Friday, May 13, 2011

President Obama Honors the Nation's TOP COPS

The President, along with Vice President Joe Biden, welcomes the winners of the 2011 National Association of Police Organizations TOP COPS award for law enforcement officials who have shown bravery and valor in the line of duty to the White House.

President Obama and Poets at the White House

President Obama speaks and is joined by renowned poets reciting their work for a celebration of poetry at the White House. Musical performances may be excluded from on-demand video due to licensing and intellectual property limitations.

Middle East Envoy Mitchell Resigns!

George J. Mitchell, Jr. - Former United States Special Envoy for Middle East Peace

Statement by the President and Madam Secretary Clinton on the Resignation of Middle East Envoy George Mitchell

Over the past two and a half years, George Mitchell has worked as a tireless advocate for peace as the U.S. Special Envoy for the Middle East. His deep commitment to resolving conflict and advancing democracy has contributed immeasurably to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security.

George told me when he took this job that he would put in a couple of years, and I’m so glad he did. He is – by any measure – one of the finest public servants that our nation has ever had. Even though he already had an extraordinary legacy – serving the people of Maine, leading the Senate, and bringing peace to Northern Ireland – he took on the toughest job imaginable and worked grueling hours to advance the interests of the United States and the cause of peace.

As he returns to his family, George leaves behind a proud legacy of dedicated public service and the country owes him a debt of gratitude for his extraordinary commitment.

As a nation, we remain committed to peace in the Middle East and to building on George’s hard work and progress toward achieving this goal. Secretary Clinton has asked the Deputy Middle East Envoy, David Hale to serve as the Acting Envoy and I have every confidence in David’s ability to continue to make progress in this important effort.

Statement by Secretary Clinton on the Resignation of Middle East Envoy George Mitchell

It has been an honor to work alongside Senator Mitchell over the past two years. He represents the best traditions of American diplomacy. Throughout George’s distinguished career he has taken on the hardest challenges with determination, talent and old fashioned Maine common sense. From the Senate to Northern Ireland to the State Department, his work has brought peace and increasing prosperity to millions of people around the world and made our own country stronger and more secure.

As well as anyone in his generation, George understands the slow, hard work of diplomacy, the art of compromise and the indispensable role of American leadership in the world. All of us at the State Department will miss his steady leadership and wise counsel, and we will carry forward his commitment to pursue a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

** NOTE: The following is the full text of Middle East Envoy George Mitchell’s resignation letter to the President.

“Dear Mr. President:

When I accepted your request to serve as U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace my intention was to serve for two years. More than two years having passed I hereby resign, effective May 20, 2011. I trust this will provide sufficient time for an effective transition.

I strongly support your vision of comprehensive peace in the Middle East and thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of your administration. It has been an honor for me to again serve our country.

With my gratitude and best wishes.”

Photo source: Wikipedia
Author: U.S. State Department
Permission: Public Domain

Obama Meets with NATO Secretary General

Flag of NATO

Readout of the President's Meeting with the NATO Secretary General

The President welcomed NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to the White House today. He thanked the Secretary General for his leadership and expressed appreciation to all NATO allies for their many contributions to peace and security in Europe and around the world.

The President and the Secretary General discussed Libya, where NATO and five partner nations are implementing the mandate of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and are enforcing the no-fly zone, implementing the arms embargo, and protecting civilians from the violence inflicted on them by the Qadhafi regime.

They agreed the operation had saved countless lives and that as long as the Qadhafi regime continues to attack its own population, NATO will maintain its operations to protect civilians.

The President and the Secretary General also discussed the ongoing NATO mission in Afghanistan, where over 40,000 troops from Allied and partner nations join U.S. forces in International Security Assistance Force.

They agreed on the importance of a sustained NATO commitment to Afghanistan as the process of transition to Afghan lead for security begins this year.

The President looks forward to hosting the next NATO Summit in the United States in 2012.

