first ever grant to an LGBT Aging Services Program through its Community Innovations for Aging in Place initiative to the LA Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

Every day so many of us working in the Obama Administration ask: How can we ensure that our time here makes the lives of LGBT Americans living across this country safer, fairer, and a little better? We know how much work is ahead of us. Some items will take longer than others. But the shift since January is clear, and progress at every level will continue.

Day by day, law by law, mind by changing mind. That is the promise we are fulfilling.


Brian Bond is Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement

A Challenge for America

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23RD, 2009 AT 3:59 PM
A Challenge for America
Posted by Heather Zichal
Today, President Obama addressed a group of 750 students and faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In his remarks, the President spoke about the spirit of progress that has always driven the American people to seek out new frontiers, imagine new technologies, and build a better America for their children and grandchildren. If we harness that spirit once again, the President said, we will ensure that the United States leads the world in clean energy in the 21st century:
This is the nation that harnessed electricity and the energy contained in the atom, that developed the steamboat and the modern solar cell. This is the nation that pushed westward and then looked skyward. We have always sought out new frontiers and this generation is no different.
The President noted the investments the administration is making to transform this vision into a reality. The Recovery Act invested $80 billion in our clean energy future, investments that will put tens of thousands of people to work weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, and modernizing our electric grid. The impact of those investments is already being felt in Massachusetts – because of a $25 million investment made through the Recovery Act, hundreds of people will be put to work constructing a new Wind Technology Testing Center in Boston, not too far from the MIT campus.
Investments like these enable us to take control of our energy future and create the jobs of tomorrow. More than ever, the American people understand and agree on the need to achieve these lofty goals. Members of the armed services know our dependence on fossil fuels poses a threat to our national security. Young people in our country recognize that they will bear the future impact of the energy decisions we make now. And more and more of our lawmakers – Democrat and Republican – recognize that transforming the way we generate and use energy is an objective that people of all political persuasions can agree on. For all these reasons, the President expressed confidence that America can continue in its greatest traditions:
This is the nation that has led the world for two centuries in the pursuit of discovery. This is the nation that will lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow, so long as all of us remember what we have achieved in the past and we use that to inspire us to achieve even more in the future.

Heather Zichal is Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change

Information on Flu Vaccines Gets Animated

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23RD, 2009 AT 2:23 PM
Information on Flu Vaccines Gets Animated
Posted by Erin Edgerton
On Thursday, October 21st, students, parents, and educators from the Washington, DC, area joined Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for a screening of an episode of the animated series Sid the Science Kid. Hosted at the Department of Education, event attendees watched Sid and his classroom friends as they learned about the flu and visited the school nurse to get vaccinated for influenza.


Just like Sid, government-wide efforts to prevent flu are all about the science. And, according to the scientists, using prevention measures, such as washing your hands and covering your cough, and getting a vaccine are the most important things you can do to stay healthy this flu season. Visit Flu.gov to learn more about H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines and view additional resources for parents and children, including a number of Sesame Street PSAs that are available in English and Spanish.

The "Getting a Shot: You can do it!" episode was developed as part of a collaboration between Department of Health and Human Services and the Jim Henson Co. The episode will premiere on PBS Kids on Monday, October 26th, but here’s a preview of one of the songs:

Green Economy Means Green Jobs at Home

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23RD, 2009 AT 1:49 PM
Green Economy Means Green Jobs at Home
Posted by Secretary Gary Locke

Yesterday Energy Secretary Steven Chu and I had the opportunity to talk to a number of business and government leaders at the White House about how critical it is for America to play a leading role in the clean energy economy.

Despite the headlines that focus on what other countries are doing abroad, little prevents us from taking the lead in the business of clean energy. In fact, much of the energy technology being used around the world has its roots in the United States – but companies in other countries have often taken the lead in bringing those innovations to market.

There is simply no reason why this should be. We have all the smarts and all the resources we need to build light-weight car batteries or find a cheap and effective way to store power from the wind and sun here in America – we just need the willpower to act.

China is investing over $9 billion a month in clean energy and efficiency industries – not just to meet their own domestic energy and climate needs, but to satisfy the energy needs of the entire world.

If we don’t get our act together, we're going to be watching the capital, the businesses and the well-paying jobs end up in China – rather than in communities across America. We simply cannot allow ourselves to wake up 10 years from now asking how Shanghai became the Silicon Valley of clean energy.