Photo source: Wikipedia
Author: NATO
Permission: Public Domain

'These Cuts Would Significantly Impact Our Ability to Train and Equip First Responders'

Governor Cuomo Blasts Plans to Slash Federal Homeland Security Funding

Governor Cuomo has urged House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to block a proposal to slash federal homeland security funding given to the states by 50 percent. In his letter, Governor Cuomo said the dramatic cut would hamper New York's efforts to prevent terrorist attacks and protect New Yorkers. House Republicans have proposed reducing the grant funding from $2.2 billion this year to $1 billion next year.

"These cuts would significantly impact our ability to train and equip police, firefighters, and other first responders and otherwise maintain the highest level of security New Yorkers need and deserve," Governor Cuomo wrote.

The Governor's letter can be found here:

Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Reid,

At a time when the federal government is warning that we may see retaliatory attacks for the death of Osama Bin Laden, congressionally proposed cuts to state and local homeland security grants for the FY2012 federal budget would undermine the very initiatives that have been put in place to protect our nation and people from the persistent and evolving threat of terrorism.

Since September 11th, New York State has been the target of thirteen terrorist plots. Most were thwarted through the collaborative investigative prowess among local, state and federal law enforcement officials, as well as citizens who reported suspicious activity. Some plots, including Faisal Shazad's attempted bombing of Times Square and the crowded Theatre District, failed.

Under all scenarios, federal support to the state and local officials who are literally on the front lines of the war of terrorism being waged against us is essential. The capability to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from a terrorist attack requires the full participation of all levels of government.

That is exactly what the funding made available through the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) and Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grants has as its goal.

Thursday's arrest by the NYPD of two suspects who were targeting multiple synagogues and the Empire State Building demonstrate that the death of Bin Laden does not mean the threat of terrorism has abated.

With the 10th anniversary of September 11th and the opening of World Trade Center Memorial only months away, this plot was simultaneously the latest success story and sober reminder that our city and state remains in the cross-hairs of those who use bombs and bullets to make their points.

Osama Bin Laden himself cited the 1oth anniversary as a date his followers should target for attack. Now is not the time for the federal government to step back from the partnership with state and local governments in defense of our nation.

Your leadership is needed to prevent these harmful cuts and to ensure that our nation does not degrade its abilities to meet the threat of terrorism.

Cuomo: 'I Want to Hear from New Yorkers'

Website Seeks Suggestions from Public to Make Government More Streamlined and Effective

Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced the launch of the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission's website to invite the public's participation in the process of modernizing and right-sizing state government, improving performance, increasing accountability and saving taxpayers' money.

The Web site,, allows the public to suggest ways to improve the efficiency and quality of government services. The submissions will be an integral component to the reform process. The site will also include listings of the SAGE Commission's public meetings and materials from the Commission's first meeting on April 25.

"As I have said repeatedly, right-sizing government is essential to get the state back on the right track, but we can't do it alone," Governor Cuomo said.

"The future success of New York requires that we consolidate the sprawl of state entities, find efficiencies, and further improve the state's operations. As this is the people's government, the public must have a say in how it operates."

The Commission includes representatives from the private sector, labor and government. The Commission is co-Chaired by Antonio M. Perez, Chairman and C.E.O of Eastman Kodak Company and Paul Francis, the Director of Agency Redesign and Efficiency.

The SAGE Commission is conducting a comprehensive review of state government including its structures, operations and processes with the ultimate goal of saving taxpayers' money, increasing accountability and improving the delivery of government services.

The Commission's final recommendations to the Governor will be delivered by June 1, 2012. Periodic progress reports will be delivered on an ongoing basis.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Building a 21st Century Immigration System

President Obama calls for a bipartisan approach to fixing a broken immigration system and explains why immigration reform is critical to building a 21st century economy in a speech in El Paso, TX.

The Obama Nominations

President Obama Nominates Three for District Court Bench

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama nominated Richard G. Andrews, Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo and Jeffrey J. Helmick to serve on the United States District Court bench.

President Obama said, “Throughout their long and impressive legal careers, Richard G. Andrews, Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo and Jeffrey J. Helmick have distinguished themselves as some of our nation’s best and brightest. I am honored to nominate them for the District Court Bench, and am confident they will approach the job with the utmost integrity and impartiality.”

Richard G. Andrews: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Delaware

Richard G. Andrews is the State Prosecutor for Delaware, a position he has held since 2007. As the State Prosecutor, Andrews oversees the Criminal Division of the Delaware Department of Justice. From 1983 to 2006, Andrews worked for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware as an Assistant United States Attorney. During his 23-year tenure in that office, Andrews served as Chief of the Criminal Division, First Assistant United States Attorney, and acting United States Attorney. From 1981 to 1982, Andrews clerked for the Honorable Collins J. Seitz of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Andrews received his J.D. in 1981 from University of California at Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law and his B.A. in 1977 from Haverford College.

Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Southern District of California

Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo is a United States Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of California, based in San Diego, a position in which she has served since 2005. Prior to joining the bench, she spent her entire legal career at the law firm now known as DLA Piper US, LLP, beginning as a litigation associate in 1988 (when the firm was known as Gray Cary Ames & Frye), and becoming a partner in 1996. At the law firm, her practice focused on intellectual property litigation and she served as national co-chair of the firm’s patent litigation practice. Judge Bencivengo received her J.D. magna cum laude in 1988 from University of Michigan Law School and both her M.A. in 1981 and her B.A. in 1980 from Rutgers University.

Jeffrey J. Helmick: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio

Jeffrey J. Helmick is a principal in the law firm of Gamso, Helmick & Hoolahan, in Toledo, Ohio, where he concentrates in federal criminal defense litigation. Prior to co-founding his current firm in 1998, Helmick was a principal in the law firm of Helmick, Jacobs & Solomon from 1996 to 1998 and a principal in the law firm of Kaplan, Richardson, Rost & Helmick from 1989 to 1995. From 1988 to 1989, he worked as an associate at Marshall & Melhorn, LLC. Helmick received his J.D. in 1988 from Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and his B.A. in 1983 from the University of Michigan.

In Memoriam.....Bill Gallo (December 28, 1922 - May 10, 2011)

Bill Gallo accepts career award at Ring 8 benefit in Howard Beach, New York, January 2010

"From The G-Man" Remembers a New York Daily News Legend

Mr. Gallo, thank you for your phenomenal contribution to American art and culture. May your loved ones and fans find comfort during this sad period....and may you forever rest in peace.

"The G-Man"

Photo source: Wikipedia
Author: Unknown

White House Briefs

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Statement by the Press Secretary on the Visit of the NATO Secretary General

President Obama will welcome Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to the White House on Friday, May 13. The President and the Secretary General will discuss NATO’s role enforcing UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 on Libya, including the protection of Libyan civilians. The leaders will also review NATO’s progress in Afghanistan and look ahead to the next NATO Summit, which the President will host in the United States in 2012.

Photo source:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Booker T. Washington H.S. Takes First Place in National Competition

School Wins 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge

WASHINGTON – Today, the White House announced Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee as the winner of the 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. Vice President Joseph Biden called Principal Alisha Kiner today to tell her the school had won. President Obama will travel to Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday, May 16, to deliver the school’s commencement address.

“I’m so proud of the schools that participated in this year’s commencement challenge and I want to thank all of them for their hard work and dedication,” said President Obama.

“Booker T. Washington High School proves what can be accomplished when students, teachers, parents and administrators come together to support achievement in the classroom and I’m looking forward to delivering the commencement address at this extraordinary school soon.”