President Obama has asked every cabinet agency to play a role in promoting clean energy. Several agencies within the Commerce Department are playing a leading role in this effort:
•The National Institute of Standards and Technology is leading the effort to develop technical standards that will be critical to building a reliable and robust smart electrical grid. A Smart Grid will revolutionize the use of electricity – from generation to transmission and distribution to consumption.

•The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency is helping us measure the impact of energy use on our climate.

•The International Trade Administration is pursuing new export opportunities that could help American clean energy companies reach consumers around the globe.

•And patents and trademarks, issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, protect new technology and are a key factor in helping companies move their products into the open market.
Building a green economy isn't going to be easy, but if government and businesses work together, America can and will be a world leader in clean energy.


Gary Locke is Secretary of Commerce

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Video and Photos from the First Lady's Healthy Kids Fair

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22ND, 2009 AT 2:06 PM
Video and Photos from the First Lady's Healthy Kids Fair
Posted by Molly Fedick

Yesterday, the First Lady held the first ever Healthy Kids Fair on the White House South Lawn—a fun event created to teach parents and children the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

All afternoon, the kids took turns jump roping, hula hooping, and learning to concoct nutritious snacks and lunches. As the First Lady explained, the recipes -- such as Sweet and Zesty Popcorn and Baked Sliced Apples -- are easy to make and developed with today's busy family in mind:

We want our children to eat right, not just because it's the right thing to do but because quite frankly healthy good food tastes good and we want them to experience that. We don't just want our kids to exercise because we tell them to. We want them to exercise because it's fun and they enjoy it. And we want them to learn now how to lead good, healthy lifestyles so that they're not struggling to figure out how to do that when they're older.

But as a parent, and I know all of you here today, we know that sometimes doing all that is easier said than done, because we all care but it is becoming so increasingly difficult to provide all that for our kids. And you all know that better than anyone here, as parents. We're all pulled in a million different directions, working hard, working long hours, trying to do everything, be perfect parents. We love you guys so much we just want everything for you.

As the First Lady reminded her guests, one of every three children in the United States is overweight or obese—but if we take responsibility for our health, this preventable problem will be a thing of the past.


(First Lady Michelle Obama participates in the Healthy Kids Fair on the South Lawn of the White House,
Oct. 21, 2009. Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)


(First Lady Michelle Obama participates in the Healthy Kids Fair on the South Lawn of the White House,
Oct. 21, 2009. Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Vice President Biden in Central Europe

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22ND, 2009 AT 12:40 PM
Vice President Biden in Central Europe
Posted by Tony Blinken
Today the Vice President is on the second day of a three-day trip through Central Europe, where he is visiting Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic. The trip comes on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – and the subsequent collapse of communist dictatorships across Central Europe. The autumn of 1989 was a remarkable season of change, when history moved with lightning speed as the men and women of the region broke free from decades of oppression.

Few could have imagined then that in just 20 years, the nations of the region would become stable democracies and would be full members of both NATO and the European Union. But they are, thanks to a lot of visionary leaders in Central Europe, and the help and support of the United States and the nations of Western Europe.


(Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Central University Library Bucharest, in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, October 22, 2009. Official White House photo by David Lienemann)

The Vice President is in the region not only to celebrate the tremendous progress that the region has made in the last two decades, but also focus on the future -- to reaffirm our alliance and partnership with these countries, and to challenge them to continue to play an increasing leadership role in Europe and on the world stage. He believes that their experience is particularly relevant to other nations in transition to democracy.

He is also talking to the political leaders in each country about our shared agenda, including the situation in Afghanistan, and the new European-based missile defense system that the President announced last month. That system is designed to meet the growing threat to Europe and U.S. forces based there from the threat of medium range missiles from Iran.

The Vice President gave a speech today at the Central University Library in Bucharest, the scene of heavy fighting in December 1989 when the Romanian people brought down the Ceausescu regime – the most brutal dictatorship in Europe. At our request, the U.S. Embassy in Romania invited not only local students, but also top diplomats from 10 countries in the region. They met with the Vice President after his speech. This afternoon, General James Jones, the President’s National Security Adviser, will meet in the Roosevelt Room with diplomats from those same countries.


(Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Central University Library Bucharest, in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, October 22, 2009. Official White House photo by David Lienemann )



Tony Blinken is National Security Advisor to the Vice President

Watch, Discuss, Engage at 12:30: Clean Energy Economy Forum

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22ND, 2009 AT 12:05 PM
Watch, Discuss, Engage at 12:30: Clean Energy Economy Forum
Posted by Jesse Lee
At 12:30 today, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will host a Clean Energy Economy Forum with business leaders from around the country here at the White House. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other Administration officials will also be featured speakers at the forum, which will include a focus on ensuring American competitiveness and leadership in the emerging clean energy economy.
This is the latest in the series, but this will be the first time you'll be able to watch and discuss the forum live through our Facebook application. Furthermore, we'll be monitoring the chat and relaying the feedback you give during the panel session. So let us know what you think and what questions you have.
•Watch, discuss and engage through Facebook

•Watch live here through WhiteHouse.gov/live

Photostream: New Orleans, College Station, San Francisco and Washington

Photostream: New Orleans, College Station, San Francisco and Washington
Posted by Kori Schulman
Thanks to the White House Photo Office, we have a new batch of over 50 photos that take us from Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School in New Orleans, to Texas A&M University in College Station, to San Francisco and back to Washington.


As Chief Official White House Photographer, Pete Souza travels alongside the President documenting the Obama presidency in photographs. Pete gave us the inside scoop on what he looks for in a photo and shared the goals of the White House photostream:


"The picture leading off this set was taken at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School in New Orleans last week. Although you don't even see the President, it still tells you a lot about him and what he means to these kids. I'm always on the lookout for these types of moments, many of which we include in the Official White House Photostream.

"Our main goal with the photostream is to provide viewers with a look at President Obama and his presidency that they wouldn't see anywhere else. So most of the pictures that you see are from behind-the-scenes situations that only I, or my staff, have access to. We try to upload a new set of pictures every week or two. In addition, we sometimes use the photostream to upload a newsworthy photo immediately when the White House Press Office requests it. This has been the case from many of the recent meetings the President has held on Afghanistan in the Situation Room."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Recovery Through Small Business

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21ST, 2009 AT 7:17 PM
Recovery Through Small Business
Posted by Administrator Karen Mills
Today, I accompanied President Obama to a small business called Metropolitan Archives in Landover, Maryland, which is just outside of Washington, D.C. The business was founded by two long-time friends (Joe Incarnato and Doug Peters) who saw an opportunity to transform an empty warehouse into a full-service records storage center for companies and nonprofit organizations. An SBA loan helped them realize their dream.

This year, the Recovery Act allowed the SBA to make some changes to help even more small businesses. As a result, we've been able to provide about 33,000 loans with total lending support of about $13 billion for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Still, many of America's small business owners – like Joe and Doug – are finding that the maximum loan size of SBA's top two loan programs, $2 million, can only go so far.

That's why President Obama announced today that we should increase it to $5 million. Our data at SBA shows that this is a good idea. In recent years, the percentage of our loans that have been in the top range of our loan size ($1.5 million to $2 million) has nearly doubled and we know that many small businesses are asking for higher amounts.


(President Barack Obama, with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, center, and Small Business Administration Administrator Karen G. Mills, right, announces a package of initiatives that will increase credit to small businesses while speaking at Metropolitan Archives, in Landover, Md., Oct. 21, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President also announced additional support from the Treasury Department for smaller community banks and credit unions. These lenders have always been critical partners in helping us start, grow and strengthen local economies around the country.

The efforts that the President announced today will help us ensure that small businesses have the resources they need to grow and create jobs. This is critical, because we know that small business already create the majority of new private sector jobs in this country, and more than half of working Americans either own or work for a small business.

As the President put it:

And the steps we've announced will make a difference for Joe and Doug, and all the folks who work here at Metropolitan Archives. In the past five years, you've done all that's asked of Americans who hope to pursue a dream of owning their own business -- you've taken a risk on a good idea, you've worked hard for your success, you've met your responsibilities to your employees and your customers. It's time that responsibility and that success are rewarded with the opportunity to keep growing, keep hiring, keep contributing to the success of your community and of your country. That's the opportunity we're providing today, and that's the opportunity I will continue to fight for as your President in the weeks and months ahead.

The SBA, Treasury and our federal partners will continue to find new ways to help the small business community lead us out of recession and into economic recovery. I encourage you to go to www.sba.gov for more information about who we are and what we do.


Karen G. Mills is Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration

The Responsibility We Share for Our Common Future

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21ST, 2009 AT 7:12 PM
The Responsibility We Share for Our Common Future
Posted by Ambassador Susan Rice
Last summer I was privileged to join President Obama, then Senator Obama, on his second visit to Israel. I followed him as he studied each wall at Yad Vashem. I looked on from a distance as he slipped a personal prayer into the stones of the Western Wall, the Kotel. I witnessed the courage and endurance of the citizens of Sderot and touched the remnants of the countless Hamas rockets that are their ever-present terror.