Booker T. Washington High School’s graduation rate went from 55% in 2007 to 81.6% in 2010. The school has taken steps such as establishing separate freshmen academies for boys and girls to help students adjust to the school culture and creating an atmosphere where teachers take personal interest in seeing students take pride in their schoolwork. Students can now take AP classes, learn about engineering through robotics competitions, and earn college credits.

More details on the commencement date and media coverage will be released soon.

Background on the Commencement Challenge

The President set a goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 and the Commencement Challenge invited the nation’s public high schools to submit applications that demonstrate their commitment to preparing students for college and a career.

Hundreds of applications were received and were judged based on the schools’ performance, essay questions and supplemental data. The six finalists were selected for their creativity in engaging and supporting students, academic results, and progress in preparing students to graduate college and career ready.

Click HERE to view Booker T. Washington’s video and HERE to view a highlight reel of the six finalists’ videos.

Booker T. Washington High School logo courtesy of the following link:

'This Measure Will Protect Already-Strapped Ratepayers in New York City'

Cuomo, Bloomberg Propose Legislation to Protect New York City Ratepayers from Massive Rate Increase

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg today announced that they proposed a measure to prevent a massive rate hike on New York City energy customers.

The measure proposed by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg will allow the city to guarantee property tax abatements to power plants. This would change property tax abatements for power plants from a discretionary program back to an "as-of-right" program and, in doing that, address the primary reason FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) cited for requiring the rate increase.

"This legislation is targeted to resolve the issues raised by FERC and should give them no choice but to reverse their decision," Governor Cuomo said.

"This measure will protect already-strapped ratepayers in New York City from being charged hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Once our bill is enacted, we will immediately petition FERC and request that it reverse the January decision."

"When the Commission proposed a hike in New Yorkers' energy bills that was based on false assumptions, and which would provide no benefits to consumers, we immediately raised a red flag," said Mayor Bloomberg.

"Now, by amending the existing tax benefits, we are removing any and all justification for this decision. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for working with us to propose this legislation, Senator Schumer for his continued leadership on this issue, and numerous other elected officials, like Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Crowley, for their advocacy on behalf of New York City consumers."

FERC decided in January to allow power plants in the city to be paid energy capacity prices that factored in the cost of property taxes, even though many power plant operators in the city do not pay any property taxes at all.

FERC's order concluded that since new power plants were not guaranteed property tax abatement, as they were in the past, those taxes should be built into the federally approved capacity prices that are passed on to ratepayers. This would have increased electricity bills for residents and businesses in New York City by as much as $1 billion over the next three years and provided a windfall to existing plants that do not pay property taxes.

The bill proposed by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg adds peaking power plants, which are used by the FERC to determine capacity prices, to the city's as-of-right property tax abatement program, and will provide 100 percent property tax abatement for 15 years; extends the city's existing Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP), which is currently set to expire this year; and does not impact property tax revenue because the city already planned to provide tax abatement for these units in their discretionary program.

The rate hikes are set to take effect in June. The FERC's next meeting is May 19.

"In these tough budgetary times and with all of our efforts to improve our struggling economy, the last thing New Yorkers need is a massive increase in their electric utility rates. This legislation will protect consumers from a hypothetical assumption made by FERC when they interpreted the City of New York's tax law. It would have resulted in a windfall for power plant operators and devastated consumers. This bill will prevent the city's electric utility customers from paying twice and without causing any loss of revenue to the city," said Speaker Sheldon Silver.

"Without this bill, New York City consumers would be burdened with even higher utility rates than they're already paying. I'm very pleased that this legislation will make the changes necessary for FERC to have every reason to re-evaluate their earlier ruling and decide on an industrial and commercial tax abatement program that is more realistic and fair," said Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chair Herman D. Farrell.

Senator Andrew Lanza said, "Staten Islanders already pay too much for electricity and now the federal government is threatening to raise the cost even more. This legislation should stave off significant federal rate increases."

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said, "I commend the governor and mayor for working to ensure this unfair rate hike never sees the light of day. We will continue to press FERC to ensure that ratepayers aren't forced to pay obscene rate hikes while power generators are collecting massive tax breaks. As summer approaches and electricity bills rise, we need to do everything we can to make sure New York families aren't getting squeezed by power generators."

New York Energy Consumers Council Executive Director David Bomke said, "The New York Energy Consumers Council members represent a broad spectrum of energy buyers, including hospitals, universities, financial institutions, residential and commercial property managers, public benefit corporations, energy service companies, and energy consultants. Collectively, our members spend more on electricity than any other single consumer class in Con Edison's service territory. NYECC strongly endorses the proposed legislation to ensure the right of property tax exemption for peak power generators. This legislation would eliminate the basis for an unprecedented hike in capacity charges as a result of tax exemption uncertainty."

AARP New York State Director Lois Wagh Aronstein noted, "AARP commends Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg for introducing legislation that would close a loophole that could raise electricity prices for residents of New York City. New Yorkers pay some of the highest energy costs in the nation and older adults who are on limited or fixed incomes are even less able to bear such price increases."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Let’s Move! For Military Kids and Families

First Lady Michelle Obama announces three new Let’s Move! commitments that are specifically designed for military kids and military families during a President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition event on the South Lawn.

Video source:

Obama Conducts Oval Office Meeting with China Officials

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, center, holds the autographed basketball given to him by President Barack Obama following their Oval Office meeting in 2009, to discuss the outcomes of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Looking on at left is Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo.

Readout of the President's Meeting with the Co-Chairs of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue

The President and the U.S. delegation met today in the Oval Office with China’s Special Representatives to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo. They exchanged views on a broad range of economic, security and other issues of importance to both countries.

Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to building a cooperative partnership that is comprehensive in scope, cooperative in nature, and yields positive achievements that benefit our people. They agreed that concrete actions by both sides are needed to build such a partnership.

President Obama encouraged China to implement policies that support sustained and balanced global growth as well as a more balanced bilateral economic relationship. They also discussed ways to advance our common nonproliferation objectives, including working together to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, to meet its international commitments and to avoid destabilizing behavior.

The President also underscored his preference for a diplomatic solution to both challenges. The President raised U.S. concerns about the current human rights situation in China, and underscored his support for the universal rights of freedom of expression and worship, and of access to information and political participation.

Author: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Permission: Public Domain

Obama Speaks with India's Prime Minister

Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

Readout of the President's Call with the Prime Minister of India

President Obama spoke with Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh this morning to discuss the successful American action against Osama Bin Laden and to review progress in implementing the initiatives launched during the President’s November 2010 visit to India.

The two leaders re-affirmed their commitment to building a global, strategic partnership, including defense cooperation, and looked forward to the upcoming meetings of the Strategic Dialogue, the Homeland Security Dialogue, the Joint Space Working Group, and the High-Technology Cooperation Group. The two leaders also discussed global and regional issues of mutual concern.

Photo source: Agência Brasil
Author: Ricardo Stuckert/PR

White House Briefs

President Obama Hosts White House Jewish-American Heritage Month Reception

WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, May 17, President Barack Obama will host a White House reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month.

The reception will highlight and celebrate the history and unique identity of Jewish Americans and their profound and ennobling contributions to the American story. Invitees include grassroots Jewish community leaders from across the country, rabbis, Members of Congress, and a broad range of leaders engaged in business, the arts, education, and public and community service.

Since taking office, President Obama has continued the tradition started under the previous Administration of proclaiming May Jewish American Heritage Month. Last year, the President and First Lady hosted the first ever White House reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month.

In this year’s proclamation, President Obama said, “Seeking a brighter future, a small band of Jewish refugees came to this land more than three centuries ago, to a place called New Amsterdam…From those first days in New Amsterdam, Jewish Americans have dedicated their innovation, creativity, and hearts to the greater good, contributing scientific accomplishments, pioneering works of literature and musical genius, and performing distinguished service in our Nation's military.”