This week, I am back in Israel representing the Administration at a conference hosted by President Peres and meeting with key Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

I carried a message from our President about a vision of the world that lies within our grasp — if we have the courage to seize it.

The right place to start is with a common vision—not of some distant future but of the world we seek for our children and our grandchildren. Our view of that world is rooted in a truth that my nation has long held to be self-evident: and that is that all people are created equal—of equal worth, of equal consequence, and with equal rights.

This is a belief that’s deeply rooted in the American experience, but it’s also one with universal power. We cannot afford to write off vast swathes of the world as somehow marginal or irrelevant or doomed. We wouldn’t tolerate it for our own children, and we shouldn’t accept it for someone else’s. The belief that we all matter equally carries powerful implications. It means that no child should be left to drown in conflict and despair. It means that, in a moral sense, all of our fates are bound together.

But this bedrock belief in human equality and human dignity also has powerful geopolitical implications in our interconnected age. It drives us toward a foreign policy that is principled and pragmatic—one that recognizes not only the moral claim placed upon us by our common humanity, but also the strategic realities that we face in our interlinked world. Today, transnational security threats such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, and climate change can cross borders as freely as a storm. So the days when we could view our own interests in isolation are over. The days when we could focus on our own security and prosperity without regard for that of others are past. More and more, our fates are bound closer together. More and more, we live in a world where we rise and fall together, where zero-sum politics no longer fit today’s hard realities, where what’s good for others is often good for us.

A realistic view of the world thus requires an ambitious approach to the world. We must tackle the great problems that we face together. We must find cooperative solutions to challenges that pay no heed to borders. We must think strategically rather than just acting tactically. And we must recognize that there is a growing sphere where our interests and our values converge.

[Ed. Note: Click here to read the full speech delivered by Ambassador Rice at the Israeli Presidential Conference 2009, Facing Tomorrow, Jerusalem]

Susan E. Rice is the United States Ambassador to the United Nations

Why We Bar Lobbyists from Agency Advisory Boards and Commissions

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21ST, 2009 AT 1:03 PM
Why We Bar Lobbyists from Agency Advisory Boards and Commissions
Posted by Norm Eisen
In the interest of transparency, we are posting a letter we received from lobbyists and others about the Administration’s move to bar federally-registered lobbyists from federal boards and commissions. We are also publishing our response, which explains the reasoning behind this decision.

It all started with a blog post where we announced the new steps the Administration was taking to reduce lobbyist influence on these important boards and commissions:

The White House has informed executive agencies and departments that it is our aspiration that federally-registered lobbyists not be appointed to agency advisory boards and commissions. These appointees to boards and commissions, which are made by agencies and not the President, advise the federal government on a variety of policy areas. Keeping these advisory boards free of individuals who currently are registered federal lobbyists represents a dramatic change in the way business is done in Washington.

On October 19, we received this letter from a group of lobbyists (pdf) and others who serve on industry boards and commissions, expressing concern about our decision.

While we recognize the contributions some of those who will be affected have made to these committees, it is an indisputable fact that in recent years, lobbyists for major special interests have wielded extraordinary power in Washington DC, resulting in a national agenda too often skewed in favor of the interests that can afford their services. It is that problem that the President has promised to change, and this is a major step in implementing that change.

We make that point, along with others in our response (pdf).


Norm Eisen is special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform

Over 1,000 GreenGov Ideas and Counting!

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21ST, 2009 AT 12:41 PM
Over 1,000 GreenGov Ideas and Counting!
Posted by Secretary Steven Chu
Earlier this week, we launched the GreenGov Challenge – a new way for federal employees and military personnel to help green our government. The response thus far has been tremendous, but I know there are many more of you that we still need to hear from.

Energy efficiency is an issue I’m passionate about, and it is a major focus for the Department of Energy. For the next few decades, energy efficiency will be our most effective tool for reducing our carbon emissions, and the best way to reduce energy bills for America’s families. Specific ideas on how to save money and energy are especially welcome.

I know many federal employees share my passion and have great ideas for how to help the government become greener. Many have shared great ideas already on my Facebook page.

The GreenGov Challenge is a way for you to have your ideas heard. Ideas can be submitted through October 31st. We recognize that some of the best ideas on how to save energy may not be new, but they are simply not widely adopted. I want to hear from you what you think are the most cost-effective ways to save energy and money as well as new ideas. The top ideas will be evaluated and put into action shortly thereafter.

I hope you will take a moment to think about the energy saving opportunities around you, to dream up new ways to solve them, and to be a part of making this effort a success. I look forward to reviewing your ideas and tackling this challenge with you.

Steven Chu is Secretary of Energy

Visit here to view other links

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/1000-GreenGov-Ideas-and-Counting/

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Word from the White House: American Small Businesses Need Health Insurance Reform

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20TH, 2009 AT 12:03 PM
Word from the White House: American Small Businesses Need Health Insurance Reform
Posted by Jesse Lee
It's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day, along with any related articles, documents, or reports.

Supporting report: "The Economic Effects of Health Care Reform on Small Businesses and Their Employees," Council of Economic Advisers, July 25, 2009

Talking Points: American Small Businesses Need Health Insurance Reform

The Health Care Status Quo is Untenable for American Small Businesses
· The same skyrocketing costs that are devastating family budgets and exploding our national deficit are also threatening the viability of American businesses.

· The current health care system is especially untenable for small businesses and their employees.

· Lacking the bargaining power of large firms, small businesses pay as much as 18 percent more for the same health insurance.
o They are also at risk for the possibility that one of their workers will become seriously ill – which can dramatically increase their premiums in subsequent years.

· As a result, fewer and fewer small businesses are choosing to offer insurance to their employees. And those that do offer coverage tend to have less generous policies and are less likely to offer a choice of plans.
o Entrepreneurs and small business employees are nearly three times as likely to be uninsured as their counterparts are large firms.

· And each year that goes by without reform, the disproportionate burden that our health care system places on small businesses is growing.

Health Insurance Reform will Spur Job Creation
· Reform will reverse the disturbing trends in our current system and spur job creation in small businesses.

· By creating a health insurance exchange, reform will give small businesses and their employees more affordable options.

· Small firms that choose to offer health insurance to their employees will be eligible for tax credits.
o And small businesses that don’t offer coverage will not be penalized.

· Reform will also crack down on some of the insurance industry's worst practices.
o They will no longer be able to arbitrarily penalize small businesses if one or more of their employees become seriously ill.
o Nor will they be allowed to deny coverage to small businesses or their employees because of pre-existing conditions.

· And because potential entrepreneurs will no longer be discouraged from pursuing the dreams due to a lack of affordable and reliable health insurance options, reform will also lead to the creation of more small businesses.
o This is crucial given the economic downturn that began almost two years ago, as we know that small businesses and new startups are the drivers of job creation as the economy pulls out of recession.

Asistencia en caso de desastres ahora disponible en español

MARTES, OCTUBRE 20, 2009 A LAS 09:59 A.M.
Asistencia en caso de desastres ahora disponible en español
Publicado por Luis Miranda
No importa qué idioma hable, su familia debe aprender a estar preparada antes y después de un desastre.

La Agencia Federal para el Manejo de Emergencias (FEMA, por su sigla en inglés) ha lanzado un nuevo sitio web en español donde podrá encontrar la información que necesita y asistencia para después de un desastre o emergencia. En DisasterAssistance.gov usted podrá llenar un cuestionario que le ayudará a conocer a que programas de ayuda usted puede ser elegible. Podrá crear una cuenta y solicitar asistencia por internet así como verificar el estado de su solicitud.

También encontrará guías sobre cómo estar preparado para los desastres y emergencias, información local y recursos comunitarios, como también aprender que deben hacer los ciudadanos estadounidenses que sean afectados por desastres en el extranjero.

Visite DisasterAssistance.gov hoy e infórmese. Comparta esta información con familiares, amigos y compañeros de trabajo. Estar preparado es responsabilidad de todos.

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Disasters Assistance now available in Spanish

No matter what language you speak, your family needs to know how to prepare for a disaster, and how to respond one.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has launched a new website in Spanish that will help you get the information you need and assistance after a disaster or emergency. On DisasterAssistance.gov you can answer a quiz that will help you find out what programs you could be eligible for. You can create an account and request assistance online or verify the status of your request.

Also, you'll find guidelines about how to be prepared for a disaster or emergency, local information and community resources and learn what an American citizen should do if affected by a disaster in a foreign country.

Visit DisasterAssistance.gov today and get informed. Share this information with your family, friends and coworkers. Being prepared is a responsibility we all share.